Communicating liberation

In November 2021, I stepped into my grace. Is it possible to state this in a way people will understand? Mine is a project of self-liberation: can I express my insights in order to liberate others? Or, I cannot liberate anyone, but I might help them to see some truth, so that they liberate themselves?

It’s a poetic metaphor- “I stepped into my grace”. I have begun to write about this. I have spoken about it, and on Wednesday night someone rhapsodised her gratitude to me, quoting that phrase. She had heard me at a moment when it really spoke to her. I felt slight embarrassment, but also great joy which continues today.

Poetry works. It spoke to her. It might only speak to a few people in the same way. I expanded the image-

God=Power
Goddess=Grace

Reading the Tao Te Ching over the last twenty years, it has seemed that I understood the poetry when I had already learned the spiritual lesson. Now, from experience I have an idea of what “flow like water” might mean, which expands as I grow into it. So rereading different English versions I might see more in them, and come closer to living like that.

Rumi (translated by Michael Burch)- “Your task is not to build love, but to bring down all the barriers you built against it”- speaks to me. I am taking down the barriers.

I hoped I might write a book one day, a spiritual autobiography saying how I had won my freedom, if I ever was successful in life, in the hope that it might speak to people and help them win freedom too. I would describe my journey to find God in me, and what God was.

My own journey does not fit everyone. Human spiritual maturity requires us to bring what is unconscious to consciousness. Different people are conscious of different things, and have different blind spots. I feel my trauma and continuing recovery is relevant to people as my trauma is not unique, but not everyone is traumatised in the same way. There is that of God in everyone, but it may be very different in each.

I can get something from Isaiah’s servant songs. For example, Isaiah 52:13-53:12. My God within seemed acquainted with infirmity and held of no account. It was an “offering for sin” in that my wild free femininity appalled and frightened my mother, because her spirit had been crushed out of shape too by her society. The sin is the failure to accept human diversity. The offering is that diverse people are crushed. And now my God within begins to see light and find satisfaction.

I don’t know if the Songs’ authors had a similar experience to me. I take the words to bolster my understanding that I am on the right path. I look back at that path, and see echoes of Isaiah. What is on the path ahead I cannot know.

But there are lots of ways to seek wisdom. I recommend sitting in silence, in meditation, Buddhist worship or online Quaker worship. Many people value A Course in Miracles. I dabbled with it. I keep thinking I might return to it and never quite do.

Noticing what moves me to tears may help me see unconscious needs. In this radio programme, one sentence at 12.15-25 had me sobbing. “Tammy, meanwhile, feeling alienated from her televangelist peers, found herself identifying less with them than with the objects of their scorn.” For me it encapsulates why people loathe Christianity, yet I love it. Jesus identifies with the oppressed, and the gospels are full of calls for us to do the same. So far as I liberate God within me, I see its oppression, and identify with it.

My judging it stops me seeing God in me. God speaks, and I say, that cannot be God. It is too weak and silly. Yet I am sure that it was. Gosh, that was 2015. This is going so much slower than I would have wished. I continue to be liberated, and pray that we all may be.

Trauma and rock bottom

Trauma and rock bottom both involve immediate fear of death.

The alcoholic goes on drinking, and pretending about it to themselves, being enabled by relatives or colleagues, until some immediate threat emerges which they can only escape by not drinking. Perhaps their enabler gives up, or something else changes in their world. Then their illusions are stripped away, they begin supporting themselves rather than relying on others, and they experience it as freedom. They do what they need to do. Not drinking is hard, but drinking is impossible.

I heard about this phenomenon and wondered if it would ever happen to me. How bad did it have to get, before I started doing what I ought to do? I rely on others, and want that to continue. As I wrestled with emotion, fear, suppression and internal conflict, I had this ideal of the whole human, stripped of illusion, acting rationally for its highest good. I wondered if anything would make me like that.

What gets in the way is trauma, also an immediate fear of death. There are different traumas, but the small child needs unconditional love, which upholds a precarious sense of safety. Whatever happens I will be fed and kept warm so I can survive. Then the child loses that sense and is terrified. Perhaps a parent dies, or they are separated. In my case my mother could not accept me as I am, and needed me to be otherwise.

I am back considering this. I know I was traumatised. I realised that it did not matter whether I suffered pressure no human being could possibly withstand, or was too-

Oh, this is hard to write, even now I know it. Was too fragile, was useless to begin with, stubbed my toe once and that broke me. I suffered pressure strong enough to break me. In my forties I said, “The monster will get me”- a small child expression of a nameless fear of death which still controlled me. I was bringing it into consciousness for the first time. I was aware there was a fear which affected me, was beginning to be aware of how it affected me, rather than merely being unconsciously affected by it.

A fear of death which I was not conscious of, would have thought was ridiculous and impossible, made me cling to particular illusions and ways of being. However bad my life got, the bracing shock of rock bottom, which would get me firing on all cylinders, all parts of me pulling together, never happened because the fear of death had already forced me onto a different path.

I am not a child any more, I said. I am not dependent on my parents. If The Monster devouring me is my mother withdrawing love, it should not affect me now. It is ridiculous. I could not accept that it ruled my life.

I know myself better, now. I have an understanding of my strengths from observing my responses, and, well, some self-respect, actually. It took more to break me than stubbing my toe. And the break was so fundamental that it still affects me.

On top of God within, the trauma grafted on a set of particular responses to the world which were, to my conscious self, the only possible ones. I was strongly motivated to respond as programmed, in order to survive. Then I lost motivation. Those responses are not the way to survive. Or, I can survive without them, though at a level that being created by trauma, the tamed self, found unpleasant. My inner conflicts reached a static equilibrium. I stopped.

And there have always been things I loved, found worthwhile, pursued. I am busily constructing from them a self-concept, an understanding of who I am, which the tamed self attacks, trying to ridicule and undermine it. Self-acceptance grows, and the ridicule ceases to work. From past experience it seems that there will be things I love and pursue, and even possible that from them I will construct a life worth living. Or, that my recovery is the point.

I will my own good. That has led me into trauma responses, to survive, and now leads me into self-respect for the untamed self beneath, which said No. It says what it can. My conscious self is listening, though the traumatised, tamed self is noisy.

There are adult traumas- the soldier seeing his fellows die under enemy fire which he cannot see how he can avoid is traumatised, and some might protect the word from me. These soldiers are traumatised, I should not diminish their experience by pretending to it. That is echoed by the tamed self which says, of course I am not traumatised, how could I be. It clings to its illusions. Refuting the illusions takes patient work, and constant repetition.

Men and Women: healing the wound of the planet

What is wrong with the relationship between Men and Women? Sixteen questions on how it could be put right, from Jamie Catto:

15) Where do non-binary, trans and LGBTQIA people intersect with these questions?

Mentioned as an afterthought, on the outside looking in, at the sharp point showing the conflict clearly. As the wise others, who can’t play the game, so have a clear view of its rules, or as people broken by normality and desperate to fit in, even if it means negating ourselves. Hoping to save the World, or hoping to survive. Let’s start with some of the easier questions.

14) Are there different laws in your country depending on your gender?

I have a detailed knowledge of the Equality Act rules on women’s services, where trans women can go, and the rules on when we might be excluded. Rape is defined as the penetration of a vagina by a penis without consent, and in Scotland these specifically include trans people’s surgically constructed organs. Only heterosexual sex counts as “adultery” or “consummation” in marriage law. I could get more technical if you like.

3) What checks and precautions do you take to feel/be safe when you go out in the evening?

If I have more than one drink I want to sleep in the same building. I just don’t go out, especially since March 2020. When I go out I don’t take precautions particularly and sometimes I have only just avoided trouble.

4) What would it take for you to feel safe without taking those precautions?

A bit more money, so that they did not seem like precautions- taxis everywhere, go out when I feel like it. Walking through a park alone at night? I just don’t.

13) Do you think men and women have different brains?

I know they do. Women have more white matter than men. The Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, central section (BSTc) is twice the size in men that it is in women, slightly larger in gay men, and the same size in trans women as in cis women, but no use as a diagnostic tool because it can only be measured by dissection. I looked into this stuff, trying to work out whether I was truly transsexual, before I realised the only question is, would I be happier transitioned.

Men and women have similar psychology. There is no trait, vice, virtue, emotion, or aptitude, which is in one sex and not the other, or is not equally valuable in both, but gendered expectations exaggerate or squish traits, which harms everyone. People vary within sex far more than across it. So,

1) What are the most uncomfortable stereotypes you feel are associated with your gender?

Stereotypes affect us because of the demands or expectations of other people. I face the “tolerant”, who judge whether I am trans enough- “Have you had the operation?” I also face the hostile, for whom I can never be right- performing femininity I am a reactionary, enforcing a stereotype, but if I play with the stereotypes I am a man, not even a “transwoman”. Some accept me as I am. So stereotypes are uncomfortable which are furthest from who I am, like with everybody, and so will be different for everybody. But stereotypes which I fit are also uncomfortable, because they can be used against me.

The one which has harmed me most is conventional heterosexuality. I don’t identify as lesbian because I have my father’s sexuality: a pansy, or soft male, attracted to viragos, or strong women. I was so terrified of not being seen as a Real Man that I did not know that, and before transition I could not form relationships as I wanted a partner to complete my Normality disguise rather than to relate to. My mother died and my father found a new partner who was right for him, but I see men with the wrong woman who wants them to “be more manly”, and they try, making themselves miserable.

Stereotypes are harmful because they don’t take into account human variation and persist because seeing a human as they really are is hard, and the stereotypes often kind-of fit.

7) Do you want more touch that doesn’t necessarily have to lead to sex?

I want cuddles. To have sex would mean breaking down so many trauma-induced barriers that it may not be possible.

6) Do you have anything you need to be forgiven for?

Yes.

8 ) What would it take to be seen as you are without other genders’ preconceptions and definitions of what your gender is and should be?

When someone has expectations of me, it sets up a fear reaction in me: I must fit in or I will not be safe. So I have to accept myself as I am, know myself, and heal away all the inhibitions which prevent me from seeing who I am, which are reinforced by disgust and horror at who I am, and an inability to perceive who I am, or see that as in any way good. This has been a lot of work. One phrase I have for it is “step into my power”, which gets in the way for me, as my concept of power does not fit who I am. It has been a lot of work, and I am getting there. I am not weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous and deluded, as I thought, but loving, creative, beautiful, soft, gentle, peaceful. For me a better word than “power” is “grace”.

What questions did I leave out?

2) What would it take for Men and Women, and the nuanced genders in between, to step into their full potential together?
5) How can Men heal the abusive and violent sins of their ancestors?
9) What do the different forms of violence and abuse, on both sides of the gender divide, look like?
10) What positive progress do you notice in these areas? What gives you hope?
11) How do you perpetuate the sense of battle and divide between the sexes?

The “nuanced genders in between” are mentioned in the second question, and still an afterthought, because all these questions assume a conventional heterosexuality, with a man “wearing the trousers” in a relationship with a woman, and I can’t begin to answer them. I am not a man in that sense, and while I have suffered harassment as a woman- a man coming on to me on a bus, abused as a “whore” or “slut” when I did not conform to a man’s expectations that I would do what he demanded- it has been less, and as an adult. And I yearn to surrender myself, but to a woman, not a man. My scars are different.

16) What questions are missing from this list?

The questions address various aspects of

How are you hurt?
How have you hurt others?
How can we make things better?

So, ask those general questions directly.

And finally,
12) What would you like to do that you can’t do now if you changed gender?

I did! It liberated me to be myself!

Come, join me.

Varieties of spiritual journey

What? You talk of “nonduality” as one or two peak experiences for a moment, in your entire lives, years ago? Ha! I am nondual all the time!

One of my judgments is that it is wrong to boast of spiritual growth, but as I spoke to Friends of God in me, and the judgment or thought that second-guesses God and stops God from speaking, the words “melts away” formed in my mind. I had intense judgment against that, the claim to wisdom or spirituality, and yet-

In me there is that of God, and what else? Judgments, ego, introjects, something I do not fully understand but attempt to, using whatever language I have and concepts from philosophy or psychology. In that moment, speaking to Friends, the “whatever else” seemed to melt away, and I felt extreme joy. I do not want to boast, and I want everyone to experience that joy.

I experience inner conflict between that of God and the something else, and experienced it in that moment- the insistent words “melts away” and the horror at claiming something I do not know to be true, and the self-doubt- and then it melted away, and I spoke the words. Anguish gave way to acceptance and wonder.

Heaven is human integrity, where that of God within shines out through that person’s thoughts, words and deeds, and there is no alloy or admixture of anything else: that person is nondual.

I felt shame this week, does not matter what for, and it was clear to me that it was my own rather than some introjected shame- a feeling to help me reach my goals and best self, rather than anyone else’s demands. Instead of being my enemy it was my friend. That felt new, and delightful.

Part of the way I might help others experience that joy, and understand humans or humanity, is to describe my own experiences. How much this has value depends. Is the inner God of other people like mine, or does it vary as human character and personality varies? What else is there, and is the something else in each person different? How does the spiritual journey differ- there is an unveiling of God Within, until it stands fully visible, in all its beauty, but does the way the unveiling proceeds differ between people?

I saw God, and so God Within, as “powerful,” and letting go of that concept has helped me see God in me so much more clearly. Yet it seems to me that God in others might be powerful, or that at least the concept would not get in the way of others seeing their inner God as it did for me. Words are at best a way to approach reality.

Are there people who grew up in ideal conditions, such that their inner God was nurtured and cherished and there was never much in the way of veil to begin with? Quakers aim for such nurture, “leaving [children] free to develop as the Spirit of God may lead them”.

If I call the something else “ego”, there is the word “egotistical”, meaning self-aggrandising, but my inner judgments called me worthless. Carl Rogers pictured the self-concept and organismic self overlapping, and in my moment of becoming conscious of the spiritual journey, when my understanding of the world seemed completely contrary to how the world is, mine seemed to be entirely separate. My conversion might be like a Road to Damascus moment, but not everyone’s need be. Possibly, some might be unable to bear such an experience.

And there is common humanity. Because our eyes have cones and rods in similar formation, our experience of colour is similar, and different from a dog’s. While I cannot know my experience is like anyone else’s, we have a number of words for emotions which have a similar understanding in each of us to be useful, and we can look at another person and guess or sense what they are feeling. We are programmed to recognise faces- the youngest infants will respond to them- and who knows what else is programmed? We are eukaryotes, mammals, apes.

Some people may simply be nondual. Others may approach that. It is my way to worry and question, and also to use my analytic mind soberly to assess what is true. It is my aim to see God in myself and others more clearly which will mean loving God more dearly, and to help others do the same, and I will grow in my ability to do that.

Good and evil

There are evil ideas and evil acts. Are there evil people?

For white British people, there is a short list of evil people most would agree on: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, each responsible for millions of deaths. Black British people might add some British colonialists: I might add Edward Colston as a named signifier for thousands of slavery profiteers.

Hitler believed that Jews were dangerous to Germany, and desired that the German people prosper. He did not see himself as the baddie. Yuval Noah Hariri, in “Sapiens,” said the Nazis were “humanists”. It is a blindness, an absence, to fail to see the suffering caused, to delight in or not to care about it. Evil is not a force but a lack, an inability either to see the humanity of the loathed group, or that all humanity is one.

Quakers say, “Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war.” What in me is like that? Where does my lack of care cause suffering?

I might say the campaign against trans rights in Britain is evil. Trans women are in women’s services unless there is a particular reason to exclude an individual. So to demand “single sex spaces”, and by that mean spaces from which trans women are rigorously purged, is evil, a chilling lack of regard for the needs or feelings of other human beings. To name this- “we want women’s spaces without trans women” might be disturbing to some, so there are a variety of ways to obscure the truth. The anti-trans campaigners might avoid all mention of trans women, and use the phrase “single sex services” as code. Or, they monster us: they seek to incite disgust, fear and aversion, saying, That person might not be a real trans woman, but a sexual predator. That trans woman retains their penis, and is a threat.

As with Hitler, an apparent positive desire, to protect [cis] women, is perverted into a project to hurt a minority. Yes, “Women are entitled to discuss their rights”, but should consider who their changes would affect, and use clear language. “Sex-based rights” means, “No Trans women”. They would use clear language, expressing that, if they did not on some level know that their demands are mean and destructive.

It is hard to see where to draw a distinction. The final extremity is death, but the start of it is disregard, a failure to see the value of the human person, or consider their reality. That leads to disgust, to street abuse and violence. Again it is a blindness or a lack: the anti-trans campaigner does not see the effect of their campaigning on their victims, or does not care. And many people who would happily call Nazis evil would blench at the idea anti-trans campaigners are evil.

Possibly when you see them arguing against trans rights, you would see a light of fanaticism in their eyes, an inability to consider other points of view or the pain of their victims, which might be a little worrying. And yet in their lives and interests beyond anti-trans campaigning- a love of the music of Schubert, perhaps- they seem entirely normal and reasonable.

Jesus said, let the one who is without sin cast the first stone. If evil is a lack, or a blind-spot, most people have blind spots. A belief that there are monsters, separate from the Good People, might lead to attempts to cast the monsters out, and find they are Jews, or trans women. I do not believe there are evil people. No-one is good but God alone.

Approaching nonduality as a physical being

Nonduality is a spiritual goal, and I am a living creature, a being made of matter.

I am a creature that changes, that works out its nature, that is what it is, does what it will, because it can be and do no other. I want that: I want this living being to live and be, which means growing and integrating, action proceeding from nature, always developing, always fitting my circumstances in the moment.

We shall be with each other always, and cannot lose each other. Our lives intertwine as we are woven together, and I contain every one of you, as you all contain me.

That got a lot of likes on facebook. I approach nonduality, where the God Within, the natural human, is the source of thought speech and action. And consciously I worry about this. Conscious me says, how will I know?

Nonduality is Heaven, and it does not mean not being hurt, tired or confused, just not resisting or resenting these feelings. All is well, but not necessarily comfortable. I am a living being, so do not escape my situation and my problems, even if I might not now be facing them with so many internal blocks and conflicts.

I consider my desires. Some come from I Am, some from society. Of the ones from Society, some are clearly harmful to me and others: the desire to make a man of myself is the clearest. Transition was the necessary though not sufficient step towards self-actualisation. Arguably fatphobia is also clearly harmful, though if we name it self-discipline aimed at a healthy BMI that’s not so clear. And not everyone who watches their weight is anorexic.

I have various words which appear on the surface to make a clear distinction, between a healthy and unhealthy consciousness of weight, and when I burrow down into what that would mean for individuals it becomes unclear and shifting. Heather wanted to fatten me up, and found my refusal of a biscuit joyless- “’No thank you, I’ve had one’,” she would say, mockingly. Her apron objectively showed her relationship with food was unhealthy.

I trust myself to serve myself the food I need, and feel, directly perceive, my body’s needs for fat, salt and protein, more in winter or when doing more physical activity outside, less at other times, and the one thing I could not resist, where I would finish a kilogram tin, was salted peanuts. I don’t have a problem with addiction and self-soothing with food, and see some people do.

Another verbal distinction which appears clear but is shifting. Addiction is bad. Self-soothing is necessary or unavoidable, and asceticism is also harmful. Words might help the conscious self get a grip on the goals and pitfalls. I hope the “promptings of love and truth in my heart” will help me get it right, and am unsure.

Ooh, this is new. I am not walking a tightrope, where a loss of balance to right or left will cause me to fall to perdition. Rather the path is the golden thread of my best self, which exerts an attraction on me, so that I can drift away from it and it will pull me back. That thread is God in me, despite the controlling messages of society.

I want what a human wants- to be loved and admired, say. I have various models for this. Conscious me second-guesses God within, and its fear and judgment pulls me away from her balance. Possibly the best thing conscious me can do is get out of the way.

I consider that pulling things into consciousness and analysing them has value. What is going on? What do I feel? What do I need?

Oppositions come to mind. Immediate impulse v long term goal; my own impulse v ones imbibed from society; goals imposed by society which oppress me v getting on in society for my own good; good v evil. I will continue to write about these, and analyse them. Does nondual reality mean that these oppositions do not exist, or that they are spectra rather than separate things?

Joy and Discipline

The problem with letting your body love what it loves is, how would you know?

I am a human being in society, and society defines what is good or not good to love. I know that exercise is good for me. I want to keep fit, so that when I need physical endurance I can do what I need to do. I know that the body keeps up the capacities it experiences a need for, so that in zero gravity muscle tone diminishes even if people exercise. If my heart’s capacity is regularly exercised it is good for it, and though a man I know died from a heart attack just as he got home from a cycle race, that is anecdotal evidence and the scientific consensus is-

but scientific consensus can be wrong- think of all the work defining Ptolemaic astronomy, specifying the epicycles-

and it is scientific consensus mediated to me through society, and influenced by the same society as I am-

I motivated myself to exercise by counting the climb I made. One run involves a climb of 489 feet according to Google Maps, another is 997 feet. I would climb the height of Mount Everest, 29035 feet, before 31 December and I started a document, no app required, to tot up the distance cycled and height scaled. I am ahead of schedule. If I do a particular shorter run, today, Wednesday 29th, I will have scaled the height of Mont Blanc.

Society tells me what it is good for me to desire, and what is not. I can be certain the desire to express myself female comes from me, because society opposes it so strongly. I don’t believe in any particular cause of it. I have a story of the birth of my love of writing. One grandparent taught me Scots dialect, another Cockney rhyming slang, and I saw the breadth and expressiveness of language. But that is at least unobjectionable, and arguably admirable.

I found counting the feet climbed, seeing progress to a target, increased my motivation to go out cycling, and I still found myself just staying in. It seems to be a desire formed under social pressure. I should keep fit. It is good for me. Being out in the sun alleviates depression. It feels like a more meditative state, being aware of my surroundings and the effort I am making (not too much, don’t tire too quickly) in contradiction to scrolling facebook, an addictive, pointless, bad thing to be doing.

Society sees scrolling facebook as a Bad Thing, but it is for my self-discipline to limit it. We don’t, as a society, act together to control the company. Being fat is a bad thing, but society does not limit the sugar and fat content of addictive foods.

Taught to deny and suppress my feelings and not to notice if I was working beyond capacity, I was stressed beyond endurance within three years of leaving university, but with no way of limiting my stress, so that I was sacked. In my next job the way I found of limiting my stress was going off work depressed, and I have no better way of limiting stress now than withdrawing. What do I love? I love writing. As I do not get paid for it, it does not seem enough.

There remains discipline. I ought to exercise, and if I transition then I ought to conform to female beauty standards. I should fit in. Then I read a comment: a fat nonbinary person, wrestling with their gender, wondered whether they imagined they were nonbinary because as a fat person they had failed to perform womanhood.

The comment was below Abigail Thorne’s latest video, in which she ate cake after being frightened to, because that is “bad”- not conforming to the requirements of female beauty. Cake is a naughty self-indulgence. I like eating cake, but only with others. It feels like a treat which relaxes me into sociability, and that relaxation seems pointless when alone.

There would be some pleasure in the sunshine and the beauty, if I cycled. The self-indulgence, the Bad Thing, would be to just not go. So, should I indulge myself? I want to take care of myself, and that could mean either developing or resting myself. None of these words seems to help find what would be good or right or the thing I prefer.

I went cycling. I have now ascended a height equivalent to Mont Blanc. There was some pleasure in it. Not going would have felt a bit yuck, as if I had shown myself mediocre, again. That judgment forms under social pressure, and may be true, but does not seem so connected to my heart impulse.

What makes me come alive? Writing something, yesterday, did. It may even be published. That was me being my best self, creating something beautiful. It made me totally happy. It was not governed by any rules- don’t eat the cake, do take exercise. It was just Me. I would like more experiences like that. “Do what makes you come alive.”

And on Saturday I felt liberated. That felt awesome.

I decide what I want by predicting how it will make me feel, and that does not work. Sometimes I want something simply because I want it- a big thing, such as transition, which has made me feel miserable, scared, alone, and also made me able to be myself with other people rather than trying to put on an act. Or a small thing, like writing. I feel all sorts of things: I want to manage my feelings to feel more comfortable, but that would be an all-consuming project, if it were possible at all.

Bewilderment and Complaint

The problem with privilege is that it is invisible to the privileged. When others defer to them, that just appears normal and reasonable to them.

Black people are menaced and marked because they are Black, and being gay or trans hardly makes that worse. White trans women or gay men might pass as a man, and so exercise white male privilege, but they lose that when they are seen to be queer. We might still seek safety in the conventions of white male straight privilege, which might work or might not. When they don’t work, it surprises us. We are bewildered. We complain. I get the analysis from James Baldwin, quoted by Shon Faye in The Transgender Issue.

“There’s an element of bewilderment and complaint.” But it always had worked, and now it does not. People seek safety as best we can, hence all the lonely hearts ads in the 1990s for a “straight-acting” partner. You could just be two best buds, hanging out. You could never make a public display of affection. You might have a man-hug, but there would be the temptation to go further, and let the disguise slip. Imagine being with the person you are lusting for, and having to conceal it.

Some gay men and trans women will always have been seen as effeminate, and bullied for it. They never had male privilege with men or boys, even if white. I always felt inadequate as a man, but I had a shell, a male act, which I managed, much of the time. I told a friend I was trans and she said, “I would never have guessed”. And, I still have class privilege to an extent: my clothes might indicate otherwise, my accent and use of words indicate educated person.

When people treat me as privileged, I like it. It keeps me safe. I might speak against white privilege, but do so mostly in white spaces, where I am showing my right-on-ness. With black people I see the risk of being the white saviour, but want at least to be an equal, an ally.

And how is it with cis women? Cis privilege is real. Where groups divide by gender I am nervous of being seen not to fit. And, by contrast, some anti-trans campaigners say that women relax among women, speaking more freely than in mixed company, and that this is liberating; but that it is constrained by the presence of trans women, who are privileged.

That could be a way of fomenting or bolstering resentment against trans women. Look, look, they behave like men, they are treated as men, therefore they should not be in women’s spaces. Look at that man, throwing his weight around.

And it makes me nervous. A woman treats me with courtesy. Is it her response to my male privilege? Is it just kindness? Questioning whether there is equality here makes me self-conscious.

Having privilege in some matters, and not in others, makes it harder to find God within. Quakers talk of the inner light, or that of God in each of us. The concept is linked to God the Father Almighty, the imperial God that Constantine and the Empress Victoria used as their imperial ideology, a God of Power and Might.

If power for me means maleness, the shell, then it is not power at all. It is a pretence, acting in conformity with Kyriarchy because I have no better way of feeling safe, and a terrible feeling of unsafety and need to feel safe. It is the same safety as when in conversation with a man I realise that the purpose of this conversation is for him to speak, work out what he thinks, tell me the truth, or express his feelings and get affirmation support and sympathy, and relax into my supportive role. Safety which supports kyriarchy is no safety at all, but constraint.

I do not believe in God the Father Almighty, and am rethinking God within. Mary Oliver may have it right: “the soft animal of your body”. “You do not have to be good… You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” That gets rid of any concept that God in me is power and control. God in me is seeing the good I may achieve, and flowing like water to achieve it.

Whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

It is a choice, between my true power, from being who I am, or a false power gained by conformity to rules which occasionally benefit me but really keep me in check. If I have any shard of male privilege I can only liberate the soft animal by letting it go.

I have been reading The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula le Guin. At first, Miss Lelache the lawyer sees George Orr as “A born victim… if she stepped on him he wouldn’t even crunch… revoltingly simple”. After talking to him, she sees him differently: “she now thought that he certainly would not squash if she stepped on him… he was peculiarly solid”.

Two poems

Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet is strange. It consists of hundreds of sections, stuffed in an envelope, edited by others. We do not know what order they should be in, or whether any particular section should be included. They are beautiful. I summarised twenty sections in 26 lines, and included a reference to the death of Newton. Continue reading