Allies III

Oh, those poor LGBT! They have such a hard time, you know.

Well, we do, I suppose. I am left handed, and things are often designed for right-handed use. People assume Straightness, even I do, and many feel uncomfortable with queers. Yet, basically, Brexit that. Let us enjoy our triumphs, not dwell on difficulties.

This has been an arty week. I saw Francis Bacon on Tuesday and was irritated by the phrase “anxiety and hopelessness”, and then on Friday I saw the Bhupen Khakhar exhibition, whose paintings are beautiful, and loathed the patronising git who wrote on the wall, When Khakhar developed cataracts in the early 1990s he adopted a looser, blurry style of brushwork which allowed him to depict suggestive scenes of same-sex encounters. Well, gay lovemaking remains a crime in India, yet Khakhar’s oeuvre expresses his sexuality from the beginning. Here is “Man Leaving” from 1970. It looks like a wedding, no?

bhupen-khakhar-man-leaving

Possibly those who hate queers would not consider that possibility, so think the title “Going abroad” indicated a parting; but perhaps they would be hyper-sensitised to suggestions of gayness, so be wound up by it.

Here the many colours on the apron suggest oil paints, and how could that hose be anything but a penis?

bhupen-khakhar-the-window-cleaner

It’s just funny. I love the smile on his face.

And finally Yayati from 1987, from a myth in which a young man gave his youthful vigour to his father, but the father wandered the world and found no need for youth. I love the colour, and the fire of the wings.

bhupen-khakhar-yayati

I sit before this, entranced. I also loved “At the end of the day iron ingots came out”, where Khakhar depicts himself on the lavatory during his cancer, and the ingots look like a continuation of his depicted bowel. It is agonising. It hangs behind a picture of him having an enema, and the result in me is a powerful sympathy and love of his humanity. I feel some of his pain. It is raw, honest, truthful, which is what I strive for here.

And there is no apology for sexuality. He may be exploring just how much he can portray, but the portrayal is clear. Surely the curator can see that! Surely the curator needs sympathy with the artist! What?

I wanted a post-card of it, so asked a delightfully camp young man at the shop. There is to be an LGBT artists’ exhibition next year, their first. I look forward to that. He loves the window cleaner too, and the beauty of the colours. That green is so cool and restful. I agree it is such a joyous exhibition. And yes. That is definitely a penis.

I want his sexuality to be seen as completely normal, and that means allowing people to see it or not, as they can, in his paintings. “Ooh, look, that’s a gay bit” is not supportive, really, it maintains us as the exotic other. If someone is expressing derision or disrespect for the quality of gayness please do correct them, but don’t-

oh, I don’t know. Work it out for yourself. What would you want?

That’s it. Don’t look after us. We don’t need looking after generally, just defending occasionally. It’s like benevolent sexism- you mean well, but you hold us down.

Francis Bacon

Bacon needs a queer curator. I am enraged reading on the wall, as if Clear Fact, the isolated male figure, which has been read as Bacon’s lover Peter Lacy, communicates a sense of anxiety and hopelessness, which has been read in relation to the continuing illegality of homosexuality. They are from 1954, before the Wolfenden Report, yet I see no anxiety and hopelessness here. In the paintings I see exuberance, joy, and the need to seize the moment. The trouble with anxiety and hopelessness would be that at the time some might read it as hopelessness that Bacon suffered from the terrible scourge of homosexuality, and feared he might never love a woman.

I look at man in blue IV, and it depends where the body is. If this besuited man is leaning forward on a desk, that is one thing, but he could easily be lying on his tummy, propped up on his elbows.

man-in-blue-iv

He could be kicking his heels up behind. If that’s a desk, he would need to be in a hole in it, or lying semi-prone. I often see playfulness- there is a sense of humour in these paintings far more often than that caption-writer might see- and self-assuredness. I am not sure about the man in cap, which could be a Nazi haranguing an audience, mouth wide and shouting. It seems possible to me that Bacon is the voice of monsters, portraying us unashamed, just doing our thing.

I chose the book I bought on Bacon because its third paragraph made me LOL: according to one story, he was sounded out as to whether he would accept the Order of Merit, but replied, No, ducky, give it to someone else, it will give them so much more pleasure. I don’t know if his homosexuality would have prevented him being honoured in 1992 when he died- possibly- but I want the story to be true. How could we know? Why would he feel any need to tell the truth in words, rather than in pictures- to help the stupid keep up?

The most conventionally beautiful thing here is Isabel Rawsthorne’s hair. She stands outside, and the hair is much prettier than in the photograph.

Reading about Bacon’s right wing anti-progressive feelings of pointlessness and cruelty of the world- I remember looking at a dog-shit on the pavement and I suddenly realized, there it is-this is what life is like– I wonder if I am reading into the work my own projections from my own character. I passionately want to see other people as they are, and use his art to aid me in this, confronting myself with his reality. I saw a painting of a seated man and standing child as bleak, with the man ignoring the supplicating child, but bleakness is not my main impression. I doubt Efrat would want people to look at her wheelchair and gush about her “bravery” any more than I like my transition called brave. We play the cards we are dealt. If straights see alienation and despair here, even if they are Allies, they are blinded by feelings of superiority.

Talkin’ bout my LGBT

I don’t want to talk to Joan. She is a bore, and other people avoid her too, I have seen them walking rapidly in another direction when she approaches. She can keep talking for ages, about her own stuff, but without any discernible feeling to which I can relate. So first I pretend to be interested, then I pretend less, and finally walk away.

But what I really resent is that she is interested in LGBT issues. She is an ally. She wants to be supportive. She came up to me and said she had seen the film Pride– isn’t it wonderful, those gay people and miners getting together. A real feel-good film. Then most recently she said she had the DVD for The Danish Girl. What’s it like?

Well, Einar discovers women’s clothes and soon wants to go out dressed female, except she’s terrified of everyone even the friendly people. Soon it overwhelms her and she sees doctors. One diagnoses her as schizophrenic and wants to lock her up in a loony bin, one wants to cure her by pointing radioactive sources at her privates, because Science, and because he’s got this expensive equipment with no idea what it might be used for, and one wants to call her a woman, cut her privates off, and create a vagina. After suffering the first two, she goes for the third, who kills her by putting a uterus into her without understanding anything about organ rejection.

“Oh,” says Joan, “Not such a feelgood movie”.

I don’t want to listen to your ideas about LGBT. I don’t want to hear that you are an ally. I don’t want you to ask me about it. This is my really really private stuff and it is not for small talk. That’s the real issue here- if you want to be authentic with me, ask me anything, I will try to help, because I want people to understand. But if you want to make small talk, and exchange superficial pleasantries exhibiting the feelings you know you ought to feel- sympathy for the poor queers, indignation at inequality and discrimination, admiration at how courageous we all are, etc- DON’T COME TO ME!!! Because it is real for me.

I have actually started telling her this. I told her I don’t want to talk to her about LGBT stuff but could not articulate why, so writing this is useful. Tell me who you are! Tell me what you love! Don’t pull me into your conventional lets all feel the same thing rubbish.

This is not, of course, my magnum opus but something I am just throwing off, now. I was up at seven this morning writing. I have a first draft.

Transsexual

I got told not to use the word transsexual. It is objectionable. It somehow implies that those who transition should have GRS. The word is “trans”; that includes all of us, and what is between our legs is no-one’s business but ours and our partners’. A girl-cock, a hyperenlarged clitoris, or whatever you call it, is OK.

Do you feel less than others? Do you feel a nagging suspicion that real trans women know they are women, and so find the thought of having a penis unbearable? Alternatively, do you feel that you were forced by social pressure into having The Operation by doctors, transsexuals and the general public while you might not have had it, if you had had a completely free choice?

Do you feel less than others? Does the existence of another group of people, which appears to share some characteristics with you but be very different in some ways, somehow make you inauthentic or less entitled to be who you are, do what you want- or do you have nagging doubts that might be so?

The answer is not to lash out, and say it’s the other group that have got it wrong, they are the ones who should change, or demand that they do not mention their difference from you as they should be ashamed of it. That just divides people. We can be allies. We should be able to sympathise with another’s desires and support their rights, while not feeling the same.

I regret the operation. I would like to be able to swive heterosexual women. I suppose being told not to utter the word “transsexual”- or TS- is better than being held up as fool and victim. I wanted it at the time. My path to self-acceptance led through the Operation, and I am not sure “there was another road you did not see”. Though if I were sure of that, it would be sair to thole.

It was as it was.
I am where I am.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

You see I have this huge uncertainty. There is another group, like me in some respects, unlike me in others- and I know they have this difference, though I cannot be certain that they have that advantage and I do not know what disadvantages they may have. Producing my own hormones and not using synthetic ones, my emotional lability might be less: so I could ascribe all sorts of imaginary advantages to the door you did not open– while I am at it, I would be in work, the desire to present female would have passed, I would have three children-

as always with these fantasies, I would not exist and someone else would be in my place.

Guilt, resentment, yearning, shame- I am overwhelmed by these feelings as I always have been, I cast around for ways of escape which instead intensify them. However. I am transsexual. I am not going to keep quiet about that just cos someone tells me to.

Blake, the inscription

Transvestism in Walter Scott

If you were a Jacobite, returned to Scotland in secret in 1765; and you had kidnapped your son, who had been brought up by his English mother as a decadent, liberal, English type rather than a hard Scots warrior, a man of Duty and Destiny;

and you sought to transport your son, who might seek to escape, as you crossed the country on horseback, how would you choose to restrain him?

By dressing him as a woman, of course!

Cristal Nixon will act as your valet- I should, perhaps, say your femme de chambre. Your travelling dress you may consider as singular; but it is such as the circumstances require.

The soldier offers no better explanation, and the son does not challenge this. Later, the clothes arrive- a skirt, or upper-petticoat of camlet, like those worn by country ladies of moderate rank when on horseback, with a riding mask. Darsie wonders whether he should co-operate- but if he will not, he will be prisoner in a carriage rather than on horseback, and considered the comparative degree of ease and freedom which I might purchase by wearing the mask and female dress, as easily and advantageously purchased. That is, he has no great objection.

So far Scott has given us Darsie’s journal, but now turns to the third person narrator. Although he did not assume such a disguise without some sensations of shame and degradation, Darsie permitted Cristal Nixon to place over his face one of those silk masks which ladies frequently wore to preserve their complexion. He remonstrated somewhat more vehemently against the long riding-skirt, which converted his person from the waist into the female guise, but was obliged to concede this point also. Scott explains that then women riders wore men’s jackets, ladies’ riding habits not having been conceived, but men’s clothes then had splendid colours, lace and gay embroidery.

Perhaps Scott could not trust himself to explain Darsie’s feelings in the first person. There are other instances of cross-dressing in Scott: in The Monastery, a brother and sister regularly impersonate each other. Cross-dressing men are often attracted to women, and Scott was married- I can’t find a suggestion he was gay- but when I googled the scene I found an essay suggesting Darsie’s relationship with his friend Alan could be read as gay, even if a straight reading considering their love fraternal was also possible. I read all of Scott from Nationalist motives, but Christopher Whyte says the theorist must demolish the Nationalist’s canon. I read him for self-improvement, Whyte reads for pleasure.

When he liberates Darsie from the skirt, Redgauntlet says Do not blush at having worn a disguise to which kings and heroes have been reduced– but readers would recall that the Young Pretender dressed as Flora MacDonald’s maid.

Gender dysphoria in children

Far too many children are accused of “cross-gender behaviour”. This could lead to lasting damage. The Gender diversity and Transgender identity in Children factsheet of the American Psychological Association says 5 to 12% of girls and 2 to 6% of
boys exhibit cross-gender behavior
. With numbers that high, the definition of “normal gendered behaviour” is the problem, not the children. Let them play, experiment, be who they are!

It is hard to estimate the numbers of lesbian and gay people. Do you survey how many have ever had homosexual experience, or who have had homosexual experience in the last year? And people are still scared of saying they are gay rather than straight, and will identify as heterosexual despite gay experience. But asked to place themselves on the Kinsey scale, with six boxes rather than two, only 72% of British adults identified as exclusively heterosexual. Wikipedia is interesting on this, and that is as far as I have gone- I am not an expert, merely trying to form my own understanding of the best way to treat children. People are far too complex for either/or, gay/straight, trans/cis. My personal interest is in beta males with viragos, derided so long as not real men, as pussy-whipped. Such beta-males can be very feminine.

So I love the APA’s position now:

There are three main approaches to psychological intervention with gender diverse children including a “gender affirmative” approach, a “wait and see if these behaviors desist” approach, or actively discouraging gender non-conforming behavior. The gender affirmative model is grounded in the evidence-based idea that attempting to change or contort a person’s gender does harm. Psychological interventions should aim to help children understand that their gender identity and gender expression are not a problem. Providers should aim to non-judgmentally accept the child’s gender presentation and help children build resilience and become more comfortable with themselves, without attempting to change or eliminate cross-gender behavior. Children who experience affirming and supportive responses to their gender identity are more likely to have improved mental health outcomes. Gender identity is resistant, if not impervious to environmental manipulation. Moreover, attempts to change a child’s gender may have a negative impact on the child’s well-being.

Parents and schools are the problem. Most of the therapeutic work is with the parents, to prevent them suppressing the child’s harmless but surprising behaviour: Often, the most important intervention is helping the family to cope with and live for some time with the uncertainty about the child’s gender and sexual identity development. They need to be advocates for their children. Providers should advocate for children to be safe in schools while exploring gender diverse expression. Pardon me while I scream at the floor- “Children should be safe in schools”! It needs to be said!!!!!!! If children’s natural, harmless gender expression is not tolerated by parents, schools or peers, they may exhibit the usual extreme stress reactions of children, such as “Oppositional defiance” or “ADHD”; or depression, rocking, cutting…

The fact sheet at first appears to distinguish “gender diverse” children, who express their gender in ways that are not consistent with socially prescribed gender roles or identities, from “transgender” children, who consistently, persistently, and insistently express a cross-gender identity and feel that their gender is different from their assigned sex. Later, though, it conflates the two: Fully reversible interventions such as a social gender transition including changing clothing, name change, new pronouns, or changes in haircuts may be indicated for some gender diverse and transgender children. And why not exploration? Let little Stephen come to school as Clare occasionally, if s/he wants. Let Clare be boyish and Stephen girlish. We need to know which the child is at the time that hormone therapy is prescribed, and not before.

APA fact-sheet pdf.
beta males.
Wikipedia on demographics of sexual orientation.

Desistance

Trans children, treated with surgery before puberty then assigned-sex hormones to have an assigned-sex puberty, would pass so much better. They would have skulls and skeletons consistent with their trans sex. They would need far less invasive, far more successful, surgery. The problem is children who desist. Many children referred to gender clinics as children grow up to identify as cis, often lesbian gay or bi. Reverting after surgery or such hormone treatment, after removal of genitals and needing further surgery, a person might develop a deep resentment of the medical services s/he had as a child.

Who do you protect? Not knowing whether this child will revert, do you force trans children to undergo an unwanted puberty to protect a cis person who might be caught up in the treatment? All other things being equal, people are happier with a full set of working genitalia including gonads than without. So, someone has to speak up for the genuine trans children, forced through an alienating puberty to need more surgery with worse outcomes: I am sorry that it is not me.

What matters is how many referred to gender clinics desist, and whether one can detect them before puberty. In the New York Magazine I read of two recent studies. Some of the children who desisted were just as extreme [in their gender dysphoria] as some of the children who persisted, wrote Devita Singh, a clinical psychologist. The NYMag article raises my distrust when it says that Kenneth Zucker was sacked as director of a GIC largely a result of false accusations leveled against him, after a lengthy campaign from a segment of LGBT activists who accused him — wrongly, in light of the available evidence — of harming his clients. Um. “A segment”- who? The Bad ones? So his bosses sacked him, because of lies told by bad people, rather than finding the truth? Really?

Thomas Steensma studied 127 children referred to the Centre of Expertise on Gender Dysphoria in Amsterdam. He found that eighty of them had desisted. Singh found of 139 AMAB children, 122 had desisted.

Were those children referred to the clinics for true gender dysphoria, or mere gender non-conformity? Some boys are effeminate- get over it, as they say. It is no surprise if non-conforming children become cis non-conforming adults- for it really is OK to be an feminine man or a masculine woman, and adults, who learn to navigate the discrepancies between what others expect and their own internal leadings so much better than children, can live more happily with that. A child may be more comfortable transitioned because though the new gender stereotype does not fit their idiosyncratic self, it is still more comfortable than the stereotype assigned at birth.

Can you tell the difference between non-conformity and dysphoria? I don’t know. I hope the doctors are working on it.

Would that children could be transitioned to neutral, a childhood without gendered expectations. They could be allowed to experiment- different clothes, colours, hair, names, playing without being divided between girls and boys-

Only gender affirmation- if it is not clearly harmful, it is permissible. That might be better for everyone.

New York Magazine, What’s missing from the conversation about trans kids.

Carpioni, Narcissus and Tiresias

Transvestism in Jane Eyre

On hearing that Mr Rochester wore women’s clothes (!) I had to investigate.

In chapters 18 and 19 of Jane Eyre, he goes from his house on business, and returns in a red cloak and a black bonnet, or rather a broad brimmed gypsy hat, tied with a handkerchief under her chin. He/she proceeds to tell the fortunes of the unmarried women in his house, unsurprisingly telling such things! She knows all about us!

Finally he speaks to Jane, who stands up to the gypsy, and in hinting his love for her he think[s] I rave in a kind of exquisite delirium, and reveals himself. She rebukes him: now, sir, what a strange idea!

Possibly he could not have played the trick dressed as a man, as he would have been recognised. A man would have to take off his hat, entering the house, a woman might keep on a bonnet. He is mean to his fiancée, who wants to put the gypsy in the stocks. Jane thinks there is a trick, but imagines it is Mrs Poole the servant- the thought that a man might dress as a woman is beyond her. It’s the sensible thing to do, if he wants to play this dishonourable trick, and yet the taboo of the clothes makes it worse.

I had read the book, and remembered almost nothing of it, only an incident at school where Jane is humiliated. Now, I love the quiet dignity of the governess, and may read it again.

I heard of the scene in In Our Time: Melvyn Bragg expresses shock that Mr Rochester wears women clothes, then has to correct himself, -wears them on only one occasion.

Googling, the incident was difficult to find. Wikipedia and The Jane Eyre Wikia do not mention it, nor do Cliff’s Notes. It is in The Millions, a list on how Mr Rochester is a creep. No. 1 is that he locks his wife up, but the cross-dressing is no. 4. Why Jane doesn’t throw up in her mouth a little when she discovers his little game is beyond me. The writer adds I wouldn’t be surprised if Rochester likes to wear Jane’s underwear, too. Or, let’s be honest: Bertha’s.

I found that from The Squeee, Why Mr Rochester is not a creep. Dressing in drag does not make you a creep, she says, trenchantly, and I am relieved. She is a huge Jane Eyre fan: her tag line is REVIEWS ♦ RAMBLINGS ♦ ROCHESTER ♦ OCCASIONAL RICHARDING. Richarding is squeeeing about Richard Armitage.

Should one incident matter? It depends whom you ask. This pdf makes the description a feminist statement: “No longer believable as an interior ‘truth’ of dispositions and identity, sex will be shown to be a performatively enacted signification (and hence not ‘to be’), one that, released from its naturalized interiority and surface, can occasion the parodic proliferation and subversive play of gendered meanings.” A woman writer dressing a male character as a woman demolishes patriarchy.

The Millions. It is a site about books.
The Squeee.

Illustration from the second edition of Jane Eyre

Installation

There is so much to choose from, for the installation. I take white gloves, almost to my elbows, and a black tail-coat which fits beautifully across the shoulders. A thick, pink bob wig. Bizarre shiny bunting, with fluffy balls at the tips, like a string of the tackiest thongs. A sheet of blue plastic, and nylon pink net. Playing cards, doctored for prestidigitation. An incontinence pad. Cheap, shiny jewellery. Fake, plastic, gaudy, frippery.

I am pleased with my work. The scissors leave nothing to the imagination.

question

I have thought, recently, of playing the hand one is dealt.

cards

The Harrods magazine was a wonderful gift. Look at this man, how girlish his poses and features!

shot_006_147_1162 Harrods magazine alpha male

I am filled with envy. This is not the whole:

installation

I was at the centre of it, in wig, coat and gloves, unable to touch, unable to feel, explaining my anger and the empty egg box. This is where I am.

Regret

It’s not that I regret the decision. It is, I recognise all I have lost.

Plastic surgery can do wonderful things. Your skull can be reshaped for facial feminisation; with the tiniest scar under the nipple you can have silicon inserted, to make full, feminine breasts. Don’t use cheap ones- “they felt like boulders” said a disappointed heterosexual male I know, of someone’s. Laser can take away your face and body hair. Moisturisers can make your skin soft. There’s an operation to tighten your vocal cords, which didn’t work in the one case I am aware of, but hormones don’t raise your voice, you have to do the practice.

For passing, a lot depends on how tall and broad you are.

What do hormones do? I have grown my own breasts, though that took ten years. When the levels alter suddenly, my emotions go very intense, which has been distressing and embarrassing at times. Testosterone suppressors and oestrogens are the usual treatment for my condition; we give them up six weeks before the Op, possibly for one last taste of T before all is irreversible. That treatment can render a person permanently impotent and infertile, and there is no particular rule on how quickly that might happen. Writing as I think, the downside seems much greater than the upside. I would like better options given to people.

What have I lost? It is more difficult to have sexual relations, though not impossible. I am starving: I want to be touched, I want to be held, I want to be brought to climax. I want not to feel so alone-

Ah. I wrote down that first line because it was a good line. What have I lost, exactly? A penis is not a necessary or sufficient requirement for a good social life.

I don’t know that you can transition socially, and retain a functioning penis. This does not prevent people from trying. I don’t know what I feel about this. I don’t think I felt I could transition without transitioning physically. When I transitioned, there was no doubt in my own mind that that required hormones and GRS. International human rights law says different. I wanted GRS, and simply cannot answer whence that came- internal Real Me or social pressure. Social pressure was certainly there, though: felt grudging acceptance for transsexuals, who had GRS and hormones, but not for other transgendered people.

Round and round the same old stuff. What have I lost? What have I gained?

 ♥♥♥

I feel battered, bruised and broken. What have I lost? What have I gained, exactly? What have I been trying to achieve?

Given what I knew at the time, I am proud that I transitioned. I could be more authentically me. It was a necessary step to take. This may be a better way of putting that first line:

It’s not that transition wasn’t the right thing to do in the circumstances, at the time, it’s that I contemplate, with amazed horror, five decades of misery. I haven’t lost anything, I never had it. I have made my life as good as I could. I am miserable now.

[T]he world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

Goya, two monks