The feminine self

I am smiling, though I feel intense misery: I smile because this is me, the most feminine part of me, speaking now. I definitely don’t have multiple personalities, and this is me, speaking naturally above the break, wearing earrings and enjoying the sensation of them in my ears.

The process, the whole animal, does not cry, and here am I, I, crying, and feeling the joy at being this feminine part of me, and surprising myself as I did not expect this. Another, perhaps more cynical or appraising rationalist part wants to break through and I don’t want it to.

I do not need looked after.
I do not need restrained.
The world is not dangerous for me, nor I for it.

I speak from this place when I stop fighting, relax and open out. I am exploring now, I don’t know what’s going on. I want to see the world from here, from this perspective, and I want to show it to other people. Normally I am more guarded than this.

In this feminine part is my appreciation of beauty. I look at the stems and leaves pattern on my net curtains. The curves are dancing. This feels more authentic than any other part of me and I don’t really know what she wants, what she does, what she can do, she has been despised for too long.

Going back to one of my myths: I wanted to build the dome, I wanted to do it quickly and efficiently, and well- out of fear of being useless, fear of being seen to be useless, and because it would prove my value, to me, and possibly to other people. I think doing it was valuable, I am not merely projecting. I don’t think it was just fear.

Fear and love, the two great motivators, running from or running to.

This is where my playfulness lives. This is where my ability to know other people lives, not analytical, though the analytical is not alien to this, rationality is a skill this can use. This is in no way an emotional part separate from my analytical power.

Why would you fear being childish? Because it is vulnerable. Yet- vulnerable to what? The judgment which matters is my own. If I fear this I cannot show it to anyone. Yet they might accept me like this.

This is beautifully soft, and can be determined. I am determined now. I hunger to know how I may be when I am like this, because the lesson I have learned that being like this is dangerous is I think a childhood lesson which no longer applies. Other parts of me seek to protect me from the hostility of others by making me shut up and vanish, but I don’t think everyone would be hostile.

This is the part of me that writes poetry.

I often wonder how my analogues are doing in alternative universes. In how many am I dead? Do I have children? Fear and desire- in one, I present the most popular television programme, to millions of adoring fans. It is an hour-long interview in which I strip away the masks of others, my own authenticity inspiring theirs, generally as liberation and occasionally as complete humiliation- a politician would have to be very brave to accept the invitation. An hour long interview with someone revealing entirely who they are, any age from five to ninety.

Though while electrons are capable of quantum superposition, being a fuzzy cloud expanding to fill the whole universe, I am not.

This feminine self is where my hurt is. I had no access to this at all, because of the hurt, and there is still the possibility of hurt, though not the annihilation the child feared.

This is the part of me where my strength is. In part this is scared, and in part she has complete confidence.

A friend went over her handlebars into a ditch, and has been terrified of cycling since. I suggested she cycle in the carpark of a supermarket after it had closed, when she has an expanse of tarmac and no cars, so that she can learn to trust.

I can learn to trust. I have been hurt, and can practise on small things-

I want to show off, because I want admiration and affirmation- though since this experience I have been affirming myself. This is where the possibilities are. This is where any desire worth anything is.

I have hidden it, and fought for it, and had glimpses and occasional moments of being, my feminine self is still unrealised seventeen years after transition, often quickly submerged or suppressed.

Authenticity is possible.



What are your values? Acceptance, Adventure, Assertiveness? Safety, Sensuality, Skilfulness? A choice of 58 with helpful explanations of each might help self-knowledge.

Authenticity: to be genuine, real, true to myself. That fits. Ploughing my own way, now, seems the most important thing in my life. And yet, Conformity: to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations fits too. Only when under pressure, I think. I use fitting in as a way of seeking safety. Safety: to secure or protect myself or others. I seek that a great deal. Can I claim Courage:to persist in the face of fear, threat or difficulty? Sometimes I have shown courage, sometimes I have run and hidden.

I feel Conformity and Safety are introjected values, I would show more Courage if less badly hurt. Courage calls to courage everywhere– odd, I remembered it as Courage speaks to courage, that is, courage recognises courage in others. “Calls” could have different, valuable meanings. I have shown courage and dedication. I don’t feel courageous, now.

Beauty: to appreciate, create, nurture or cultivate beauty in myself, others, the environment etc. Definitely. It makes my heart sing. I devote time and effort to it. Freedom: to choose how I live and behave, and help others do likewise. No question. These are what I observe in my actions, and feel in my desires.

Humility: to be modest, let my achievements speak for themselves. Hmm. Sometimes I am, sometimes the opposite- not Boastfulness necessarily. “Let your light so shine before men” does not sound modest. I don’t know if either is a Value I would claim, or if there is any consistency. Self-regard, knowing ones value and achievements, might just be arguable as a value.

Honesty? Um. If it were not so important to me I might not hate and notice so much when I lie.

Flexibility. I would like more of that, perhaps just to get me out of problems. I imagine I could have been OK, with hindsight, had I been “flexible”. Possibly that is a mirage.

Mindfulness: to be conscious of, open to, and curious about my here and now experience. Yes, I think, of course, and then reconsider Self-awareness, to be aware of my own thoughts feelings and actions and wonder whether I am so ignorant of the former I confuse it with the latter, so internally focused that the Outside seems illusory. With my mantra I am here. This is. I am I am turning outwards.

Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself. Being materialist, I think my Inner Light is myself, though a greater self than the ego or monkey-mind. And Spirituality is Here, This life, focused. I am Spiritual.

Open mindedness: to think things through, to see things from others’ points of view, and weigh evidence fairly. Definitely. I am certain of some things, yet eager to understand more, to see more clearly. This blog records growth in understanding.

Which on the list are not importantly to me? Adventure. Fun. Excitement. I get excitement from ideas, but am not seeking new experiences other than new encounters with different people. Equality. Fairness. Reciprocity. I am not now seeking equality. Do I value myself sufficiently? From seeing myself as worthless I come to value myself. These may be values I have not articulated to myself, or recognised, working unconsciously within.

Not Power: taking charge, leading, organising either. I know that proposing a decision can be a service, relieving others of responsibility, but I don’t want my way. Or perhaps I do, just don’t see attempting to take power as the way to get it. I don’t perceive myself as ambitious.

Not Skilfulness: to practise and improve, and apply myself fully when using them. I like to write. Yet my revision is only of the odd sentence, not rewriting the whole structure of a piece to improve it. I am not developing. So, not really, as it happens. I devote my energy elsewhere. I don’t play the piano any more.

Do any of these values speak to you?


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.

A chaotic individual

My head is a safe space for my insanity.

I do not know that woman. I catch glimpses of her. I have heard the evidence of her formidable intellect. I have seen no sign of her hurt, though I have heard of difficult experiences she has had. I see a self-contained individual with a face on which I have not read emotion, though I would not aver that it does not show feeling.

I am being careful. I must not insult her. Not knowing her, I can create a myth from the inklings I have about her, for my own use, about human possibility- about what is possible for me; or understanding myself by contrast. The construct I create in my own mind for this purpose is that self-contained, not impassive but calm in appearance, controlled person. The real person is no more an archetype than I am, but I use thoughts of her to get in touch with an archetype, one who does not show emotion immoderately.

I greatly value conventionality. It is important to me to appear normal, and when I do not manage that I am distressed. The impassive, non-reacting individual, making the right response to any stimulus- garbage in, the appropriate thing out- is who I must be, for my own survival. I have achieved that by suppressing all feeling that does not produce my correct response. That is, I was middle-aged at five and have been growing younger since. I have locked parts of myself away, and the guardian dragons have been my fear resulting from horrible childhood experiences which I could not resist or process at the time. I had been incapable as a child, and felt I would always be incapable. But I am an adult now.

There is so much in me that does not fit that conventional stereotype, and I called it on Sunday morning “insanity” and now I call it “chaos”. It is not integrated. I am semi-conscious of parts which I find rebarbative, and so it bursts out of me, demanding to be heard. If I can accept all of my humanity, then it will emerge for the community as my love and creativity direct, for Good.

I spoke twice in the meetings for worship at the Quaker Life Representative Council. The weekend was about children’s meetings, and I spoke on Saturday morning about being a deep, rich soil for children to grow in. People appreciated the metaphor, I know because they told me. One or two told me they appreciated my speech on Sunday morning. Possibly it was ministry. That is, it was where I was, and it powerfully articulated that for me, drawing on what others had said; and possibly it had value for others. I said, my head is a safe space for my insanity, spoke a little about that which I can’t remember, then said I had a choice of words:





my full humanity.

I can’t yet. My fear and distrust of myself inhibits my consciousness of myself. Then aspects of myself are distorted, and express in rebarbative ways. I am a chaotic individual. The way to sanity and integrity is to pass through that chaos. My love and creativity will protect me, and reduce the harm I do others. As I love and accept the chaos, it becomes less threatening or dangerous.

In “Gifts and Discoveries”, a Quaker course from 1988 which I did in the early Noughties, we meditated on the story of the Gadarene swine. When we were told to imagine ourselves as the madman called “Legion” looking into the eyes of Jesus, I ran to another room and curled in a ball on the floor. My friend Beck, a children’s social worker, came after me and gently laid her hand on my shoulder.

I am now the human curled in a ball in terror, and the human laying a gentle hand- making contact in Love. In meditation on Friday that terrified human was pain and sadness, but being in touch with it was sweet. This morning, it was playing: I want the rules and regs of Quakers, which we are about to rewrite, to be so beautiful we give them to new enquirers to inspire them to join us.

Yesterday I saw Lucie from Shaw Trust, paid by the DWP to get me back to work. I told her something of my mindfulness experiences. Don’t teach me to suck eggs.

Hold the tension

Jung to the rescue, perhaps. It is better to know my feelings, but ideally to know them without manifesting them physically, or at least the physical reaction might be a lump in the throat rather than bowing my head, pulling my shoulders forward and expressing deep distress on my face. Someone denying my feelings is the old threat, and I will not subject myself to that again.

I feared my feelings, so suppressed them, then they fought for attention. Do you react to a situation, or respond to it? Taking a moment to be aware of your conflicting feelings may be the answer. I am angry with someone, yet frightened of displeasing them. Listen to the feelings, to be aware of their conflicting voices. Jung called this holding the tension.

I took this from this article, which I have read several times and am now considering with suspicion. Andrea Mathews writes, if we can stand in the middle of all these emotions and just listen and listen until we can clarify one genuine message, then we are learning to hear the voice of the authentic self… responding from authenticity gives us peace. The authentic bit pulls all the voices together into one single genuine effort. Many needs are clamouring, hurts from days or years before, and if we can hear them without judging them as bad or stupid,

(what might be the “I” hearing but not judging other parts? The frontal lobe?)

we will find what need they would assuage.

Mathews gives a feminine perspective. How the other receives our authenticity is not up to us. The masculine perspective is that my feelings are the right feelings, and you should respond just the way I do. So I express my feelings with face, voice and body language, so that we are all pulling in the direction I decide. This can be a problem if the other is free from such influences. Mathews would free me. I might go along, because of external threat, but at least I would know that.

In the same way, Mathews says boundaries are for me, and not for other people: not to prevent others encroaching, but to know what I can and cannot do. I can’t stop another encroaching on my space, only see what I can do in response to that. I find my authentic feeling, make a decision, and decide (boundary) I will not be guilt-tripped out of it. I can fail to co-operate with someone, but not bend them to my will.

Actually, sometimes people bend to others’ wills. At least they might be persuaded. And, there are things worth trying which have no certainty of success. But we cannot change other people, and perhaps we just have to get out of their way, as Mathews recommends.

Stop being good, she says. As children we were taught socially acceptable behaviour, contrary to our own feelings, was good- expressing love or contrition when we felt the opposite, say. That was enforced by withdrawal of affection, which set up a need in us to be worthy of affection. That was one of my first lies I saw-

I lie to myself because I need to see myself as a good person.

I imagine myself to be good, so that I can imagine I am worthy, so I can imagine I will survive. It is all imaginary, concerned with managing my internal sense of safety rather than anything in the real world. I am weaning myself off that, though it takes time. Rather, she enjoins, be authentic: notice how what you perceive makes you feel, and make choices accordingly.

Here is a list of Andrea Mathews’ blog posts on “The search for the authentic self”.


If you have to be someone else, you imagine that you are.

Oh, I struggle to overcome! And tomorrow I will try again, in the Quaker meeting, sometimes in reality, feeling what I really feel, and sometimes in a stifling myth- this is weekly worship which we ought to do, because it is the right thing to do, and because it is right we all enjoy and value it. Sometimes saying to another what I mean, and believe, and want to communicate, and sometimes saying what I ought to say, the small talk which is reassuring because predictable- acting as if what I need to be true really is.

The real is terrifying, like being naked, and the false is stultifying, like being strangled, or swaddled so only the wool is there, not the breeze on my skin, or wearing gloves so I can’t actually touch anything.

At any moment there is what I ought to feel, which is different from what I do feel, like CS Lewis’ houses in Hell which can be huge and grand but do not keep out the rain, like a world without people, only actors, as if I am not there but watching a screen showing something completely different, but somehow below consciousness I know I wear the Emperor’s clothes. Like being at a concert, but wearing headphones which play different music.

There is what I ought to feel, and because I have to I imagined, believed, that I do. And others saw the anger I could not admit to myself. How can you see what is in your blind spot? By realising what frightens you.

It is possible to suppress feeling in order to bear a situation, but it gets more difficult.

I knew that I feared my fear and anger, that feeling fear and anger was Death, the monster would get me and I would die. And I learn that feeling the fear and anger is bearable. Even the sadness. I feared it would make me do something embarrassing and everyone would be angry, as in an HM Bateman cartoon.

But it didn’t. Feeling the sadness, allowing myself to be conscious of its full strength, I did not show a sign of it. And if I had, there would have been some sympathy.

But- there is what I ought to feel, and that mask comes off slowly. Sometimes I realise I am being that conventional me, saying things which are my own idea of conventional, holding myself stiffly, small talk, and cannot stop, for the real feeling is too frightening and I don’t know what it is. I know this is a screen and headphones not real life, I know I am an actor not a human being, I know I am inauthentic and I don’t know what authentic would look like. More often, I recognise it after.

How unsparing of myself I am! Of course I am a human being, even when reacting this way, it is a human reaction which I do not like because I feel that responding with real feelings rather than this falsehood would get me what I want.

Excuse me a moment, I have got my mask on again. May I try to find what my face might look like, without it? This is not what one does during small talk- stay still, close eyes, look within, try to connect-

I can’t just see what I do wrong, and stop, or see what I would like to do, and do it. Changing habits, even noticing habits, is difficult. Being naked and authentic is risky. What I have absorbed to imagine Conventional, and do when not being authentic, is dust and ashes to me- I know I am doing it yet can’t be otherwise, can’t find the real feeling. Meditation sometimes lets me find it, but I find that frightening.

A cure for anger want to be loved and happy, and to feel I am doing something worthwhile.

Awareness plus compassion gives Choice.

Three of us are ANGRY now, a furious miserable anger- everything could have been alright, and it Can’t be, now, at least not that simple and instant way. Our anger can create nothing: anger with ourselves- I/she could/should, anger with the weak fool we care for. There is no point in being angry. And yet we are, and we niggle at each other. Mourning the loss of possibilities.

On facebook, I see a Nelson Mandela quote: As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison. Well, yes. Er, how?

I need to let this feeling go, but not deny it; I need to accept it and myself in the World- this happens, and more is possible.

Oh, that exercise is so potent. Choose someone in the group, and look into their eyes. The trouble is that the other person may have chosen someone else; and others may also have chosen her.

Memory is not trustworthy. I remember S being in conflict with a colleague, and wanting her sacked because she was useless, and worried that the colleague would complain about S, because S had failed with some trivial matter. I learned this in conversation about two years ago. And now, S has a colleague who does not pull her weight and gets bogged down in unnecessary matters, but has no idea of any fight or particular problem in the past. So, “I”, “I said”, excuses and reasons and justifications, have no value or reality: they cannot change the situation now, and they might never have existed.

Then, say to that person: The essence I see in you is… The way you express it is… Some of us are not chosen, and I almost ignore the one who chose me, and cannot speak to the one I chose as others are speaking to her. So, again give up. This illustrates my patterns so beautifully.

I say my piece in the group share. The essence I see in you is charisma, the way you express it is Being. Then Menis asks, and how do you see yourself. I wanted to explain, and he would not let me- shell and vulnerable bit within, centre of the Universe and Worthless; and he would not let me. So I speak from my vulnerable bit, my authentic self.

 I am fragile, beautiful, loveable. 

I am a Survivor. I am safe. 

I am OK as I am, and

I am just beginning to enjoy it!

Others have other words for me, seeing my courage, strength, patience and love. This is what to remember. And- I see something in another, because it is in me.

We mill, face people in turn. We imagine that they are someone from our past, and say something to that person for closure.

Mum, I hold your hand rather than reading, at your deathbed.
Dad, our femininity is OK.
The woman I loved, who terrified me, thank you for all you taught me.
The man I used to be, it will be alright. All your feelings are OK.

The cure for my anger is hope.


I do not “want to be a woman”. I want to be who I am, and not to hide that from others or myself.

All my accretions and pretenses and lies to myself and habits which get in the way of that are things I have taken up in order to Survive, and they are the things in the way of my flourishing now. On this blog and in my retreat from the World I am working out what that might mean. Possibly it is anatomical: the amygdala in conflict with the frontal lobe- and the idea of the Real Me, under all the attempts of my parents and society to “civilise” me, is so attractive to me.

So much for the origin of this post, written in a Tea meditation, a desperate search for how to be. On the bus, a woman says, “these chairs are so uncomfortable, so uncomfortable” and I note how I place her immediately, the word “chehs”- one of those decanted from London- rather than the more correct and educated “seats”. When we all get off, and queue by the stairs, a little girl tries to push ahead downwards, and her mummy tells her to wait. Then a man with them grabs her by the back of her coat, and she immediately starts to struggle and cry out. Just to rub that in, for my benefit not yours, she fights the restraint of a man so much larger. I note a red heart just above her bottom- what a gorgeous birthmark! If it is a tattoo-

He picks up their pushchair from the lower deck, and says “cheers, mate” to the driver in a gruff but cheerful, salt-of-the-earth manner.

In the street, I note a woman in a long floral dress and a bulky floral headscarf, Muslim “modest” dress made beautiful. Is it just the Autumn sunshine making me feel this good?

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. The Struggle for the Real Me.

Thing is, the pain and distress are real, the unknowing, the old self-protection mechanisms which I have taken up to survive and now hurt me, the difficulty in perceiving all this, because I feel that my false perception is reality and the constrained way of behaving is Right and Good- all Real. And so are the flashes of insight, and the Progress, and the absolute commitment to do this work, and the necessity of it. I thought my opening a bit whiny, and then looking back at it, it is positive.

What do I want from anyone else?


Ah. Can I say that, really? I know that is the right thing to say. I know that any other response causes me needless pain, am I really there yet? Not sure.

I know that is the place to be, loving the beauty of all good things, undaunted by bad, and that further on good and bad cease to have meaning for all is good. Actually, I am fair pleased with mysel that I have the theory!

Vulnerability and-

Many times I have seen Brené Brown’s first TED video circulated, on Facebook and email lists, and I am endebted to the ever-wonderful Judy “Twoblogs” Wall for her second. I also recommend Dr. Brown’s blog. Vulnerability is a good thing. Vulnerability is the bravery which speaks to people, which elicits the Yes, the Yay, the true connection. What other words apply?

Strangeness. I get the feeling of being more alive, more real, and this is a strange, heightened experience. A good one, I want more of it, I want to play in it, get to know it, get to trust it, and that needs time. (Not necessarily effort. Let go the effort. Let the experience bed in in its own way, I tell myself.) And “strange” may be a better word than “good”, because I still name some emotions unpleasant, or difficult, and I can find those there too. This does not make it “wrong” or “difficult”.

Authenticity. I link these experiences to my first sense of the Real Me. This is a word Dr Brown uses at least once in her videos, and I prefer it to “vulnerability”- because how vulnerable are we? We are not being Defensive when we are being Authentic, but how many people want to attack us anyway? And if someone does, perhaps it is easier to block an attack in a state of relaxed aware authenticity than of fearful, clenched defensiveness. Or the block may be proportionate to the attack, whereas an attack out of the defensiveness may be too violent.

Bravery. Dr Brown also says this is brave. Trans women habitually deny bravery- I transitioned, we say, as a matter of survival, not because of great courage. I feel like that here. My masks are just too constricting. I cannot live like that any more. And yet, OK. Why should I deny a good quality in myself? Yes, it is difficult. Yes, it is brave. Moving forward in unknowing, where I may feel even illusory fear, is brave.

Openness. This vulnerability makes us open to others and to experience, which looks beautiful and inspiring, and invites connection.

Receptivity. Not monitoring so much in myself in order to hide it, I am more able to see what is around me: opportunity and beauty, and human beings more as they really are.

The word “vulnerability” is scary. It may be a way in to the state I crave. The rewards I may get from it encourage me to seek that state out.

I love this photograph, public domain via Wikipedia, because I do not see foundation or other makeup on it. If there is, it is subtle. That is a vulnerability many women find testing.