Getting more sane II

I cycled to the station, as I thought I would get back after the last bus, and when I got there realised I had not brought my lock. So I left the bike at the stand, and as there was a chain left there I draped it over my bike to appear locked. I thought there was little risk of theft: someone would have to want to, and to see my bike was unlocked, and a lot of such people can pick the locks anyway. Serra thought this important- if my bike is stolen, it is someone else’s fault, and not mine. What I had meant was that the risk was limited, and better than hiding my bike somewhere and missing my appointment.

And it’s not the end of the world. I don’t die. The monster doesn’t get me if I lose my bicycle. I would deal with it if it happened.

And on Monday I did nothing but slump in front of the television. I fear that. I fear I have less energy than others, who work full time. For Serra, this is merely what I do for self-protection. Seeing that, I can seek out better ways of self-protecting. Some people stay on the same self-protection life long, she says, which makes me feel good. I am challenging my falsehoods. It does not mean that when I have to take action I will be unable to act.

And I don’t give up till I’m dangling on the end of a rope.

She loved what I had to say about Frank Auerbach: this glorious mix of sensitivity and exuberant self-confidence. Maybe in me, too.

I am no longer seeking an endocrine solution for my emotional lability. I crave that intensity of feeling, because it seems like it is me making the decisions, rather than some inculcated rationality. I want my attraction and aversion, Yuck and Yum, to be completely clear. Yuck and Yum- she likes that. I am pleased. She is not just saying that. My words are good.

Rousseau, la muse inspirant le poete

Gender counselling 6

It seems insane. I seem insane. I make no sense to me. I terrify me.

So I wrote that I left Serra feeling opened up, not judging or perceiving but allowing and becoming aware; and when with Serra there were Understandings, word pictures of how things are, and indeed of I had reacted.

-I know the rules say that my phone should be off, and I am hoping for contact which if I do not answer will occupy so much head space that I will be unable to concentrate.

The phone rings, and it is someone else. Hope- dashed; but no-one calls this phone! I have hardly given out the number, people don’t call me on it! Text-beep. I grab the phone, look at the message. Again, not as I hoped.

-What if she doesn’t call? Serra asks.

Still on the floor, I come close to her chair and quote,

The Desolations are not the sorrows’ kin
Sorrow is gentle, singing her sons to sleep
The desolations know no word or music
Only a harsh inarticulate cry
inaudible to the poetry-pampered ear.

If Serra is my mother, saying she’s no good for you, you know, as well as at times that teen BFF that I never had, as I still presented male then, then F symbolises adulthood and freedom- in the game I play with Serra- even if in reality, I may have to make my own adulthood and freedom without her help. I am only aware now of the passionate intensity in my voice as I quoted because Serra pointed it out, and my anger was with her- even if you are right and this is going nowhere, I do not want you pointing that out to me. So my counsellor lets me again rebel against my mother, I separate myself and become free.

And that man. He wants to die (at least in my understanding of the situation). I sympathise. (Do I want to die too? God it is so pointless and boring, nothing and nowhere and endless, though I would not want to admit that.)

I cycle, and I get better at it. Thirty miles in three hours on Tuesday, over beautiful country roads much of it single track, with the seat higher risking back pain and avoiding that by extending leg and ankle more. Not instant perfection but slow incremental improvement through effort. And I give a lot of thought and effort to Quaker clerking and I am doing good there too.

At one point she leant down and touched my foot, and then realised she had crossed a boundary. It pleased me, and at the end I asked for and had a hug.

What is “Real Me”? Possibly that bouncy me isn’t, either. Questioning everything I do could open me for useful change, or paralyse me. So- as a practice, be open, for everything is beautiful, even me, judging, condemning, pretending, acting, hiding, all reasonable legitimate choices though I hate it all

Open! Love it all! Saying my affirmation on Friday morning I forgot one word. The words I forget are the important ones. I could not think of it, so looked it up: it is Compassion.

Today (Saturday) two moments of arrogance. I thought during worship of standing and saying

I am the Goddess.
Everything God made
God made for me.

but thought, no, I know it, and do not need witnesses. Perhaps it is good I did not share that, perhaps it would have been OK. And, what would George Fox have been today? I answered my own question: Revolutionary; speaking directly to the Hearts of some people; taking no shit; and Solid. Present. Clear. I knew in that moment I described myself.

Then a few minutes later I am exhausted, just wanting to get away, barely able to be polite. I contain multitudes, I am extremes, I cannot bear any of them-

I have resisted, and continue with my spiritual work of Permitting, though it is all impossible and insane. Had it been easy I would have done it already.

Monet, La Femme à l'ombrelle

Gender counselling VI

To see Serra Pitts, the psychotherapist at the gender clinic. It is like a deep massage, where she digs her elbows in to untangle all the knots, and yet always keeps one hand flat on my skin, of which I am intensely conscious. I came out exhausted, and Open- it feels like I have no presuppositions or assumptions, and can see the world as it really is.

However in the counselling room, what matters is not the reality for other people, but how I have conceived them in my own mind, or even what they symbolise for Us- I make Serra my mother then my mother and I discuss the World. So what it means for the people I describe does not matter, whether my picture of them is a hyper-realist one or a bad cartoon, distorted as George Grosz but also completely missing the point. Or even, not how I see them but what symbol I can make of them, for the work I do here. (Do I protest too much? I mention someone’s severe pain. I don’t want to disrespect, and I do want to talk of it.)

We talk of looking for work.

It’s odd. I came in, bouncing, tiggerish. I had been joking, fooling. Like this morning, with Peter talking about difficulties changing signatories on a club bank account. You take your passport and driving licence- they take fingerprints, DNA- do a strip search… free form associating until it becomes ludicrous. Only with the receptionist, and that woman waiting for her CBT. A cis-woman, I am certain of it, they must have cis in this block as well as trans. She thought my watch was gorgeous.

-How do you feel?

I slump to the floor.
-Do you want to stretch out? She shifts furniture around, and I stretch. Thank you. That is really kind of you.

It’s this job I could apply for, working on anti-trans hate crime in Scotland, lobbying, training, networking, campaigning.

I am in the garden (writing, now.) “Would you like a cup of tea? They’ve just made a pot.” Oh, OK. “That would be lovely, thank you.” Rather than going in to get it, not to be any trouble, I let her bring it to me.

It would be a chance for reasonable work. They might not judge my two years of “sorting my head out” too harshly, my dreadful CV. And with Serra is the first time I think of this job as interesting, as worthwhile possibilities, as something I could enjoy, rather than another judgment and rejection, or failure and despair like the last three. And, she says, I could tell them who I am, and I think yes, possibly my word would be enough, even though I could not prove it. Though right now- Saturday evening- it feels like only a chance for rejection, or failure. And a dreadful faff. So strange, how moods move.

Monet, Femme à l'ombrelle, tournée vers la droite

The strong personality

Here am I in a state of confusion, in paranoid speculation-

-an adjective. “Ridiculously paranoid”? “Almost paranoid”?

about two people who might not even have met plotting against me. Mmm. “Plotting against me.” Ridiculous, overweeningly solipsist paranoia, clearly. Yet- that behaviour of one is so bizarre, of the other so much of a piece, that-

No-one would ever recognise their own insanity.

Hearing my dreadful cough- I feel no other impairment- someone said I should see a doctor. Right back at you: she wears a thick jacket and two other layers, while in the hot weather I am in a light, short sleeved dress. Are you malnourished, or something?

There was I, writing in praise of cruelty one gets away with, and am now flummoxed and scunnered. Man boasted to me this morning of the head teacher saying he was the most impressive probationer the school had had. This is a good story, but a sad boast thirty years later. Another man seems a complete fool- “unconnected to reality” says my muse, hmm, maybe not that bad. He spent the first half hour of the meeting trying to get Skype to work, which would have been more forgiveable had he not spent the first half hour of the previous meeting in the same way. He then spent time blithering about irrelevancies while another thought of practicalities like, will we be able to shower anywhere that week? Though S remembers bathing once a week as a child, and having a quick rub down after playing out. Current ideas of hygiene are strange, historically.

Not so bizarre. “You’re mental!” he told me, appreciatively. Grinning, I agreed.

That situation appears like very early childhood, said Serra Pitts the gender clinic psychotherapist. You react like you did to your mother. All your feelings are distress and frustration. Well, I continue, and if I say anything negative about that situation I will find ready agreement from others. Again, right back at you. Serra, I react to you like my mother, recounting tales of my advancing understanding and maturity. I say it’s like transition. I don’t know why I want it, I just do. I don’t presume to understand the brain architecture, but it is hypothalamus stuff.  And I don’t have to make grand plans about exactly how things will be in five years, just decide what I want to do today. Oh, that’s very good, you say. Gold star!

I want to boast about those texts.

-I think your gorgeous!
-I think you’re right!
-I take it your home now
-Nah, texting by moonlight as I pedal along.
-Yeah right lol xxx

This led to some questioning with Serra whether I really am wholly gynaephile, and if I were not what that would mean for My Identity. Better not to cling to it if it is untrue. Better not to doubt it if it is true…

The moon was full, casting shadows from a clear sky. My rear light was not working: a car tooted to warn me. I decided at the time to enjoy it, though it was not merely comfortable and later I was cold, huddling under the duvet. I thought I would write in a chronological way about the open mic night, and maybe I still will though in my confusion the thing which pleases me is the gratitude of a woman I have not always seen eye to eye with (whatever that means) at my easily given yet sweetly generous last sentence in a letter. We are not necessarily nice people, but kindness and gratitude for a moment brings us together. And Fran’s comment, which consolidated my confusion and freed me to write this post.

Ingres, the Virgin adoring the Host


Why should I be taking hormones? Dr Lorimer’s answer was, to prevent osteoporosis. Now, I have no wish to have a break as easily as I now have a bruise, but don’t think that is a huge risk. What Dr Lorimer said makes no sense to me, and is inconsistent with what he said before: I said I was lacking in energy, and he proposed testosterone. I said I would agree, if it would get me more motivated. His endocrinologist colleague proposed instead norethisterone, synthetic progesterone. It is indicated for heavy periods, not something I have suffered from.

Yet it could be that the only reason to take oestradiol indicated by studies sufficient to back licensing a preparation, is to avoid osteoporosis.

Oestrogen is so important to the culture. The name comes from Eastre, Germanic Goddess of Spring and fertility, from which we get the word Easter. The suffix is from the Greek for Begetter. Women have strong feelings about HRT, not all related to peer-reviewed double blind large-scale studies, and doctors’ recommendations for it seem to change by fashion as much as rational prognosis.

I could, I suppose, find out about the differences between oestradiol and oestrogen, norethisterone and progesterone; normal levels in pre- and post-menopausal women; and documented effects on such things as felt energy levels, emotional lability, and motivation. The problem is that I don’t believe finding these things out will give me any more control over those things.

I don’t know whether they affect the softness of my skin or levels of facial or body hair. I have grown breasts because I take hormones, but I don’t think they are growing now.

I like to think I would like a rational reason for taking, or ceasing to take, my pills. In cis women, they increase the risk of breast cancer and stroke. Yet I don’t look for one, perhaps because I do not believe it. It felt like I became hugely labile when I came off them suddenly, but I was stressed at the time and going back on did not seem to change things. I can’t be certain of anything.

So I keep taking the tablets. Perhaps they are a symbol of my femaleness, a link to womanhood. I feel my feminine character is more important. I like to think I don’t need a symbol.

Ostara, Johannes Gehrts

At the Gender clinic IV

At Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic, Serra the psychotherapist grants me absolution over something which puzzles and shames me- or helps me find it for myself, which is better.

At the election, I felt it would be good to campaign for the Green Party. It seemed like a desire: to put leaflets through doors, to support our candidate, her motivation and her activity. Yet I did not, when others were doing it or on my own. I wondered at this. I have read that the best liars are the ones who believe their own lies, and wondered if this was me, pretending to a moral position others would find attractive without the reality of it. Nor was I certain how to distinguish a real desire from a fake one like this: I would like to place some reliance on conscious judgment as well as what I unconsciously do. I would feel more in control, even if that feeling was an illusion.

She called it the difference between what I want and what I feel I should want. It is alright to rebel against the Shoulds, to be myself. I am not conflicted, not really.

The day before, I saw Dr Lorimer, and asked him about the colo-vaginoplasty, which I had thought of asking since I first saw him twenty months ago. He said he might refer me to a surgeon. Oh! What do I feel about this? It is not the same as my previous surgery, as what I have now is so much better than what I had before that. Yet my opening scarcely accommodates two phalanges of a finger. It brings up old stuff, of the horrors of dilation and my sense of shame at failure.

I Want an opening in me, though I do not understand, though I am entirely gynaephile. It cannot be social pressure. I remember my mother’s adhesions after her bowel operation, for the removal of a cancer, and how sick they made her- but surgery has moved on a great deal in twenty years. Serra can help, giving me ideas about how to contact people who have had the operation. She herself has heard both good and bad experiences of this op from her patients.

I had expected Dr Lorimer to discharge me, and instead he referred me to his colleague Dr Lenihan. I thought, why should I see her, what good would that do me? My appointment is in November, and I may not attend. But I love to see Serra, who says lovely things, making me glow-
Because I believe them, she says-
and because I feel I am growing and changing and she helps.

I also asked him why take hormones, and he said, to avoid osteoporosis. Again, that makes little sense to me. People report a huge gain in energy on HRT, and it has seemed to affect my emotional lability. I should have challenged him, perhaps. Perhaps it is true.

I noted after that I said about that, how our unnamed understanding is real. (Today, Saturday, I feel such happiness having had a text from her.)

I make connections, I talk to people in the street, and that day I tried a high risk one: a woman, talking on her phone by the pedestrian crossing, said “He likes me!” I turned to her and said “Congratulations”. This merely confused her, it was not a good connection, and it will not put me off.

I told Serra of the Oresteia, and she said “I love hearing you on that play.” It was the right play at the right time for me. It made me understand it better.

Zhao Mengfu


A man died in an industrial accident in a car factory. The machine was referred to as a robot, and because it was first tweeted by Sarah O’Connor, a journalist, the angle was that it was a death like in Terminator. I read of this over Naz’s shoulder, and commented that it was ridiculous. He agreed, and was happy to chat.

It is an industrial accident. We only hear of it because they have an angle to horrify us. Our conversation moved onto Greece, with whom he has no sympathy- “They have maxed out their credit cards. They want to continue spending on their credit cards.” I mentioned Keynes, and he said it was a balance. Greece should sort out its tax system. Our in-work benefits were too generous: simply take people out of tax, which is better than one system to take money off people then another to give it back. He knows people who have lived on benefits for decades, and he thinks it wrong.

I started talking about my experiences in Oldham, but when I mentioned arranged marriages he cut me off. He has an arranged marriage with someone from India, it is just his culture. He is a successful businessman, his brother has a business, his father has a business. Other people should be self-reliant.

Disagreeing, I do not want to convert him but hear why he feels this.

At Charing Cross I listened to an obese man stating quietly but determinedly what he would do, and bemoaning being 26 next day- so old! Then Lucy and Nick sat down. Lucy is cis. Nick is painfully thin, flat chested but petite, with a feminine face. He needs T. She does group work, art with mental health, dementia and learning difficulties among other client groups. She bemoans how difficult it is to get everyone’s name, and how important.

-What do you do?
– I connect with people. Like I’m talking with you now.

She accepts that, not everyone might. Our conversation moves to wild swimming and how lovely it feels, so I tell her of Loch Caolisport, how it is so shallow so that it warms in the sun.

Oh, that is so lovely! Lucy starts to rhapsodise. Imagine how beautiful, to just relax into the water, out in the open in the sun, far from the shore yet able to stand up… Nick, how do you think swimming outside would differ from being in a pool?

Nick grins shyly but says nothing, and I realise she is here as a paid escort rather than a friend.

Stuart Lorimer is quite friendly. He orders blood tests, and I am typing now having waited forty minutes for a phlebotomist and anticipating at least another hour, at the rate they are going. I thought he would discharge me, as I do not need surgery.

I want to know why would I be taking hormones, now. He says purely to stave off osteoporosis. Perhaps I should have challenged him, because they seem to have an effect on energy and lability. He refers me to Penny Lenihan, when I thought he would have discharged me. I quite like coming into London, but am unclear why I would want to be here. He gave me a feedback form, and I wrote that everything was lovely.

Rubens, the descent from the cross

Positive thinking

I told Serra at the gender identity clinic about my visit to the post office. She said, perhaps it was a success even though the woman did not complete her transaction. Perhaps she had not entered the door of a shop before. Perhaps she had only needed the practice, not the transaction itself. I had thought my view of the incident was positive, but Serra did better.

I woke early on Friday, anxious about Saturday- I had not arranged a lift, I had a lot to do, there was the encounter later. It all mattered. Instant resistance to the emotion. I should not be feeling like this, it should not get to me like this. I feared it, feeling inadequate. I know where the resistance comes from. It is a judgment from childhood, when I took the judgment into myself. Yet the anxiety moved me to email, to deal with the transport at least. It made me do what I needed to do. The resistance did not stop it. I saw the resistance quickly, and knew it was false to me, now, however it saved me in the past.

Thursday, I sat outside in the sun and read. I have little to do. I felt bored and lonely. Serra connects my words about my need for a lift, when everyone’s car is full- “I need someone to make space for me”- to this feeling. I have suppressed, feared and hated my feelings. I come alive to them. With practice, I may even come alive to my wants and desires. They cannot be rationally explained, but they do make me happy. That is why I want to extend my time with Serra, possibly three extra sessions: I am extending my way of thinking, feeling, perceiving, being, accepting my reactions, and she may help me do this.

I do not want to fall back.

I was in her room, looking down and to the side, staring at my date of birth on her file. I noticed. “I am not looking at you.” Because I felt anxiety, which was then paranoia about the following day not going well. I was hurting. I can meet your eyes when I connect to my joy.

You care. It makes you alive, she says. Some people suppress emotions-
-like Permafrost. Steve Hauptman’s analogy pleases her. I am defrosting.

In the waiting room I met a bloke from rural Greece, who told me how stereotyped people were there, the men so macho- he mimed- the women so feminine- he said, high pitched. He does not see his mother. He has told her: she realised. “You want to be a man.” Oh! She spoiled the surprise!  I love his self-deprecating humour. He has come here for first assessment, aged nearly forty, after getting hormones privately. When I came here in 2001 they would not treat anyone who had gone private at all. He has curly side-burns.Then a doctor calls for him by a female name, and I feel such sadness.

Cranach, Madonna and child

Gender counselling III

I feel completely powerless.
-There’s your power, said Serra.
Oh! Yeah.

There’s the hook. Details: I told her I felt completely powerless, and she referred back to an incident I had described. So, what happened? What did you see? What did you do?
-I did that. Well, I had to, for this clear reason.
-Uh-HUUH, she said, grinning. Okay, it was not just for that reason, though I was not clear on that at the time.
-There’s your power, she said. You make connections. Yes, I do.

That was Friday. Yesterday was completely wonderful. I shone. I may unpack this more later, but I clerked the Quaker Area Meeting, and did it beautifully, getting through business expeditiously, giving people space to express their hearts’ leadings, which they did: I have created a space at our AM where we can open to each other, which is what I have worked to create over the last two years, and it came together Yesterday. I wrote a minute expressing those leadings compendiously yet elegantly. Then after, I had a drink with H.

My ankle’s a bit dicky, so I did not cycle to Meeting today. Bit hung over, bit tired after the so successful Effort I put in yesterday, then the glorious encounter.

I had the thought, there are two completely wonderful, unlooked-for things in my life. Both could end at any time. (There are many other wonderful things in my life, and I suppose they could end too- like life itself! Yet these two are the things I have fretted most about ending.)

I had felt, I am not in control. They could end. The thought has horrified me, even paralysed me. Yet this morning I had the thought, I am still an actor. I am not merely blown around by winds, I am responding. Would I want to be moving other people like chess pieces? Tempting though it is- it is the theme of “The Captive” in In Search of Lost time- I have regretfully to realise that would be boring and unpleasant too. Serra asked, “What would you prefer?” It is hard to think of anything.

So, panicky stress- These Things could END!
then the realisation from Serra that I cannot control, but I can influence, respond, entice

I am beautiful. That is the key to it- I am worthy of life– these realisations calm my panicky terror like a Mother visiting her hysterical infant in the cot, and picking him up. I have seen myself as worthless, and now I am valuing myself. Things fall into place.

It felt like I only have power to push people away, to turn my face to the wall, yet Serra showed me my true power, to make connections, to turn my Love on people and charm, heal or move them. If I try this in terror, lacking confidence, and fail, it increases my confusion and immobility. In that incident, Serra said, “You were Open”. Yes, I was.

Boldini, profile of a young woman