takes a great deal of concentration
Who says there aren’t important things to do on the beach?
Or at the station
Or in the Pavilion gardens?
Category Archives: being human
Traits six and eight
The woman plods up the stairs, then in the corridor she hesitates, and turns. I ask, “Where do you want to go?” Out, she says, pointing. I apologise. In the corridor, the signs are clear: one end, “Trains to London”; the other, “Way out”.
On the uncrowded train, there are seats behind each other, and seats facing each other with no table but a gap, just, for two sets of knees. A couple with two large suitcases leave them by the doors, and sit in one of the coach-style seats. I am so tempted to help, but forebear. “Does the door open that side?” asks the man. The woman does not know. Eventually they work it out, placing their suitcases between the facing seats, sitting beside them.
Working for the CAB, helping people, I realised how much pleasure that gave me. It’s best if it is simple and clear: when the photocopier jammed, heads would turn yearningly, hoping to help, mine among them. I also liked patient, systematic legal interpretation, and making people feel better by listening to them. It was my desire, but possibly caused by childhood trauma- it fits the Laundry List trait six. “We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults.”
Can I find a desire which is not merely scratching an itch?
What shall I do today? I need to do my washing. I could play the piano. Instead, I pick up my computer. Then two hours have passed, and I have achieved nothing. I penetrate the brain fog to find my underlying feeling: it is sadness, with some frustration. I turn back to the computer, and type:
“Your mental health would be better if you could stop thinking of trans as a threat. 48,000 people is a tiny number. You are most unlikely to see a trans woman in the street. Campaigning against trans women because one did something bad to you is the definition of phobic prejudice.”
Or this, which may have gone too far: “I am sorry you were abused. Patriarchy, innit. Do not campaign to strengthen the Patriarchy by removing trans rights.”
Ha! That’ll show her! But it doesn’t. She has a comeback. It’s strange how she’s coming from fear. According to her, only trans women with a GRC- probably around 3000 of us- are entitled to use women’s services, and she must have heard the Government’s desire to exclude us too. Yet she still fears the abolition of women’s services, by which she means the remote possibility she might see a trans woman in one.
My typing is trait eight. “We became addicted to excitement.” We create turmoil or drama to feel connected to reality, to experience strong feelings with no real relation to our actual lives. The righteous indignation I feel, typing that, is pointless. I will not persuade her.
It’s my birthday. 25 May last year I bought the Emotions Anonymous blue book. I committed to the twelve steps. I want to know myself, express and live from my true self, and take responsibility for my life and obligations. Three months later I bought the ACA Red Book, which gives me the words: I want to free myself from shame and blame which are carry-overs from the past, and become free to make healthful decisions as an actor, not a reactor- do my washing now, rather than typing furiously on my laptop, so I can go out in the sun later.
Impressions of Yearly Meeting 2023
Alighting from the carriage in the crowds, I want to get to the ticket barrier as soon as possible. I am irritated by people walking slowly, and overtake if I can. So I get to the barriers a few seconds earlier. I realised I am walking rapidly because I am anxious. I habitually suppress signs of anxiety so I am not consciously aware of it: it only shows through my actions. The next time I was there, I paused to look around me.
This is my place. I belong here.
As I passed the piano, a young man- twenty? As I get older, seeing the precise age of younger people gets more difficult- played the first three chords of the Rachmaninov C# minor prelude, and I stopped to listen. Unfortunately the first three chords were all he could manage. He suggested I play something, and I played the Chopin C minor prelude. This got me to start playing the Rachmaninov again. I would like to play it without the score, as I used to.
I dropped off my case at my Friend’s house, and went to the National Gallery to see Les Parapluies, by Renoir. I got a stool and sat before it, considering the relationship between the two girls, and their- mother, I think, rather than nanny. The woman on the left is a milliner’s assistant, with a hat box, says the caption. I started talking with a woman who had also come to see Les Parapluies, she told me. We considered the young man looking over the milliner’s shoulder.
Art opens me up. I am more in the moment, more aware of feelings and bodily sensations, and my surroundings. I am in the place I am, rather than trying to get somewhere else.
To Friends House. The assistant clerks welcome and hug me, and we talk a little. In the café I see my Friend, who shows some sign of anxiety. I describe Les Parapluies, and he looks it up on his phone. Oh, yes, the man’s definitely coming on to her, pursuing her. She shows some distress.
More Friends, more loving conversation, then in to the Large Meeting House, or the Light. This is my place. I belong here. I feel completely at home. I hear the long, careful minute-taking of the nominations. I am in worship.
Next morning, walking through the long pedestrian tunnels of the Victoria Line, I check. Yes, I am probably anxious. I repeat to myself as I walk: This is my place. I am safe here. This is my place.
People here tell me they love what I write- my articles in The Friend, my essay in the Friends Quarterly. One has read it three times! I am delighted. I chat to more accomplished writers. I do not have, yet, something to say that is worth the 20,000 words of a Quaker Quick. I hope to. One stands on Saturday afternoon and talks of the Society’s declining membership. I note how here I am considerably younger than the average, though there are beautiful, vital Friends in their twenties and thirties here too.
I could not remember, on Monday, what we had discerned on Saturday. Oh, yes, considering the structure of central committees QPSW and Quaker Life. I do not have any position on this, but as we upheld the clerks writing the minute, I loved the sense of worship. I felt there was a sense of sadness there too, though I may be projecting: over dinner my retired lawyer Friend thought that ridiculous.
As I understand it, Meeting for Sufferings discerned that Vibrancy workers, now called Local Development Workers, should be appointed for the whole YM, and referred that to trustees. The triennium ended, and a new MfS was appointed. Trustees reported on the local development workers, and some of MfS were affronted. Why were they not making this decision? To me, it seemed some still felt trauma from this. As a former lawyer, I had the idea that MfS should make the decisions as led, and trustees should implement them- which would mean making a myriad decisions, and still provide potential for friction. You cannot make a clear rule which will ensure nobody will feel such trauma ever again. We can only do our best in love. But it is very tempting to try to draft such a protective rule, rather than accept our unknowing. Rules can protect us to an extent. Faith, trust and Love are better protection.
I may be mistaken, but it seemed to me at one point the clerk was comparing herself, unfavourably, to a Perfect Clerk who exists only in her imagination.
In meeting for worship for business, there is the great joy of coming together over Equal Marriage, but we cannot avoid perplexity and disagreement. I found parts of the discernment distressing and I love the final minute on this. I do not like the epistle. It is too confident for my liking. I made a Friend laugh when I said, “If you did not know what the phrase ‘Metropolitan Elite’ meant-“ I don’t think it captures all that was there.
The epistle says we can provide leadership. I would prefer “walk alongside”- we have a lack of hierarchy among us, which could be our gift to the world. We will attract people who love what we say and do.
On Monday morning I thought, if “This is my place”, then all of me, all my beauty and sensitivity, belongs here.
I am safe here.
That means my whole sensitivity and love is safe here,
because I am nothing without my love and sensitivity.
I am safe enough.
I picked up my case, and left the building, without pausing to talk to anyone. On the wall in the garden is a beautiful enigma, eating her sandwich. She is perhaps the most intelligent person I have met, of strong will, capable of determined action where no-one else yet sees the point of it, and wonderfully contained. I joined her. Having been a clerk, she sees the meeting as a clerk would, and might go to talk to the clerk. She asked, has the yearly meeting been good for me? Oh, yes. Utterly, utterly wonderful.
Fears and Addictions
What’s the worst that could happen? Well, I could die, in a slow, painful and humiliating way. I saw my Friend on zoom six months ago, in bed. I saw her again. How are you? “I am no worse,” she said. That she, a glorious explosion of intellect, energy and Love, should be reduced like this is horrifying.
Some pretty bad things can happen at work, too. Representing in the Employment Tribunal, I saw some of them. My friend has set a boundary, which she hopes her employer will respect, but if they don’t she will be supported by her husband and get another job. No biggie. Certainly not what I fear-
The monster will get me. Like being cast into the darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Not death itself, but abject terror immediately before it, which I will do anything to avoid.
My addictive behaviour is checking and rechecking my favoured internet sites. For social media I use facebook, wordpress and the Guardian’s comment threads. Social media gives some human interaction, but repetitively checking the sites in rotation for likes and replies is tickling a craving. It does me no good. Reading the Guardian keeps me informed about the world, but also lets me feel the communal feelings of my lefty tribe. Or I do wordles. I judge this behaviour as grading from OK to damaging.
The damage is when I spend the afternoon on the internet rather than doing things I ought to do. It is OK to spend time entertained by streaming services, but not if it stops me doing-
There is that email. I should forward it with a brief explanation. Simple. It should take no time, and no mental energy. Instead I click away to look at the Guardian. I don’t understand why. I am stuck in a “rational” understanding- the task should cause me no problem. I have a blind spot preventing me seeing my fear. So my finger goes without my volition to the touch pad, and I am cycling Guardian, facebook, stats page again, not knowing why.
I can’t admit the fear because the fear is irrational. Is this date OK? I have to ask two other people. That I haven’t makes it harder to face the task, two weeks later. But the simplest task is freighted with the same weight- the monster will get me, and the people judging me are as bad as the worst I have come across. My perfectionism is such that that email becomes impossible, even as my blind spot tells me it is the simplest task that should cause difficulty to nobody. So I stop thinking about it, and hide from myself on the internet, but the need to face the email becomes an ever bigger weight on my back.
Or I go into puzzles. They should be fun, an intellectual challenge of no importance. I prove my skill and they make me happy. So I did the sedecordle puzzle mindfully. Ratio clues informs me of ten letters, then I hope to guess the other sixteen words. I can guess wrong three times before I fail the puzzle. It is easier if I use clear, bison, thump to give clues on fifteen letters, but I scorn that.
What am I feeling? If I guess right, there is no pleasure, hardly any relief. I am back in my childhood. Perfection is a bare pass, no better than should be expected. If I guess wrong, it is proof that I am stupid and useless. So if I have made two mistakes I take less care of the remaining guesses: I resent my own mortification. Success gives me no pleasure, but the effort stops me thinking of That Email for a while. I think the puzzle will make me feel good about myself, so give energy like a shot of caffeine, but when I finish I only want to do another one.
What would a loving parent say? A friend imagines her “loving parent” cajoling her to get on with her tasks. I think that’s her controlling parent. I could give up this responsibility- my critical parent tells me it is tiny and not a burden at all, so that is impossibly weak.
Against all my resistance, my loving parent tells me, this is where I am now. These are my feelings. I am still terrified. I imagine the loving parent shows total acceptance without self-pity or resentment, and I work to disentangle these things.
Facing the Monster
My life is governed by fear, such that most days I do not go out. I fear myself, and that fear comes from my enmeshed relationship. It is fear of how my mother might react if I show my true character in any spontaneous act. It is fear the monster will get me. Or, I fear the world, and that comes from my mother’s fear of the world. Some of my fear is stoked by media transphobia: people feel justified speaking such hostility to trans women and our rights. And a little of my fear comes from my actual experiences, just enough to keep the rest simmering.
These are my goals for recovery:
I mourn and process my past.
I lose my fear of displeasing my dead mother.
I feel my feelings fully, and value them as my perception of the world and my needs.
I see others as they are, and relate to them well.
I know my own goals and desires, and pursue them.
I express my gifts in the world, as a blessing on myself and others.
My fears of my mother, and hers of the world, do not relate to me now, and I want to be free of them. Such fear could only come from terror of death. I imagine her rejection when I was a baby, and I had to self-abnegate, to be the child she wanted, in order to survive.
I see more how my craziness works. On Sunday 26 February I made a remark to a woman in Tate Modern which upset my protective self and I had to go home. On Tuesday I heard the bin lorry just as I finished drying myself after the shower, so threw on coat and sandals to take my bin out. I stood, bare legged, feeling humiliated. Then I noticed that rather than process the feelings, I was trying to suppress them, in order to appear calm, though I was alone. Then I went to an ACA meeting and was needlessly unpleasant. And, when there is a feeling I find uncomfortable I take refuge in puzzles or social media. The answer in each case is to feel and accept the feelings.
Here am I, aged 56, governed by fear of displeasing my mother by showing a feeling unacceptable to her. I have been rewatching BoJack Horseman on Netflix, which shows both people maturing and getting on with their lives, and one character stuck in his monstrous childhood with an implacable inner critic, miserable, lonely, impulsive, chaotic and harmful. It shows that no experience, however extreme, has to be a person’s bottom: they can carry on as ridiculous and harmful as they ever were, and stopping drinking is not recovery. I find it wise, humane and beautiful, with a darkness at the centre, and it helps me understand myself. The second last episode is a near death experience. After, I noodled on the socials for a bit, then went late to Pendle Hill zoom worship.
I felt my infant terror of death. I was there, completely dependent, and terrified of not being cared for as I needed. I felt as afraid as I have ever been conscious of feeling. I was shaking and weeping. I started saying to my mother/the monster,
Do it. Do it. Do it. Do as you wish. Do it. I will not placate you.
I thought of writing this for The Friend, and the Doubt inside me is saying nobody will believe me and I don’t want people to know and I would not be able to write about it and either persuade, inform or entertain. So I am writing about it here. It seems Big, and meaningful, and time will tell.
The week before my mother died at home, she lay in bed, on disposable absorbent pads. She was saying less and less, but one day she said to me, “What am I having?” I fed her segments of mandarin oranges, one at a time, but she could not swallow. A doctor told us, she is clinging on. You need to tell her she can let go. But Mum told Dad, “I still have work to do”.
One day that week, I was sent down the street to buy a flannel, so my sister could wipe her as needed. The pharmacy had a choice of two: one was an ordinary flannel, and the other was a beautifully soft child’s flannel, with a picture of Postman Pat on it. I chose the adult one, and have beaten myself up about it since, thinking of it several times a year. I should have got the softer one, gentle on her skin.
Last week, I have been thinking on this further, and discussing it with trusted friends. Before then, my processing had got as far as, I made the wrong decision and I am bad. Only last week I realised, I could have bought them both. That had not occurred to me before, and was an obviously bad thing to do: it would have been a waste of money.
The choice I faced was impossible. It was between a child’s flannel with a picture of Postman Pat on it, obviously wrong, you don’t buy an adult a child’s flannel, and an adult flannel which was also obviously wrong because it was less soft. But also, it was a simple choice, not worthy of any time or thought at all: all I had to do was make the choice my mother would have made. So getting it wrong was more proof of my stupidity and inadequacy.
That memory of my wrongness has lived with me alongside my memory of holding her briefly with love, trust and acceptance flowing both ways. The beautiful memory which I treasure is poisoned by my memory of my wrong decision.
I was a 29 year old child, still under my mother’s thumb. I had to make the right decision, that is, the one my mother would want. She wanted us private and isolated from the world as much as possible, she wanted us to appear normal, she discouraged the expression of any emotion, and this was all simply the unspoken, unquestionable right way to be.
Nearly three years later, in February 1999 when I was 32, I wrote in my diary “It is time to rebel against my parents”: to begin an exploration which over time leads me to find and assert my own values, desires and feelings, and make my own choices. It was the start of being aware of being on a spiritual journey.
For weeks, I had a vague idea of when I wrote that, and a vague thought that I could look through my diary to find the page. I remembered “It is time to rebel against my parents” was all I had written on one page. On Saturday I found it, and danced round my living room in delight.
I have also judged myself for obsessing over such a trivial thing. But it has great symbolic value for me, and understanding it as I do now is another step in my liberation. And, in early childhood doing what my mother wanted was so much a matter of survival that it still felt that way in adulthood. I am not wholly free of that fear now.
My life is unmanageable. Only by being willing to feel uncomfortable emotions- vulnerability, unknowing, fear, hurt- can I become free.
All this damage- has it any value? Can I transfigure it by writing about it, extract some wisdom? What I have to do is fix it.
Valuing the protective self
Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of [anyone] hearty and clean…
Yesterday was the county council by-election, and while Labour was getting out the vote I was watching Netflix. I binged Travelers. It is very Canadian: though there is lots of existential threat and death, the central characters are a strong team together, with a deep communal ethic, horrified by doing harm. It is reassuring: really nice people win through.
Also, I could have done my washing. You see the deep ambivalence I have to this way of spending time. I hosted my Loving Parent Guidebook meeting in the morning, and my Emotions Anonymous meeting in the evening, and in between I vegged out.
If I did my washing, I would be in my True Self, and that frightened me. I do not want to be alone with myself. I do not want to feel my feelings. It hurts.
I fear myself.
So I treated myself with great gentleness. I would not judge or force that fearing part of myself, because the part fearing is me, and it is my fear.
Yesterday I called that fearing part my “False self”. I thought it merely propitiated the Controlling Parent which was fully in control of it. I am ambivalent about it, as well: it holds me back. And it is distrustful of what I have called my Real Self or True Self since 1999. This is my inner conflict: different parts of myself, at war with each other.
This morning, I found myself repeating mantras, in delight. I cannot remember them now. They changed as I made incremental realisations. I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror and expressed delighted love for myself and commitment to my own Good.
I am one human being. And I am divided in myself, in conflict. I want reconciliation and unity in myself. I do not want conquest or suppression: seeking that has been part of the problem. I want the love of the Loving Parent to suffuse all of me, true self and false self/controlling parent.
I will not call it the “False Self” any more. It is the Protective Self.
These are the parts of me, welcome, hearty and clean. When they are in balance, I will thrive. Out of balance, they have fought each other to a standstill.
The Expressive Self is a better name than real or true self, because it is not the whole of me. Here much of my enthusiasm and creativity reside. It is outgoing. It wants to perform and be seen. Its phrase is “Come, Dance with me,” like Daniel Ladinsky’s Hafiz’s God.
The Protective Self is concerned that all this expressiveness might get me into trouble. It is an aversion to pain: pain from the barracking of my Critical Parent, or from rejection by other people, or facing my own failure and loss which hurts me.
The Critical Parent asks valuable questions. Is this safe? Are my motives pure? Am I doing all I can?
The Loving Parent approaches me with the sympathy I would have for another human being who is hurting. It cares. It validates me: yes, these feelings are reasonable. Yes, I can do that if I want.
The loving parent has been quiet. It is not the way I approach myself. I have not learned to see from its point of view. The other three have been set against each other, isolated, hurting, fearful, distrusting. They do not know each other. The expressive self is far better able to bear its sadness than the protective self knows.
If I can value and love all these parts, they will be able to come to agreement about what I should do. They may become more clearly aspects of one integrated self. I need to learn, to practise, and to let go of the conflict. My habit and reflex is for each part to fear the others, and resist them. So, I do not express as successfully as I wish, because either I have no critical faculties or I suppress myself completely. The result is that I am too frightened to go out, much of the time.
Cursing my uselessness in terror does me no good. Each part must learn to trust the good will, and even the understanding, of the others.
It is hard for more than one to be in consciousness at one time, so whichever is in charge at the time is resistant to, resentful of and surprised by the others. I was so delighted when I brought them into dialogue two years ago!
This is my work: to love, value and integrate each of these parts, to understand them and rename them as they manifest, to allow them to flow and be, rather than to seek to control them in fear. It is tiring work, so I must pace myself, and watching Netflix is OK. It is a process of learning. So I will continue with life as it is: shopping, cooking, cleaning, looking after myself as well as I do; exploring the outside world carefully, not overstretching the protective self; taking time to rest, understand, care for, value, and integrate myself.
It will be what it will be, and take as long as it does. As the experience unfolds, there will be fear, anger, delight, perplexity, realisation, the whole magic of being human. Dare I hope for Love?
How can I be understood, when my experience is so different from most people’s, and when some try to make me the out-group, the hated Other?
Miriam Cates’ speech in Parliament on Wednesday 18th distilled her transphobia: she wants everyone to “condemn more, and understand less,” as John Major said of criminals. She started with sex criminals, who will exploit any loophole to get access to children. She turned to a trans person, defined as “someone who is uncomfortable with their sex”. Then she spoke of women stopping going to a counselling class because there were men- trans women- there, and they were entitled to “the dignity of a woman-only space”. She spoke of herself feeling threatened by a trans woman. She said law “should be based on fact, and someone cannot change their sex”. As Lloyd Russell-Moyle said, that is disgusting, shameful, horrible, the worst transphobia, and pursuing a war on trans people.
Cates calls us people “uncomfortable with their sex”, an unsympathetic outsider’s view. Then she imagines dreadful consequences from allowing us to be who we are.
Cates sees us as an out-group, at best delusional, at worst sexual predators. You cannot change your sex. Nick Fletcher’s stupid incomprehension reinforces this view. Knowing nothing, he spoke of “wisdom”. He thinks removing restrictions is unwise, that trans children are just going through a phase, and their parents should tell them they were born in the right body.
Someone might not understand why trans people would want to do that, look like that. Cates and Fletcher tell that voter we are not just weird, but dangerous, someone to punch down at and relieve their everyday frustrations. After a hard day at work, they could come home and get likes and upvotes for sharing endless variations on Trans Is Bad.
People differ, in the way they understand the world, think, or feel, and in what they desire, but unconsciously, you expect people to be just like you. It is hard to see other people.
Many people understand the value of diversity. It makes life more interesting, and our way of coming together to solve problems more effective.
A woman who moved from the US to England said that there were ways people indicated they were using irony, but they were different in each country. Possibly they differ between regions, and are a reason English Northerners and Southerners find each other so weird. You learn the signals in childhood, and noticing becomes unconscious. Bringing it into consciousness and seeing the different signals is difficult.
I start with a type of diversity everyone knows exists, few people now think of as harmful: lefthandedness. I want to persuade not only the person who values diversity, but those who find difference incomprehensible, or even threatening.
I am lefthanded. It seems a bit weird to me that people use their right hand so much, so I can see that for a righthanded person it might seem weird the other way. Lefthandedness was seen as bad, gauche rather than adroit, even sinister rather than dextrous, “cack-handed”, meaning clumsy, because people wiped their bottoms with their left hand and ate with their right. Children were forced to write with their right hands, and this was traumatic. Let us use our hands as comes naturally, and we flourish.
Angelina Jolie, Annie Lennox, David Bowie, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are all lefthanded. I got the names from this list, which is almost all British and American. That site encourages lefthanders to play guitar lefthandedly. It shows that people diverse in one way don’t necessarily promote diversity generally.
I am not “uncomfortable with my sex”. I am reconciled to my Y chromosome and my narrow pelvis. I have a whole, integrated personality, wounded but healing. My identity as Clare allows me to express who I really am. Trying to present male was miserable, and in the end unbearable. My friend saw: it was as if I was acting when I was Stephen, I was just me when I was Clare. It is like writing with my left hand: you might not want to do it, but when I do life is much easier. It comes naturally to me.
Tories want to spread incomprehension, disgust and fear, to foment a culture war distracting from their economic incompetence and plutocratic exploitation. I want everyone simply to be able to be themselves. People are different. You have to make an effort if you are going to understand them, but how much better to see the world as it really is, rather than to reject it!
Step four, part two
I am never more truly myself than when God speaks through me. The light is in me, and I must let it shine. All else in me, which blocks it, must fall away. That is the heart of step four: there are shortcomings and defects of character to be removed. First, they must be identified.
The devil on my back is my sense of worthlessness. I try to flee it, but that does not work. It makes me feel bad, and I seek external things in an attempt to feel better. I am glad I do not use alcohol or overeating, because those things harm the body, but social media is as compulsive and useless. I have used affirmations, and I can look in the mirror and say “I love you” to myself. Still I have the sense of worthlessness. This shortcoming or defect of character distorts my judgment. I do not know myself, or what I feel.
In my twenties I wept and prayed God, and a psychiatrist, to take away the curse of cross-dressing. I am female. I wanted my nature cauterised. I thought it a defect, and it was not. I was trying to conform to an outside standard of rightness- manliness, whatever. It did not work. I could not do it. I cannot change my nature, yet I wanted to because I was wrongfully shamed and traumatised.
With an ascetic streak coming from that sense of worthlessness, it is tempting to call my human needs “defects”. I might explore that: what do I want, what do I need? More generally, the thing which gives me discomfort is not thereby a defect.
I starve for touch. I have meaningful conversation: I have four people I speak with weekly, and meetings more than once a day. I still feel lonely. Touch is a human need, and my ways of seeking it may still be co-dependent.
Loyalty, generosity and trust can be a fault. As a child I self-abnegated, conforming to my mother’s needs. I supported her emotionally. I have value. I must not subsume myself.
Hopelessness and despair blind me to desire and possibility. I could ask God to cleanse my unknown faults.
I noted how some trans drifted through life until they transitioned, and contrasted my getting a degree, qualifying as a solicitor, working in court. I was going in the wrong direction. I wanted to fit in and not be noticed, and thereby be safe. I would have a job in which applying intellect, the strength I valued, would be the key to success. I did not know myself or the world, so was stressed, miserable, and sacked fifteen months post-qualifying.
I did not know myself. That is the defect. I want to be other than I am. I use intellect to attempt to understand what I feel, as intellect was valued in my childhood. It does not work and I still habitually do it. I still suppress feeling. I avoid my responsibilities- that may be a result of dissociation from feelings. My critical parent demands I do housework, my true self rebels. I know it is a shortcoming. I do not want to pray to remove it without some idea of how I might do that.
I fear the world, so I seclude myself. This is hamartia, missing the target, and yet it is so ingrained in me it feels part of me. How might it be transformed?
A fearless moral inventory must take account of good qualities. I am beautiful and valuable. So rather than an inventory of trauma, neglect, abuse, denial, resentment, shame, abandonment, things done wrong and done to others’ harm, I want a Delight worksheet. What happened? What did I gain? What did I give? This may still come up with defects: when I commit to something I work at it disregarding my own safety, and that comes from devaluing myself.
I illustrate this with John Gast, American Progress. Gast was celebrating. In rebellion against that, I would hate the railway and the telegraph- cutting edge technology- driving out different cultures and wild nature. So my challenge is to see the good in all of it: in American Civilisation, and in all it excludes. And to see the beauty in what I initially dislike, because I dislike and flinch from so much.
UN treaties mandate trans self-declaration
The UN says trans people should self-determine our gender. If we cannot, we cannot exercise our human rights, and this is sex discrimination against women. So Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, wrote to the British government supporting the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
Efforts to delay or dilute the Bill use falsehoods based on stigma and prejudice, he says. Passing the Bill is the government’s obligation under international human rights law. Preventing violence against women requires protection of trans people.
In 2021, the expert made a year-long inquiry into gender frameworks, considering hundreds of academic papers, 42 submissions from member states, and dozens of expert consultations. He concluded:
International human rights law says gender identity must be protected from discrimination and violence. Legal recognition of gender identity by self-determination is necessary to deconstruct institutional and social causes of discrimination and violence. But anti-trans campaigners use stigma and prejudice to artificially create moral panic and perpetuate violence.
In 2018, he considered international human rights law to dismantle systems of pathologisation, stigma and prejudice against trans people. He concluded self-determined gender is a cornerstone of a person’s identity, so protected by the human right to recognition before the law.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women said States should eliminate intersectional discrimination, including on the basis of gender identity. It said the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women applies to gender discrimination as well as sex discrimination. UNESCO says discrimination based on gender identity is unlawful. So do the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, and other bodies. Self-determination is necessary for our mental and physical health.
The UN understands gender to include real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Gender-based analysis transcends the sex binary. UNESCO says sex discrimination covers not only physiology but also the social construction of gender stereotypes. So a State should allow citizens to change their gender markers on official documents.
The UN Working Group on Discrimination against Women and Girls says that not conforming to gender stereotypes makes people, especially trans women, vulnerable to violence and discrimination. The idea that people can be sorted at birth into either male or female “unduly restricts freedom”.
The European Court of Human Rights recognises a right to self-determination of gender as “one of the most intimate aspects of a person’s private life”.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence defines gender as “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.” It prohibits gender identity discrimination. Here, protection for trans is inextricably linked to protection for everyone who ever had a desire outside their assigned at birth stereotype. Because that is how it is in real life: if authoritarians want to control people by enforcing gender stereotypes, they first must drive the trans people into hiding. Where there are trans people unafraid to be ourselves, gender stereotypes are subverted.
An EU directive, 2006/54/EC, says the principle of equal treatment of men and women does not just apply to sex discrimination, but also gender reassignment discrimination.
The Organisation of American States has 35 members including the US. Its convention on eradication of violence against women 1994 initiated its approach to gender-based violence. Since 2008 its General Assembly resolutions have condemned violence and discrimination based on gender identity, and the core state obligation of non-discrimination covers gender identity.
The African Commission on Human and People’s Rights 2014 Resolution on protection against violence on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI) says gender identity discrimination is forbidden under the African Charter.
He quotes the Yogyakarta Principles on legal recognition of gender identity, which were not a claim of right but a recognition of rights in human rights treaties. States have an obligation to provide a simple system for gender recognition based on self-identification. It should not require abusive requirements, such as a medical report, surgery, sterilisation or divorce. It should acknowledge nonbinary identities, and include children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Countries including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, and Uruguay have abolished the need for a medical report. For people under 18, where their parents or guardians will not consent the court can. In Norway the lower age limit is six, with parental consent.
Anti-trans campaigners say that restriction on trans people is necessary to protect cis people. But the Expert states obstacles to legal gender recognition do not protect women. We should be judged as individuals, not as a group. Any restriction on an individual trans person must not be based on stigma or prejudice, but on evidence that it is the only way to achieve reasonable aims.
The Expert states there is no evidence that current restrictions on gender recognition in Scotland, which are the same as those which will be in England indefinitely, are remotely connected to protection from sexual violence. Trans women are not “predatory males”.
The expert says “gender critical” ideology mimics patriarchal reduction of women to reproductive functions, and ignores feminist scholarship. A fraudulent or predatory person might pretend to be part of any minority in order to find victims, and that should not restrict the rights of any minority.
250m people live in countries which have self-declaration of trans people. 100m more live in regions within countries which have self-id by regional law, including Kansas, Nevada, Quebec, Baja California, Catalonia, and Tasmania. Nepal and Pakistan allow official self-id as nonbinary. The expert has no information that predatory men have used the self-id process for the purpose of perpetrating sexual violence. Where trans women are criminals, they have sought gender recognition because they are trans, not to enter segregated spaces.
So he calls on Scotland to enact the Bill. The implication is that England and Wales should do the same.