Hedgehog

I saw the hedgehog, and was instantly delighted and affected with concern. Is it alright on our tarmac yard? I thought they were nocturnal- they are, primarily- is it confused? Should it be considering hibernating, and can I feed it? And, I want to get my camera.

Cheese is the best thing I have for it, according to this site. I could boil an egg, but that would take too long. I don’t want just to photograph it, as if it were mine to do with as I please. As I can give some recompense, that pleases me. I set to forced flash off, as I do not want to hurt its eyes, but there is a little weak sunshine.

This fellow-feeling, and wish to do it good, seems common. People like hedgehogs. You can even buy specialist hedgehog food. It went off to hide under the rain-cover of my neighbour’s motorbike.

Next day, it was still there. It was still squeaking, but not as loudly. I was worried for it. By the evening, it was lying on its side and I feared it was dead, but it twitched. On tarmac under a motorbike is clearly not a good place for a hedgehog.

O God, I hate being human sometimes. The thought of it dying there distressed me a great deal. What can I do for it? I boiled an egg and mashed it up, and put out some water. I phoned the local animal shelter. Yes, they take hedgehogs. I have just carried it there in an old washing up bowl. It curled up when I picked it up, but lay fairly unresponsively in the bowl, opening up and looking about a little but making no attempt to escape, which worried me. If it were alright, it would object to being carried. It is not tame, or bred to relate to humans, and would not know I meant it well. Having handed it over, I am concerned for it, but feel I have done something worthwhile.

I loved carrying it. I loved the beauty of its spines, and each time I caught sight of its snout my heart melted anew.

Self respect VI

Self-respect is toughness, moral nerve, character, a certain discipline to defer gratification, do the honourable thing, seek a goal with open eyes knowing its price, and the odds of success. It might manifest itself in English formal dress in the rain-forest

(hold on! what about all that fiction showing the Empire-builders’ civilisation mere window-dressing over weakness and hypocrisy!)

a symbol of values inculcated long before

(in some people, perhaps).

It is to have the courage of ones mistakes and sins- to commit adultery then accept the result

(I thought earlier it was about honour)

It is to know yourself, take your own measure, and make peace with that

(when honour is not possible. Becky Sharp had self respect.)

It never keeps you safe, but safe enough

(my summary, not in her words)

and does not proceed from certain charms such as clean hair and fingernails, the child’s passive virtue of good manners and a good IQ score. To believe that is all you need is a kind of innocence, before you realise those child’s virtues are not enough.

You cannot deceive yourself.

(Um. I feel I always did; I ferreted out the lies I told myself, beginning with the lie “I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a Good person”. Perhaps she saw herself more clearly, only needed  one “does not compute” moment before the scales fell from her eyes.)

Without self-respect, you see all your failings in turn, the hurtful words, the things done wrong, both real and imagined.

(I seek to let go of Perfect me, the me that does all that I expect of myself, without undue effort, showing up the physical Clare with all her failures. Perhaps this is a similar idea.)

The person without self-respect is bound to try to please all of the people, all of the time, to be unable to say no except by not turning up, or not answering the phone.

(This begins to worry me. I am withdrawn from society. It has always been my way.)

We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gift for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give.

(I may have a gift for empathy, but this is really frightening me now.)

That is alienation from self.

This is a summary of Joan Didion’s essay On Self-Respect, first published in 1961. I don’t agree with it all. Possibly I don’t understand it all. My feeling that I do could be the Dunning-Kruger effect, which one could never recognise in onesself so is the perfect source of paranoia- Omigod, I am an idiot, everyone’s laughing at me and I could never know- but again, I am sure enough. It talks of good things, seeking your own goals, living by your own sense of honour, which might be derived from the group, such as the colonial overlords, or purely idiosyncratic, knowing the cost and the odds.

And throughout it has wonderful sentences. It has weight and power:

character—the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life—is the source from which self-respect springs. That “is”! She exhibits such certainty that I am tempted to make her my guide and role-model.

It has a bracing acknowledgment of the darkness and difficulty:

That kind of self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult in the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with one’s head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.

Joan! Explain to me, that I may understand! No, you feel this viscerally or do not get it at all:

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which, for better or for worse, constitutes self-respect, is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference.

I like how each of her two final sentences is in two balanced halves, like verses of the Psalms, a rhetorical trick I use myself, but they convey so much: rich promise, coupled with an image of terrifying insignificance, Heaven and Hell in two sentences.

To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

I share paintings by women, but here is Peder Krøyer’s picture of his wife, a completely different femininity from her self-portrait:

Trans v TERFs

They say women need to be protected from men. If gender identity has primacy over sex, then sex as a protected characteristic ceases to exist. That is the argument we fight, and reconciliation may not be possible. It is a zero sum game- they win, or we do.

David Davies MP, a Conservative backbencher, chaired a meeting at the House of Commons of “Transgender Law Concerns”, and invited TERFs to speak. Judith Green was one of them, and her speech is online. Traumatised by male violence, she left home aged 16 and after months putting it off attended a group for female survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There she learned that her boundaries were important- that the abuse was wrong and she had a right to protect herself, truths the abuser had gaslighted her out of. As women, they had been brought up to take care of others, so wanted solidarity but not shared space with male abuse survivors. She would have been silenced and retraumatised if a trans woman had been there. The Equality Act allows services to exclude trans women, but that is not enough: it should allow service users to demand such exclusion. 26% of women have experienced domestic abuse so women need women’s space without men, and without trans women. Services are frightened of court cases compelling them to include trans women, so give up without a fight.

Navigating male sexual aggression, intrusiveness and harassment is a much more universal female experience. Therefore every woman needs protection. Why are they not more vocal? Because they are brought up to take care of others. Survivors of male violence need similar protection in clothes shop changing rooms, so we should be excluded there too.

Littlehey prison specialises in male sex offenders, eleven of whom, 1% of the inmates, are on the Transgender Pathway. Women prisoners should be protected from sex offenders, and this indicates trans women have male patterns of violence, she says. Statistics must record biological sex, not be compromised by “women” including “trans women”.

Miranda Yardley popped up to argue that gynephile trans women are autogynephile perverts, often “unremarkably masculine”, and only “Transsexuals” such as herself, after her operation, should be protected. She deliberately muddies the waters when she says I am not anti-transgender, I am transsexual, because she has just made a distinction to exclude most trans women from protection under law.

Everyone has to draw the line somewhere. I feel that those of us who transition or intend to should be protected: so if you intend to live life long as a woman, even before transition, you should be allowed in changing rooms. That is the legal position now. I feel that if you live full time as a woman you should get gender recognition by stating that you intend to do so life-long and in that case should have access to women’s services. Possibly you should have to show you have lived full time for a year.

Theirs is a transphobic argument. They say a majority of women will be perturbed to see trans women even in shop changing rooms where doors to cubicles provide complete privacy; but they do not object, because they are socialised to care for others. They feel fear, anger and disgust, and rationalise that they are right to feel these things, and all women should.

They deny they are hostile to us- they say they only object when we wrongfully enter women’s space. But they trivialise us, saying we play dress-up, and monster us, by referring to autogynephilia, drawing attention to transitioning sex offenders, and claiming we are perverts. They cannot see any common ground or common interest which justifies treating us as women even to the extent of letting us try on clothes in shops.

They will not accept common ground except on their terms, where trans women would be excluded from all women’s space. Even Miranda Yardley would be excluded. I thought that they could be brought round by seeing themselves as part of a gender non-conforming minority- all gender non-conforming people should stick together- but they see feminine gender as oppressive, and any female conformity to gender a sign of oppression.

Therefore the answer is to speak winsomely to the unconvinced middle. We are not a threat, not really. We mean you no harm. We are traumatised by the effort of trying to be men. Judge us by what we do, rather than by unsubstantiated fears. The TERFs work with David Davies MP, a non-entity whose most famous moment is inciting Islamophobic hatred, and are few in number. Rape Crisis Scotland, presumably with some feminist sympathies, says We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. We can ignore the TERFs, and let cis women refute them.

Gender Recognition in Scotland

The Scottish Government proposes that a person should get gender recognition, if they make a formal declaration before a Notary Public that they intend to live in their acquired gender until death. Making a false statutory declaration is a criminal offence, and their research on other countries allowing self-declaration has not found evidence of false or frivolous statements. There is support from women’s rights organisations including Scottish Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis Scotland, whose joint statement says, We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to be in competition or contradiction with each other. We support the Equal Recognition campaign and welcome the reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

Rape Crisis and Women’s Aid in Scotland provide trans inclusive services on the basis of self identification. We will continue to work collaboratively with Scottish Trans Alliance and other equality organisations with the aim of ensuring that new processes are appropriately designed and without unintended consequences.

Limiting the number of times one can change sex might restrict frivolous applications. Malta requires second and subsequent applications to be considered by a court. However Sam Kane has transitioned three times, male to female to male to female, and I feel each time she did it feeling distress and oppression. She reverted because of sexism and transphobia. These things are not her fault and she should not be penalised for them. Colombia only permits two changes, which must be at least ten years apart. That might make me fear an honest declaration, since I cannot correct it if I am wrong. When I transitioned, I thought it possible that I might be trying to live male five years later. It is an additional difficulty, just one more thing requiring a leap of faith. I consider my real transition to be the day I transitioned at work, or “went full time”, which required enough clarity, determination and trust, as I would have made a fool of myself to revert.

Even the suggestion that men might do this frivolously, or maliciously to get access to women’s space, is repulsive. Even three in a year might be a leap, a bad experience causing reversion, then a second leap of faith which is even more courageous. I do not want someone showing that courage and determination to be investigated in case they were frivolous. Instead, deal with actual wrongs. Women’s space is not a good place for sex crime, as the criminal is outnumbered. Women’s support groups have experience with difficult behaviour and ways of dealing with it.

The Scottish Government proposes that 16 year olds should be able to affirm their gender change, as Scots law generally gives rights as adults to people over 16, and protections as young people until 18. They are consulting on various options for younger children, such as allowing parents to affirm for them. The parent would be trusted to do this in the best interests of the child, and consider the child’s wishes. Alternatively, a child who could show they had sufficient maturity to make the decision could affirm.

Ireland and Denmark do not require the consent of a spouse before a married trans person can declare their gender. If the gender change breaks the relationship, the trans person should not have to undergo the expense of divorce before getting their gender recognised. If the relationship remains, the trans person will not make the declaration without their partner’s support. In either case they should not require the partner’s consent. Consent can be used to put improper pressure on a trans person. The other may feel betrayed, and feel that the trans person has broken the relationship, but that does not entitle them to take revenge by refusing consent.

Now, if one partner seeks gender recognition the other can use that as grounds for divorce. This should not be a separate ground for divorce. The usual ground is “unreasonable behaviour”, and a spouse should be able to argue that gender change is unreasonable behaviour. This is such a slight change; it means that gender recognition broke the marriage in the particular circumstances of this couple, rather than normally or generally.

They are also talking of increasing recognition for non-binary people, though this will require action by the UK government and additional rights in Equalities legislation.

They don’t address the question of what it means to “live in your acquired gender”. For me, does it mean always wearing wigs and at least attempting to talk in a feminine register? Does it mean anything else about clothing preferences, or particular behaviours? I think it means what the person believes it to mean. Women can wear what they like and do what they like. I feel most people who change gender will have a particular view about what it means, and attempt to resemble the assigned gender, but that is subjective too.

Consultation document pdf is here. It describes ways to respond to the consultation.

Escaping the Binary

Man/woman, trans/cis, even binary/non-binary? Some trans folk see themselves as binary trans, a man or woman rather than something in between, so how much is “non-binary” a reaction to that limited way of being trans, or a new thing?

Radical feminists are dismissive. It is merely self-indulgent to claim different pronouns, even to change desired pronouns according to mood. I’m not going to ask what pronouns to use, said the woman. And she looks like a normal woman, she’ll not escape harassment that way. But I am not sure what Lucy’s objection is. You define yourself by what you are not- non-binary.

To me non-binary is the ultimate freedom-word for gender. I can manifest male or female or Other because I am not constrained by the Binary. The feminist might say it was unnecessary, and that being a woman does not constrain her gender expression. Perhaps we are more attuned to the objection of others, and need a word to reassure us.

I believe reality is too complex to express in words, which may constrain our ability to perceive it. I find my perception getting more complex, as I see beyond my verbal description then find new words to describe what I perceive. I use non-binary for permission, rather than understanding. I do not do something because I am non-binary, with an understanding of how non-binary people behave, but because I am I. Others may find a stereotype they like and conform to it, calling it non-binary, but while I conform to stereotypes I no longer name them to be reassured that I am fitting in, but to try and find my real desires, and break conformity. Then again, rebellion is as unfree as conformity, and I seek freedom.

I am certain that not all people who call themselves non-binary are non-binary in the same way. Yet the name might lead them into internet groups where they gain understanding of their new identity, and there are some rules about how to be accepted.

I read that we make our decisions unconsciously, and rather than controlling them the conscious mind merely rationalises them. Why did you do that? Oh, I don’t know, it could be any reason. I pity the man who testified before a tribunal a different reason from what he had said elsewhere, and so ruined his credibility in his judges’ eyes. How could we know the real reason anyway? Because I am a person like this, or someone who behaves like that, or I had this provocation. I wanted to. Then non-binary would merely be a rationalisation, though it may work at the unconscious level as permission. How much do I have to fit in, and can I be free to be idiosyncratically me? I might try independence, see others object, and flee back to conformity. Then I might rationalise that, to self-aggrandise or beat myself up.

I want to make my own decisions without constraint by concepts- I am this, so I must not do that. Though “having integrity” is a good concept and choosing it may be worthwhile. That is the basis of Virtue ethics. And “I am not very bright” might help reduce my self-castigation: I usually work things out in the end.

Decompression

On Saturday, I spoke to an audience. I gave of my authentic self without masks or pretence, with no notes but after intense thought on what I would say. It was well-received. It is the most intense and glorious experience I know. After, I walked with Lucy over the Pulteney Bridge and a little way the other side of the river, seeing the last light over the beautiful city above the colonnade by the river. We ate and drank together, talking on a fascinating intellectual level of matters which exercise us deeply: what does it mean, to be human?

I took the train back to London with Yvonne, then cycled home arriving about midnight. In the morning, I woke at six and wrote a blog post with some of the new ideas I had taken in, then considered whether to go to the Quaker meeting. The day before had been long and required effort. I was tired, and would have to cycle 19 miles. That was the human contact on offer: unsatisfactory as it is, with the disagreements and tensions, it was that or seeing no-one except a civil servant for a formal encounter until Wednesday.

I want human contact. I am extrovert. The contact on Saturday was wonderful. Such experiences motivate me to seek more. The tedious, useless waste of my life stretched out before me, more shocking after it. I spent an hour on the phone with the Samaritans before deciding going to Meeting was too much bother. In the downer after, I am tired after my effort; and it is hard to relax, my mind having been fizzing.

It is a teenage lesson. You are talented at football or dancing, on Saturday you exercise and develop your gifts, deserving the admiration you receive, then on Monday you go back to school, which is tedious, difficult and endless. The starring role is what I was born for! And such a child might have more outlets for her gifts than I have, more time developing them, and a more obviously worthwhile ordinary life than mine, with more attractive ordinary options. Or less; and whenever you learn it, the lesson is necessary:

Accept what is.
Work with what is possible.

Whichever, the experience speaking was so good, and I crash into a downer after, irritable, angry and resentful, withdrawn, and bitterly self-blaming. How could I be so useless, that this is my ordinary life?

I am still sitting with the downer on Tuesday morning, applying my intelligence: how might I get more such experiences, using my talents? How can I love all the good I see, and see more as good? In Ministry on Saturday, someone sang Hafiz’s words, though how “Christ” is a good translation I am unclear-

I am the hole in a flute
which the Christ’s breath flows through
Listen to the music.

To the same tune, cycling yesterday, I sang words from The Thick of It

I am a mouse in a maze
who is not very bright
Listen to the music.

All this is difficult. I have enough hope to keep going.

Bath

When I want something, I will work for it. At least when I see a clear path, effort to achievement, or trying a few things and seeing progress, I will. Or something. I see myself acting and achieving, and am surprised. Yvonne invited me to the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity Community gathering in Bath. I would speak, and they would pay travelling expenses. So I got up at 3.45, set off on the bicycle in the rain at 4.30, and got to Bath at nine. I wore jeans to cycle, and changed into a dress and suede jacket on the train. I did not bother to put on my wig before changing. The train is quiet and I did not hear anyone’s objection. A woman who works on the railway complained about a driver who has been off sick depressed, and was brought back into light duties, no driving, but is unreliable. I listened in.

On the train I met Richard, who had a camera round his neck. I asked if he had any good shots. He has been taking photos of trains, and got out his laptop to show me recent pictures. There are several of a ginger cat not doing anything particular, on a road, taken from above, and several from his walk along a canal- a bridge, a boat. I see no attempt to find an interesting frame or angle. It is a pretty view, so he snaps it. He has had one published in a specialist railway magazine, and several on a friend’s website. He hurries to write the web address for me as we approach my station, tearing a scrap from a receipt, but I have lost the paper.

I waited in Bath Abbey, the parish church. There is a “suggested donation” to enter, which I cannot afford, so I did not meet the eye of the woman standing there; but she spoke to me and gave me a leaflet. After, I said I love the fan vaulting. She only knows of one or two other places like it, which I find strange, as it is in the cathedral of her diocese; but perhaps she means the pendant, how the arch continues down to a point in mid air, where it stops. That is in Westminster Abbey too. I noticed this altar frontal with candle holder, the decorative barbed wire woven into the Crown of Thorns. Like the Cross, the instrument of torture, is made beautiful so is the barbed wire, the instrument of exclusion. It is disturbing. Jeffrey Dean said this poem in Ministry at the Quaker Life gathering, and it makes a similar unity. I felt joy and terror, at the same time.

At twenty, stooping round about,
I thought the world a miserable place,
Truth a trick, faith in doubt,
Little beauty, less grace.

Now at sixty what I see,
Although the world is worse by far,
Stops my heart in ecstasy.
God, the wonders that there are!

I was nearly asleep on the last train, which is only 10.26pm from London. Four Chinese young women wondered if this was the train to Nottingham, but the last train there had gone. A woman told them to get off at Loughborough, get a bus to East Midlands Airport, then a bus from there to Nottingham. Or get a taxi from Loughborough to Nottingham, which would be safer. That’s 15 miles, for five people. The train stops at Long Eaton, which is in Nottingham, a rather cheaper taxi ride, but I did not know this then, to tell them.

Solving our problems

Is trans in teenage girls a social contagion? Should their parents and the doctors save them from themselves? I thought I would ask an expert who has thought deeply about this. I read that Bulimia was a social contagion, that people started to suffer from the disease of bulimia when they read about it.

-Well, we are a social species. Everything people do is a social contagion.

It is so obvious when she puts it that way. Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” to mean an idea which people adopt not necessarily to their benefit. There might be aspects to the idea which make it long-lived. People find solutions to their problems. Eating disorders fulfil an emotional need, as cutting does.

There are clearly bad contagious ideas, such as the Bridgend suicide outbreak. That people in your town- you may know them, or have common acquaintances- kill themselves makes the idea more possible. It gets rid of the problems of being a young person, but also gets rid of all the possible solutions, the creativity of the individual.

There are solutions from medical experts. Should a very large person have bariatric surgery, reducing the size of their stomachs? Some people think it wonderful, some think it “mutilation”. It means you can never eat a full meal again, so have to eat several times a day. It cannot be reversed. People have difficulty absorbing vitamins, and may have severe pain.

So bariatric surgery replaces your problems with a whole new set- just like my trans surgery has sorted my discomfort, at a cost.

Yes. And what if the research on gut flora yields results? Some people put on weight because of the way they absorb food or hormonal feedback to the brain not properly telling them they are satiated. If such problems were solved medically, people would still comfort-eat, but would not put on weight the same way.

Should the deaf child of deaf parents have cochlear implants? she asks. Well, I think in sound. I have no mind’s eye, but a subtle mind’s ear, able to hear an orchestra in my head. I take in information through sound. I think, of course the child should, but recognise some such parents object. So the medical establishment says the child should have the operation, and the parents refuse because Deaf culture is a beautiful thing, and this will remove the child from Deaf culture. The child may still be part of Deaf culture, loving their parents and learning Sign, but if the parents refuse the surgery the child may come to resent that; but if there are not enough deaf children, the subgroup may cease to exist.

Solutions to our problems are chosen by the individual, and suggested or opposed by the family or the wider society. Being a teenage girl is difficult. How much easier to be a man! Well, there is misogyny. Bariatric surgery is mutilation, she says, but it might stop you getting spat at in the street. The hatred and mockery is wrong, and an ideal society would not fat-shame, or slut-shame, but in this world they do and finding a way to avoid that is a good thing. Transition takes away certain problems and replaces them with others. Some people regret it. Parents and carers oppose it, valuing what the teenager does not- fertility damaged by testosterone, the natural body.

“Natural body”- Ha! Impossible! Every action and choice changes our bodies. Chest masculinisation surgery changes it more quickly and radically.

The problems we face exhibit our creativity and determination. Once I saw a man roll up to his car, get himself and his wheelchair into it, and drive off- swinging about like a gymnast, quickly and efficiently. I was impressed, and he might prefer fully functioning limbs. Alison Lapper gets around independently in an adapted car. Technology gets her wheelchair in and out. That’s more expensive, but it works for her.

I want to gather everyone like a hen gathers her chicks. I want those who regret saved from transition, and those who strongly believe medical transition is necessary to access that. I want reconciliation between trans and terfs, though the positions are so extreme. And if this desire came from giving emotional support and care to my mother, from before I could remember-

surely a bad thing, a demand on me before I was ready for it, which has hurt me life long-

is that care, compassion and desire for their good and their happiness not still Beautiful?

Not necessarily- or, Yes, and No; but that is quite a long argument in itself.

Lucy wants to get beyond binaries. Negative and positive thinking, male and female, trans and cis. Even “Non-binary” is a failure, because it differentiates itself from Binary. What transcends this? The Tao, perhaps. Flow.

Accepting Ourselves

The NHS and professional bodies are committed to ending the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. With “gay cures” it is clear that means attempts to make a gay person attracted to the opposite sex or not attracted to their own sex, but what does it mean for trans folk?

We self-diagnose. No-one goes to a doctor with a set of symptoms and is surprised to be told they have gender dysphoria: if you know of anyone, please tell me. We have contacted people in the community and reached an understanding of what we want. Possibly we have got hormones off the internet, or already transitioned.

Gay identity can be liberated. Battered down by the homophobia pervading society, a person can actualise their fully functioning human identity by therapy, accepting their attractions, using them to build relationship and community, and getting sexual release without shame. The whole person is good, right and acceptable. Self-acceptance empowers them to fulfil their goals and share their gifts in society.

Trans identity comes from a feeling of not fitting, not being congruent. My being, my personality, character, real me, inner self, conflicted and oppressed through internalised transphobia, are nevertheless right and beautiful and can be liberated by good psychotherapy working with my intense desire to know the truth, my human capacity for growth and healing, and my Love. But that misses out my body.

Bodies are embarrassing. We cover them with clothes, not just for warmth. They do embarrassing things like belch, fart, excrete, menstruate. They get sore and tired. We want them to be other than they are, so diet and exercise to change them, rather than for the joy of it. Encouraged by the culture, we imagine an ideal body and always feel we fall short of it.

My body is beautiful.
My body is acceptable.
My body is full of potential.

I can develop it, but should be careful when I imagine I should constrain it, and only do that for good reason. Here is Walt Whitman, section 20 of Song of Myself, worth glorying in for its shocking Acceptance:

I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is my- self,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

Is that not glorious? Read it again, breathe, glory in it. This- this creature, body, mind, spirit, brain, thews and sinews, questing intelligence, empathy, Love- is completely and entirely beautiful. My body is beautiful.

I only realised my body is beautiful after transition. My arm is beautiful: rounded, long and slim and strong enough, with a lovely, dextrous hand, and before transition I saw it as thin, weak and unmanly.

Something does not fit. What is it? There are three alternatives:

  • The soft, gentle, empathetic spirit
  • The body, with penis and testicles, precisely the size it is
  • The cultural understanding that a man should be like this and a woman should be like that.

We take into ourselves that cultural concept. First I tried to make a man of myself, to fit that concept, and then when I began to accept my spirit as it is I transitioned, so I could be that spirit-self and at the same time conform to the cultural understanding. My presentation, as a man, dressed as a man, did not fit, so I changed it; my body, with a man’s facial and body hair, penis and testicles, did not fit, so I changed that too.

The NHS wants to end conversion therapy, but what would preventing conversion therapy look like, when the culture does such a brilliant job of convincing us that we are wrong, inadequate, not as we ought to be? It gives us two courses, both of which involve converting us to fit in: make a man of yourself, or alter your body and express female. We start therapy converted, not accepting ourselves. Therapy addresses the mind, and helps us accept our spirit, but does not address the cultural rejection of the body. Unless  therapists take into account the conversion wrought by the culture, and oppose it, they are complicit with it. All of me is acceptable, just as it is, body as well as spirit.

The problem for me is that I don’t know if I could convince my 35 year old self, committed to transition, believing that was the way to accept and liberate my feminine self, and to give a clear impression of who I am so that others can interact comfortably with me and I with them. Clothes are so much of how you signal who you are. I always knew that I might be trying to live as a man five years after, but I had to get there via transition.

To accept my spirit, I had to transition, and spend years on it. I could accept my body if I saw it as female. I still best get a handle on my personality if I conceptualise it as “feminine”.  To accept my spirit and body together without transition might have been too much for me.

Treating me like a woman

It is nice to be looked after.

I do not like that road, for cycling. Cars go fast, but it is narrow, and they pass a bicycle without leaving enough room. I thought I could jump the kerb and go on the footpath. Then I did not, and shot head first onto a patch of grass. Most of my weight went on my left hip, which developed a swelling as if my skin were tights, and I had put a cloth pad inside my tights. It is still painful 36 hours later.

I was mortified. “Only a fool falls off a bicycle without assistance”, I thought. I read that, and believe it, and want to make excuses like I was frightened of the cars and made a split second decision badly. The other Marsby road is closed, completely ripped off the Earth’s surface in parts for house building, so I went on the road where the cyclist died.

I consider I could have pedalled off then, but sat on the grass for a bit to regain equanimity. A man stopped his car, wound down the window, and asked if I were alright. I am completely ashamed of falling off and I say I am. Yes, I am sure.

Then a lorry-driver stopped. She got out and came over to me. She looked concerned, asked if I was OK. I could not meet her eye but tried to reassure her. Yes I am OK. Thank you so much for stopping. A woman driving a car stopped and also came over to me. She is caring. I am ashamed.

The lorry driver said, “She’s fallen off her bicycle. The lorry driver didn’t cause that, for a change”. I hasten to reassure the other driver that it was not the lorry driver’s fault. Yes I am OK, still unable to meet eyes but OK. “I have to check for concussion”. I don’t think I’m concussed, I did not bang my head just my hip. I am still ashamed for falling off, and not really liking the attention, but I see that it is caring and sweet. One might like it. They are women caring for a woman who is hurt. I should not just pretend it is nothing, as a man would.

The lorry driver checks the bike. She thinks the front gear is jammed, but when I pedal off it is fine. I thank her profusely, smile at the other woman, they drive off, I pedal off.

One is rarely in need before strangers, especially in my withdrawn and isolated state. I would certainly not seek such a situation out; but it was lovely.