Weaponising “autogynephilia”

“Autogynephilia” is a discredited theory. “Female embodiment fantasies” fits how people think and feel so much better. Yet the idea of autogynephilia is still used to attack trans women, sometimes by other trans women.

Go to Urban Dictionary and vote down the third definition, which imagines two kinds of trans women: homosexual transsexuals, and autogynephiliacs. “Ashley has randomly transitioned from male to female despite being age 55. I think she’s autogynephilic.” “Rose just spent her children’s university savings on sexual reassignment. She’s in the throes of autogynephilia.” “I just danced all over Ally last night, and didn’t even know she used to be male. Her movements and voice are so femme. I don’t think she’s autogynephilic.”

It creates a complete dichotomy. No homosexual transsexual transitions over age 25. All gynephile trans women are autogynephiliac. Most laughs in the Urban Dictionary are snark, but even by their standards this is a strong attack. I wonder if the statistic that 90% of trans women are gynephile has any basis in reality. Most cis people are straight, so that could just mean that the proportions of gynephile and androphile trans women are the same as in cis men.

It seems to me that more people transition without GRS, and this is out of a desire not to be mutilated. Why should you have your genitals altered? What good does it do? People talk of wanting the “poison glands” taken away, and orchiectomy means you don’t need testosterone suppressants- it is less invasive in the long run- but possibly we are altered because of social pressure. We desire a woman’s role, and everyone said that required body modification. Or, possibly we gynephiles are sexually passive, and that means we feel greater dislike for male organs. Anyway, gender dysphoria was popularly understood to mean body alteration, and now many trans folk don’t seek that.

I did not have facial feminisation surgery, but have known gynephile trans women who did. It involves grinding away the bones of the skull. I find the idea horrible, but again it could be that there is not the same social pressure. You will pass better after FFS, and that makes life easier, however much we assert that people should be treated differently according to other criteria, and not whether they pass or whether they are beautiful. Passing privilege and attractiveness privilege exist. A trans woman with a clear eye to her own interest might have FFS rather than GRS.

The writer hedges his/her bets with the words “common” and “generally”. All generalisations are wrong; but either the dichotomy is real, or it isn’t. There is no rational basis to this hostility- if it comes from anywhere, it is the idea that we make them look bad, that people would accept androphile trans women if the gynephiles weren’t messing it all up by being so revolting. But no-one who is intolerant of trans women would think the difference mattered at all.

What of this assertion? Generally, the two types of trans women don’t associate with each other in any way. If you are an androphile trans woman, please leave a comment. I find that trans women do not associate with each other generally, whatever their orientation, particularly after transition.

Courage II

If you were not unemployed, would you have a car? Would you maintain the simple lifestyle?

“A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength.” We value living simply. “Oh, no, no, no, not at all,” I said. I would have a car, I would spend my income. I do not like claiming virtues. Would I hit anyone? No, but not for restraint or pacifism- for cowardice or confusion.

And yet now I am having more meat-free days, even three a week, as I experiment with various combinations of mushrooms, peppers, onion, tinned or fresh tomatoes with rice or spaghetti. It matters to me that factory farming is cruel, and abattoirs are cruel to the animals and to the people, too, who are paid little and desensitised to their heavy, stinking work; and meat uses more acres per calorie than arable crops. Not enough to make me vegetarian, says the inner critic, and I say, well, I am working towards it, I have to relearn to cook and to balance a diet. And I am not even thinking of giving up dairy.

I have craved a bacon roll after a veggie lunch with the Quakers, but I find that if I use a lot of olive oil I don’t need meat. I will proceed cautiously, as always, not identifying as vegetarian, perhaps as aspiring to being vegetarian. We discussed this in the Labour party campaign office- we are nice people, so we want to be vegetarian. One tells me you can do lovely curries with lentils. Well, I will get on to lentils soon enough.

It is not a question, for me, of how I am seen, but how I am. I do not like to be part of this system of cruelty to animals, so I am reducing my impact on them. I am doing it slowly and carefully, for that is my way.

Sometimes people say to trans women, “Oh, you’re so brave!” And we tend to deny it. It was what I had to do to survive. I would still say that, no matter how much I feel it would be better to live as a soft man, a pansy, than bother with all the effort of transition. It was the best course I could see at the time to be myself in the world, when my play-acting was becoming insupportable. Faced with two unbearable choices, I choose the less unbearable, and then work hard to make it work.

It would not have been brave to kill myself. It would have been a matter of icy self-control, against disgust and the survival instinct. And transition was brave.

I have tenacity. I keep thinking of getting that doctor sacked. It is one of the things I am most proud of. It took months. It took a lot of effort, and continuing through setbacks. Then the second one I did not proceed with, and I wonder about that, but what with transition and other stuff I was broken by the pressure. I kept on until everything was too much for me. I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope. In Cardinal, Canadian police drama, the sergeant observes that when told to stop investigating a missing girl, one officer will go home, kiss his wife, have a beer, come in the next day and work on something else; but Cardinal will chew on it and obsess over it for months. And, repeatedly, people say the conventional consoling thing, and the other dismisses it contemptuously- how can it be consoling if it is not True? In the end the woman sits with her son in hospital, and she is not full of gratitude to the police officer who saved him, but resentment that he did not catch the killer after his previous victim. The world is an unforgiving place.

My courage, tenacity and commitment to doing the right thing may not be enough. My understanding is great, and not always enough. And I have these qualities. I have achieved a great deal, considering the obstacles I have had to overcome. I will celebrate my beauty, and my every achievement.

Have a good solstice. In London, the day is seven seconds longer than yesterday.

Hero awaiting the return of Leander

 

Defiant

I have lunch with my friend, who is slowly and steadily making the preparations for transition: telling people of her true self, appearing in public, laying the ground. I notice the imperfectly shaven hair beneath the make-up. To my mind, her face, the size and shape of it, jowls and brow ridge, appear male, and the wig is wrong: its parting shows a cloth lining rather than a scalp. The clothes suit a woman of her age, but the dress sense is slightly off.

And this is me, not her. How often I have looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh God, I look like a man!” and at other times thought, well, actually, I don’t look too bad; and I looked the same, it was just the way I was looking at myself. I thought of telling her- “Don’t do it! It isn’t worth it!” but what would be the point? I do not know that it is not, for her; and I really want to tell my two decades younger self, but I can’t, and that younger self might not listen anyway. S/he had her heart and mind, her reality and nature, and if s/he would not listen to them s/he would not listen even if someone came back from the future. Or, perhaps, she is right and my doubts now are wrong.

And this is dissatisfaction, a nameless unease rather than a clear understanding of what might be better. If that’s all there is, let’s break out the booze and let’s keep dancing. In Tesco’s, two small children, below waist height, stared up into my face and said “Are you the bikey man? Are you the bikey man?” “I’m the bikey person,” I said weakly. Such clarity and definiteness from two so young is depressing.

Possibly the thought of defiance is the kind of illusion I would jump at in this mood. I shake my fist in the face of encroaching Night. It feels as if it might be energising. The febrile energy would be heat not light. What would I be defying? What would be better?

Possibly dissatisfaction is better. I am dissatisfied. Things are not as I would wish- this is the impetus to find what might be better. I would be defying the expectations of others, or what I imagined those expectations to be.

If-

If that really is all there is, it is good enough, actually. I try to be a Real Man, and fail, because that is not who I am, and learn about transition. It fits me better than anything else I can imagine, so I do it. I could fit in, take a role which is almost acceptable. I could be me.

Years later, I look down at that child. It would be nice not to be laughed at, not ever, but it might not be possible. Good enough: I work out how best to be me, and now am still working on that, but more precisely.

Now I decide it does not fit, so create a new role. This takes a long time, but I get there. I see more clearly who I am, accept that, and can live it; less conflicted, resentful, but incrementally. Would that the work was done!

After meeting I drank with H, and told her I was populating the word “pansy”. It means effeminate male, but has no other baggage I dislike, unlike “sissy”. She said, so, you are identifying with masculinity? No, maleness. Definitely not masculinity. Masculinity is cultural, maleness physical. I should have asked her why she used the word.

Being a soft male is OK.
Being a soft male is OK.
Being a soft male is OK.

I don’t know what defiance would look like or what I would defy. I am happy with the names I use and the way I dress. If I can admit I am a “man” would the pointed scrutiny of that small child have less effect? What she sees, thinks, even says is part of the world I cannot control, which does not hurt me really.

In the pharmacy, I ask for “Prescription for Clare, please”. It makes me sound like a disease! To see it another way, I could be an elixir or universal tonic, inspiring merriment everywhere.

Pansy

After the election, where I anticipated an increased Conservative majority, I am overjoyed. At the station, that woman asked how I was.

“I’m delighted,” I said.

“I can see that. It shines out of you. It’s beautiful” she said. I offered a hug, and she accepted.

I was already overjoyed, and my cup ran over. I spasmed with it. Feeling happy, walking along, I have sashayed; sometimes I turn my wrists outwards, as if the Qi in me needs to flow out; now muscles tense and flex expressing it. Joy ripples through me like aftershocks, on the train. I don’t tend to notice other adults doing this sort of thing. I am still doing teenage, but here going right back to being a toddler, a different kind of toddler-hood which teaches me to integrate rather than suppress feeling.

It seems to me that I could call what I am a “Pansy”. The word has little baggage, unlike “Sissy”, co-opted to describe non-penetrative sexual services offered by some discreet older women. I can make of it what I will, add my own baggage to it. I am a pansy. I like viragos.

We went to the Giacometti exhibition. Man and Woman, which he created in his late 20s, fits this idea.

You can’t see it from the photos, but that sharp point is not touching the female. She bends backwards, but does not retreat, and a flower opens to accept the point. It is vulnerable and proud. There is a meeting, and a balance, between the two.

Sexually, I identify with the flower not the point. Yet calling me transwoman, trans woman, woman, whatever, is only an approximation. That vulnerable flowering is overwhelmingly seen as Female, but rather it is feminine, and I am a feminine male. A pansy. I should not need physical adjustment to actualise myself, just to find how my body can work with my spirit.

This is not normal, but “normal” must be resisted. It is a cultural creation of powerful folk who cannot conceive that anyone could be other than they, or that what is best for them might not be best for everyone. I don’t fit the norms, or rules, so have to make my own rules. It might have helped if I had not been so indoctrinated so strongly into the value of normal. Discretion protects the abnormal, it can be good not to be noticed, and one can take that too far.

Yvonne points out that all the active sculptures in the Giacometti exhibition- pointing, walking, even falling- are men. Some of the busts look childish in execution. One of his wife reminds me of a sex doll, or at least the cliché I have seen on TV: wide eyes, mouth like an O, flat caricature face. Before marriage she had worked in an office at the Red Cross. From the 1930s, here is a narrow sculpture (The more I wanted to make them broader, the narrower they got, he said) about four feet tall, her head slightly raised to meet the eye of an adult observer about a yard away. It’s not assurance, exactly, nor apprehension: she does not know what that viewer will do. She will respond appropriately, to whatever requires a response. The mind of that figure contains no story about what thing feared or desired will happen next, or what ought to be happening now, so will see what is happening and respond to it. I see capability in that standing figure.

Across the room is another standing figure on a plinth which would be chest height on her, if she stood beside it. This relatively huge imposing plinth supports her slender figure, which is an inch tall. “She does not know she is tiny,” I exclaimed, and a woman says “I would never have thought of it that way”: here we are open, so that talking to a stranger seems natural. It is one of the most moving works of art I have ever seen, and she has the same naturalness, lack of constraint, and capability.

I do not need to be constrained by Manliness. I can be a Pansy. If I relax and lose my stories of how the world is or should be, I may even be able to be myself.

We ate on the South Bank at an outside table, and I loved the Sun gilding the edges of the clouds. When it was a bit cool to stay there, but still light, we walked across the bridge. “Love the T-shirt,” I said of a passer-by. It was blue with an EU circle of stars and the words “Member of the Liberal Elite, established 2016”. He stopped to enthuse about the election.

Transphobia in the New York Times

What’s missing from this paragraph? What the three men in Oregon understood, but the White House doesn’t, is that in a healthy society, Islamophobia doesn’t disparage just Muslims, racism doesn’t demean blacks alone, misogyny hurts more than women, xenophobia insults more than immigrants. Rather, we are all diminished, so we all have a stake in confronting bigotry.

“Transphobia does not just hurt trans folk.” Why can’t Nicholas Kristof say that? Because it is too “politically correct”? Because no-one really cares about trans folk, because there are not enough of us to matter, because others would deny that and he can’t be bothered to argue? Because he would deny it himself?

He was writing about the murder of Rick Best, who stood up for a Muslim woman against an Islamophobic rant on a Portland commuter train. Rick Best is a hero. I don’t impugn Rick Best by imagining he might not stick up for me in similar circumstances, but I wonder if New York Times editors and writers would, because there is a constant stream of such things. They miss us out when writing about disadvantaged groups, whom it besmirches civilisation when they are demeaned, but include us at other times?

People have to choose between heating their homes, buying food or buying health care and you want them to worry about the survival of the planet or transgender stuff?…White lives matter, too, you know. That woman forgot that — and lost. We lost our discipline and our moral code in this country. So we need honest Trump to shake things up. That’s Roger Cohen imagining Trump supporters, who later he calls decent, thoughtful, anxious, patriotic Americans who felt they were losing some part of their country’s essence. I wish I believed Cohen thought me as important as climate change, but I fear he just feels I repulse Trump voters as much as climate change realism does.

This happens again and again. When the NYT needs an example of Liberal ridiculousness or political correctness gone mad, it picks on us. Opinion articles devoted to trans issues are generally positive, despite the possibly disconcerting article “My daughter is not transgender- she’s a tomboy“- but there is this steady drip of hostile references. Send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee– but, perhaps, not for trans folk.

I have to add George Yancy, published on 19 June. Is your God dead? He writes we should be mortified by the inadequacy and superficiality of our anguish when we witness the suffering of others, the sort of anguish that should make us weep until our eyes are red and swollen and bring sleepless nights and agonizing days. He quotes Abraham Joshua Heschel: “Any god who is mine but not yours, any god concerned with me but not with you, is an idol.” I continue to be haunted by the murder of an unarmed Trayvon Martin in 2012. Hundreds of thousands of children around the world are suffering. We all have known about the cruel and despicable violence toward transgender individuals. We know about the magnitude of human trafficking, the magnitude of poverty, and the sickness of hatred… “Through lamentation, voice is given to pain.” Yet our lamenting, our mourning for those who suffer, is far too short-lived. I need my lamenting to be heard. It is almost bearable, if I am heard.

Ongoing NYT watch:

22 June, Brett Stephens: nominating more progressive candidates isn’t likely to solve the contempt problem, at least with voters not yet in sync with progressive orthodoxies on coal, guns or gender-neutral bathrooms.

Trans, or non-binary?

Why would you say you were non-binary, rather than trans?

I do not have “a woman’s” spirit, or soul, or mind, or brain, but my own. When I say I am a woman, it is an approximation, and refers to a cultural concept of what a woman is rather than a concept independent of culture, if such a concept is possible. I do not believe I am really a woman, though some trans women believe it of themselves- some call themselves women with a trans history. That could be a way of shutting down argument, rather than explaining: they do not want to explain my behaviour to anyone. If you have to justify yourself you are already less than the Normals, who need not explain themselves. I might do that by saying, “I am Clare”- I am who I am, which is even more difficult to attack.

It seems to me that the names we call ourselves can be used to explain ourselves to ourselves or to others, or to give ourselves permission to behave in a certain way, or to argue to another that I should be able to behave in a certain way. When I first saw a gender psychiatrist he gave me a card saying that I was undergoing treatment for transsexualism and it was appropriate for me to use a woman’s loo. I never had to bring that card out, but I carried it in my handbag until I went full time.

-Why are you dressed as a woman?
-Because I am trans.

Omygod I have this compulsion to dress as a woman.
I am trans
Therefore dressing as a woman is alright.

Do as thou wilt so long ye harm none. However I dress does not harm anyone.

Today, it was really hot, so when I got to the town centre and chained up my bicycle I could not bear to put my wig on. Anyway, under the helmet I was sweaty, and did not want all that sweat in my wig. I put on my skirt over my shorts and walked through the town. “I am embracing my inner non-binary,” I thought. I can have a skirt, breasts made of flesh rather than padding, and male pattern baldness not completely obscured by having just shorn my head with clippers. I am, just for today, non-binary. I went into a charity shop, then thought I cannot try that on because I am so sweaty: so I am concerned for others still. I noticed my awareness narrowing, a self-defence mechanism: rather than thinking “Everyone is staring at me” I only notice other people to avoid bumping into them, deliberately not noticing how they look or if they are looking at me. So, possibly several people were staring at the odd man in a skirt. After going round with my wig off I could just decide I am entitled to do that, and not need a name for myself to justify it; but in the meantime I can take different names which seem contradictory.

So you might call yourself non-binary if you wanted to do things you felt were restricted to one sex or the other. That seems fine if you want to present male three days a week and female the rest of the time. It is more of a problem if you think women should not shout, or men should not cry. That is a radical feminist objection: a woman can behave as she wishes, according to her own nature, and should not be restricted by patriarchal concepts of what is “feminine”. Harridans and pansies unite! But I do not use these names to restrict anyone, but to liberate myself.

However, there is no clear line between “trans” and “non-binary”, so that you could clearly identify a person as one or the other apart from their own identification. And lots of people behave as they wish without the need for these labels. Some are more normal, and some have more self-confidence.

Be yourself

I know what I must do. Why do I not do it?

  • Because I do not imagine it will work.
  • Because I do not imagine I deserve it.
  • Because I am frightened of what will go wrong.
  • Because before I do it I can imagine doing it brilliantly, and after doing it judge it wanting.

I know what I must do. Why do I still think about and analyse it?

  • Because that is my defence against my fears.
  • Because it puts off starting.
  • Because analysing is the gift I love.

So strong for such a vague memory! How was it? Mum, Dad and me, I think my sister too, feeling content and at peace. Or something. Happy, possibly. Companionable. We weren’t failing to enjoy something we knew we ought to enjoy, and not understanding our feelings at that, but uncomfortable; we were definitely together rather than separate: we all knew we felt the same way, though I don’t think we articulated that. Possibly we could not be verbal about it, only pre-verbal. Dad suggested we all go to the pub in the village. Mum demurred, knowing (how all-knowing I am in my memory!) that this would not prolong the feeling as Dad hoped. I don’t know if we went or not.

So I know at least we always wished each other well, however we were together.

Three months before my father died, I went to Edinburgh to visit him in hospital. He said to me “I awoke in a world of women!” Hospital is not like that, really, but close enough for him to believe and be delighted by his fantasy of being under several female thumbs, all at once. Fxxk yeah. I get that completely. I am in utter sympathy with him.

Dad came close to admitting it before. Mum was a district nurse, and he would remark how delighted he was to see “Totty” in her nurse’s uniform, in her car, driving off to sort some patient out. A firm, decisive woman- but a nurse, which is “Women’s work” so in some way reconcilable with conservative views of men’s and women’s roles, even as it would subvert them. At the time-

yes, I know, I reconstruct memory, I don’t really know-

at the time I was embarrassed by these outbursts. I did not say anything, or I said, “Oh, Dad,” deprecatingly or something- no idea how I behaved, but I felt embarrassed. I still do. We are up a country road, between the garage and the bungalow, no-one to see us but cows and not always them and I am embarrassed and do not want him expressing this.

Oh I resent being crushed like this! I have no-one to blame, or “the sins of the fathers”, or parental weakness and failure rather than deliberate wrong, always doing the best they could, or “Society” (I read Warlord and Commando comics, tales in cartoons of wartime derring do in world war II and I, sometimes other wars, nothing newer. Different world.) So most of my energy was devoted to finding how my mother expected me to be, and being that, though I went to school and was with children my age so some of my time was devoted to finding what they expected one to be or admired and trying to be that.

Should I like pop music? (That encompasses Rock, punk, ska, jazz even…) No, it is merely screaming. It is of negligible quality. There is no tune to it. Classical music is real music. People at the school like pop, though, so I remember in the PE changing room someone naming David Bowie songs and claiming to know them, then he asked “Do you have an album?” No- then denying knowing others. Perhaps he named some twice and I claimed then denied knowing them. Just confusion.

It was much later I realised how some songs spoke to me on a visceral level, expressing just the feeling I had in the moment, realising, justifying and intensifying my feeling, helping me recognise it. I will survive…

I felt similar confusion meeting a solicitor in B—, someone in another firm whom I would need to trust, who might be on the other side of transactions- How should I be with him?

Be yourself!

Oh, don’t be silly, I could never be that.

And feeling after I had been gauche. Of course these are the normal experiences of callow youths, not knowing how society works or how people are together, and I feel I had a handicap in learning.

F, kicked out by her parents aged 17, made her way in the world, and I wonder why she tells me stories of Glasgow in the 60s. To encourage me, show possibilities? I feel it as judgment, what, surely everyone can do that? Or most likely because it is what she is thinking of now, to help her do what she must do now, which she tells me too.

A song

Birds gotta swim, and fish gotta fly
I’ve gotta be the same girl till I die
Can’t stop bein’ that gal o’ mine

Tho’ I weep, and storm, and rage, and cry
Try to deny- Oh how I try I
Can’t stop being that girl of mine

It cannot be true, it must be a lie
Awake all night, I ask myself why I
Can’t stop being that girl of mine

Then become calm, give up with a sigh
Under the fake, it is the real I
that can’t help bein that gal o mine

Written while considering transition

Toilets in Texas

The Texas House of Representatives, which had previously blocked Texas Senate attempts at a Bathroom Bill, has now passed one. Schools must provide single-occupancy toilets, changing rooms and locker rooms. Schools which now allow trans children to use the locker room for their gender would have to revert. Separate does not mean equal.

The Bill goes to the Texas Senate, which will likely pass it, as the Senate had a much wider Bill requiring all people in Texas government buildings, including schools, to use toilets matching their “biological sex”. The wider Bill was blocked by the House Speaker, who refused to refer it to a committee.

The Texas Governor endorsed the legislation as a priority, and the lieutenant-Governor threatened to block periodic legislation which re-authorises some State agencies, unless it was passed. Without that legislation, those agencies would be shut down.

SB 2078 regulates school districts’ “Multihazard Emergency Operations plans”, considering things like school shooters, natural disasters, and now trans children. The right of each student to access restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities with privacy, dignity and safety [shall be accommodated by] requiring the provision of single-occupancy facilities for use by a student who does not wish to use the facilities used by persons of the student’s biological sex.

This section may only be enforced by the state Attorney General, but nutcase objectors will still demonstrate against trans children, to force him to act. It does not require or authorise a school to disclose intimate details about a pupil, but using a separate locker room will be noticed.

The stalled SB6, applying to all government buildings, is longer than the Bill concerning emergencies. The Texas Senate discerned an “utmost moral obligation” “to protect the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children… and all Texas residents”, and found that schools providing access to restrooms, showers, and dressing rooms based on an individual student’s internal sense of gender is alarming and could potentially lead to boys and girls showering together and using the same restroom prejudicing a safe and secure learning environment. It is wearying to read of trans children being seen as so dangerous. Trans boys are called girls. The cubicles which prevent me ever embarrassing others in a bathroom are ignored- I am in the presence of others in a state of undress.

All government buildings should require that each multiple-occupancy bathroom or changing facility located in the building be designated for and used only by persons of the same biological sex.

“Biological sex” means the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate. My birth certificate says I am female, and Texas allows amendment of sex on a birth certificate if ordered by the court.

The Bill which is to be passed makes monsters of children.

Report in Texas Tribune.

Being the Good person

I am cycling on the road slightly downhill with the wind behind me, and someone is cycling out of the park on my left, into my path. Surely he will stay on the pavement? I look, worriedly, at the back of his head and hope he will look round. I cannot evade him because of the oncoming car. I can’t stop, so I scream; he looks round and brakes.

I pedal on, and from far behind me I hear his aggrieved exclamation: The fxxk! Scream like that? And now, I am so envious of him: that reflexive self-righteousness, he resents me and my wronging him. He is the good person here. Whereas I am analysing the situation and after much thought, have decided that my conduct passes muster, though I wonder if I should have reacted sooner.

There are advantages to the worried assessment- “Am I good enough? Did I wrong him?” which seems a more feminine response. The cars I notice waiting behind me for a safe, courteous time to overtake are driven by women, the cars which breenge past far too fast and close are driven by men. The advantage is that you probably won’t be in the wrong, and won’t have a collision. It means I need approval from others, though. There are advantages to the reflexive self-righteousness: you never need to think about second-guessing yourself, and nothing bad usually happens because other people manage to clear up your messes or take evasive action before you smash into them.

I used to see S every week or so, but have not for ages; but she has been to Woodbrooke and wanted to tell me about it. At one point I state something passionately, then half-apologise for it: “That was vehement,” I say, feeling her out. Oh, she says, that’s just the normal way of speaking, for her and her family. It is not for me. My passion is usually behind a diffident manner, which can be painful for me: I am restrained by my own fears. “Like an elephant with a-” I am miming a shackle round my ankle, but do not need to, because she got the allusion immediately.

“We need to be with others to know ourselves, because we see ourselves reflected in them,” she says. Yes. Of course. I am learning, now, from my interactions. I judge myself. I always ask, “How am I wrong?” I know this from interaction, but I am a recluse because for so long I judged myself reflexively and unconsciously, so I was always wrong, all the time, and when I was hurt too much by interactions and could take it no longer I needed to hide away. Right now, I am having the interactions I can bear.

From facebook: To state that zazen has a definite and particular form, and to cling to that position leads to one kind of trouble, while stating that zazen has no particular form sends one off in another confused direction. There is no logical resolution to this problem. And it is this illogical paradox with which a true practitioner of Zen must ‘sit’ both literally and spiritually. Yes. I reacted to that: it is seeking safety in rules- like I do. I am more or less happy cycling because I think I know the rules of the road, and what I am entitled to- it’s a formalised interaction. If I said, “Non-theists are not Quakers” it is an attempt to find safety in rules. In this future situation, I will act in this way, and I will be right. S said, “That’s why Quakers talk all the time”- because human situations are so complex, so making rules is difficult. She said this not because she had seen that in facebook, but a propos of something else. Perhaps I am in a computer simulation, where the same lesson comes to me repeatedly, or perhaps I am just open to it now.

Also on facebook, someone wrote,  Anyone who was abused in their formative years is likely to feel they are ‘a lesser being’ than all others and may live in fear of rejection and abuse; so they will continually seek and need the approval of others. And on-going approval will also help dispel their fears of engendering further abuse. I felt myself completely worthless, so I do need approval: developing my own grudging acceptance, just-about approval for myself is difficult. Here is David Brooks on another aspect of needing the approval of others.