Anger and sadness, depression and motivation

-Part of you is dreadfully sad. You have this deep well of sadness in you. When you are motivated to do something that succeeds, you notice and hold that achievement. I am wondering what happens when you don’t, whether you judge yourself or care for yourself and feel the disappointment.

Of course I would like only success, and failure, sooner or later, makes me withdraw. “We tried that once and it didn’t work”- I have noticed people not trying something a second time when trying again seemed worthwhile to me, and I notice that I stop trying too. I could not bear yet another failure, so I stopped. Trying was too painful, but I needed to be screaming before I acknowledged the pain, and by then I could not try again.

-We can see the positives, achievement and celebration and success and doing is very much our culture, but not so good about seeing the other side of things, or fearing trying again, failing again. Fail better, said Beckett’s Krapp, showing the difficulty of it. I dwelt on this until we met again two weeks later. What stops me feeling the sadness, or the pain, is my anger. My anger is directed inwards, at me. What do I have to be sad about? I demand, disdainfully, contemptuously. It is like my other internal conflicts- the anger pushes down, the sadness pushes against it, I exhaust myself but do not move.

Richard Rohr wrote Your life is not about you– the ego at the centre of the Universe. It is about God. It is about a willing participation in a larger mystery. At this time, we do this by not rejecting or running from what is happening but by accepting our current situation and asking God to be with us in it. I thought, The spiritual lesson is learning the opposite of what you believed- I was worthless, not the centre of the Universe at all. Learning the different aspects of truth- my value as a unique being, my ordinariness as one among billions- I need a different corrective to the one Rohr administers.

What does the anger say? I sympathise more with the anger (as it is righteous, with something soft and weak). I am proud of it, so I bring it into consciousness and accept it. It seems appropriate. My anger tries to be stoic, accepting trouble and keeping on (except that it fails at that). I admire stoicism: Marcus Aurelius was seeking the Good Life, was the moral philosopher whether talking of getting out of bed or facing death. And my anger denies the sadness- go away and stop bothering me. It blocks the sadness from consciousness. Stop whining! it commands, and the whining becomes quieter though no less effective as a block to action.

The anger is inside me now, the anger is me, though it may be learned from the culture or the family, from voices outside. I don’t remember it, particularly, as an outside voice, condemning me- perhaps I learned it from others’ example.

Then I find the sadness, and I want to process it. I have the idea that if I could simply feel the sadness it would have told me all it needed to tell me, I would have learned from it all I needed to learn- not Don’t do that! but Take care doing that. And I have the idea that I am simply coaxing the sad part of me- I will listen to it for a time then say, that’s enough time now, come on- wheedling- coaxing- now take action. At which the sadness or the sad part digs its heels in again. It’s too painful right now. Rest a while more.

The anger is me. The sadness is me. Consciously I am more in the anger because it feels right, and it feels effective. Kicking my own backside was my way of motivation. Get on with it. It did actually work, for a while, it got me out of the house, going to work, achieving some things. Now if it works, if I get out of bed because I kick myself, I am wearied by it, it is heavy, an effort, it gives no joy. Anger and sadness are in stalemate.

-Where is your agency? she asks. Where’s the rest of you? I see your appreciation of culture and awe and beauty and there is something in you which wants to go and appreciate these things.

Well, that was my social training. My Dad showed me that culture required effort. We listened to Bartok string quartets expecting not to enjoy them- for them to be so alien, so complex, that my first feeling would be distressed boredom. Then with concentration and repeated listening the drama of the work, its progression and feeling, would reveal itself. I had this experience aged about 14 with The Silmarillion. I struggled through it, and found it weird, and the third time I read it I enjoyed it. Now I have The Mirror and the Light. It has huge sales, and I imagine more people will buy it than read it because they do not appreciate the effort it requires; but it will reward that effort. I am re-reading Bring Up the Bodies, knowing the characters better than I did. Its sequel is a 900 page novel which will be worth savouring.

In the same way I walked up the stairs in the National Gallery with a stool, because standing still too long is uncomfortable for me, turned right into the first gallery, turned left to the first painting and sat in front of it. That Veronese is fabulously beautiful. I retain it in my mind, and think of the legend of St Helena. And it is an effort. I need to concentrate, and I need to go and seek it out.

The anger is conscious, the sadness comes to consciousness. Partly it is an intellectual exercise, working out what might be there, partly it is trust in you as the expert who sees sadness in me, and partly it is inklings of feeling, peeking out from the woods, or surfacing briefly from the depths.

The anger is directed inwards, against myself, because I am weak and without status. If my anger is expressed outwards I will be squished. I got this from my family, and perhaps from their experience as human beings in the pecking order. I am at the bottom of the pecking order. Well, when I am sucking up to this admin worker, Oh, you lost a stone! How strong willed you are, how determined! What an achievement! Rather than about time, you’ll ruin your knees otherwise you fat slattern.

I have value only for what I can achieve, rather than in myself. So I need the opposite of Rohr’s lesson. I don’t blame my parents, it’s sins of the fathers, just the situation being passed on, like a mother rabbit bending to lick her kits, and the rabbit parasites march down her nose and onto them. It’s just what happens.

-Where is your agency? she asks again.

I have desire without action. I passionately want to be seen. And I want not to be seen, to hide away at home. My friend said it was as if I wanted to blend into the background in the most eyecatching way possible, which he might have wanted for himself. One of the best ways of hiding in plain sight is the steady achievement of the quiet efficient worker, who does what is expected.

-When do you feel these things rather than intellectualise about them?

When you talked about my sadness I felt irritation. Feeling the sadness- it’s too much to bear in consciousness, and I need to intellectually accept that, it’s part of the process of unearthing it.

HELP ME!

-That does not feel real. It feels like an intellectual exercise.

Well, yes. I am acting. I can only say that within several sets of quotation marks, and you can hear the quotation marks in my voice- but I am acting myself. That is what I want to say to you, perfectly sincerely, and I can only say it as an act.

-What stops you being as opposed to acting?

Lack of practice. Uselessness and inadequacy. A deep lack of trust, in myself and in the world. Those are the things that come to mind immediately.

-Is the better self totally intellectual?

No. But the feeling self, anger and sadness, is tied in such knots I can barely perceive it. Or there are feelings flooding through me, and I cannot speak them. I might type or write them.

-Does this practice, of seeking art, music and literature out, and working on them, apply to anything else?

It applies to ideas. I read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Implicit Bias in order to understand implicit bias better. I found it a struggle. I want to understand. I’d like to walk down the street buying stuff, but I can’t see how to get to there from here. I want to meet people and get to know them, and I do, sometimes, talking to people with different experiences to see through their eyes. People learn what is fun by convention, then do that for fun because they don’t know any better, but by exploration we might find something rewarding.

It could be worse…

The header picture, and the picture below, are The Raft of the Medusa by Jean-Louis André Théodore Géricault. We are in lockdown, unable to leave our homes, and they are on a raft. The Medusa sank off the coast of Senegal, and 147 crew were stranded on a raft, without any means of navigation. After the first night, they had no food. I have food, at least for the moment.

The picture is 7m x 5m, so in the Louvre it is overwhelming! But we can enjoy it in our homes, on our computers. Who needs to go out anyway? I might go food shopping on Wednesday but I might not need to. On the raft, they were reduced to cannibalism.

The picture was not popular when first exhibited in France. French people eating other French people is not a good look.

But we are British! It was hugely popular exhibited in Greenwich just after Waterloo, as it showed our moral superiority to our cowardly foes, especially when HMS Alceste ran aground in 1817. Captain Murray Maxwell maintained discipline, evacuated all the crew to a nearby island, and repelled attacks from Malay pirates.

We can bear lockdown in our comfortable homes: there are 167 episodes of Doctor Who to watch again. I have a translation of À la recherche du temps perdu on my e-reader.

Let us encourage each other.

My song is love unknown

These are interesting times.

If I get breathless so that I need oxygen, I have no friend with a car who could take me to hospital, so would need an ambulance. It is harder to believe I have a chance of getting one if I need it, after seeing the fresh meat shelves of Aldi almost empty. I am not that far over fifty, and my normal lifestyle is pretty much social isolation anyway, and I wonder whether the death rate percentages I read apply to a fully functioning hospital system when there is O2 and intensive care for everyone who needs it.

And others have more to worry about. If you are going for chemotherapy, you are immunocompromised, and you get it in a hospital where there are lots of sick people, including some with covid 19.

I was thinking of writing a post on if I disappear for a bit. I am extremely unlikely to disappear because I have died, though it is possible. Most people have mild symptoms from 19. I could of course have an accident. The longest time I have been off the air was a gap of ten days in March 2013, when I simply stopped having anything to write about. When I came back, four regular commenters commented, one saying Good to have you back Clare I was worried. Please, please don’t worry. With less social contact I have less to write about, and if I am even slightly more depressed I can’t see the point always: I could do yet another post summarising an article with my own take on it, but I feel more and more repetitive.

I get a lot of my self-regard from blogging. When people read me and comment positively that makes me feel good. And I keep checking the stats for a tiny dopamine hit, which is addictive. So I try to get more views for such hits, and that seems unhealthy to me: it seems more unhealthy when I feel more depressed.

My writing was going to appear in print- yes, print, not on line, how old fashioned. Now I wonder if it will be printed, if the printer will do the job or be shut down. (I am pessimistic when I am depressed.) My words being printed would not prove to the world, or even to me, that I had value; and it was one of those acknowledgments that I like. Something to look forward to that makes me feel good. In the uncertainty, when I am stripped of those, and other things to look forward to- I will meet her for lunch, I will meet him for coffee- I feel more pointless, even worthless. How can I do anything of value?

I do not know myself. Paul wrote I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Many people buy veg they will throw away uneaten, books that sit on their shelves unread. I thought of cycling about seven miles this morning, in the sunshine, and wondered what in me might not want to- some negative, depressive, heavy grey toad squatting on my life, preventing almost all activity, perhaps. Or worry: to cycle I have to make some small decisions. I need more motivation than the joy of the thing itself to get me out of bed: I need to talk myself into it and consider what might be the objections from that part of me which objects, which I refuse to see as merely a toad.

A hymn came to mind.

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I,
That for my sake
My Lord should take
Frail flesh, and die?

I do not believe in God. The loving eternal creator, numbering each of my hairs and seeing me as a daughter, who created the World, makes no sense to me. Yet emotionally the words make sense, and I cling to them.

Well, I did go cycling. The sunshine is beautiful, and as I passed the church its Church Open sign was in the slot, so I went in and looked up that hymn. It is beautiful, written in 1664. It has little to trouble an atheist. There is a frank assertion of the doctrine- He came from His blest throne/ Salvation to bestow– but that is only two lines. There is also an elegant expression of the unfairness and randomness of life, and the lack of relation between suffering, luck and deservingness- A murderer they save/ the Prince of life they slay.

The Christianity I have rejected is not as poisonous as that of my blogging buddy Sirius Bizinus. I can be in that church and experience it as having the energy of Love. On that quiet country road, Love kept it open. I read the hymn aloud to the empty church, weeping. Christianity has some truth in it, for this atheist materialist: there is something in me which some call God, which has value and which I may unite with and express, something of inestimable value, which values me when I allow myself to hear it, that I might be lovely.

So I went to my Quaker meeting by Zoom, sitting by the south-facing window, with a Bible and QFP to my left. I also took my Scottish Book of Common Prayer, as I thought that hymn would be in it. It isn’t- the book has “Hymns Ancient and Modern Standard Edition” from 1916. I still held it in my hands as I sat in Meeting, one of my few objects associated with my parents. I could see it negatively- without the hymn I wanted- or positively, as a symbol of their imperfect love.

Sitting alone in my house, I can suffer deep miseries and find strange consolations.

The law and trans people

Anti-discrimination law protects far more trans people than it says it does.

The Equality Act protects you from the moment you decide to transition. However, you have a right to privacy, so no-one should ask you if you are transitioning, or have transitioned. There is a statutory code on discrimination in services, which says providers should treat transsexual people according to the gender role in which they present. If you are a man cross-dressing for fun, and you go out, you should not be forbidden to use a women’s loo or changing room. If they ask you if you are transsexual or have decided to transition, you can refuse to answer such an impertinent question. There is no need to lie.

The code has a ridiculous example. Before going to a party in a local hotel, a guest lets it be known that he intends to come dressed as a woman for a laugh. However, the management says he cannot attend the event dressed as a woman as it would create a bad image for the business if there was bad behaviour on the premises. The management also tells a transsexual woman that she can’t come dressed as a woman as they don’t feel comfortable with the idea, notwithstanding the fact that they know she has been living as a woman for several years. The guest would not have a claim for discrimination because he does not intend to undergo gender reassignment and because the reason he is told not to come dressed as a woman relates to the management’s concern that overly boisterous behaviour would give a bad impression of the business, not because they think he is a transsexual person. The transsexual woman would have a claim as the reason for the less favourable treatment was because of her protected characteristic of gender reassignment.

The answer is don’t “let it be known”. Just turn up. Some AMAB people cross dress for pleasure, and some because we intend to transition. The hotel staff looking at you can’t tell which is which. I wondered if they might try to guess, if someone passed particularly badly, but that does not mean that they are not transitioning. We all have to start somewhere.

I don’t like that they say cross-dressing is “bad behaviour”. “Overly boisterous”- some cross-dressers can be meek souls, behaving quietly and respectably. The code is saying the hotel could forbid behaviour not because of how it affects other guests, but because of the motivation. They can’t forbid transitioners, but they can forbid cross-dressers. Not all businesses would: I liked an Italian restaurant in Oldham, and when I asked about going cross-dressed, they were fine about it. I did not want to draw attention to myself.

You might even make a legal claim if you are a cross dresser, refused access to women’s loos. You have to prove that the hotel believed you were transitioning. Unless they know you personally, they have no reason to believe you are not. If they have no firm belief that you are a cross dresser, they are discriminating against you though they may believe you are protected. It is discrimination if you are perceived to be trans: A woman with a medical condition that makes her appear ‘masculine’ is wrongly perceived to be undergoing gender reassignment and refused entry to a women-only sauna session at her local leisure centre. This is likely to be less favourable treatment because of gender reassignment.

If you clearly parody women’s clothes, you might be excluded, but trans people’s dress sense can be pretty bad, so you might get away with it. You may still face street harassment though. If it’s enough to put you in fear, it may be a crime. My street harassment reduced by a great deal when I completed electrolysis.

The code has this example of discrimination: A group of women complain to a health spa manager that they feel uncomfortable around another member of the spa who is a transsexual woman. In response, the manager apologises to the transsexual woman but tells her that she will not be able to use the spa again. This is less favourable treatment of her, as it puts her at a clear disadvantage compared to the spa’s other clients and will not be lawful if the spa’s conduct is because of gender reassignment. Transitioning or transitioned women have the right to be treated like other women.

Trans women have been protected by discrimination law on access to services since the Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008. We have self-ID already: all you have to do is dress up. The campaign against trans women in women’s spaces pretends that there is some great change suggested, but that is a lie.

Transphobic Quakers

Norwich Quaker Meeting do not intend to be transphobic. Apparently, they imagine they are not; but because they do not understand their  implicit biases their arrogance, ignorance and thoughtlessness produces transphobic results.

They don’t mean to be transphobic, and that is not good enough. Here is their account of their blundering encounter with transphobia. This is my interpretation of it.

They had a room booking from Women’s Place UK in January 2019. The booking said that “similar meetings had been targeted by activists, and organisers personally attacked”- it played the victim. Quakers like to be kind to oppressed people. It makes them feel good. They do not understand the reversing tactic, whereby victims are portrayed as oppressors.

“Our clerk looked at the WPUK website and found nothing that was at odds with Quaker values.” Well, their clerk did not understand and should have asked someone. Their website is more clearly transphobic now, though they try to cover it up, but at the time it at least had the demand “The principle of woman only spaces to be upheld and, where necessary, extended”. They mean, no trans women. They want to kick us out of the spaces where we have been, harmlessly, for years. If you look at their website as it was in January 2019 (Wayback machine) you will see a lot of obfuscation, but from their online speeches, you can see they were preaching that all trans women are dangerous.

When the venue was published, a Quaker warned that WPUK was transphobic and the meeting should not go ahead. They ignored the warning. They thought WPUK intended “legitimate discussion”. In the event, WPUK speakers spouted transphobic claptrap, intended to foment fear and hatred. However, though there were Quakers there, this seemed to have gone over their heads.

At the meeting, Quakers, arrogantly, wanted to make a statement. “We do not believe it right that intimidation should be allowed to silence discussion.” This accepts WPUK lies as truthful. It’s not intimidation, it is whatever people can do to stop hatred being spread. It’s not “discussion”, it is transphobic falsehood. They accept that there was no intimidation, just “a peaceful picket of eight or ten women”.

They don’t understand their own testimonies. “The testimony to equality reminds us that each person is of equal value, and has an equal right to a voice, and to be heard.” Well, no. The testimony to equality should mean working to achieve equality, which means acknowledging the structural barriers and implicit biases which prevent it. They don’t even see that hate speech suppresses free speech- WPUK hate reduces trans people’s ability to be heard.

“Then, just as the first speaker was about to begin, the fire alarm went off and many of the building’s lights went out. A Friend quickly restored quiet and light.” Well, objectors achieved something. I note, wearily, the claim of efficiency and good order. I can believe that Quakers would be unable to turn off their own fire alarm, but in this instance they managed it.

Only after the meeting, and further protests, did they bother to consult the central offices of Quakers in Britain, Friends House. Staff there drew their attention to the Young Friends General Meeting statement, which calls out transphobia and supports trans people. They could have left it there. They had been stupid, and allowed a transphobic meeting to go ahead in their premises. They could have just apologised. But instead, despite hearing from a Quaker who understood, they issued a statement: “We acknowledge that the proposed change to the Gender Recognition Act is both important and divisive”. Well, no. It is a minor technical matter of interest only to trans people, which those who glory in their transphobia are using to foment fear and hatred, particularly of trans women.

They said, “We are sorry that some members of the local LGBT+ community were hurt”. That misunderstands. All members of the LGBT+ community were hurt. That’s what happens when you spread hate: all the victims are hurt, even if they are unaware of your actions. The statement makes it appear as hurt feelings. No, it is hurt interests.

Their summary continues, “We understood that transphobia is a real… threat to transgender people”. That misunderstands. Transphobia is a threat to everyone, just as racism is. It reinforces gender stereotypes and kyriarchy. The testimony to equality requires that implicit biases towards transphobia be expunged. And, what could their next word be, except “But”? “But we also realised that there are genuine causes for concern among some natal women”. Even now they are echoing the transphobic lies.

The Equality Act governs access to women’s spaces. The Equality Act will not be affected. A Gender Recognition Certificate is entirely symbolic. Do the reading!

They considered doing some reconciliation work, but they thought trans people would be unwilling to listen to “individuals with different perspectives”. They decided to invite trans people to talk about our experiences. This is problematic. They are shocked at the angry responses which they say “showed a distorted interpretation of our invitation and revealed a marked unwillingness to speak to us”. They quote some, I think to gain sympathy, though I sympathise with the person who wrote, “Who the FUCK do they think they are to judge on this matter?” Some trans people nevertheless went- I was one of them. The trans people who spoke showed concern about the straights’ feelings and beliefs, and gave a rounded view of the issues, rather than a partisan one- for example, “Gender is not the same as sex. People should not be identified by their organs, but women menstruate and give birth. Quite a number of people have transitioned back, so we must be careful about taking absolutist positions.” A trans woman said some mollifying things, from which they conclude that they are entirely in the right: “This response to the actual meeting expressed a very different perception of the nature of the meeting from the prospective responses of the other protesters”. Now, I wish I had not gone.

Then, unfortunately, they met with Debbie Hayton. Hayton, a trans woman, speaks up for WPUK for some reason, thereby giving some camouflage to WPUK transphobia. Ben Carson is in Donald Trump’s cabinet, and they would not doubt that Trump is a racist (at least, I hope they wouldn’t), but being ignorant they take Hayton at face value.

They then quote over 2000 words of transphobic twaddle, without qualification: trans women are a threat to other women, doctors at the gender clinic are a threat to children, the usual boring rubbish. This is on their website. As a Quaker I am ashamed that they would publish this stuff.

They then give a list of “Lessons for Friends and Others”. I despair. They include the line “predatory and controlling men are a real threat to the safety of women”. Well, if they did not know that beforehand, I don’t know what planet they’ve been living on. However, it is quite irrelevant to issues of gender recognition reform.

Their final paragraph shows their self-righteousness and invincible ignorance. Here they are, the wise ones, platitudinously sharing what they have learned with the world. “Nobody benefits from the perpetuation of conflict. There is much more work to be done to take the hostility out of this sensitive and contentious area, to enable common ground to be explored, and to promote understanding of all perspectives.”

Are Quakers transphobic? Some are proudly and aggressively so, speaking at WPUK meetings, campaigning against trans rights, and claiming victimhood. Some aren’t: do read that Young Friends statement. And most just don’t know or care enough, so perpetuate the societal transphobia which drives trans people so often to misery, joblessness and suicide. These Quakers’ ignorance is no excuse. Any trans person wondering about attending a Quaker meeting would be well advised to check it out thoroughly beforehand.

The weight of the world

I want to save the world because I could not rescue my mother.

The suggestion that TERFs claiming to protect vulnerable women from trans women is as baseless, as much in bad faith and as invidious as racists claiming to protect white women from Black men was like a plunge into cold water or a slap in the face for me. I simply could not have seen it that way. That someone else sees it that way gives me hope. Those calling me monstrous, those demanding protection from me, are wrong about me.

Then the leadership team of UNISON wrote a letter, including this: UNISON stands with our trans members and all trans people, who face high levels of discrimination and prejudice in work and increasing levels of hate and abuse in public spaces.

I am writing something for publication. I dumped a sentence in the middle of it, apparently apropos of nothing: A social work tutor said BAME and LGBT people were less likely to complete courses. The editors pointed that out. I really had not wanted to state explicitly, on my own authority, that people leave courses because being policed into heteronormativity or the constant reinforcement that Black is less, white is normal and better, is STRESSFUL!!!!!! It may be easier for me to speak, as an ally, on behalf of people of colour than to say it for myself. I should just cope, after all, it’s entirely normal, everyone has their problems.

It is about acceptance and rejection. I am crippled by repeated rejection. It sits like a reservoir of pain in the centre of my being. Conform or be cast out– I suffer from it now, and have not processed it.

There is a risk in writing of something I have not fully processed. The pain may come out. Excuse me for a moment, I need to scream.

NO IT IS NOT NATURAL AND NORMAL AND RIGHT IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS!!!!!!

Ah, that’s better.

Writing of something I am processing may set me off, but it can give the writing an immediacy or edge which is harder to capture when I have finished the processing.

One group kicked me out, and another group takes me in, and my friend’s words and actions, especially the hugs, are warm and welcoming. And I want to say, look! Listen to them, this is what they say! I respect them (though I have riled them and they have rejected me I still like and respect several of them). Partly I might tell myself this is wisdom, seeing the positive in nine years of relationship and even Acceptance of Reality, and the thing in me which is harder for me to see is my assertion that they were right to reject me because I really am that bad, destructive, negative, totally worthless. And I am nervous about the new group. It is only a matter of time before they see how repellent I am, and reject me too.

I wanted to download four years of texts from my phone, with a particular person, as a reminder of her intelligence, strength, enthusiasm honour and humour. So I put a “phone manager” program on my computer which has probably hoovered up all my data to sell on. A few hundred texts is not much of a memorial- I have blog posts and diary entries, emails and even memories- but I wanted them because I cannot resurrect the friendship, which is dead. Previously I have felt good about dumping a long chain of emails as a sign of moving on, but not in this case. Despite quite a bit of fiddling, I could not download the texts.

I have not been crying much this year, and now I am weeping helplessly. I want the tears not to go down the tear ducts to the throat, I want them to well over, because that is a cultural proof that they are real. Sobbing is not enough. It is midnight, and I feel I need to talk to someone to regain equanimity. I will not tell myself sharply to GET OVER IT!!!!! It has to be the Samaritans. The phone rings out for a long time, then I get Ivy. She wants me to explain. I am crippled by rejection, I say. I do not want to give all the important or most recent examples, though I tell her of my father and sister to establish I am not whining over nothing.

Emoting for a bit to another human being gives relief from the immediate misery, and will help me sleep, so that’s a good thing, but I want more. This is shaking me to my core, and I want to understand why. I want all gender variant people, including the anti-trans campaigners, all working together for our common good, united. It is a ridiculous thought, and there is nothing I can do to forward it- or small actions now and then which have a pitifully small effect before the enormity of the task. I may go into pointless symbolic activity, like copy-pasting each of those texts individually, to create a relic or monument which I despise even as I create it. The relic is worthless, the desire is pointless, and feeling that is unbearable and I weep. Well, it makes sense to me, whatever Ivy or you think of it. I type notes as I talk to her, because I am questing for answers beneath my screams.

The pain is in my need to reconcile the irreconcilable. My love should be sufficient to understand explain and persuade. And it isn’t. And others see the dispute very differently. I am loving, creative, intelligent, articulate, persuasive, and that gets me nowhere because the problem is intractable.

I could not save the friendship and I could not save my mother.

I did all I could.

I could not rescue my mother. All I can do is rescue me, which I do more slowly than I would wish.

Performing gender

Lying on the floor weeping “I am not a man” even as I pretended to be one at work, I believed in a real me, separate from that pretense, which manifested herself when I expressed myself female. Like others, I found that at first presenting male was just normal, and expressing female mind-blowingly wonderful; then presenting male was a bit unpleasant and expressing female was really nice; and finally expressing female was just normal and presenting male unbearable. I had wanted to prepare for transition, with electrolysis of my face and other things, but I went full time before my electrolysis was complete. Then, needing to avoid shaving so I could have electrolysis I was abused in the street, and became depressed and miserable.

Judith Butler says we could perform gender, that is act a gender role, much as my friend said I appeared to be acting when presenting male and just being me when expressing female- have you noticed, I write “Presenting” male, saying that’s something about how I appeared, and “Expressing” female, when my appearance was the expression of my real self? I have expressed (wrote spoke and thought about) it that way all this century. But that’s not what she means when she says gender is performative. There’s no actor underneath, putting on a performance. Instead we act and speak in ways which consolidate the impression that we are men or women, not expressing an internal reality but responding to others as we are conditioned to, following habits which seem to us to be part of some essence. The phenomenon of gender is self-sustaining, people enforcing it on each other.

I need to do more reading on this, but Butler does not fit that description. She was walking down the street and a teenager called out, “Are you a lesbian?” There’s the policing, enforcement, bullying right there- she is not walking in a normal manner, so a stranger calls her out on it- but she does not change. Gaydar is a thing. Gay people can spot each other. Straight people can spot us too. The bullying isn’t working, or not completely. There is something in her which rebels. It might not be something as complex as a gender: the underlying reality could be as simple as a sexual attraction, stopping her from following others’ gender rules and making her own, but the effect is a range of behaviours and interactions which mark her out as “unfeminine”.

Lesbians might be butch or femme. H was particularly disgusted by femme lesbians, “attracted to that type of masculinity”- quite unable to understand them. There are fashions for butches, a butch uniform which is quite as constraining as straight women’s fashions, even if they change less frequently. Is the standard butch expression constrained by lesbians, or by the wider community?

H, particularly highly sexed, at twenty wore jeans and DMs and a crew cut, to avoid unwanted sexual attention, then in her forties her daughter persuaded her to dress sexily and around seventy she still does, with long hair and tight dresses. She talks of “performing gender”, but appears to mean making a choice, having twice exercised a choice and made a huge change. Now her sexiness is power, holding male attention despite her age, controlling the men by skills learned through experience.

Tim, a gay man, told me that in some relationships he was bottom, in others top, and he found his feelings around his body changed as he moved between. The areas which were erogenous zones would be different. He could pass as straight.

There’s something inside so strong. We transition. My father, attracted to women, was a primary head teacher. He had one male teacher and five women in his school, and while he thought the women more talented he noticed them encouraging the male to apply for promoted posts- to Dad’s disgust. Other men might have found their feminine encouragement of the man, and holding themselves back, unremarkable, or even appropriate. If men take the promoted posts are they really more talented and efficacious or do we imagine them to be more talented because we are programmed to see them so? Yet Dad saw them differently, perhaps because he was attracted to strong women, as am I.

Wikipedia is not the best of sources, but there I find a one paragraph criticism of Judith Butler by Martha Nussbaum, saying that rather than political campaigning Butler encourages feminists to subvert gender by speech and gesture, in “unfeminine” ways, subverting gender norms. I imagine both would be possible- walk like a man, refuse to smile and be accommodating, and campaign against VAWG.

When I was presenting male I did not see myself as acting. I was aspiring to masculinity, but it would be one real human being that was a man, going running to make myself fit, and when I was behaving in a masculine way it seemed to me that this was me, being how I ought to be, rather than hiding a “real me” underneath. Later, I either became aware of that Real Me which had been suppressed in fear (as I have always thought since) or that “feminine self” somehow came into being.

Happy birthday to Judith Butler, 64 today (I planned this post before finding it was her birthday). She provided this photo for Wikipedia when she was 57.

This is Martha Nussbaum, photographed aged 61 by Robin Holland.

How do you see these photographs? What does Professor Nussbaum’s makeup, and Professor Butler’s lack of it, signify? Are they feminine? Strong? Open or guarded? Can you read intelligence in either picture separately from the titles they have earned?

Added: here’s long distance runner Emily Halnon on My Boyfriend’s Wedding Dress. She loves his flair, imagines she’s contributing to a progressive shift in how we define masculinity, finally allowing men to be emotional and vulnerable, or to ask for help, or to hug their male friends, and yet was uncomfortable with him cross-dressing. She loves his muscles and athleticism, and his hairy chest, as well as his emotional depth, vulnerability and openness, but she and her girlfriends want men who are bigger and taller than they are, or who are better than them at sports, or who don’t cry in front of them. So- she wants to subvert gender norms, but still finds herself enforcing them because of the gravitational pull of wider society. Or, she’s a heterosexual woman who has particular desires, even if a minority of women might enjoy the support of a more vulnerable man.

Compassion for transphobes

I have compassion for transphobes on the Left, at least the women- they have been hurt by the Patriarchy too, they can have some wonderful feminist campaigning energy. Not for the men, they’re just looking for an excuse to treat someone with contempt, and not for the Right-wingers, they want to enforce gender stereotypes and create a hate-group for people to look down on, but for the feminists?

There is a passionate group of women, called by others TERFs (Trans-excluding Radical Feminists)- a term initially coined by one of them, and claimed by them, which they now claim is a slur, calling themselves by increasingly inoffensive terms: “Gender-critical”, that is, opposed to gender stereotypes, or even “gender-concerned”.

What do I feel? Sadness, frustration, depression. The worst are full of passionate intensity– self-righteously tweeting #expelme because they have been called out on their hate. There’s a tactic on twitter, needle and provoke a trans woman, and when she reacts, screenshot it and retweet ad nauseam:

Look! Look! Look what they’re like!

They want people to see me as a threat. If they want to inspire people to feminist action, they want to do it by fomenting outrage that I have been in women’s spaces for years, and fear that suddenly some great flood of trans women, too frightened to transition before, will join me, or perhaps that sex offenders will dress as women and pretend to be trans women in order to go into women’s spaces and commit crime, rather than not bothering with all the trouble and barging in, like they do now.

Calls for compassion may be met with denial. Their motivation is compassion, they might say. They do not want anyone else to suffer like Keira Bell. They do not want vulnerable women surprised by men in women’s space. They claim they want trans people to have the same rights as other people- they are not against trans rights- but mean that trans women are men so should be treated as men.

The question was, How can we resolve human conflict without violence? But the violence is in spate. Before, I thought of trying to talk their language, and be as winsome as possible, but no longer have the energy.

So the first step has to be, the anti-trans campaigners have to ask themselves why people they respect are against them. Why would the female Labour leadership and deputy leadership candidates sign the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights pledges and say “Trans women are women”? Is there any socialist, feminist or humane principle behind their position? No, they have not been bullied by the Powerful Trans Lobby, which from my side appears to have no power at all, or by Trans Rights Activists, who are just ordinary trans people living our lives.

Then, get them to see us as human beings. This is difficult. No-one likes to admit that they are dehumanizing others. They think they are being entirely reasonable, and compassionate. Showing a trans woman’s suffering may not break the spell. Analogies of other dehumanization campaigns will make them recoil in disgust and denial. You could remind them of the Lavender Menace, but they may imagine they are protecting lesbians.

After that, a mediator could ask them if they have any characteristics or interests in common with trans people. To me it’s obvious- they are more oppressed by gender stereotypes than the average, and so are we; they want to pull them down, and so do we. They don’t see it that way.

Unfortunately the anti-trans campaign on the feminist Left is not merely internet froth, diverting people from real feminist campaigning. It is a concerted effort by the hard Right to inflame culture wars.

Five years ago a blogger group called 1000 voices speak for compassion started posting in unison on themes around compassion, and this post is for their fifth anniversary: other links are here. My compassion is shrinking as I feel more constrained.

Being trans is an act of generosity

Being trans is an act of generosity. Being trans is hard, tiring work, and joyous creation.

Reflect on which identities you are most comfortable discussing? Which give you the most joy? Conversely, which identities are you least comfortable discussing and involve the most pain?

Which of your identities do you question the most? Is there an identity you often need to defend?

Sara Ahmed: When being is labouring, we are creating more than ourselves.
Sara Ahmed: When we loosen the requirements to be in a world, we create room for others to be.

I read these questions from a white cis straight professional male, and they do not fit me. They imply that the identity I am comfortable discussing gives me joy. Well, sometimes it’s hard to be a trans woman, and I can be intensely uncomfortable talking about it with a woman who wants me excluded but says she “only wants the freedom to say sex is real and women need single sex spaces”- with one of her “male allies” it’s much worse- so I wondered, does my joy only come from self-actualisation? There’s nothing joyous about being a trans woman per se, it’s just that having suppressed in fear I realise in courage and being myself and finding myself gives me joy? Or even being a trans woman is inherently uncomfortable because I have to explain myself all the time.

Being normal or having one of the acceptable characteristics- white, middle-class, with a degree- is comfortable. I am white, and it is comfortable, I don’t have to think, Oh God, another room full of white men. It’s not necessarily comfortable talking about it, though. I am woker than most, I have heard a small amount of experience, two people separately talking about white people touching black people’s hair and how invasive that is. I am uncomfortable, but pleased, to talk about whiteness with a Black person: pleased because I can find how better to be an ally, be one of the good people who is supportive whose support they need and so polish my halo because I want to be seen as a good person, and give evidence of that by doing good. Uncomfortable because I glimpse how much I don’t know. Then I talk about whiteness with a white person and with some we nod our heads wisely and want to be better allies, though not all white people are like that.

I am comfortable when I am reinforcing the rules of my social group: with the white man who like me wants to be an ally. There was the Suffragan bishop who wants to be an ally, and then he came out to me as “lower-middle class”, the grammar school boy in society on suffrance, with some privilege and some matters excluded. We want to be allies because we too are excluded in some ways. It seems everyone on the Diversity and Inclusion course is excluded in some ways.

I am uncomfortable when I am labouring, when whether I can go to the toilet without being shamed comes into question. The Equality Act 2010, with its rules on how I can be excluded if it is reasonable to exclude me, was fragile toleration of me, rather than acceptance, and some are working hard to tear down even that.

So we build as men must build
with the sword in one hand and the trowel in the other

Building is fighting, for women as well as men, and in Eliot’s poem they were building necessary defensive walls for Jerusalem.

And the trans-excluder might see herself as building, a space for women, for women to be in solidarity, where a trans woman would damage that precious fragile space. We are set against each other. It is tragic that we fight each other.

There is joy in being trans. All my personality and all its beauty is ὁμοούσιον with being trans. I am one essence. There is me, not a trans bit I can separate out from the rest of it, not one bit which is to be deprecated and fenced in, or removed so I could be a productive member of society.

There is work in being trans, in defending my right to be, in being myself despite the flak. It is creative work. It expands the realm of the possible for everyone and particularly for those whom gender stereotypes do not fit (Everyone, but some more than others, some much much much more than others).

Which of your identities do you question? Well, that is a personal question. “What are your most vulnerable, insecure spots?” None, I tell you. “What of yourself do you doubt?” That might lead me to finding that imposed identities are forced and not real, self-concept not organismic self, not “myself” at all but a lie. And, I think I have ferreted out most of that already.

The feminine self

I am smiling, though I feel intense misery: I smile because this is me, the most feminine part of me, speaking now. I definitely don’t have multiple personalities, and this is me, speaking naturally above the break, wearing earrings and enjoying the sensation of them in my ears.

The process, the whole animal, does not cry, and here am I, I, crying, and feeling the joy at being this feminine part of me, and surprising myself as I did not expect this. Another, perhaps more cynical or appraising rationalist part wants to break through and I don’t want it to.

I do not need looked after.
I do not need restrained.
The world is not dangerous for me, nor I for it.

I speak from this place when I stop fighting, relax and open out. I am exploring now, I don’t know what’s going on. I want to see the world from here, from this perspective, and I want to show it to other people. Normally I am more guarded than this.

In this feminine part is my appreciation of beauty. I look at the stems and leaves pattern on my net curtains. The curves are dancing. This feels more authentic than any other part of me and I don’t really know what she wants, what she does, what she can do, she has been despised for too long.

Going back to one of my myths: I wanted to build the dome, I wanted to do it quickly and efficiently, and well- out of fear of being useless, fear of being seen to be useless, and because it would prove my value, to me, and possibly to other people. I think doing it was valuable, I am not merely projecting. I don’t think it was just fear.

Fear and love, the two great motivators, running from or running to.

This is where my playfulness lives. This is where my ability to know other people lives, not analytical, though the analytical is not alien to this, rationality is a skill this can use. This is in no way an emotional part separate from my analytical power.

Why would you fear being childish? Because it is vulnerable. Yet- vulnerable to what? The judgment which matters is my own. If I fear this I cannot show it to anyone. Yet they might accept me like this.

This is beautifully soft, and can be determined. I am determined now. I hunger to know how I may be when I am like this, because the lesson I have learned that being like this is dangerous is I think a childhood lesson which no longer applies. Other parts of me seek to protect me from the hostility of others by making me shut up and vanish, but I don’t think everyone would be hostile.

This is the part of me that writes poetry.

I often wonder how my analogues are doing in alternative universes. In how many am I dead? Do I have children? Fear and desire- in one, I present the most popular television programme, to millions of adoring fans. It is an hour-long interview in which I strip away the masks of others, my own authenticity inspiring theirs, generally as liberation and occasionally as complete humiliation- a politician would have to be very brave to accept the invitation. An hour long interview with someone revealing entirely who they are, any age from five to ninety.

Though while electrons are capable of quantum superposition, being a fuzzy cloud expanding to fill the whole universe, I am not.

This feminine self is where my hurt is. I had no access to this at all, because of the hurt, and there is still the possibility of hurt, though not the annihilation the child feared.

This is the part of me where my strength is. In part this is scared, and in part she has complete confidence.

A friend went over her handlebars into a ditch, and has been terrified of cycling since. I suggested she cycle in the carpark of a supermarket after it had closed, when she has an expanse of tarmac and no cars, so that she can learn to trust.

I can learn to trust. I have been hurt, and can practise on small things-

I want to show off, because I want admiration and affirmation- though since this experience I have been affirming myself. This is where the possibilities are. This is where any desire worth anything is.

I have hidden it, and fought for it, and had glimpses and occasional moments of being, my feminine self is still unrealised seventeen years after transition, often quickly submerged or suppressed.

Authenticity is possible.

Hello.