Sexual morality

-Why is it wrong to steal?
-Because you might get caught.

Is it wrong to have a date with someone who has a partner? Well, have I any obligation to that partner? No, though she has; and she might hurt herself, too; though this might be the destructive act she needs to take to decisively move on with her life. Then again, if he might get angry with me that might be a practical rather than moral consideration. Even if we were to get involved, I might have no obligation to protect her from harm, only not to deliberately harm her myself. That sort of protecting could be enabling bad behaviour and encouraging unhealthy dependence and so, er, wrong. It is better to treat each other as adults. So it is her obligation to consider any duty to her partner, not mine; but seeing that she did not value that obligation I might choose not to get involved.

I could meet her, though, simply out of interest. People are interesting. No-one can be summed up on a side of A4.

I am interested in moral considerations. What is right? I will feel uncomfortable with something I think wrong, though might persuade myself it was not. Or I could meet her simply for a coffee and a chat- or tell myself that; but while the frontal lobe was telling itself one thing the amygdala might be doing something entirely other.

All this is apropos of nothing at all.

Moral considerations are separate from impulse. Something happens and all your attention is engaged. Hang the consequences. A friend said, “Of course you still fall in love; but you don’t act on it, because you are in a partnership”. This is a matter of self-interest, not just noble self-sacrifice. Then there are practicalities; and finally concepts of right and wrong. “I hurt you because I want to and I can” revolts me, and contradicts Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law. Though that may be slave morality, for the good of the community rather than the nobility of the strong.

Oh! Why can’t we all get along!

It seems to me that I am a communal body, that I want people to support each other, to bear one another up with a tender hand, and I suppose that could just arise from circumstances rather than being a character trait. “Can I get away with it?” I am nervous round that question. The allegation against the Christian is that he makes a virtue of his weakness, but in the war of all against all we all suffer. One answer is that there is no possible overarching understanding, and that moral frameworks are only there to make us feel better, until we want to break them; whereupon we need only a new rationalisation. I am quite clear that physical intimidation is wrong in a civilised society- but then, I am not physically intimidating.

The girl on the train

So glad I am not thirty any more!

This is a dark tale of female obsession, women distraught around losing babies or being unable to conceive, and female pretence and denial, carrying on with the daily commute a year after losing the job because of heavy drinking. Has she killed someone? She stalks those involved with a woman who has disappeared.

An unreliable narrator is hard to show on film, but each scene could have been a memory distorted by wish in the way of those habitual liars who believe their fantasy, even after it becomes risible to all others. Three psycho bitches, drinking heavily and being horrible to the mostly decent men.

Sit down, says the male victim to the flaky woman who pretended to be his wife’s friend, and has got him suspected of being her murderer. You know what’s coming next. SIT DOWN! he shouts, and she sits, and he stands over her, and he is merely being reasonable.

She finds a phone and throws it away. She has a perfect marriage. She loves her husband. The phone, which incriminates him, could not be true.

She could do with a chap-stick, said Jayne. Yes, I had noticed her lips. This ordinary commuter woman, in the nice-enough coat, her lips are the first thing I notice not quite right about her. Then ordinary normal things become nightmarish: she takes a pull on her water-bottle, but later we see her fill it with vodka. Surely after five hours she cannot remember, waking up with blood on her temple, she will turn her life around, and we see her at AA, making a really awful confession- but she drinks again.

The film plays with my desire to identify with the main character. She does embarrassing things, and I feel embarrassment, hot and harsh as she shames herself. And then I know she is a liar, a fantasist, a stalker, a baby-stealer, and possibly a murderer. My sympathy drains, and I feel horror for her. Her vulnerability starts as engaging and becomes pitiable.

I may do spoilers in the comments if anyone asks, but all I want to say is that this is a portrayal of a particular kind of relationship a woman can have with a man, and we are shown his complete decency and reasonableness, his caring as she becomes more flaky, and his escape when she becomes unbearable. He finds happiness with another woman. Empathising with the woman we go down into darkness. It is intensely uncomfortable and cathartic.

I did not apply for that job because I felt disgust contemplating the form, disgust for myself and my inadequacy, and how horrible the table- dates, job title, main duties, salary- or personal statement, how you fit the Essential Requirements, how I clearly do not, how I would never get it and only show my uselessness. So I have not tried. All that experience of working, all that experience of interviews, but it is my own judgment which prevents me from going through that again. And my own judgment is too harsh.

The Trump Effect

The Presidential election is having a terrible effect on schools. Minority children are terrified. A kindergarten Latino child, told by classmates he would be deported, asked every day “Is the wall here yet?” Bullies are empowered: some use the word Trump as they taunt or gang up on others. Teachers who normally use elections for lessons in democracy and the responsibility of citizenship find that the word “Trump” alone is enough to derail a class, and that the election inflames ethnic tension and the fear and anxiety of children of colour.

The need for teachers to be non-partisan stymies attempts to impart positive lessons about the electoral process. Every student from pre-schoolers up is aware of the rhetoric, tone and catch-phrases. “We’re going to build a wall”. Now the notorious phrases include “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”  The campaign is omnipresent, on social media and rolling news. Children talk about this whether or not the teachers take part. If a child says When Trump wins, you and your family will get sent back in the classroom, they say worse in the hallway. Students take the campaign intensely personally, and marginalised pupils bear the brunt of abuse.

Children worry about being sent back to where their parents or grandparents came from, and even the descendants of slaves fear being sent to Africa. They cannot feel safe with the level of hatred expressed in the news and even by trusted adults. Undocumented students have a right to education but come to school fearful that they will be interned, and separated from their families. Students from six to twelve cry in class. This reduces grades and ability to concentrate. One student can’t sleep at night, another has panic attacks. A Muslim teenager was suicidal after other pupils shouted slurs from their cars. Where the home country is unsafe, the fear is greater. Syrian children are traumatised again. Students with undocumented relatives think all the other students hate them. Even very young children use the N word as a slur. Students in majority black areas, with less interracial tension in the playground, still feel fear, and wonder if this is what all white people think of them.

Distrust grows as students recall lessons about American ideals, then wonder how someone who holds those ideals in such contempt could be so popular. America is a “Nation of immigrants” but immigrants feel unvalued. The usual rule is that a teacher will not discuss their own politics, but how to respond to a child who begs you not to vote for Trump because he will deport their parents? I have tried to reassure my students that no matter the outcome, they will be okay. I don’t even know if that’s true.

Teachers work to keep their classrooms respectful, so must remind students that there are different rules there from the debate stage. Bullies are emboldened, claiming they are just saying what everyone is thinking, using slurs, name-calling and inflammatory statements. Muslim students are called “ISIS”, “Terrorist” or “Bomber”. Kids tell other kids they will be deported forcibly. Even at an all-white school, “Dirty Mexican” became a common insult. Bullying affects health and can lead to self-harm. Bullies claim they are not bullying, but “telling it like it is”. Students have become very hostile to opposing points of view, regardless of the topic. Any division now elicits anger and personal attacks. Bullying, though, crosses party lines and “Trump” can be used as an insult, implying the victim is the type of person who would support him. Students are angry, and their anger can escalate into fist-fights.

Educators want a lively exchange of ideas in healthy debate. One of the goals of education is to teach students how to make persuasive arguments, support opinions with facts and listen to the perspectives of others. Those goals are out the window in many classrooms. Some teachers are enthusiastic about the opportunities to teach about media bias and fact-checking rather than gossip, but find it hard to find age-appropriate factual information. Teachers find teaching about the election “stokes the fires”. If it can get you suspended from high school, it is not appropriate in a candidate.

Being a good citizen of the US democracy is a main goal of schools, but children are disillusioned and disconnected. The rhetoric does not help their ability to use reason and evidence.

From the Southern Poverty Law Centre report The Trump Effect (pdf).

Cognitive dissonance

All the choices are good. Nothing bad can happen. This, now, here, is Good.

Which is definitely pleasanter than

I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. Seeing myself as a good person is more important to me than any other aim. Oh, and being in control. It’s not even how I appear to anyone else, only myself. I want to appear to be perfect me.

Words, words. That act was the right thing to do, reassuring one woman and possibly releasing another from a nagging worry. Or it was mean-spirited, subtly changing a relationship so she whom I admire so much should feel slightly uncomfortable, and might withdraw. Nobody told me to do it. It was my choice, my decision. Why did those words come out of my mouth? Because insidiously mean things do, pretending to be nice, really being nasty. Or, I do something and a situation works onwards through time, not towards a conclusion because there is no story, no conclusion, and saying I would hurt her by it ascribes to me far more power than I really have.

Or something. With me so far?

All the choices are good because if ever I do something leading to adverse consequences there will always be some good in them: at worst I learn that something did not achieve what I wanted it to. I gain information. Nothing bad can happen because I will always at least be able to get my basic needs met and if I don’t then I will have nothing to worry about soon. This, now, here, is Good because I am getting my basic needs met and am in a sea of possibilities, any of which I might try.

and I have a date tomorrow. Today, when you’re reading this. It should be interesting.

He said he is a complete pacifist and I have never related to him. He seems so controlled and controlling and someone told him he is a very angry person

I have been told I am a very angry person. I am. I said, I am controlling and someone said they knew from various actions of mine.

And we are a group of people groping in cold, unfriendly darkness, a darkling plain with neither joy, nor love, nor light, imagining some purpose but whistling in the dark- or good people, beautiful people, doing our best, achieving some things, having some pleasure and some fellowship. And I will do what I want, more and more not just for the purpose of appearing to myself to be something I might actually be but that act does not really make me appear so;

and make less sense in the words I use but more in my actions.

Or something.

all shall be well and all shall

be

(Oh, the choice! “Well”, of course. Or, disastrous, terrifying, excruciating, immiserating, impossible-

Well.

Benevolent sexism

“Benevolent sexism” is men looking after women, holding doors open, walking on the off side of the pavement, helping women with their coats. With the right person it can be pleasant occasionally, and the man’s motivation may be caring, but it reinforces the idea that men are strong and women, who are weak, need looked after, and makes it more difficult for women to be authoritative. “Oh, don’t worry your pretty little head about that.”

I heard that feminists did not want doors opened for them before I heard of BS. I had no idea why. So the term is very useful, expressing elegantly the problem: this is sexism, treating people differently on the ground of their sex, and it has the pernicious effects of sexism. If doors are too heavy for smaller people to open without too much effort, make them lighter! But men still show they don’t understand.

Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified. Sadly for Paul Ryan, there are few opportunities to be a hero in modern civilised life. Women do not need champions, and saying we should not be “objectified”, while true, does not make you one. You can get to be a hero in fantasy role play, perhaps. Reverence is unnecessary too: respect is sufficient.

Hitting on married women?… Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters. Mitt Romney thinks men should protect the women who belong to them?

I’ve never said I’m a perfect person, nor pretended to be someone that I’m not. It’s not a good idea in an apology to start on “It’s not that bad really”. Say the apology and move on. But if your highest claim to decency is that you are not hypocritical about your abuse, you are a psychopath. Any healthy person knows that they should pretend not to be quite as vile as Mr Trump’s remarks reveal him to be. He would grab women between the legs, and kiss them on the lips. He would sexually assault them for his own sexual gratification. He is a noisome liar, but these remarks have the ring of truth.

Paul Ryan’s and Mitt Romney’s remarks show their attitudes are scarcely better. If Republican condemnation of Trump’s boasting of groping women between the legs does not indicate that women are equal, those who condemn do not believe that women are equal. Even Mitch McConnell’s remarks aren’t quite it. As the father of three daughters, I strongly believe that Trump needs to apologize directly to women and girls everywhere, and take full responsibility for the utter lack of respect for women shown in his comments on that tape, he said. So, unmarried undergraduates need not believe the same? What about, “As a human being, recognising that women are human too”?

Representative Jason Chaffetz seems closer: If I can’t look my fifteen year old daughter in the eye and tell her these things I can’t endorse this person. He points out that was an apology for getting caught.

Conservative Evangelicals, to end with: What have we taught our boys about respecting women? What have our little girls learned about men? That was Dr James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character. Was that conservative Evangelicals standing on principle? No; they were talking about Mr Clinton, in the 1990s. David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network tweeted, This just in: Donald Trump is a flawed man! We ALL sin every single day. What if we had a ‘hot mic’ around each one of us all the time? Mmm. Does Brody grab women between their legs, too?

Here is Mr Trump’s initial statement, in full: “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course – not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Whole me

-Why would you want a job anyway? Why would it be better than this?
-I am dissatisfied, perplexed. I ought to want more because I am wasted.
-Who calls it a waste? I do.

It would be a challenge. It might be fulfilling. And, I like this, not working. I don’t feel responsibility. I analyse myself, and I write about it. I need to slow-think everything out, because my fast thinking is crap.

It’s not a sense of entitlement. I was unprepared for what I have had to deal with. I have had a lot to deal with.

Counselling with Tina Livingstone. It’s been good in the past. I told her of my last jobs, of leaving, and some stuff which I don’t remember and I took odd note words which I don’t understand seven hours later.

Control.
Unexpected.
Courage.

I told her I decided to be positive. At 3.30 the hour is over and I wonder if she will stop or I should stop but go on leaving the boundary to her- I am “caring for her” perhaps or seeking control, something, both could be good or bad; allowing it to go on I am relinquishing control and being cared for- there is the paid boundary, then the bit beyond. At 3.45 she asks, what part of you is grieving?

A part that just feels. There are rational bits which aren’t, don’t see it is justified. Now I say it is me. Whole me is grieving. We get more to small talk. Why should I want a job anyway, even the most fulfilling one, stretching me, making demands I could not be certain I could always fulfil to perfection, stopping me being in control? I like being in control.

Anyway. Small talk. I went for a walk in the park this morning, in the sun (one walk, three posts, amazing how you get material). On the river there were a load of blokes in two person kayaks, shouting at each other in a ribald, bloky way blokes seem to enjoy, with a football. I could not work out the rules.

-Ah! You hit it with a paddle! Ten points off!
-You didn’t tell us that! You can’t just introduce a rule like that!

One kayak prow is in the bank, and a man on the other bank shouts at him. “George! Paddle backwards! Paddle on the other side!” There is a long pause, then George complies. He digs into the water angrily, powerfully, forcing the canoe backwards. “Now George, paddle forwards. Paddle forwards, or you’ll hit the other bank!” (They’re all talking in exclamations). I stand enjoying the late blackberries, watching. That one, nice and soft, should be alright. That one’s past it. The boat drifts backwards, and George gets his motivation, at last, to paddle on the other side. He must have been completely exhausted.

APROPOS OF NOTHING AT ALL!

Anyway, talking to Tina makes me feel better about myself, and that can’t be bad.

The frog’s lair

In the park there is a beautiful den.

a-den

From the far end, anyone full-grown would have to crawl in, but here I can just bend my knees slightly.

willow-woven

The willow was planted four years ago. Willow can grow like a weed: these cut branches rooted easily. Branches within are woven together to make a tunnel. At the far end there is a pipe so the whole can be irrigated if necessary. Then it widens out, to reveal

frogs-home

The Frog.

lair-of-the-frog

I had not seen how beautiful it all is. I walked there in the morning, then cycled back for the photograph this afternoon. I was less than two hours before sunset- just in time. Tomorrow might not be so beautiful.

Trans sex

How could it not be a sex thing? But, so what?

I am walking in the park, and there are many sensual pleasures- the last of the blackberries, the sun and wind, those high trees with long, pale, grey-green leaves- but the one which pleases me most is this long, full silk skirt. It’s Monsoon. I love the feel of it on my legs and the way it moves in the wind, the shapes it makes. It’s a bit of a turn-on, actually. The lining is less full, ending just above the knee, and if I stride too far it is a little restricting. I love this skirt.

James Cantor coined the term “Euphilia” to mean sexual drives which unite two people. “Sweet-love”. Good, nice, normal, neatly including gays as well as straights, for Dr Cantor is gay. Then there’s paraphilia, “beside-love”, sexual stimulation from non-sexual causes. This is only a bad thing- a “disorder”- if it causes distress to the subject or others- no, I should not steal clothes from washing lines, and too great shame about something which harms no-one is unhealthy.

All that shame has done me no good. Shame about what aroused me and what I desired has been the greatest pain of my transition journey, perhaps of my life. And here I am in the park, enjoying my skirt. I am not going to disturb walkers whom I greet as we pass. You get aroused? Welcome to the human race! It’s so much better than being a panda, pandas are dying out: the drive needs to be this strong to make people bring children up to adulthood, and is bound to have side-effects. People are aroused a lot of the time. We don’t act on it but don’t need windows into others’ souls. I judge myself for everything: I should accept pleasure where I can find it. I fear everything: I should learn not everything is a threat.

In my state of regret at the moment, wishing I had retained my sexual organs, I recall how I felt: how expressing female was lovely, and presenting male went from dull to unpleasant to unbearable. I worked hard to resist it, as we all do. I feel no shame at failure. There was no failure, the problem was the shame which made me resist. I would have been much higher-functioning had I not had to deal with this war within myself for so long. It is a compulsion, and no-one has the right to demand that you torture yourself by resisting it: not even your wife, even if she did not know before marriage and you have young children.

It is more than a sex thing. It is how I express who I am, all my beauty and creativity; but humans are sexual animals, and transition is part of that. The craving for the operation came from the necessity of passing as a woman rather than the desire to transition.

thomas-lawrence-margaret-countess-of-blessington

When I was considering transition, from 1998, when I transitioned at work, 2002, and when I had the operation in 2004, in my milieu people were divided into transvestites, sexual perverts who were disgusting or at least ridiculous, and transsexuals who were women. But non-op transsexuals were dodgy: not really transsexual, probably something less, even if they said they could not have the operation because a heart complaint. Some of this was fear and internalised transphobia. We felt we could say, but I am transsexual: I have a medical condition, and the treatment is hormones and gender confirmation surgery. I am not like those perverts over there.

That was how it was for me. It is much easier now to be trans and not have the op, and some people don’t; and people who do, do so because they have a need to feel comfortable in their own bodies. F-M chest surgery is about how you are perceived by others as well as how you perceive yourself, but a penis may be tucked away out of sight, even in tight jeans.

I felt great shame. I was aroused by thinking of myself as female or female-bodied, and by clothes- though not all the time, more and more they became just nice to wear. I was put off the thought of transition by the spectre of autogynephilia: I thought I was a pervert.  My wet dreams were about cross-dressing and I found that of all the shame the most shameful: I could not be aroused by another person, only my own fantasy.

The Script increased the shame. Don’t tell the psychiatrist that, or you won’t get treatment. Tell him (yes, well) that you knew there was something wrong aged 2 and knew that you were a girl aged 5. Later, when I told a psychiatrist I had no thought of cross-dressing before age 14 and no thought of transition before my thirties, he said lots of people were like that, if they’re honest.

Then I decided, transition was what I wanted more than anything else in the world, and why I wanted it did not matter.

I had not had a satisfying emotional relationship, because I hid my real self behind my manly shell. I had not had a satisfying sexual relationship. I had some idea of what I was supposed to do in bed with another, but none of what I might like; and so I had the operation because of social pressure. That was what I understood I had to do, to be acceptable. I wanted to be accepted in society. For that, the law said I must be proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.

thomas-lawrence-maria-conyngham

Transition has enabled me to be myself. It is the human condition to be stuck between wanting to be onesself and wanting to fit in, and as we mature into middle-age we work that out better, work out a reasonable compromise, or ways round the most intrusive demands. And where I was, how I was, trapped in that fake masculinity, complete rejection was the only way to go.

It is not just, I am not a man like that, therefore I must be a woman. I fit cultural ideas of femininity. Or, I don’t know, that’s whistling in the dark, possibly I just tell myself that because transition is better than trying to man up by, say, joining the territorial army. Whatever. At least, it is not completely that I am Unmanly, Untermensch, less than a Man, but different, and Good, worthwhile; and I have some similarity to cultural understandings of a woman. And, I am Clare, rather than generic either.

At least transition has let me be more myself than I was before. There was the social pressure to fit this box marked Man, but the one marked Transsexual- including gender confirmation surgery- was more comfortable. It has been an essential part of my journey. It was what I wanted, more than anything else in the world.

This blog explains what transsexuality is for me. This page is the gateway to it.

Monkey mind

I want to be cherished. I have to cherish myself.

I was thinking, I despise myself. But no: it is just that angry thoughts about myself cross my conscious mind from time to time. There is no “I” that despises, just occasional thoughts, anger in the brain manifesting as angry words in the conscious mind; there is no “I” that is despised, just some of my actions and thoughts. There is “I”, a physical animal, body including brain, which is one being, the despiser and the despised.

I want to be valued. I have to value myself.

Having someone who valued me would relieve me of the task of valuing myself at the cost of dependence on that other. Mutual interdependence is no bad thing, and it is good having wee top-ups of reassurance- or even appreciation!- now and then; and I can practise valuing myself. Notice the self-talk, and turn it round.

So I have to be valuable. Fortunately, I am valuable!

I would have liked to be any way but this; I valued other ways of being and not this. As I get to know how I really am, I see it is beautiful. More and more, I tell myself that, noticing other self-talk and turning it round. Cogito ergo sum does not mean that everything which crosses my mind is worthwhile.

I love putting things into words to provoke, persuade or entertain. I was chatting to the bus driver in the coffee shop. She was full of questions. What do I do. I told her of writing and being published, including my photographs. The first time I went into a supermarket dressed female I went in a ball gown with hooped underskirt. More questions.

-You’re full of questions! Tell me a story as good as the ones I have told you.

She is 46. She married aged 24, and has been married 22 years. She has a daughter who has graduated and is now working at the infants school, and a son who is an apprentice. She has been on the buses for eight years, and before that had several jobs. She made scotch eggs at —‘s for a time. She was a silver service waitress. So I told her I did that just once, when there was no-one else on. There was a couple eating together, and he won lots of brownie points with her. She looked on him with Love in her eyes, as he responded with infinite patience as I cocked it up.

Creating identities

A man develops a craving for child pornography, and acts on it. Later, he is diagnosed as having a brain tumour. When it is removed, his craving disappears. When his craving returns, the tumour has recurred too. Now, when the brain tumour is first mentioned, attitudes towards the man change dramatically. Instead of blaming him for his behaviour, people rightly blame the tumour, which of course he didn’t choose to have. But what if he hadn’t had the tumour? What if his addiction had come about only because of his genes and environment? The fact is, he’d be no more blameworthy.

This is the most emotive case Raoul Martinez could have picked. Why not kleptomania?

A prisoner no more deserves his sentence than the judge who passes it. Just as we are getting concerned, he says, this doesn’t mean that we should never imprison or punish certain people. Whew.

He is also emotive on culture. An Israeli points a gun, a Palestinian throws a rock. If they had been swapped at birth, so that each child would be raised in the other’s culture. In time, would each not end up fighting for the other side—a different flag, a different religion, a different ideology? No one would be surprised by this outcome. Again, an emotive case, a well-known intractable conflict. Why not, an Episcopalian could have been a Unitarian? Yes, we do not choose our genes or our culture. So?

Our culture shapes us even if we rebel against it, he says. Noticing that, we are better able to choose. I am like this because my parents were the same or the opposite. What would I be if there were more alternatives?

When considering how we are with others, this is a powerfully communal argument. We should all look after each other. The bell tolls for thee. There but for the Grace of God. He wants it to be revolutionary. Throughout history, people have been conditioned to defend oppressive ideologies, support destructive systems, and believe downright lies…we need to question the forces that have shaped us… materialistic values saturating advertising have a toxic effect on our happiness…we need to question the information we receive, but also to ask what information has been left out. Who benefits? Not us. To stay in touch with reality we need to be able to make discoveries and to question the agendas behind our culture, education, media, religious institutions, and the economic and political ideologies that underpin our lives.

All good stuff. So, should I buy the book?

Raoul Martinez Ted Talk.