Stating the problem IV

Like many pop songs, it has just one good line, but it is a very good line:

We are, we are driving
we are driving too fast
we are, we are driving
we will crash

There’ll be fire
fire when we crash
There’ll be fire
fire when we crash

Skype counselling session. I have my love intimacy sexuality weekend coming up, I am going to see someone I have not seen since about 2001, and tell her not to transition, and I have lunch with Quakers tomorrow.

I love the Human Awareness Institute. I will find their weekend distressing, useful, challenging, wonderful. My aim is to pass through distress to enlightenment, to bring my repressed unconscious to consciousness. I love their slogan, “Creating a world where everyone wins”.

I will tell Hannah not to transition. Long term, it is a mistake, though short term it is wonderfully liberating.

I will ask those Quakers what they expected- that I would just vanish? I cycled on Sunday for 55 minutes to Kettering, about 55 minutes back, because Quakers are my main social outlet. I am sociable, and today my longest conversation has been buying apples, lettuce, grapes and plums at the fruit and veg stall. I want those, he wants £4.09, no other chat took place.

Life now is as good as I can imagine it. This is the best I can do. I don’t want to work, even though not looking makes me more vulnerable to the biggest threat in my life, losing my benefits. My life is in Limbo, and a kick up the arse might do me good? No, this is the best I can do. Work would be some of the time horrible, most of the time just unpleasant and dull.

I am in the best situation I can imagine, though it is not sustainable. In the future, when my benefits stop, the best will be worse than this- some horrible job- but all I could do is embrace that worse now, and that makes no sense.

-How do you think people will react to you turning up as a man?
-Some will think I’m an arse, some will see how beautiful and fascinating I am and like it and express that.
-Will you hear them?
-Yes. I am beautiful and fascinating.
-Why so distressed and angry and frustrated?
-Because beautiful and fascinating is not good enough, and I can’t achieve better than this.

Now, I am distressed, frustrated (in Limbo) and frightened, and I think of Rebekah. She lives in Tel Aviv. I met her in London, for less than half an hour, and at her suggestion we facebook friended. Most of her shares are in Hebrew, and pre-AI translate is poor, but she posted some wonderful pictures of her in a wedding dress, feeling delighted, and looking wonderful. She is paralysed and needs a motorised wheelchair but she is blissful.

Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.

-I am beautiful, fascinating, highly intelligent, creative, loving
-Unloved. I wish we had another hour to go further into this, she says.

We make another appointment. Perhaps work so revolts me because the only authority figure I can conceive is my mother: unjust, unyielding, capricious and wrong.

The arguments for transition

It lets you be yourself.

You may become obviously a trans woman. You may become impotent and infertile because of hormones or surgery. You may spend a great deal on transition, on clothes finding a style that works, on hair removal, or on baldness treatments. You may suffer all of this. But it lets you be yourself.

You will still find it difficult to “be yourself” in certain situations. At work, you will probably do some things you do not enjoy doing, with people you do not like- not all the time, but some of the time. You will find places you can be yourself in your own time, such as Doctor Who cosplay, perhaps, channelling aspects of your character you cannot express elsewhere, or extrovert, even exhibitionist tendencies.

You should be able to be yourself with your family, but some families prevent this. Possibly most do, to some extent. That is how we develop blind spots, where we don’t know things about ourselves which others see clearly. We put up a façade to try to fool others, and even sometimes to fool ourselves, and there are parts so deeply repressed that no-one can see them. You should be able to be yourself with a partner.

I don’t believe I have a female spirit, soul or essence. I am a materialist. Professor Brian Cox puts it this way: CERN shows how particles interact. If there were spiritual forces interacting with matter, we would have observed them. Spiritual understandings still explain observed phenomena- “I have a female spirit” is a useful way of putting it, because people understand, but there are better ways of saying the same thing: “I have characteristics seen as feminine in my culture”.

I don’t have a female brain, and nor do androphile trans women. There are certain sex differences between brains, and trans women can have certain female characteristics in their brains, but it is not true that trans women before treatment have clear female sexual dimorphism of the brain, or that anyone does.

Patriarchy through culture oppresses women, feminine and gender diverse people. It is hard for a man to be feminine. So I suppressed my feminine self, which I could only express through cross-dressing, and otherwise tried to hide from everyone.

I am meeting someone for the first time in at least fifteen years, and will advise her not to transition. Don’t make the same mistake I did. “There was a door you did not see”. This is based on the above rational case; but people do not do what is in our rationally chosen best interests. It misses out the other argument for transition- that I wanted to, more than anything else in the world.

It is compulsive. It is sexually arousing. I tend to feel it is sexually arousing because it is compulsive, rather than the other way around, but still. I tend to feel it is compulsive because

It is a way to be yourself!

It is a way to be able to accept being yourself, to be yourself, let down your guard, know yourself, admit yourself, tolerate yourself, stop acting and pretending and feel less that you are wrong and inadequate. It is water in a desert, sunshine and flowers when you have been locked in a cellar. It is the best truth many people can find.

The masculine act is not you. Can you find another way to be yourself other than transition? Transition if, despite the consequences- mockery and prejudice, infertility, and cost and effort- it is the best way available to be yourself.

Femmephobia

Femmephobia is devaluing the feminine and only valuing the masculine, seen in those strands of feminism which work only for the interests of masculine women, in conservatism cutting the welfare state for dog eat dog survival of the richest, and my own internalised transphobia, my shame at being Unmanly. Where feminine is seen as wrong in men or restricting in women, that is femmephobia.

The feminine is the precision-engineered ball-bearings making the engine of complex modern society run smoothly, without which it will seize up. The feminine is the nurturing which gives people solid ground to walk on, faith in a secure, loving home from which they can venture out to strive, achieve and do good. Management styles seeking to develop a worker, increase their confidence and job satisfaction, and thereby get the best from them, involve feminine care to see the good and correct by praise not blame. Macho dominance does not work.

We are a social species, living together in vast cities, crammed up against each other in underground commuter trains, our faces inches apart. We need restraint and care for each other to manage this. Feminine delight in colour and beauty brings joy.

Why fear it?

Feminism recognises the devaluing of women, though often it conflates projecting femininity onto women, demanding femininity from them even where it does not fit, judging them as unfeminine, with that devaluation. If a feminist imagines patriarchy oppresses women in general, not just her, by imposing “femininity”, she misunderstands other women and comes to loathe femininity. Then feminism becomes a minority pursuit for unfeminine women.

Where men lack security, in our modern violent world, they conflate femininity with weakness. If he once rests or lets down his guard, like Samson sleeping on the lap of Delilah he loses his strength and is enslaved. In acceptance, femininity finds strength and resilience, the ability to bend where the unyielding will break.

When trans women are brought up to be Real Men, rejecting femininity as weakness, as Wrong for them so that they will always be inadequate, we fear it in ourselves and fear any sign of it letting others find out- for they will mock and deride and humiliate us. Even after transition I find it hard to relax into my femininity.

Only once be unmanly, and you have lost your honour forever? That myth prevents people from accessing their gifts, the anima in man, the animus in woman, from being the self that best answers each situation. It is like throwing out half the tools in your box, and using a hammer where a screwdriver is needed.

I find it hard to relax into my femininity, even though I wear a wig, make-up, and skirts. I am not manly, nor seen as such, yet still experience my femininity as a lack not a gift. Yet there are people secure in themselves who can use all their tools, men unafraid to be gentle, forthright women. Perhaps only those of us who least fit the stereotypes cling so desperately to them.

Mohammed is said to have written, Women are not created weaker but more generous than men. They are created more beautiful and less fierce, as beauty hates to hurt and harm others. That is why they seem weak to people, but in reality they are not. Angels are the strongest of created beings, and women are closer to the angelic nature than men, as they are readier than men to carry angelic light. It is the good manners and ethics of spirituality which they carry which makes them less forceful than men. If he had said “feminine people” and “masculine people” he might have been closer to the truth.

Lauren Jeska

Lauren Jeska, British champion fell-runner in 2015, had gender reassignment surgery in 2000. She had not provided relevant samples to demonstrate her testosterone levels to the sport’s governing body, so her race results were declared void in September 2015. On 22 March 2016, she drove for two hours to the offices of UK Athletics, and asked to see Ralph Knibbs, head of human resources and welfare. She stabbed him repeatedly, causing a 2cm wound to his neck. Prompt first aid saved his life, but he has permanent partial sight loss.

Amid the unanswered questions- how could her testosterone exceed female levels without testicles? Was she dosing, or just upset at the demand to provide samples?- I fear how the haters will respond. This is trans violence. Jeska is a threat to women in prison and should be in a men’s prison.

She has been jailed for 18 years. Previously, she was in a secure mental hospital. She will be on Restricted status, with the most violent women- the only non-violent offences considered for that status are supply of class A drugs, or offences under the Official Secrets Act. She has been extremely physically fit, but so long after castration does not have the physical strength advantages of testosterone.

The heart of prejudice is judging people by a characteristic we happen to share with an offender. What she did is monstrous- and I am not dangerous, and no other trans woman should be judged for what Lauren Jeska did.

All that said-

I remember a trans woman I represented at the Employment Tribunal. She had had a hyper-manly job, then transitioned, and got a job in a cliché feminine role. She was sacked from that job, and convinced me that the wrong she was accused of could not have happened as the manager found it to happen. So she had not done it. I argued that were she cis, the manager would not have found something impossible to be true. The tribunal did not address that point, but found after three days’ oral evidence, my longest hearing, that a cis woman would have been sacked for the same offence, so there was no discrimination.

She had come in to my office, traumatised. She had prepared a very detailed statement of claim to the tribunal, and I took a long statement, but she would ask to see me then go over and over, with monotonously resentful affect, how badly she had been treated. Once I sat, not writing, not looking at her, as she ruminated in this way; I timed her on the phone, and she spoke without pause for ten minutes.

We suffer huge pressure pretending to be male, and we can suffer trauma after transition.

I am glad Lauren Jeska’s parents appear to be standing by their daughter. In a statement they said the stress and confusion of the dispute with UK Athletics had triggered a mental health crisis. I cannot excuse her, but I have sympathy for her.

Report in The Guardian.

Trans ideology

So many stories! I have the brain/spirit/soul/heart of a woman, I am really a woman, provoking research into psychology and brain physiology, and legal or social responses. I don’t care whether it is true or not, but how it liberates or constrains us. Does it permit you to do what you want to do? Does it prevent you? How does it affect others’ resentment or tolerance of you?

It would be lovely to be able to say, with scientific precision, “I am a woman”, because that would make everything simple. Of course transition would be right, and I would be allowed in women’s spaces. Of course society and the law would treat me as a woman, and anyone who dissented would be clearly wrong. I can’t do that because it is not so. The concept of “woman” is not so clearly divided from that of “man” as the transphobes would think, but useful scientific definitions relating to reproduction call me clearly a man. What I am left with is a social or cultural concept, so I say “I am a woman” according to the modern English definition of the word, which includes trans women. This liberates me to transition, and to argue that others should accept me, but that is a circular argument- I am a woman, because people call me a woman.

If a transphobe argues that I am not a woman because I have a Y chromosome and any scientific wiggle-room about intersex people does not apply to me, the question is Why. It could be because they want to enforce Complementarian “biblical” gender roles, or because they want to direct feminist energy against me, calling me part of the Patriarchal Oppression of Women.

If you are deciding whether to transition or not, this is good and bad news. The bad news is that you will never be able to state with complete certainty that you are a woman, and therefore must transition. You have to find what you feel. What do you want? Will transition make you happy? The good news is that if you really want to transition, nothing should stop you. If you want to transition, you are trans. No-one can tell you not to transition because you are not trans. There are unscientific, cultural stories around arguing that you are not, such as “Autogynephilia”, but do not worry. It is a myth. “Female embodiment fantasies” explains the phenomenon far better.

It also widens your options. No, you are not objectively, scientifically a “woman” but you have particular characteristics, desires and needs which make you desire transition. Are there alternatives which might make you happy with less effort?

It means that you will never convince the transphobes. You cannot point to objective scientific evidence that you should be able to use women’s changing rooms. However, the people who really care and want to stop you are a small minority. Most people don’t see what the fuss is about, and so those who do care are desperate to convince them. But the more they exaggerate the threat of trans women in women’s loos, the more reasonable people they drive away.

Explaining ourselves

We got to the villa, large and well-appointed, which we got cheaply because of being slightly before the season. The owner welcomed us, and showed us round. He introduced us to the three big dogs- as we walked through the town later to the café, there was a dogs’ chorus. Be friends with your burglar alarm: he wanted them to get to know our smell. “If you have any questions, please do ask,” he says, but we have no questions for him. Really, we want him to leave.  His parents in law are the next house, overlooking the garden. His English seems excellent, with little foreign accent.

We are shy. We do not want to explain ourselves. “They are shy of you, because they have Asperger’s Syndrome,” I could have said. I am shy, because I am Trans. We can pass as normal if we interact as little as possible. Why on Earth would we want to pass? Because explaining does not necessarily make others friendly- they might be put off by our odd manner, but might be mocking or hostile if they knew what we really are. Or even exploit us! And- I am worthwhile to know, but not trusting. I want you to spot that, imagine I might have good reason for it, and work to gain my trust!

Self-hatred is very useful for being able to pass. I have no right to be as I am, and the hostility of others is only to be expected. Or, you despise them, you put on an act for others. The main cause is fear. We pass because we fear you.

One of us ate something which disagreed with him, and as soon as we got home he was copiously sick in the gutter. There is a hose in the car port, and I hosed it down the drain. Later, the father in law came over. “We wondered if you are all alright? We saw he was sick in the gutter.” This could be friendly concern, and I experienced it as checking up on us. What are they doing wrong? Make them stop. Even, punish us in some way. We just want him to go away. No, no, we’re absolutely fine, there is no problem at all, and we say this not meeting his eyes, looking shifty. I fear, loathing the thought, that I come over as submissive.

I did think, later, of going over and asking for help, taking both at their word, getting to know them a bit, letting down my guard, approaching directly not circumspectly. Are there any tourist attractions for our friend, who has huge difficulty with stairs? I am a human being. Every human being has idiosyncrasies. I should not be judged for mine.

There is a large pile of wood, and a fireplace between the living room and my bedroom, with glass doors to each. I get a fire going easily- just call me the Pyromage! It has a strong draw, but we have more difficulty getting heat out of it rather than going up the chimney.

The kitchen is lovely. Twice we had sausage and mash, and twice we had pizzas. The trouble with passing, of living in fear of and at war with the world, is that you have less energy to explore how the world’s beauties and gifts may delight you, or to make it delight you, for you do not realise you deserve that.

Integrating the self

I have not spoken to my counsellor for over a month, so have a lot of material to work with. I tell her of my dispute with Quakers, lunch with my friend, my holiday.

-I did a little light bullying.
-I don’t think anyone has ever said something like that to me. “How was your holiday?” “Oh, I did a little light bullying.”

I worked quite hard to make sure my friend had as good a holiday as possible, and when I could not find a way threw my weight around to make sure I got what I wanted from it. In particular I was not going to do boring things because conventionally they are supposed to be fun, especially as my companions had such limited ideas of what those were. And because he values my company so much, my friend has to take a certain amount of shit from me.

-You are very hard on yourself.

Yes. “Bullying” and “giving shit” are harsh words for me. I was kind. I was reasonably self-assertive. I was as creative as I could be. My judgment of myself is harsh, and I am allowing the judgment and trying to stop it preventing me doing what I want. Bullying is wrong. My inner critic calls my action bullying, yet I do it anyway. In unsatisfactory circumstances I am happy enough with my conduct.

At one point we reach a stop, and she says she has a question. Fire away.

-You said your internal policeman tasered you for not being sufficiently manly. Did he not get the memo?

We laugh. Apparently not. It is good to be conscious of him, though, rather than just being paralysed. I love the way I make her laugh. I am telling my stories as elegantly and quickly as I can, wanting to get the meaning over, but enjoying how I word them well.

Before lunch, H told me a coat would look good on me. I am playing control games. I like them. If that is her controlling me- what does that do for me? It is what I want. It gives me a sense of connection.

-Would you have bought the coat yourself?
-No. Never. But I love it.
-So she is appreciating a part of you which is usually silent, and giving it a voice.

I am addicted to attention. Or at least that is approaching the truth, one facet of it.
-You are being attractive, and valuing that.
-Crying in public could be that addiction. Yet it seems to me that when I cry my unconscious communicates to my conscious how strong my feeling is, and if I can fully accept my depth of feeling I need not show external symptoms. That can be useful.

She does not demur to that.

I have known I am screwed up and at war with myself all my adult life. I am closer to finding the cause of that than I have ever been, and to finding ways round it. My father was feminine, my mother liked that, they both knew it was utterly shameful and no-one must ever find out. I had one honest conversation with my father about it, three months before he died.

This is my work. It is intensely valuable, because I am valuable.

Being controlled, and passive. My best experience of sex so far was with a man who let me lie back, doing nothing, and with gentleness, empathy and generosity opened me up. I was curled up and self-protective, and he got me to open myself to him. He licked me out. “You taste Goood,” he said. I want to do none of the work, and be accepted.

Bullying. It is a harsh judgment. I am crying.

She says it is difficult to integrate the self when it is so repressed. At her request, I show her my yellow coat. It is very yellow.

We arrange another appointment, and then I watch Star Trek Deep Space Nine. I like it. It is decades-old SF entertainment for teenagers, and I still like it. It is beautifully done. I pause it to think.

Do I need it to be in some way objectively good, before I am allowed- can allow myself- to like it? Now I am weeping hard. NO! I like it! Yet this is an exceptionally good episode, ep 3/7, “Civil Defense”. I love the clever ways they come up with to reduce the threat, always making it worse until the end. I love the way the characters respond in ways like themselves: Quark and Odo flirt together beautifully, subtly showing their regard and care for each other as they bicker. It is funny. At the end, there is surely the tiredest cliché- the computer counts down the seconds to Self Destruct- and the tension of it grips me. I love their heroism: continually knocked back, everyone keeps buggering on. I loved the sense of the characters, and see it is the only DS9 writing credit of Mike Krohn- his only other credit is one TV movie, Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct: Lightning. I may watch that episode again, however ridiculous the whole world might find such a complete waste of time.

Bill

Why do violent men want to tell me their life stories? He started talking to me at the cycle stands, so I said good morning to him. His name is – he reeled off at least eight names, including “Ulysses”- What’s your name? “I’m Abigail,” I said. “You are named after the love of my life, who lives in Southampton,” he said. He asked if I would like to go to his girlfriend’s birthday party, on 5 May in the ——– pub by the ——— centre. Come between 8 and 9 and he will give me an invite. He then told me he had read me as transgendered, because of my voice.

“But I don’t care about that,” he said. “I don’t mind if you want to be transgendered.”

No, I did not say, “Gosh! Thanks! That’s really kind of you, permitting a stranger to do this harmless thing.” Rather, I said that I don’t care either, and I don’t mind people knowing. That’s why I do this- I took off my helmet, and put on my wig. “My friend said I should go to the toilet over there and change in private, but I don’t care,” I said.

He can do anything, because he is going to prison. He’s just been cycling in the Arndale Centre, which is against the law. He kicked the soft tyre of the bicycle lying on the ground- “I’ve got those inner-tubeless tyres”.

-It’s great to be transgendered. You can be a man and have sex with a woman, have sex with a man and get pregnant
-We don’t have womb transplants.
-You could adopt…

Someone has dropped a letter from the Council. An award of benefit, a demand for payment, something more personal- he picks it up, reads it, says “Interesting” and stuffs it in his pocket. A woman on walking sticks picks her way, slowly, resentfully, past the bicycle lying across the usual path round the corner.

He showed me his T-shirt, and explained it. It is black, with pink Gothic writing. “Real men wear pink!” I said. “Yes, because we’re not afraid to show our heterosexuality. ‘Gay’ used to mean happy,” he said. On the front, it reads,

United
Patriots
that
Hammers
Excite.

It’s an acrostic. Up the Hammers. On the back, it says FTW then ADGD then there’s a pink silhouette of a seated cat. What do I think FTW stands for?

“Fxxk the World,” I said. He did not demur. It could be Floreat the Wombles, I suppose. GD is Gail Dawson his girlfriend, and AD is their daughter, the most wonderful thing he has ever created. The cat is he himself.

Anyway, he’s been charged with disobeying a policeman who told him to stop and put his hands behind his back, and breaking the wrist of that policeman. The policeman put him on the ground and caused this- he points to a graze on his forehead. He’s been in prison twice, but only [slang term].

-What?
-On remand.

He has studied Jujitsu, a bit of Karate, a bit of Akido. Jujitsu is soft power, go in soft then hit hard. “Use the energy of the opponent against him,” I say. “No, that’s Judo,” he says. He could have really hurt that policeman and he didn’t. He shows his stances. You bend the front knee, or your opponent could break your leg, he says. Yes, kick the knee. If his front leg is bent he can’t be pushed over. Go on, push me as hard as you can. I push him, and he indeed does not fall. But if the front leg is straight and the rear bent he can be pushed over. He rolls on the ground. “It’s always OK to fall, because you can roll into a break-fall,” he says, “Just always keep a guard and be ready for a scissor-kick”. He mimes it once or twice, then takes my arm gently and shows how he could break my wrist.

He is a soldier of fortune, but the British Army rejected him. He used to live next door to some Provos, and they were friends with a real IRA man who taught him all he knows about soldiering. Like, how to make a Molotov cocktail, with whisky or other alcohol, a light-bulb bomb- drill a hole in the metal base, fill it with paraffin, fill the hole with wax, they switch it on, the wax heats up and melts and boom. He showed him how to make a fertiliser bomb, a matchbox would be enough. Bleach bomb-

-Yes, bleach in the toilet, something else in the cistern. [I want to keep up with him.]

No, a bleach bomb. Someone blew up his garage in Southampton with a bleach bomb. He came home and there was this hole blown through the back wall. The other garages did not blow up, because there was thick ice and snow on top of the garage.

-Absorbed all the energy.
-Exactly. Anyway, they had rigged up the garage so a brick swung down and hit him on the head. He rigs up his garage with booby-traps.

-Fishing line with hooks?
-No, you don’t need hooks, just twine at neck, waist and ankle level as a trip wire, a brick to swing down and hit the head, then you’re in the dark tied in the twine. You have to let policemen postmen and bailiffs onto the curtilege of your property but not over the threshold. He sets up his booby traps when he goes out- when he is in, he is the protection.

-I can’t remember your name.
-Just call me Bill. Do you like to be ‘Abi’ or ‘Gail’?
-I like the whole thing. I am Abigail.
-All right then. Come to the party. Bring £10 to pay me so I can pay for the drinks, because charity begins at home. And bring me a present, something Hammers related, maybe a keyring with a hammer on it, I’ll get lots of those, not that Lionel Messi thing because it’s £350, you don’t have to spend that much. He’s been a Hammers fan since his aunt took him to a game, she had a spare ticket, she asked him if he wanted to go, he said who’s paying? she said You are.

I thought the party was for his girlfriend.

I have to go, as I am late for tea with my friend. I wonder if he has tried stand-up. He is highly intelligent with wonderful felicity with words. He may be going to prison. See also Ben.

Being controlled

As we wander through the town centre to the café-pub, she notices a bright-yellow, “Spring-like” coat in a charity-shop window. She says it would look good on me. I go to investigate, and take it from the window display, undoing all its buttons, unwrapping the very long belt. A worker dashes over and pulls the mannequin from the display, then feels the need to explain and apologise- “We’re not allowed to have them in the window without something on them”. I apologise in turn- I am sorry for dismantling the display. “I like it, but it is up to you,” she says. Are the arms a little short- I was descended from gorillas- maybe a little, she thinks. She will not exert herself to persuade me at all.

I buy the coat, and wear it to the pub. I enjoy lunch with her, then cycle home, still wearing the coat.

I am not certain she would think of this, but I analyse obsessively, and decided- she told me what to wear, and I wore it. She took control, and I assented. I really really like that. I could give pathological explanations. My mother was extremely controlling, and it is because of that. I am not behaving like a fully mature adult. I don’t know if any cis woman would feel this way about a man.

I really really like that. And it is shaming, humiliating, NOT HOW A MAN SHOULD BE!!!! RIDICULOUS DISGUSTING SHAMEFUL VILE

The inner critic does not like it. I have such strong internal barriers against this, it is more an internal policeman, with a taser to paralyse me if I stray from the Right Path. It comes from my controlling mother and soft father, who were terrified of anyone finding out.

I called the Samaritans. “I want to talk about sex”, I said. “This is not the phone line for that,” she said, and rang off. With the second, I was more circumspect. I do not want to perv on her, but to sort out my feelings. I have been frightened of my feelings and suppressed them, and want to accept them and feel them fully, for then I feel I pass through them. I need her presence as I do this. Shame, humiliation, resentment, complex unnamed feelings well up within me and I can bear them if I sit in silence, eyes closed, and allow their conflagration, their cacophony. Then such regret!

I told her of leaving the office to kill myself. It was the only thing I could do. I could not bear it, and had to get out immediately without thought for the consequences. The internal policeman does not accept such an excuse, for any human being with the slightest resource or resilience would have had no problem at all. I feel the pain of being in that situation, and then the pain at lost opportunities from never being able to accept that pain, so wanting to hide away, and wonder if some sort of forward movement is possible.

My lunch companion is a friend, not a potential partner. However, after years of trying to make a man of myself and so being unable to let a potential partner in, and loathing my attempts at sex because I did what I thought I should do rather than what I might like, these experiences might help me seek out something which could satisfy me at last. An oddity- as I spoke to the Samaritan woman I was using my female voice. Often, I speak below the break, but not then.

-What will you do next? she asks.

I will watch Call the Midwife on tv. Apart from one token character the men are all stupid, sometimes bumblingly well-intentioned but usually selfish, even violent. And the women take control and sort things out. Just my sort of programme!

berthe-morisot-in-the-dining-room

What is Trans?

What does “Trans” mean? There are many answers, and this is mine.

Trans starts with the concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity”, which do not fit men and women as we really are. At its worst, toxic masculinity rejects the expression of emotion apart from anger and derision. Boys and men are expected to put on a manly mask which suffocates them. Women are objectified, valued for their looks, treated as weaker and needing looked after by men while made responsible for most housework and care of children, the disabled and elderly. Feminists call this “patriarchy” and differ in their emphasis on how it affects men, but it hurts everyone apart from a very few high-status men.

Patriarchy fits no-one. Everyone needs to deny part of themselves to fit in. Those who particularly do not fit are trans, or trans-like people. To call myself a “feminine” man is ridiculous, as “feminine” relates to women, but the word has come to denote qualities prescribed by patriarchy for women, such as being sensitive, empathetic, compassionate, communal, unselfish, supportive, motherly, nurturing, gentle, forgiving, and caring. These are my natural qualities, though my attempt to be a “Real Man” has twisted me.

Femininity can also refer to certain mannerisms, body language, or physical appearance.

I am mostly interested in trans women. Some of what I say could also apply to trans men, and I could use inclusive language, but will discuss trans women only. Trans women may be Gynephile, attracted to women, or Androphile, attracted to men. Androphiles are called “Homosexual” by the researchers, denying that they are women, and Gynephiles are called “Non-homosexual”, which I find demeaning, even though some of us present as bisexual or asexual. If I am not a woman then I am heterosexual, attracted to women. Trans in androphile and gynephiles may be different phenomena with different causation.

There is research on trans, and on the wider question of whether femininity and masculinity have any reality separate from culture. There is a wide range of masculinity and femininity in men and women, but by and large women are more feminine. Whether nature causes this, or nurture, culture and society, is strongly disputed. I would not accuse researchers of fitting the evidence to their preconceptions, but the questions are so political that they might choose research projects to confirm their claims, and interpreters can be wholly political. I read one conservative Christian sniffing that trans women’s brains are different because we obsess about trans, promoting dendrite growth in particular areas. And even if parents of both sexes expect a toddler boy to slide down a steeper slide than girls the same age, what could that mean? I do not have the time or education to assess individual research papers, leave alone the wider questions.

Studies show some brain differences- in the 1990s I was aware that brain dissection had found the BSTc, the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, is twice the size in men as in women, slightly larger in gay men, and female size in trans women, but what could cause that or what it could mean is a mystery to me. We could use it for large claims, that trans women are apart from men, really women, and some do, and there is a huge backlash. Brain research does not justify the large claims of some trans folk.

There is no clear cut-off between trans and cis-gendered. There is a spectrum of masculinity to femininity in men. So other circumstances will decide whether you transition, such as whether you have a partner and what they feel about it, what your job prospects are, or how well you pass. I read of a person who had been the subject of a documentary on transition, but stopped when he found a male partner.

Some men are aroused by cross-dressing, or by thoughts of themselves as women. This is more likely a by-product of being feminine than the cause of transition. Some are satisfied with recreational cross-dressing: at the Northern Concord, it seemed to me that some were just blokes down the pub, who happened to be dressed rather strangely, and some were feminine.

My particular interest is the gynephile trans woman, especially me, and her counterpart the masculine woman: viragos and harridans, sissies and pansies. This is the sexual orientation that has only hurtful names- the woman “wears the trousers”, the man is “pussy-whipped”. “Beta male” may be a more positive term, or “Alpha female”, but both these terms are claimed by other groups. My parents were like this, terrified of people finding out, and inculcated in me terrible shame. My mother would not let me play with Action Man because “boys should not play with dolls”. My father objected to women on Radio 4, claiming to loathe the sound of their voices.

In the Underground last week I saw a woman, her leg crossed, her foot against the shin of her man, holding his hand and squeezing or pinching it. I felt they might have such a relationship, and felt envy. It is not the same as BDSM.

I don’t know how the desire to present female and actual femininity are related. I tend to feel that some men feel that their characteristics are more acceptable in women, and it is in part a desire to fit in with social norms. I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”- if only I could have realised I am not that kind of man.

Though I had the operation, I oppose it. I had it because I thought that it would make me part of an acceptable class, that it was better to be transsexual than transvestite, rather than because I wanted it for itself. Before, I had been ashamed of my slim wrists and arms, but after I found them beautiful, so it enabled me to love my body- but I wish I had found some other way. For a time, it all seemed to fit: I was a “woman”, so I felt this way, and was pleased to appear this way. Possibly we have the operations because doctors wanted to be seen to be doing something, or even wanted a subject to experiment on. I feel some people want the operation simply for itself, and should be allowed to have it. In a world without patriarchy, we could know.

I have fellow-feeling with radical feminists, even TERFs. They are revolted by body-modification, and some lack any sense of proportion about trans women, as if we are the only feminist issue they care about, but they are often masculine women, and not fitting Patriarchy in a complementary way to me- how could I not sympathise? I would put them in a group with trans folk, those who are gender non-conforming, who do not fit patriarchal views of gender. We have so much in common, it is hard that we do not work together. We are oppressed by Patriarchy in such similar ways.

The basic phenomenon is feminine men and masculine women, but how we respond to that is shaped by the culture and our experience. I suppressed it, and tried to be Real Manly for years. There is transphobia, and internalised transphobia, which prevents us from flourishing. We learn to be ourselves better, but still in ways twisted by oppression. We must build coalitions and learn to resist oppression more effectively.

The words you use to describe the phenomenon affect how you understand it. But we don’t understand it, not really, so we need to keep playing with the words. I would ask potential transitioners, Who are you? What would really fulfil you- is it really this off-the-peg solution? I would refer to “gender diversity” rather than trans, for “gender-diverse” is how people are, and “trans” or even “gender-non-conformity” are choices, ways to deal with the pressures of Patriarchy on gender diverse folk.

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