Anger and sadness

I am getting lots of affirmation for my anger. I wrote, “Utter contempt for human life, for the rule of law, for the truth…” of the They, the amorphous Bad, or actually “The Johnson Government”. Utter contempt for human life? Really? They don’t ever admit the slightest misstep, and their mistakes have caused deaths, and their target of 100,000 tests a day has led to some deservedly ridiculed lying, but-

And that got a Guardian pick, a coveted pat on the head from the Guardian! Woo! And 122 upvotes. Two days later it seemed like bullshit posturing. My sarcasm- “London is a small, backward place, completely without expertise in caring for an autistic four year old”- got 191 upvotes. Lots of anger is being poured out at Cummings, who despises it, and may get off on it. I face many nebulous threats, though no concrete and immediate ones demanding fight or flight action. I read righteous NYT pieces on the efforts to steal the US Presidential election, and that is a real threat I can do nothing about. So, be aware of it, but don’t read all the NYT articles. And there is Covid, and the Covid Recession, and looming Brexit…

My anger seeks an outlet. Comments can make it seem Righteous, even effective, but it is just me and hundreds or thousands of others letting off steam. Yet when there seems nothing I can do about the many horrors, letting off steam is tempting.

I wish I had not watched Suburbicon. It is George Clooney directing a Coen Brothers script, but it is a mean little film, in which a man murders his wife to shack up with her sister, and in the ensuing Coen strangeness and coincidence six people die. Also when a Black family move in to a 1950s town, protests escalate to riots. Trying to see value in it, I could put too much weight on its last scene, when the sons of the Black couple and the murderer get out their baseball mitts and play catch. “Children can adjust to anything” or something, or even “Life goes on”. Then I see it is a script from the 1980s, a misfire from their early development. The murderer threatens to kill his eleven year old son just before dying from a misunderstanding.

Here, I am bewailing my unbearable dissatisfaction, a bit like Roger Scruton: “In our polluted passions, seeking pleasure and excitement rather than respect and love, we scorn the Redeemer’s suffering and surrender to the basest form of control.”

The answer is to acknowledge the Sadness, to dive into it, drink it and swim in it. It is only a threat if dammed up. Flowing smoothly it can douse the flames of anger. The energy of anger is necessary if something may be done, but anger without outlet becomes rage, hurting the rager. There is so little I can do.

Thursday I had my dialogue, which was unexpected, after Wednesday with Tina over skype. I wanted to speak from the inner voices, and welcome them. There’s the feminine self which I strongly value with words like Authentic Self, and one that, terrified, tries to suppress that self. I am aware of what may go wrong- speaking the thought I have had before rather than from where I am now, which would be falling short of what is possible, retreating into the familiar. All of it is good, and none of it is mad.

I feel nervousness. Then I am conscious of arrogance, and then of feeling sick. Anger at expectations. That thing about “where is it in your body”- well, feelings are in my limbic system, in my head. Others insist on this, and it does not work for me. Anger. But then, on Saturday it did.

I fear creating a soap-opera. If the only meaning I can find in my life is this untwisting, then I create more bizarre stories of that. But no. It feels real. Judgment: I am my own enabler, allowing myself to fritter my life.

I am arrogant and self-effacing. Having so little money humiliates me.

It feels like things are coming to the surface, real, discrete parts of me, seeming to have separate personalities, which have been long buried. Some seem in pairs- sadness against anger, the drive to achieve and a self-protecting No, and the femininity and the terror that suppresses that.

I crave reassurance. Does this make sense? Yes, she says. Some people give their configurations names, ages, or genders. Some place them in time. Dialogue will bring integration.

They might not talk to the opposite but might to a neutral arbiter, I say. I feel my character manifests in my actions whatever stories I tell about who I am. I fear I will not get the configurations sorted in time, I need to be more functional now. All the voices have value. I have not recognised their good will, always.

A Covid Death

Britain has a thousand deaths a day from Covid, because of Government incompetence, and in the US 7% of deaths had Covid-19 listed as a cause of death, from Trumpian incompetence, and I thought that by now everyone knows someone who knows someone who has died of this thing, and by the end we will all know someone.

On 27 March I met a man for the first time, in a Zoom social gathering. Over the video I saw a man in a mask deliver oxygen to his house- he needed it for health reasons unconnected to the virus, and I thought how vulnerable he was. He died on Good Friday. On Sunday I heard of some of his achievements, and why people admired and loved him. They knew him, I did not. He was over ninety.

It seemed to me when my father died his life was complete. I could think of him, his gifts, his career, two marriages, political work, and achievements, and feel admiration and gratitude and love. And this man (I don’t say his name here because it is almost to me like any other covid death) I can’t say that of him. Something killed him which first killed last year, which was not heard of before December. He would be alive, but for this randomness.

I feel more horror at the man’s death than that of Colin Morley. I knew Colin through Community Building, so we had shared some deep personal things, and in the sharing felt we were growing as human beings and as a group. I knew of Colin’s start-up, “Be the Change”, seeking to bring that growth to more people, and when he was killed in the London bombings of 7 July 2005, I had a slight personal link to that horror, though less than his family who loved him, less than hundreds of others.

The horror I feel at this death is my horror at what is unfolding. He would not have died if the rich did not flaunt their wealth by spending $150 on a pound of pangolin meat, whence the virus emerged, and if the Tory government could have stopped public gatherings a few days sooner, when it was clear what was happening in Italy and Spain would happen here. I met a friend for coffee on 6 March. The coffee-shop had boxes of tissues on the tables, and I was unsure whether covid caused a runny nose as well as a cough. I proposed we meet again in April, not really admitting to myself what was coming, and my friend knew that would be impossible. I would have hoped the British Government would have known too.

The Tories have caused untold deaths- only deaths in hospitals are yet known- by underfunding the NHS, and by cavalier failure to impose precautions timeously. We are social distancing too late. Johnson has been in intensive care because of his personal stupidity, shaking hands with covid victims and holding face to face meetings, and infected his partner and colleagues. The Tories have caused NHS workers to die by their failure to provide PPE.

In the gorgeous sunshine my life is comfortable. I cycled 9.5 miles in 45 minutes (280 ft of climb) and sat outside in the back yard reading. I am used to being alone, and while I would like to see friends am talking to more, actually, by screens. And the economy is sliding, the virus continues as a threat, the government still fails to test for it, and there is a tiny chance I could be one of those gasping for breath on oxygen in a hospital, alone and terrified. Intubation means a hard road of recuperation, learning to breathe again, coping with scars and wastage. And a chance I could get the virus and shrug it off in a week as a woman I know did.

I would feel a slight sadness at the man’s death, had it not been from covid. I would be sad for his partner (whom I have not met) and his friends whom I know. And I attach the death, it becomes a focus, for my own fear, my discomfort at uncertainty. My day to day comfort makes the threat seem distant, yet it is not, or I would not be affected by the death of a man whom I met once. I hear of his death and feel horror at the chance of my own.

I dislike the term “afterlife,” like “afterthought”. There is continuing life.

I wrote that I hoped Johnson recovered, and blamed him for his misfortune, and someone reacted with horror. “Shocking”, she said. “Appalling bad taste.” She could not make the distinction. I wish Johnson no harm, but I want him called to account for the deaths he has caused.

Quakers say, Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully. Blithely I denied it, and now face it. As always, my resistance to reality makes it more painful for me: I will not claim to have learned the spiritual lesson yet.

Being a Trans Activist

How can I cope as a trans activist with all the hostility to trans people, especially in lockdown with all the uncertainty?

Someone shared an Etty Hillesum quote: Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world. In Occupied Amsterdam under the Nuremberg Laws, she put that into practice.

Someone wrote, And to claim peace, we must excavate our shadows, make the unconscious conscious, reclaim and accept all parts of self.

Contrast Hilary Mantel’s description of Stephen Gardiner: Master Stephen resents everything about his own situation. He resents that he’s the king’s unacknowledged cousin. He resents that he was put into the church, though the church has done well by him. He resents the fact that someone else has late-night talks with the cardinal, to whom he is confidential secretary. He resents the fact that he’s one of those tall men who are hollow-chested, not much weight behind him; he resents his knowledge that if they met on a dark night, Master Thos. Cromwell would be the one who walked away dusting off his hands and smiling. I know resentment. I know threat and conflict, even fleeing down unknown streets at night. Resentment is curdled anger. Anger may do something about a situation, resentment cannot. Resentment focuses on the “things we cannot change”, but the “wisdom to know the difference” is hard practice, especially if there are few things we can change.

I read that rights for trans women are rights for sex offenders. I object, and read that the statement is unobjectionable, even though I feel anxiety in the supermarket, partly feeling fear, unjustified at the moment, that I might be abused as a trans woman. Etty Hillesum bought toothpaste in a pharmacy, and a public spirited citizen challenged her: as a Jew, was she entitled to buy that? She replied she was. And there are public spirited men wanting to stand up for the rights of women against perverts, by which they mean me, and so far I only meet them on line.

I sat in the Quaker meeting, on Zoom, in my exercise. It is possible to challenge an ASA ruling: can I do that? I want the people who pay to tell everyone that I am dangerous, or might be so that no-one should take the risk, rebuked. And I can’t face doing the reading or the writing to make that happen. The answer comes: I can do it, if I can let go of attachment to outcomes. Taking advantage of a video call where I can mute the microphone, I repeat that to myself aloud. “You want to cling to it, and you stop further messages,” my friend said. Perhaps; and I want to accept it, take it into myself, and act on it, because surrendering the need for a particular outcome is difficult. I have seen that with benefits appeals: if people could accept the loss, and make the appeal because it was the thing they could do at that time, they would be far less stressed; and some of them won their appeals! But that is easy for me to say, and instead, often, they resented. I have seen that expressed as a Law of Change: The individuals and the group may have goals, but they may not have cherished outcomes. It is a hard lesson.

So I wrote my challenge, and sent it off, and now see that it would have been better had I spent more time on it, and read it over and revised it before sending. But I hated it too much to do that. I hated the advert and my hate extended to the work I did against it. I would rather not have to do that work. Or I hate my work because I anticipate it will be inadequate, it will not achieve the goal I desire. I will not work well if I hate what I do, only if I can pour love into it. I read that there is an infinite fountain of Love, which I can bathe in, draw strength from, send to wherever I see needs Love. For example, Etty: I should be quite unable to do the work were I not able to draw each day on that great reservoir of peace and maturity. I read that, but I am not sure I trust it or have learned how to do it yet.

Etty Hillesum is of course my teacher and not my comparator. On 15 July 1942 she was given a job with the Jewish Council, and wrote, Tomorrow I must betake myself to hell, and if I am to do the work properly, I shall have to get in a good night’s sleep… Despite the deadly fear I saw in all those faces. All those faces, my God, those faces! And later, They are merciless, totally without pity. And we must be all the more merciful ourselves. I love her ironic prayer: “Have You any other plans for me, O God?”

A last Géricault. Though this woman is in a room, her desolation is hardly less than the shipwrecked man’s.

Social Conservatism

When people object to immigrants, and my American-born friend says “I’m an immigrant”, they often say, “oh, we don’t mean you”. She has British nationality, but not all those people would know that. It’s the same with a Canadian woman I met. I wondered what the difference was from my German friend, who has a slight accent, noticeably foreign if you’re listening out for such things, who is a successful professional woman whose grown up sons are English, who has been told to “get back where you came from”. Is it because Canada, US, Australian and New Zealand citizens speak English as a native language? Is it because Germany has won the World Cup more than England, and we fought two world wars against them?

I think it’s because no-one’s been taught to hate the Americans.

There’s certainly no real distinction other than nationality at birth, and I am not sure why that should be a distinction.

So what does social conservatism achieve for the average social conservative? It gives them someone to look down on. It gives them someone to blame, even to hate. It gives a symbol, like Brexit. We, the 17m, matter because Parliament is at last giving us what we voted for. I may be struggling from wage to wage, never knowing I will have enough, but at least I’m not gay. (Irony ALERT!) It gives them a cat to kick. When their manager has humiliated them and they can’t speak back, they can take out their rage on Immigrants (which includes Black people whose parents were born here).

It gives them something to care about which will either make no difference to their lives, or hurt them. Brexit is no good for anyone unless they have a spare £500m to short the £. But it is made a symbol of Democracy and the value of Leave voters. It’s what they are told they want. Similarly with gender self-declaration: no woman will be any safer if all trans women are excluded from all Single Sex Spaces, but it is something they can campaign for to show they matter. Equal pay would be better, but the Tories are not going to do anything to achieve that.

Social conservatism is corrosive to the soul. It lets people judge others harshly without even knowing them, by stereotypes divorced from reality. It produces the sensation of righteous anger, but you cannot warm yourself by the frigid flames of this hate.

It achieves nothing. It may make others’ lives more miserable, LGBT folk, BAME folk, immigrants, with no gain to the average social conservative.

It gains something for the plutocrats and the conservative politicians who serve them. It increases anger, and the angry and fearful are more likely to vote conservative. Don’t come here expecting handouts. Don’t change our country to suit your way of life, ranted someone on facebook, and I imagine him puce with anger at a myth. People want to work and better themselves. No-one just wants handouts. It suppresses votes on the other side, which have to be votes for hope for something better. Someone else ranted, Our country is run by the major capitalist conglomerates and vastly wealthy individuals worldwide who politicians merely serve. Lets not fall into the trap of believing that politicians of any persuasion actually “care” about the common man. I think John McDonnell, for instance, went into politics to make life better for people. Possibly even John Major. Voting for better public services means voting for hope. It’s not “free stuff”, it’s basic services which make everyone’s lives better and build communities.

So Labour should make no concessions whatsoever to its “traditional voters’ reasonable concerns” about immigration, gay-inclusive education, or “streets where no-one speaks English”.

Labour could have made real differences to people’s lives, making Britain better for everyone, but now we have a government of the reptile overlords, “unchained” from Parliamentary scrutiny by their huge majority. The choice as always is rage or hope. The Left can only win through hope.

being valued

What could be better than a Margaret Atwood when you’re feeling low? The characters are guaranteed to be having a worse time than you. I am loving The Testaments. The tale of Aunt Lydia’s breaking is terrifying and if I don’t want to believe it’s plausible I can believe it would work.

And it’s full of wonderful writing. A substitute culprit will not do in this case. A what? I get what she means immediately. Someone must be seen to be punished, and normally it’s OK if it’s not the responsible party. That someone would name the concept, use the term so casually- there’s so much darkness in two words.

I received a compliment, in writing, on Wednesday. It was from a Quaker, so it must be true, and it was a reference to my “very real gifts”. Unfortunately there was quite a lot of bad stuff around it.

So I asked Facebook for more. “Is there anything that you value in me?” It sounds disbelieving, and I soon changed it to “what do you value about me?”

-Insight. I find your thoughts enrich my understanding.
-warmth, wisdom, intelligence.
-You’re mysterious and unpredictable. You’ve always got something worth listening to, to say, that comes at things from a different angle.
-your friendship, writing, insight and creativity.
-100% honesty and a different point of view to mine which can only be balancing/enriching.
-your wisdom
-your friendship!
-twinkle in your eye.
-your integrity and concern for others.
– your calmness and spiritual nature.
-your sharp mind, vulnerability and kindness. And you’re fun. And you have beautiful eyes.
-You are a great listener, soft voice, warm eyes. You post a lot that I agree with.
-honesty
-integrity
-tenderness tenacity boldness
-openness, honesty and willingness to keep plugging away at loving relationship with others when it is bloody difficult. Also Quakers who it’s ok to be sweary with are a valuable resource.
-so interesting to talk to. Witty, shrewd, good listener. Great writer, determined. Etc!!!
-Openness and courage.

I note these things here to treasure them, because I need to hear them.

It has me reeling that people collected “observations” on how I irritated others. In five pages that phrase “very real gifts” was the only positive. I am suspected of being potentially physically violent, and accused of being manipulative, deceitful and completely lacking in empathy. I had to right royally irk several people to provoke that reaction. I did it, in part, by this. We realise these comments will be difficult to hear but we need to see signs that she acknowledges these concerns and commits to making appropriate changes to her conduct. Um. I am rueful. I am not sure I am confident enough to commit to changing conduct. I was angered before, might I be so again? It is humility rather than arrogance making me hesitate.

She who cannot control herself cannot control the path to duty. Do not fight the waves of anger, use the anger as your fuel. Inhale. Exhale. Sidestep. Circumvent. Deflect.

I wish they had asked, what do you think of Abigail? Then there might be a few positives.

Oh God! Perhaps they did!

Highlight of Facebook today was a post on a trans support group. Above a picture of an attractive woman it said, Am I the only romantic lesbian/transgender admirer left on this planet. If it’s love affection and 100% commitmen you’re looking for then I could be just that woman.

I took this too seriously. As some people seemed to be taking the bait (I was tempted) I wrote I am sorry to say I am suspicious. I had a look at your profile, and find your oldest cover photo and profile picture are from 29 October, which I think means that is when you started using the account, yet you have over a thousand fbfnds. There are some vulnerable people here. Are any of your fbfnds trans? Perhaps someone here has fbfnds in common with you.

Someone replied to me, “Stop moaning and send her your bank details”.

The Testaments ends with the words Love is as strong as death.

Howard Thurman

If I never feel confused, is confusion that terrifying emotion which I must always suppress below conscious awareness? If the distance between how things are and how they ought to be is so great that I cannot see how things are, being just confused, how can I do what I need to do? If my anger is always directed at myself- do better, try harder, keep going- how can I survive a world unless it is designed to fit me and support me? When do I realise that it isn’t?

I am wary of using Black experience as a way into my own as their oppression is greater than mine, except that mine matters too. I am a trans woman, conveniently available for anyone to punch down at, relieve their feelings on, use as a scapegoat or ridicule. We get screamed at, assaulted, killed by casual acquaintances or strangers, and painted as perverts or predators when any need is felt to justify that though often it isn’t.

So I read extracts from Howard Thurman, Black mystic and spiritual adviser to Martin Luther King.

“The stirring of the will of man to action, the dream of humanity, developed and free… is God.”

God speaks through my survival instinct and the occasional, fleeting desire I have to be equal, not to be that whipping-girl. I will not wrong others, and I will survive.

God lives in each person, we are each the outworking of God’s love, power, creativity and beauty, each hair on our head is numbered and God wills our flourishing- yes, even trans women.

The Black man, used by whites for the most menial work, lynched- murdered- by whites to keep all Blacks in a state of terror and subjection and satisfy those whites of their own righteous superiority, finds that in religious experience “I hear His Voice in my own tongue and in accordance with the grain in my own wood. In that glorious and transcendent moment, it may easily seem to me that all there is, is God.”

God is a real me, more real than I can conceive. This is not a matter of dogma but immediate experience, to be captured in feeling not prose or theory, perhaps to be glimpsed in poetry. Then I am my full glory as my part in God’s outworking of creation.

Thurman’s God and mine is transcendent, eternal, all-encompassing, and personal and intimate, caring for me like God’s child in self-sacrificing, motherly love. So, I will show myself the love God shows I am worthy of.

Christianity is an ideology of empire, for security and respectability for the strong and powerful, giving grudging “charity”, sometimes, to deserving outsiders but teaching us our obligations to our betters. This makes those betters feel good about themselves. No, God requires that we are brothers and sisters, equals. I claim my equal worth. God in me seeks not to serve or dominate but to hear and communicate.

Why do I call myself Christian when Christianity oppressed me? To create it anew!

I am a human being among human beings, not for anyone to categorise or judge as “a trans woman”, for no-one’s stereotypes classifications or perceived understanding- even my own. That is love of self in my incomprehensible beauty, a love worthy of loving others with. I am my part of Life, as you are. Each Christian encountering another Christian as an equal, a beloved fellow child of the loving Mother would be an example to all other people. “See how they love each other!” We would win souls for Christ.

Gender is as oppressive as race and we who do not fit gender stereotypes or are not served by them must come together. So I take Richard Rohr’s questions and apply them to gender:

Where in your life do you feel numb, shut down, dismembered, disrespected, or disconnected? What is your earliest memory of feeling this way? What events or circumstances do you believe gave birth to these experiences? What do you believe such feelings keep you from knowing?

What gender identities or stereotypes have shaped how you have come to know yourself as a person?

What views did your ancestors, elders, parents, or caretakers have about gender? How did their views impact you? In what ways were/are your views similar or different?

This is what to do with my anger, whether directed inward or outward- transmute it into a sense of self-worth: which becomes understanding, then love.

What I probably don’t want to write to elders

The question is, can you trust me. The answer may be No.

If I had wanted to be on time for this meeting I would not have stopped at the parish church to spend some time with God. One likes to talk to ones equals occasionally. I was kneeling at the altar rail, looking at the symbols of death, a plain wooden cross, and power. About one in four of the floor tiles around the communion table have little heraldic lions.

I probably don’t want to talk of quantum superposition, but even if I don’t understand it my idea of it makes a good metaphor. Until you measure them, electrons have several different positions, momentums, and spins, at the same time. Only when they are measured do they have one particular position. The idea of an atom like a solar system with electrons orbiting a nucleus is inaccurate.

In the same way, we look at each other, and evaluate. I look a bit rueful. Can you trust me? It could go either way. If we use words too soon, Continue reading

Anger

Then an experience that perhaps no good man can ever have in our world came over him- a torrent of perfectly unmixed and lawful anger. The energy of anger, never before felt without some guilt, without some dim knowledge that he was failing fully to distinguish the sinner from the sin, rose into his arms and legs till he felt that they were pillars of burning blood… This filled Ransom not with horror but with a kind of joy. The joy came from finding at last what anger was made for… He rejoiced in the perfect congruity between his emotion and its object.

-CS Lewis, Perelandra. When I looked it up, I found he had said “hatred” rather than anger, but I feel it still works.

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil…Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice. Ephesians 4:26-27,31.

I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool”, you will be liable to the hell of fire. Matthew 5:22

Jesus looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. Mark 3:22

In that context, Lewis’s interpretation of if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also works: “In so far as you are simply an angry man who has been hurt, mortify your anger and do not hit back- [but] in so far as you are a magistrate struck by a private person, a parent struck by a child, a teacher by a scholar, a sane man by a lunatic, or a soldier by the public enemy, your duties may be very different, different because they may be then other motives than egoistic retaliation for hitting back.”

Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. James 1:19-20

Those who worship the beast and its image… will also drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured unmixed into the cup of his anger. Revelation 14:9-10.

I bear a great burden of anger. It seemed I was taken back to my cot under a tree before I could walk, and I felt the child’s anger. I was not conscious of my feelings, then I became aware of them and they were anger, frustration, resentment and fear; then it seemed they were rage and terror. Sometimes now I cannot admit my own anger to consciousness.

I controlled it by suppression. I held it down. I was not conscious of it. I was an obedient child, following my mother’s desires. Then I was an adult, in the world of adults, not really feeling adult, nor understanding other apparent adults. I decided my suppression was the problem, that the tension in me comes from “nursing unacted desires”, and that I would be better to be conscious of the anger and sublimate it.

Yesterday, the woman in the supermarket queue had three problems, each of which caused delay. One such problem is rare. I treated it as an exercise of patience. Sensing my anger, I could acknowledge it, accept it, see there was nothing I could do to hurry her, and let it go. Suppressing it would make it a hurt for the rest of the day.

I am in pain, and I want to reduce it. I am in tension, and it is too much effort for me. I have an idea that single-minded integrity with all my emotions, drives and desires working together is possible (though long-term and short-term goals may need reconciliation) and that my need to manage feelings out of consciousness prevents that. An immediate feeling of threat may need managed, and the threat faced, but if I cannot admit to myself the sense of threat, and my inner parent screams at me “Get on with it! What are you fussing about!” then I just give up. As I have done.

The suppressed feeling has ways of coming into consciousness. I can think of a time when I felt that way in the past, and it is as if I am still dealing with that past event- then I rebuke myself, because I should have got over it by now. But no- it is a way of showing that I feel like that now, from something happening now. Or I tense up, or shake, as if in pain, and I rebuke myself, because I should not show signs of my feeling (it would upset my mother, who is dead, whose house I left 35 years ago).

I imagine a state of calm aware acceptance, of all the feelings, of all the surroundings; of anger at actual injustices and wrongs, rather than the mere inconvenience of the supermarket queue where no-one wronged me, and instead find a sensory overwhelm, painful and terrifying, so I flee it to the place where my emotions can be managed, either by minimising my interactions with the outside world or by scrolling social media for a brain-fog of vicarious momentary emotions, dulling my sense of what is real. I avoid kneeling in meditation because it will be painful, even though it will get me in touch with my inner guide.

Of course I want to deny reality! Reality’s horrible!

Yet it will get even more horrible as I turn my face from it.

Of course I am not dangerous. I am gentle and caring- I know this from my experience of how I act and respond. Suppressing my anger inhibits me, yet I do not want to bring it to consciousness so that I lash out, but so that I can respond better.

Three Quaker trans women

For a moment, I was a true transsexual, quite clear transition had been right for me. Of course it did not last.

Rarely, with other trans women I feel completely comfortable. I am with people like me, and it is reassuring, empowering, clarifying. More often I notice presentation issues, and judge the other and myself, and am uncomfortable. When I imagine a group of trans women, we’re all staring at our shoes and periodically one will hiss,

“Stop it, you’re embarrassing us!”

And it was lovely to see my friend F, to walk round the park to see its beauties of landscaping and artistry, and the wildlife, to wander and chat, to sit eating looking at beautiful things. I told her that story: on 14 February 1999 I felt a tremendously painful and revivifying change in how I viewed the world- I was “born again”. I gained hope, became conscious that I am on a spiritual journey, and became conscious of something I called first the “Vulnerable bit” being released from deep suppression in my unconscious, and then the “Real Me”. I wrote this poem identifying that Real Me as female. I felt reassured.

And when she left, I was frightened and confused. Possibly, it is unnecessary and even harmful to have the goal of knowing yourself. The human being can be flexible, responding to circumstances, and an idea of who you are can inhibit that. Better to have stories of who you are, that reassure you, help you fit with other people, and are malleable to fit your situation. Yet I still want to know that at the kernel of my being I am Trans and therefore Transition was right and remains right for me; and so I fight for that particular story. It is the thing I have done because I wanted to, despite all the prejudice from others.

I want transition to be my rock, my reality, and felt washed around by the currents and tides. Bluntly, Margaret says, “It’s as if you’re acting when you’re Stephen and just you when you’re Clare” and I am encouraged to transition because it is right for me; Heather says “You have this lovely male energy” and I see myself as a man, and am filled with doubt; and now F reminds me of that experience, and I am reassured. Transition was Right for me. Except that I’m not, because what I believe depends on the strong personalities around me. Am I so moulded by others that there is no self at all?

Actually I had seen myself as male before meeting Heather, as a way of understanding who I am, without prejudice to the sufficient rightness of transition. Perhaps I contain so many truths that I might be moulded, but never so that I am not at least a real part of whole me. Then the moulding becomes a way to find all those parts and realise them.

When I got to meeting on Sunday I had a lovely hug from C, who said she had seen I was in London and hoped I would come. In the Quaker meeting, another trans woman who had been scrolling her phone stood and expressed anger, which I found troubling. Is this right for worship? She had been reading the constitution of some particular Quaker body, which used the term “Friend” to refer to members, and “Attender” to refer to regular attenders. She called this “Bigotry”. I was intensely uncomfortable, thinking, “Stop it! You’re embarrassing us!” Then one stood, and talked of being appointed an overseer but with the letters n.i.m. after her name- whisper it, not in membership, then another talked of becoming a member after more than ten years. The meeting is capable of absorbing anger, if you trust the process.

In the discussion group after we worship-shared on short texts, and I got, When you speak in a group, are you listened to? Do you create space to listen to others? How does the text comfort or discomfort you? I said, yes. I have energy, charisma, and a persuasive command of language, and can make myself heard. I have used my voice to amplify that of those who would not be heard, and am practising listening. A man, not obeying the rules of “worship sharing”, interrogated me and I took this back to the Latin, com fortis. After, a woman said she liked how I had stated my good acts positively, not accentuating the negative as we often do in sort-of humility. I wondered if she was stating what she liked, rather than giving her whole internal response, which is another Quaker technique I have noticed.

Shapeshifter

Why would you want to see him? Because it seems possible we could have true authentic communication, heart to heart; not deceiving each other, or concealing; without masks.

OK. Why not? Because I am not sure that authentic communication is possible. I think he wants to pastor me. He, the wise, spiritual soul, reaches out to me because he wants to help me see the truth and heal, because he is kind like that. Then all my anger and my contempt for him might just spill out. I might just shout at him, and relationships would have broken down even further.

Right. So- you want to be authentic, but the thing which most terrifies you is that you might be authentic?

Well, when you put it like that-

I didn’t put it like that when I first called the Samaritans this morning. I told the woman that I wanted to pour out at her the rage and contempt I feel, because I do not normally express that. I just don’t, normally. I don’t have anyone I can shout at like that, and often it seems people punch down because they are unable to punch up- get angry with a convenient target rather than the source of their anger. She would not like that.

So she asked a few questions, in an even tone, and I answered, feeling frustrated and perplexed, and then she asked, “Is it because of abuse?”

Oh, God. Is she asking me to justify my anger? So I said yes. Much of my anger comes from childhood abuse. I was completely controlled, not allowed an independent thought. In response to further questioning, I say my father was as much under my mother’s thumb as I was. Did you have any siblings? How was it for them? So I challenged the question and she explains something and then I answer it.

My sister was conforming at home but managed to make an independent life for herself outside it. For example once I went to visit her in Edinburgh when she was training to be a nurse, and she met me at Waverley station and we walked to the pub to meet her flat-mates, also student nurses. When we got to the pub, Olive said, “Oh, Susan, you’ve got your English accent on”, that is, the accent my sister used when at home. I remember that evening she had a fag and told me not to tell our parents. I remember that now, I did not tell it to the Samaritan.

And then I got very upset and said all the time I am telling this story I am thinking you won’t believe me and you will think that story irrelevant proving nothing and I have this voice in my head saying what are you making a fuss about and you’re playacting and there is nothing to fuss about.

I wasn’t hit, often. I asked a woman does your husband hit you and she said “Only occasionally”. I asked a man if he hit his wife and he said “Only when she needs it”. I was hit once or twice but mostly the control was by extremely conditional positive regard.

This is why those men did not testify against Michael Jackson. He climbed inside their heads. There was a little Michael inside their heads telling them what to say, what was the only loving and right thing they had to say.

In the same even tone, she asked, “Are you suicidal?” No I’m not frelling suicidal. I mean I would rather be dead but right at this moment I am not about to kill myself. But I didn’t say that- I just thought it, and was silent for a bit. So she asked whether I had had counselling and I shouted at her for asking these stupid questions. That is, I got to be authentic, and it did me no good at all. To show me that I had not discomposed her, she asked another question in the same supercilious tone. So I told her to fuck off and rang off.

The second Samaritan was even more frustrating. She asked if I would mind telling my name, and I could not answer. I want to relieve feelings of anger and frustration by shouting (not at you, I would say, it’s not personal, please don’t be offended) and my voice will sound male. Should I say Clare, or Stephen? What about Hillary? I am silent, because the question just bamboozles me.

-Call me shapeshifter, I said.
-Oh, it’s too early in the morning for that.

I have authentic love and creativity and a desire to communicate and deep playful joy, and also anger which I can’t admit and others sense. Sometimes they think I will get violent, but I never do- when I am hit I don’t hit back, I just freeze.

So I rang off, rang back, and the third was a genial old buffer. And I thought I will see X but not Y. I can be authentic with X. So I started to email that, then stopped. I could just not see him, but don’t want to be a coward. So I remain undercided, and dissatisfied.