The trans “debate” II

There is no such thing as “gender”. A man cannot become a woman.
But trans women exist, and for thousands of years in all kinds of cultures apparent men have expressed ourselves as women.

Women need women’s space.
Trans women are integrated into women’s space, and should not be excluded.
(This one can become Oppression Olympics, where we compete to show which group is more oppressed.)

I need space in society. I need to go to the loo.
Use men’s spaces.

If women cannot define “woman”, if “woman” includes some men, then there is no basis for women’s rights.
Trans women are an anomaly, 0.1% of women, not worth all this energy.

There is a proposed new law which will end women’s rights.
There has been no movement on gender recognition reform since it was announced two years ago, and diagnosis is based on self-ID anyway.

There is little trans debate. There are opposing views, which complement each other like the ones above. On social media people who agree gather, and hone their arguments on each side, so that someone might speak for an hour on the first point, talking of brain plasticity and citing Cordelia Fine. But another might speak for an hour in refutation, on gender in culture. We talk past each other.

Then there are particular issues.

Even if testosterone levels are now women’s, male puberty and a male skeleton gives advantages in sport.
Skeletons change just as muscle-strength changes, in hormonal transition.

Then there are the appeals to the undecided middle. So “Self-ID” must be presented as a great change, allowing a sudden flood of men in women’s spaces, rather than a change to the births deaths and marriages registration system, having little practical effect even for trans people. Often there is some attempt to affect sympathy with “truly transsexual” people, and distinguish them from “predatory men”. In the private spaces, the definition of truly transsexual gets more and more restricted, as the interested party is drawn in, learns more of the “argument”, shares the anger.

Ah, the anger. Stories are shared. Tara Wolf’s assault on Maria McLachlan has done terrible damage to trans rights, cited again and again as a step on the way to radicalisation. Then there is self-righteousness: they see “women meeting to discuss women’s rights”, I see a crowd whipped up into communal anger, derision, fear, disgust against me.

You’re not one of us. So much of feminism is bringing Patriarchy to the attention of women, how society is organised in the interests of men. It just seems normal, it’s what you’re used to, then you grow to see how oppressive it is. This creation of an out-group is not subject to the usual objection, as it is punching up rather than punching down. I agree, actually. A lot of that makes sense to me. I would just like to be accepted in the group. I am scarred by male gender stereotypes too.

(Do I need to explain “punching up”? Have you read the same shared articles as me? Do you frequent the same social media spaces? The language can increase our intimacy through what we share, or alienate. What about “work wife”?)

Possibly you care so much about this because of your own hurt. Others are less hurt or have other concerns.

Debate, the construction of apparently logical-rational arguments from oft-repeated stock phrases, will not bring us together. Can we come together face to face, to see and hear each other?

What do you want?
What do you feel?
What hurts you, inspires you?
What do we share?

Because we share about this on line, typing onto screens, it becomes an intellectual debate. However it is a conflict. Trans women are in women’s spaces, and some women object. Should the women who object be able to exclude the trans women, or not? Where do your sympathies lie?

Any thoughts on how two sides might be brought together and the heat lessened- please share. How to break through the carapace of intellectual argument and Shield of Righteousness, to the hurt within? Can we find common interests?

how strange these mortals be!

How many of your characteristics do you need to consider before you become unique? I may not be the only left-handed aphantasic Scottish trans woman, but I am probably the only left-handed aphantasic Scottish trans woman entitled to join Mensa. It’s a trick question, of course; we are all unique, if only for our fingerprints.

People’s experience of the world can differ greatly. An effect I have on some people is that they imagine I think I am better than them. They project their insecurity onto me. I don’t, actually. I was deeply ashamed that I, being highly intelligent, empathetic, moderately well-read and interested in everything human should have such a poor CV. I have got over the shame, but I remain humble because of where I am in life (I think- subject to what I may write about consciousness). Why could I not do better?

This surprised even Tina. “It must be hard thinking you could do the job better,” she said. Actually, no. I don’t think that. But I find joy in these characteristics. I value having these gifts. That is how I value myself. It has been hard to value myself.

Being bright is supposed to make life easier, but it hasn’t, for me. Other things affect my life. I am socially awkward. Everything is multifactorial. She said, “We tend to be very reductionist, and think being bright makes things easier, having wealth makes things easier, and therefore that person does not have the difficulties I have.” We’re all doing our best under difficult circumstances.

-You find it hard to communicate without seeming arrogant and presumptuous. It’s not arrogance: you are saying, “This is the bit of life I can do! I’d like to share it, please.” I said I could go to a cocktail party or a dinner party and hold my own, but that is not quite true: I could talk on the intellectual level but not about social or life-issues, and not if it became a conflict, and I would need to borrow appropriate clothes. And I might be nervous.

I got into a conflict, and I had not anticipated it. I think she thought I was trying to put her down, put her in her place. In her situation she may get arrogant people trying to do that. I was just sharing something that had interested me- I have known of aphantasia since my teens, when I found that this phrase “the mind’s eye” was not just a weird metaphor but most people’s actual experience, but I had only just learned the word for it, only just heard others talking of experiences just like mine. I was excited about it. So the conflict came at me, out of the blue. And now I am not sure I could even learn from it. It’s just one of those bad things that happen occasionally, I could not imagine it part of a class and avoid similar problems. I sympathise with her.

I trained as a lawyer, and am Scots, and so write and talk with that flavour, with these twists of lemon in the cocktail.

I wonder how my sincerity comes over. I do not like to see the world as a battle, and some people do. And some people are ignored, brushed off, not seen or heard. It is hard to imagine other people’s experience is different from your own. We try to hide our foibles and vulnerabilities, and in doing so make ourselves more vulnerable.

What I might want to say to Elders

I want to be valued. My gifts, service and essential worth deserve to be valued.

I know it is not good to boast, or speak as a fool, and three times at Greenbelt I organised a valuable outreach event which now, apparently, you can’t. As clerk I opened the space for the group to come to decisions all could accept, after the previous clerk resigned membership having tried to force his own decisions through. I am good with words, as demonstrated by my articles in the Friend and my ministry affecting YM minutes. So I have made a valuable contribution at gatherings of Quakers, on Outreach, on Quaker Life, on LGBT, and on Inclusion.

I want your good, and I dare to imagine that local and area Quaker meetings would be better with me in them. I would like a reconciliation process, involving Friends from outside the AM, to see if I might be enabled to contribute to my meeting with my presence, my Love, articulacy, expressiveness, intellect and other gifts.

So I have to address the difficulties with including me. Some have been explained to me, and some have not. I might do that better face to face than in a letter. The word “dangerous” applied to me shows the strength of feeling, and I do not want to deny that feeling. Nor do I demand that it be articulated and justified; but I feel that our human relationships might be healed, so that the feeling was less strong. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Andrew does not think anyone fears physical violence from me; possibly it is that you find me doctrinaire or overbearing. Possibly it is discomfiting that I present female and people understand courtesy, or something, to require that I be seen as such, while I behave in such mannish ways. Does my poverty affect how you see me?

Andrew wrote, after reading this, “I was speaking on my own account and not presuming the feelings of others”.

There are diversity and inclusion issues around my exclusion. The YM is considering Inclusion, and this process could be a valuable part of that.

I feel that seeing each other more clearly and admitting our discomfiture deepens community. So a process with the possible outcome of including me again might be good, in many different ways.

I might also be seen as a problem because of the depth of my distress and damage. That is for me to deal with. My meetings have given me a great deal of support, and considering how to be with such distress may be creative and healing. I feel I can contribute to the consideration. How can we be with each others’ pain? How can we be with the whole human being, gift and pain, discernment and blind spots, strength and vulnerability?

Part of the difficulty of committing to such a process, for you, could be concern that you had to justify your decision to exclude me. So perhaps I should justify it. After other incidents, and warnings, I had shouted angrily at your Friend, whom you value. You have the responsibility to work for the good of the meeting, which you sought when you made the decision. However you reassured me that the decision did not immediately affect my membership of the AM, so the question arises, what to do next. I would like to be part of the process of decision. You asked me not to attend, but did not state how long that might apply. These are issues which could fruitfully be addressed.

You might wonder if I fully understand the gravity of my wrongful conduct over the last eight years, how it has affected others, or how problematic that makes my attending meeting. Perhaps I don’t, and that would have to be considered during the process. I doubt I could convince you that I did, by enumerating incidents in a letter. What can I say? I know all that stuff matters. I might not understand quite how much. I may have learned from it, though too slowly. Quakers say, In worship together we can find the assurance of God’s love and the strength to go on with renewed courage. I would like to try that with you.

This is heavy and difficult. I don’t want to minimise the difficulty when I express my desire to engage with it. I want to be valued, and that is for me to address. I am hurt deeply, and it is for me to heal myself. I don’t want vindication, but community. I feel we might bless ourselves and others in a reconciliation process.

Being discombobulated

The doctor makes me feel ill.

Like the battle between trans and terf, the battle between biblical literalists and atheist rationalists continues on the blogs. I blog to get things clear in my mind, and having dismissed creationism to my satisfaction I have moved on. You can’t win against them: they seem happy to continue asserting their rubbish, backed by their tight communities of Evangelicals. They twist and distort. So the truth-teller comments, and they respond in an arrogant way, a beautiful example being the assertion that trilobite fossils offer at least as much proof for the creation/flood scenario as the old age earth cosmology.

I remain proud of this comment: The more I interact with you, Tim, the more I see how pitiable you are. How much more beautiful my world is! I hear words like biostratigraphy or palaeothermometry, and learn what they mean, and think- How wonderful! How beautiful! People are finding these things out! And you think, They must be wrong. It is all rubbish. Here is a dispute and there is an inconsistency, and all scientists are FOOLS!

How much more beautiful my Bible is! My Bible has story, and metaphor, and poetry, and poetic imagery, and allusion. Your Bible has a series of propositions, more or less ridiculous, which you have to Believe. My Bible leads me to God, and your Bible mires you in lies.

And my Christian argument against creationism: God created people in God’s image, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, and scientists seek understanding, assessing the evidence. From presuppositions of a young Earth and a Flood, geologists in the 18th century established evidence of an old Earth, and how the Flood could not have created the strata visible all over the world. They seek the truth. That academic science, involving millions of people, should have produced such a detailed account of the Earth’s history, continually being refined, is one of the wonders of God’s creation. They do so based on evidence in the Earth’s rocks, as astronomers observe electromagnetic radiation falling on the Earth and its satellites, and geneticists, genomes. A God who created all this evidence to delude God’s people would be a monster, creating a stumbling block that uses our good qualities, curiosity and commitment to truth, against us. Alternatively, a God who allowed Satan to deceive us in that way would not deserve my worship. My God does not send ane to Heaven and ten to Hell.

This towering achievement of humanity is airily dismissed. Here that doctor uses the diversity in the oldest evidence of the Cambrian explosion to argue for creation. Schizochroal eyes are indeed complex. But earlier life has been found, in the Ediacaran biota, too soft to create fossils without exceptional conditions. As life began to move on legs and fins, and detect light and sound, an evolutionary arms race began between predators and prey creating the Cambrian explosion. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of eyes. Isaiah quoted by Matthew describes the person who would dismiss that explanation.

And yet this Emergency Room physician dismisses all this evidence, all this analysis, as “Arrogant, prideful and foolish”. He turns his back on the truth. Challenge him, and he will answer you. Anyone wanting to find the truth, or deal with argument fairly, has an impossible disadvantage- for I want to show him the wonders of God’s creation. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. He is a blind guide.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

The cascade of wicked falsity makes me feel ill. He is a physician! He writes in grammatical sentences. I dare to hope that Christians can seek truth together, in love, and his torrent of gibberish, told with a straight face, belies that. I get stronger, though. Yes, people are trapped in delusion, and try to delude others, but also some seek truth, and we can approach it if we are committed to it. When starting this blog I wanted to analyse why I find an arrogant series of assertions, stated as if the speaker believed them but clearly untrue, was so disorientating to me. It is like motion sickness. And I can’t. Why do I find it so unpleasant? I just do.

One of my exercises is the Agreement Challenge: what can you value in something you disagree with? Violet introduced me to his blog, this post. So I was glad to be introduced to this article on how the value of scientific evidence is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. Indeed. I like Violet’s prescriptions for education, and am sad I even considered anything that physician said.

There is a limit to the value of pointing out the foolishness of fools. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the way is to promote birth control and education on human relationships and consent. US Republicans oppose this. We like to think rationality will prevail, but they’re not listening!

I am less discombobulated than I was by such vileness. Yesterday, at a conference I was discombobulated in a completely different way: I glimpsed that if I could better understand what these speakers were saying, perhaps reading the paper rather than hearing it, my understanding of the World would be enriched. Good advice: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I will spend less time worried about wicked rubbish!

You Be You

What happens when you let a child explore their curiosities, predispositions and inner creativity beyond their gender? The answer is clear: they’re allowed to be the best versions of themselves. You Be You is a charity seeking to break down gender stereotypes from primary school level.

They say, “We want every classroom to be a safe, supportive, open environment where children can explore their interests and express their feelings.” That is, they want children to develop as whole human beings, not shamed or restricted for who they are. Because the stereotypes which oppress us are seen as normal or natural, in school and out, teachers need trained to see them and combat them. Now, there is a pilot of their training at two primary schools in London.

Much of this is around empowering girls to be active and assertive. On their news page, there are two articles from May 2017 about girls playing football and girls and the Outdoors. The first article on their useful links is “Girls lose faith in their own talents”, and among the research papers is “Parent gender roles at home and child aspirations”. I am glad I was taught to aspire to university, less glad that my feelings were not valued so I chose the wrong course to do there.

They write, Interventions mostly focus on women and girls, but we need to focus on men and boys just as much. Why don’t more men take a lead role in parenting and go part-time at work? Why don’t more men become teachers and nurses? Why are men more likely resort to substance abuse and violence as a response to stress, anxiety and depression than women? Why are roughly 3/4 of suicide victims men? Both men and women suffer from gender inequality.

Women and girls should not be blocked from achieving, should be able to value their talents and have those talents seen and developed, should be able to be active in any role they choose. Yes! Hurrah! What anyone in this valuable work wants for boys is less clear. We want them happier, more at ease with themselves. But, do you imagine boys cannot be happy following masculine stereotypes? What, none of them? Who do you want to benefit? Aha: If we don’t start teaching boys that it’s ok to express themselves, nurture others, and show vulnerability, we’re never going to chip away at the walls women keep running into in adulthood.

In Resources for parents, there is a list of books, including “Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different”, which includes a picture of Grayson Perry in a frock. The alternative type of hero is a man who checks his privilege and who is kind, selfless, courageous and not afraid to stand up for what’s right.

There is a blog. This has lots of useful stuff, such as a study showing that children whose friendship groups emphasised traditional gender stereotypes were shown to have lower well being than others. Those who chose ‘being tough’ as the most important trait for boys, or ‘having good clothes’ as the most important trait for girls, had the lowest well being of all.

It seems the pilots are about to start. Even in a school full of enthusiastic, creative teachers, and is really committed to supporting the mental health and personal development of its pupils, teaching about “feelings and kindness”, stereotypes remained, including the idea that housework was for females.

Even their own children follow the stereotypes. They don’t fit gay and trans children, but just possibly there may be some “normal” kids they fit. I wonder how much anyone can bring forth the natural child, shorn of stereotype, and how much the training challenges the stereotype whether it is “natural” to the child or not.

I don’t know how much masculinity and femininity are social constructs. Nature and nurture interact like flour and eggs, and girls might be trained to be more assertive- if the nurture is different, and the child remains “feminine”, is that from her, or from other influences the trainer could not control? I have no idea. I know these matters are fiercely disputed. There remain restrictions on women, as on BAME people and LGBT.

I wish them well. I hope a trans child would flourish in the environment they wish to create. I hope none would be told they did not need to transition in this gender-free world, if they asserted they did. In any case, as a child, as a soft apparent boy, I would have benefited from it.

Expressing emotions, as a trans woman

If you transition male to female, and take hormones, the sensation of your emotions becomes more immediate, more demanding. They impinge on you.

I was not actually crying, but thinking that if I do start to cry I won’t fight it, I’ll just let myself cry. Fighting it is the problem. Then I thought, if they asked, “Is there anything you need, Clare?” I would say, I might start to cry, and if I do don’t worry about it. I get emotional. It’s not a bad thing.

She told me, You have a remarkably calm presence most of the time. You are one of the few serene people I have ever encountered. And there’s a very sharp contrast.

I answered the bit about “serenity”. It’s the acceptance, isn’t it. I practise acceptance. I’m getting quite good at it.

-The majority of human beings are profoundly afraid of distress.

Elders told me my distress was a problem, and I thought, how can I not be distressed? (But perhaps I could prevent it from being visible.)

-It’s that we’re British.

What I’m saying is quite Hippy, really, hippy commune kind of stuff. Let it all hang out, I said: and then she just shut me down, started talking about a TV programme she liked, it had a hippy in it but really was not relevant. But- you’re a counsellor! You are supposed to work with this kind of thing! Hello! I’m Clare! I am emotional! That is, I have emotions like any human being.

All women have this problem. We talk about pre-menstrual tension. It starts in the teens. And to be taken seriously, in Britain at least, they have to appear calm. Perhaps also in US cities: being demonstrative or emotional makes a woman appear unserious, so that her ideas are not heard. Or simply being perceived as a woman therefore emotional, so that she has to cultivate that “serious” demeanour. Hannah Bardell could not come out as lesbian until her thirties, about six years ago.

Men can get rowdy when drunk, and alcohol weakens inhibitions. I don’t like men drunk.

How can I deal with my feelings in society? She had an Italian neighbour who was demonstrative: the energy, the effervescence, the sheer whirliness of that person was there, all the time. High, low, angry, you know, everything was marvellous or everything was shit, she was very angry or she was very upset, just constant.

-You have this calm, serene peace, and then it highlights your distress or passion in sharp relief, and that is what people perceive as “dangerous”. The trouble with this is, she has expressed the matter very positively, and if you call someone “dangerous” you might express it less positively.

Actually I think the dangerous part is the repression. I shove my feelings down below consciousness, and when they erupt (what a dangerous-sounding word) they have all the energy of that repression behind them, like a Jack-in-the-box.

I am dealing with my repression. On Monday I was sitting out in the gorgeous sunshine. The air was a bit chilly but there was almost no cloud. I was meditating for about half an hour, conscious of the birds, and what I was feeling came into my consciousness through allusion, through stories. I found myself thinking about X, and then thought, Oh! I am sad. As the feeling was acknowledged the story changed, and I found another feeling.

You transition, you start taking hormones, and your emotions become sharper and more demanding, yet it is not acceptable to express them and you have to deal with it.

For me, this is the heart of my spiritual growth at the moment, being conscious of my own feelings, my own inner guide, so that I perceive where I am and can respond to it rather than using failed responses designed to keep up appearances. That means reducing the repression. It is a tricky tightrope. I have been appearing calm by repressing feeling. I want to feel the feeling, which can mean appearing emotional, so that I get comfortable with feeling and can appear calm again.

I also want to appear intense. My intensity can feel threatening to some people. Intensity is liberating. Do not hide your light under a bushel. You have to be careful with it, though.

I was sitting in that office thinking of offices I have known. Katie mentioned “hot-desking” and I was back in the chaos of July 2006, not enough desks or computers, and the rest of that chaos. I was back in my terror. I have been broken, repeatedly, so I withdrew, and now I want to rejoin the human race.

And with Tina, she was always shutting me down. I say I want to be emotional, and she says it’s not British. I say I want to be intense, to dance like everyone’s watching, and inspire them to do the same. She says people perceive it as out of control.

-Control’s unbearable! I can’t do control! The control is why I broke! I value myself too much to control myself now. Possibly I might come out the other end and be more aware of when I am shining, but shining is Good! It’s me! Honest, truthful, living my integrity! My parents could not stand my intensity, and that is why it is still a problem. And Repression is the problem, a child’s way of dealing with the intensity or a low status way of dealing with it, don’t come to the alpha-male’s attention. Women got called “hysterical” and still are punished for being “emotional”. That’s what you wanted, right? To be treated as a woman?


Love and Hope in London

The march was an outpouring of love and hope. We showed our love for our country and its people, and our hope, that institutions might allow people to work together democratically, rather than through the unlimited power of corporations. We showed our trust in individuals, and will for their freedom, moving across the continent. We showed our belief that diversity is a strength, and that hearing other voices and different perspectives blesses and teaches us.

A million people must have an effect, to strengthen and encourage those working for a good outcome from this torturous process, and dismay those working for a bad. As citizens with votes, we have a voice, we matter, and we showed where we stand. Others will make the decisions, mainly in Parliament, but they cannot simply ignore us, or the 5.7m who have signed the Revoke Article 50 petition.

Lucy asked me about the moral basis for the march. Why should you get what you want? I could not articulate it, and it has led me to think through my rights as an individual in the polity and what I think elected politicians should or should not do. This is a rough stab at a political philosophy:

The Referendum, in which 17.4m voted to Leave and 16.1m voted to Remain, is not binding. Certain people will play up its moral force, but there are many attacks to be made on it, including that the Leave campaigns breached electoral law, and made false promises, and that many Leave-voters voted for a closer, more supportive society in the UK which Brexit could only make less likely. It does not relieve Parliament of its responsibility to act in the interests of the country.

I have a voice, and this platform where I can say what I want to a tiny audience, and other platforms where more will see what I say: 470 upvotes for a comment on the Guardian website shows a considerably larger audience. All these different voices influence voters and politicians. Of course money will have an effect, but law should limit that, in preventing the monopoly of the Murdoch empire over British and other news media, in making the sources of the money transparent, and possibly preventing foreigners from influencing the political process.

Politicians seek votes and gain influence. The two party British system where one party has a majority and can command the assent of Parliament limits our democracy. In 2015 the Green Party had a million votes, spread across the country, and only elected one MP.

Emotion and stories make a larger part of the foundation of political power than rational predictions of likely arguments. “What do you want?” is a question answered emotionally. I want that closer, more supportive society- greater equality, more money for the NHS, more control for people over their own lives. The poison of the far right, now in the Tory party, is to channel that emotion into unreality. We wave the flag and feel good about ourselves while public services crumble and publicly owned assets are stripped away. The 4chan troll still living with his parents wants to “Own the Libs”, to feel powerful, even though the policies he supports make it even less likely that he will have a productive life. Our hope and solidarity should be used for the good of all.

There are legitimate differences in politics. There is tension between the freedom of the few and that of the many, of the few like James Dyson to build great corporations on the strength of their creativity and of the many to have enough to live a good life. I have a vague idea Nietzsche would not like my opposition to oppression of the many for the good of the few, and beliefs may vary about the percentage of GDP which should go to public spending, what we want as a society, and how that is raised.

There are tactics and strategies in politics which I condemn. It is wrong to lie. It is wrong to pretend to seek a Good- eg, “take back control”- when that means something else, control for the corporations rather than the elected government. Politicians should engage the hope and love of people, our wish for a better life and a better world and our belief that these things are possible, rather than our fear or resentment.

I marched because I believe the EU is a force for good in the world, and that Britain can have a voice in it. I marched for diversity, for my friends from other countries who have made Britain their home, for regulations in the interests of consumers, workers and the environment, for common action to mitigate the coming mass extinction. I marched for solidarity. The EU is not perfect and we can make it better from within.

This is a blog. It is a sketch. I have not thought this through and expressed it all in coherent words, I have put down my initial thoughts. Please comment. Let us make our ideas better, together.


Why would you want to see him? Because it seems possible we could have true authentic communication, heart to heart; not deceiving each other, or concealing; without masks.

OK. Why not? Because I am not sure that authentic communication is possible. I think he wants to pastor me. He, the wise, spiritual soul, reaches out to me because he wants to help me see the truth and heal, because he is kind like that. Then all my anger and my contempt for him might just spill out. I might just shout at him, and relationships would have broken down even further.

Right. So- you want to be authentic, but the thing which most terrifies you is that you might be authentic?

Well, when you put it like that-

I didn’t put it like that when I first called the Samaritans this morning. I told the woman that I wanted to pour out at her the rage and contempt I feel, because I do not normally express that. I just don’t, normally. I don’t have anyone I can shout at like that, and often it seems people punch down because they are unable to punch up- get angry with a convenient target rather than the source of their anger. She would not like that.

So she asked a few questions, in an even tone, and I answered, feeling frustrated and perplexed, and then she asked, “Is it because of abuse?”

Oh, God. Is she asking me to justify my anger? So I said yes. Much of my anger comes from childhood abuse. I was completely controlled, not allowed an independent thought. In response to further questioning, I say my father was as much under my mother’s thumb as I was. Did you have any siblings? How was it for them? So I challenged the question and she explains something and then I answer it.

My sister was conforming at home but managed to make an independent life for herself outside it. For example once I went to visit her in Edinburgh when she was training to be a nurse, and she met me at Waverley station and we walked to the pub to meet her flat-mates, also student nurses. When we got to the pub, Olive said, “Oh, Susan, you’ve got your English accent on”, that is, the accent my sister used when at home. I remember that evening she had a fag and told me not to tell our parents. I remember that now, I did not tell it to the Samaritan.

And then I got very upset and said all the time I am telling this story I am thinking you won’t believe me and you will think that story irrelevant proving nothing and I have this voice in my head saying what are you making a fuss about and you’re playacting and there is nothing to fuss about.

I wasn’t hit, often. I asked a woman does your husband hit you and she said “Only occasionally”. I asked a man if he hit his wife and he said “Only when she needs it”. I was hit once or twice but mostly the control was by extremely conditional positive regard.

This is why those men did not testify against Michael Jackson. He climbed inside their heads. There was a little Michael inside their heads telling them what to say, what was the only loving and right thing they had to say.

In the same even tone, she asked, “Are you suicidal?” No I’m not frelling suicidal. I mean I would rather be dead but right at this moment I am not about to kill myself. But I didn’t say that- I just thought it, and was silent for a bit. So she asked whether I had had counselling and I shouted at her for asking these stupid questions. That is, I got to be authentic, and it did me no good at all. To show me that I had not discomposed her, she asked another question in the same supercilious tone. So I told her to fuck off and rang off.

The second Samaritan was even more frustrating. She asked if I would mind telling my name, and I could not answer. I want to relieve feelings of anger and frustration by shouting (not at you, I would say, it’s not personal, please don’t be offended) and my voice will sound male. Should I say Clare, or Stephen? What about Hillary? I am silent, because the question just bamboozles me.

-Call me shapeshifter, I said.
-Oh, it’s too early in the morning for that.

I have authentic love and creativity and a desire to communicate and deep playful joy, and also anger which I can’t admit and others sense. Sometimes they think I will get violent, but I never do- when I am hit I don’t hit back, I just freeze.

So I rang off, rang back, and the third was a genial old buffer. And I thought I will see X but not Y. I can be authentic with X. So I started to email that, then stopped. I could just not see him, but don’t want to be a coward. So I remain undercided, and dissatisfied.

The two slits experiment

“Light is a wave and a particle”, I say glibly, to show that the world is too complex for people to understand, especially using language. So I was disappointed to learn that an electron is a particle, and not a wave as I had thought.

I started in The Guardian, which recommends various youtube channels for science and maths. I went to the Looking Glass Universe, where a woman who in 2018 was doing a PhD on quantum computing explains quantum mechanics. Why can an electron be in two places at once but not, say, an apple? Because the apple is continually located by light and other particles hitting it, but an electron is small enough not to be located like that. So the point where superposition ceases to be true of an object is where it becomes large enough to be located by light or by particles, and as I have heard that the nucleus’s ratio to the atom is like an orange to a football stadium, I am unsurprised, now, that classical mechanics does not apply to the electron. That just fascinated me. I can grasp it.

I learn from her that I had completely misunderstood Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle, which might be better understood if the German unschärfe was translated as “fuzziness”. I thought it was her second suggested explanation: To find the particle’s position, you bombard it with light… which has high momentum so it gives some to the particle, and now we’re uncertain about the particle’s new momentum. But no, it is not that at all. Rather, the particle has lots of positions and momentums, but if it is “mostly” in a small range of positions then it mostly in a large range of momenta.

It has a “superposition” of momenta and locations- apparently more than one possibility for each- but “what that word actually means is the biggest open question in the field”. I had not understood. The idea I had made sense to me, and was completely wrong; it’s probably from some populariser, years ago. Once you measure the particle’s location, it will just be in one place, a random selection from the range of possibilities. So if you have a two slit experiment with an electron detector at the slits, it will only go through one. And then you can measure the particle’s speed, but again will find one particular speed, which is randomly one of the possible speeds. You don’t know from the measurement what the range had been before the measurement.

Two slit experiment? I remember around 1981 at school seeing interference patterns with waves in a water tank, and have seen explanations on the TV regularly since. So, I hope you have the general idea, like me; and since 1981 researchers and theorists have had different explanations of what particles are doing. The electron is

not a wave!

At least, according to this PhD student, whose animation is charming and whose enthusiasm is infectious. As a commenter says, her voice sounds as if she is smiling all the time. The range where the particle is likely to be is expressed as Δx, and if the range Δx of location is small, the range Δp of momentum is large.

Quantum mechanics can tell us what happens, but not why. And there is a joke about what theoretical physicists understand about experimental physics. Well, they could just do the beautiful maths (which I don’t have a clue about) but at some point some observations might be helpful. It’s not a wave, creating interference patterns, because one electron fired at a detector with a barrier with two slits in it gives one crisp dot. So again my understanding of quantum mechanics was wrong.

This video goes into the maths more deeply, then goes back to the double slit experiment. Why do physicists talk about the wave/particle duality? Possibly because it makes quantum mechanics sound mystical and difficult. She says it annoys me because it makes the world sound so paradoxical that we couldn’t possibly hope to comprehend it. Well, that was what pleased me about it- not because I wanted to sow confusion where understanding was possible, but because I wanted not to pretend to understand anything I really didn’t.

Youtube is not an ideal place to see these things. If I see them on BBC4, I trust that they are a good explanation of current understanding, and if they are not they will be criticised. Youtube has anti-vaxxers sounding as plausible as anti-vaxxers can sound, and even flat-earthers (I read somewhere).