Joy and Discipline

The problem with letting your body love what it loves is, how would you know?

I am a human being in society, and society defines what is good or not good to love. I know that exercise is good for me. I want to keep fit, so that when I need physical endurance I can do what I need to do. I know that the body keeps up the capacities it experiences a need for, so that in zero gravity muscle tone diminishes even if people exercise. If my heart’s capacity is regularly exercised it is good for it, and though a man I know died from a heart attack just as he got home from a cycle race, that is anecdotal evidence and the scientific consensus is-

but scientific consensus can be wrong- think of all the work defining Ptolemaic astronomy, specifying the epicycles-

and it is scientific consensus mediated to me through society, and influenced by the same society as I am-

I motivated myself to exercise by counting the climb I made. One run involves a climb of 489 feet according to Google Maps, another is 997 feet. I would climb the height of Mount Everest, 29035 feet, before 31 December and I started a document, no app required, to tot up the distance cycled and height scaled. I am ahead of schedule. If I do a particular shorter run, today, Wednesday 29th, I will have scaled the height of Mont Blanc.

Society tells me what it is good for me to desire, and what is not. I can be certain the desire to express myself female comes from me, because society opposes it so strongly. I don’t believe in any particular cause of it. I have a story of the birth of my love of writing. One grandparent taught me Scots dialect, another Cockney rhyming slang, and I saw the breadth and expressiveness of language. But that is at least unobjectionable, and arguably admirable.

I found counting the feet climbed, seeing progress to a target, increased my motivation to go out cycling, and I still found myself just staying in. It seems to be a desire formed under social pressure. I should keep fit. It is good for me. Being out in the sun alleviates depression. It feels like a more meditative state, being aware of my surroundings and the effort I am making (not too much, don’t tire too quickly) in contradiction to scrolling facebook, an addictive, pointless, bad thing to be doing.

Society sees scrolling facebook as a Bad Thing, but it is for my self-discipline to limit it. We don’t, as a society, act together to control the company. Being fat is a bad thing, but society does not limit the sugar and fat content of addictive foods.

Taught to deny and suppress my feelings and not to notice if I was working beyond capacity, I was stressed beyond endurance within three years of leaving university, but with no way of limiting my stress, so that I was sacked. In my next job the way I found of limiting my stress was going off work depressed, and I have no better way of limiting stress now than withdrawing. What do I love? I love writing. As I do not get paid for it, it does not seem enough.

There remains discipline. I ought to exercise, and if I transition then I ought to conform to female beauty standards. I should fit in. Then I read a comment: a fat nonbinary person, wrestling with their gender, wondered whether they imagined they were nonbinary because as a fat person they had failed to perform womanhood.

The comment was below Abigail Thorne’s latest video, in which she ate cake after being frightened to, because that is “bad”- not conforming to the requirements of female beauty. Cake is a naughty self-indulgence. I like eating cake, but only with others. It feels like a treat which relaxes me into sociability, and that relaxation seems pointless when alone.

There would be some pleasure in the sunshine and the beauty, if I cycled. The self-indulgence, the Bad Thing, would be to just not go. So, should I indulge myself? I want to take care of myself, and that could mean either developing or resting myself. None of these words seems to help find what would be good or right or the thing I prefer.

I went cycling. I have now ascended a height equivalent to Mont Blanc. There was some pleasure in it. Not going would have felt a bit yuck, as if I had shown myself mediocre, again. That judgment forms under social pressure, and may be true, but does not seem so connected to my heart impulse.

What makes me come alive? Writing something, yesterday, did. It may even be published. That was me being my best self, creating something beautiful. It made me totally happy. It was not governed by any rules- don’t eat the cake, do take exercise. It was just Me. I would like more experiences like that. “Do what makes you come alive.”

And on Saturday I felt liberated. That felt awesome.

I decide what I want by predicting how it will make me feel, and that does not work. Sometimes I want something simply because I want it- a big thing, such as transition, which has made me feel miserable, scared, alone, and also made me able to be myself with other people rather than trying to put on an act. Or a small thing, like writing. I feel all sorts of things: I want to manage my feelings to feel more comfortable, but that would be an all-consuming project, if it were possible at all.

Reasons to be cheerful

Depressed by the social media war, I asked a trans group for things to cheer me up.

One shared about her covid inoculation. Though she lives some of the time presenting male, and her NHS records are in her male name, she was treated in a friendly and professional manner when she turned up expressing female, and this pleased her.

Another said she had finally seen the gender clinic psych. Well, life goes on, and people transition, however loud the hate storm gets. People talked of prescriptions and surgery consultations.

Others wanted to share how they had made mic-drops on twitter. (I understand a mic-drop is saying something so brilliant no-one can follow it. I’d be mortified if I had misunderstood and it was running off the stage shamed.) That really isn’t cheering. I’d backandforthed with someone who repeatedly demanded if I thought Karen White was a woman or not. Bloody Karen White. Well, she had an appointment with the gender psychiatrist but didn’t turn up. Prisons don’t put trans women in with the cis women without strong evidence they are trans women. This trans excluder thought she had a killer argument: if I said “no”, I would be admitting trans women might not be women. If I said “yes” I was affirming a rapist.

That shows the trouble of only commenting in forums which agree with you. I answered as if she was arguing all trans are therefore bad. Hitler was German, but that does not mean, by itself, you should distrust Angela Merkel. Then I remembered Hitler was Austrian. A formal name would label this a logical fallacy, but I can’t recall which one it is. However, Karen White is not used for logical argument, but to foment fear, to create an association. The phobe reads about trans women, and thinks of Karen White. She wants others to do so too. We don’t judge all doctors by Harold Shipman, or all cis women by Rosemary West.

I glance at the title I gave this post and see I am going off topic.

I felt really good this morning. I felt an unaccustomed burst of energy, and wiped the bathroom- I didn’t clean it, but it’s a lot cleaner- did my 13 mile cycle ride, and did a load of washing by hand. Then I attended the Quaker meeting. The sun was warm on my back, the daffodils are out, I bid a cheery hello to lots of other cyclists, and felt I was climbing the hills well. Meeting was gentle, with reminders that love circulates there. I was thinking of this before people spoke of it.

Possibly I should avoid social media. The trans group is mostly about new fronts opened by the anti-trans campaigners. On Zoom, as opposed to facebook, I find myself affirmed. I was with LGBT folk yesterday.

Or, possibly, around equinox- that was Saturday, 9.37 GMT- all reasons to be cheerful are qualified.

After the winter rain,
Sing, robin! Sing, swallow!
Grasses are in the lane,
Buds and flowers will follow.

Coming out of covid- I’ve just been invited to book a vaccine- might feel the same. We remember the bad. We know the good is ahead.

Dialogue of the Inner Voices

Anxiety is fear, curdled.

Two of my inner voices have been diametrically opposed, struggling, both miserable, both mostly unconscious, manifested in lassitude and misery. Both want my good. Both are Welcome. My Frontal Lobe, as the conscious part of this process, this animal, this Euarchontoglire called Abigail, invites both into consciousness, to see if they could be brought into dialogue.

One is resentful, frustrated and angry. It wants me to justify my existence, to have meaning in my life. It wants to stretch me and push me to achieve. The other is resentful, frightened and hurt. It feels bullied by the Stretcher. I call it my No. No, that is unreasonable. No, I will not go out cycling and struggle up hill, being cursed as weak and useless.

Fear, unheard, slops around inside like stagnant water, like bilge water in a ship. It could have been useful. It warned of a threat. And now it has gone bad, detached from the threat it warned of, attached to anything it can slime. It becomes anxiety. It does not mean there is no real threat, just that finding that threat is more difficult, and needs patience; and anxiety may linger after I find the threat, unsure that I really have dealt with it.

So the Frontal Lobe, the Love, the Reconciler, to make this a positive sum game brings both voices into separate rooms, lavishing praise and gratitude on both for their care and labour, with a hint of a suggestion that their aims might be achieved better if a few small adjustments were made.

There is the Stretcher, which the Protector wishes to call the slave-driver. It wants me to achieve. I am competitive, and it encourages me this morning to go cycling. The Protector fears the slave-driver will get angry and frustrated, and start to bully uselessly. Harder! Faster! I cudgel myself, scourge myself, as I go up hill too slowly for my liking, not wanting to go down a gear because I should be able to do it in this gear. The Stretcher is continually bamboozled, as well as resentful, that this is not as easy as it thinks it should be.

Well, the lie it imbibed was that things are easy and its performance should be perfect. It has fixed at quite a young age, this aspect of myself. At that young age, I decided that difficult things should appear easy and require little effort, and the Stretcher, frustrated, resentful, angry and mostly unconscious, affecting me unawares, has not learned how to- drop a gear, literally and figuratively, to break the task down, take it slower, make it easier, take the time necessary to learn it, build up gradually.

With Love, the Reconciler thanks it for its determination to achieve and develop, and suggests it might achieve these worthwhile goals more easily by breaking the task down. That is a long hill, steep in places. I notice that if I drop to a gear lower than I ever use at the steepest parts, I can rotate my pedals quicker, and be in a higher gear later on when it is less steep. I have noticed that the cyclists who pass me turn their cranks much faster than I do. Possibly that is a technique which would make me more efficient. I read about it last century, I think, this idea of Cadence, around the time I found that a simple change to my breaststroke technique made me a faster swimmer.

(Last century. There’s the resentment, the self-blaming. How stupid I am, how stupid these voices! That resentment does not help. Turn it round. Here I am learning ways new to me, which will improve my performance. I will achieve the goals of both!)

Now is what matters.

I am in conscious incompetence. These are decisions to make. Gear 2.1 is much lower than 2.2. I can go up hill in 2.2 but it is a struggle. Then 2.1 feels too low. I may learn which works best by trying both, or perhaps work harder for a bit in 2.2 then go back to 2.1. Trying different combinations may help me learn. Bringing this to consciousness and putting it into words, doing something I don’t know will work in a spirit of enquiry, may help me improve.

This is the aim of the Stretcher.

The Reconciler has also been aware of the Protector, also in its room. The Protector is anxious. It has been scourged and cursed before, it will happen again! But the Stretcher does not seem so angry and frustrated. The Protector might be enticed. Sunshine is good for me. Birds and blossom are beautiful. The Protector wants me to achieve, too, just not to be bullied. Bullying is a No.

The Reconciler hears that demand. No Bullying. Well, that seems reasonable. The Stretcher does not realise it is bullying, that is the problem. Do you see it wants our Good?

Mmm. The Protector is not absolutely convinced, but willing to suspend judgment for the moment. Then its anxiety comes over it. What if my tyre punctures or Something Bad Happens? It has worked so hard to protect me, it needs my care itself.

Most of the time I was out, the Protector was grudgingly admitting that the Stretcher was behaving more sensibly, though some of the time one or the other panicked and needed reassurance. Well, I am a sensitive soul, and that is a blessing, and I need my own love and reassurance. The Reconciler worked to reassure both.

This is a work in progress. And I notice my progress, and give each of these voices, and my whole self, necessary praise and thanks.

Self-consciousness and self-knowledge

Self-consciousness and self-knowledge may be incapable of coexisting. I have one when I do not have the other. Trans people may be particularly self-conscious. Other people call self-knowledge “flow”.

Cycling last week, with the brilliant new idea of being kind to myself, not pushing myself too hard, I was more efficient and enjoyed it more. And today I was back to old habits, resenting the hills and the wind, and going in a higher gear than necessary. Then I pedal more slowly. I went to the supermarket in the sunshine, which could have been more enjoyable. Coming back, some of the time I was in a lower gear, sometimes not.

In self-consciousness, I have strong ideas about how I should appear, and never match them. So I am struggling against the pedals and the hills. In self-knowledge, the prompting to change down a gear feels instinctive, with no gap between perception, desire and act. My competitiveness manifests in both- I want to go as fast as possible, I want to improve- but I know that revolving the pedals faster in a lower gear is more efficient, so in self-consciousness, beating myself up about my weakness, I do less well.

Yes. I have been transitioned eighteen years, and I still want to make a man of myself, and am continually frustrated and disappointed at my failure to do so. Cycling, I look at the blossom and like it but I also look at the houses on the ridge and think of the hill to get up to them. I am still pushing myself, testing myself all the time, demanding more, at the same time that I spend most of my time in my living room. Pushing myself is pleasure and fear. I still bully myself, push myself, even as I do less and less. If I can just be in the moment, cycling, rather than thinking of past and future and how I might appear, I might enjoy it more. Wu Wei, the Do-Not do of the Tao, relates, as does the idea of unconscious competence, bringing something into consciousness only to fine tune it.

I want to cycle, and I want not to. There are two impulses. The desire for fresh air, sunshine and exercise may just be because intellectually I know I ought to want them. Or that is how I care for myself, for my body.

If I ceased to see myself as worthless, thinking I should be doing better than this, I might be freed. My judgment of myself might have value were it not so harsh. It is a response to external judgments in the past. Its intention is to keep the child me safe, and to improve me. It wants to help, but it- she- is in a panic all the time. Here, I construct an intellectual understanding, in words, so as to let go the demands  and just be.

Tina observed, the contrast in me between the calm serenity of my usual presentation, and these bursts of utter frustration. She said, “Those parts of you don’t understand each other, or will not talk to each other, or upset each other tremendously”.

I mother this panicking aspect of me.

Then I went out the day after, and cycled in conscious awareness. After that, I met Pauline over Zoom. She agreed to explore this way I am becoming more conscious of feeling, and how my feelings conflict. I would not have said I was an anxious person, and now I discern anxiety in myself, and find it far too great. I should not be anxious. I told her of anger holding sadness down, and now they are not fighting.

She understands. Ignored feelings shout louder. Feelings are a flag-waving exercise, drawing my attention to my need. Or, acknowledging that a need is met. For anxiety, I might ask what the need is.

For anxiety, I think it is my own judgment of myself that is too harsh, and that makes me anxious, not wanting to do anything that will be judged.

Part of me despises my agoraphobic lifestyle. Despises is a strong word. It fits, though.

I have a need to contribute and be valued. I want freedom, both freedom to act and freedom from the demands. I need affirmation and acceptance.

My great No has removed a great deal of the stress.

She has a picture of me with the neighbour I fear, playing the piano together “uproariously”. Possibly this fits my sadness and my anger with it, now playing together. There is self-acceptance.

She suggests I allow my unconscious feelings expression. Could I improvise it on the piano? My thoughts on this are of possible sounds that would make, and of the fact that I rarely play and rarely improvised when I did, I just played from scores. So there is the old negative, oh that won’t work, but it is not as strong as before.

The sounds do not have to be explained. Possibly they cannot be put into words, but the conscious intention to give this time shows them they might be accepted and that might bring them into consciousness. The process acknowledges them, begins the acceptance which may lead to perception.

If it does not feel safe to come out in words, not requiring it to express itself in words may be helpful. It’s like sitting in a clearing and she feels her level of reverence and acceptance might allow a deer to cross the clearing. Odd. Someone once said I was like a deer in the woods, peering out shyly.

Things you have no memory of may be expressed in art therapy.

So I decide, I will stand in the middle of my room, and allow that part of myself to make a movement. In the evening, I do this, and look around the room. There is a moment when it suddenly feels inauthentic, and I stop. The next morning- this morning, as I write- I stand there again, with that intention, and say “Welcome”. The image of a Mexican standoff comes to mind. Lots of people are pointing guns at each other, with shifting alliances. One hesitantly begins to lower his gun. After sunset I stand barefoot in darkness, say the word of power that initiates the ritual- “Welcome”- and start to dance.

Well. I know I should not say, oh, there’s this worrying symptom with my heart, and then go silent- but this is huge for me. I think I make progress.

I have no idea who painted this, but it fits.

Touch

I have not hugged anyone since 6 March. The attention and touch to my bare skin yesterday moved me. Human fellow-feeling also moved me- texting can be beautiful- but I need reassurance of my value, and caring touch made me feel better. I will wring all the pleasure I can from the experience.

I saw my pulse was low, and did something about it: search to find if that’s a problem, phone the NHS, speak to my GP. She arranged the CCG. Then on Thursday evening I found myself thinking about it. Would I be OK? I analysed this. Possible heart problems are a thing people might be worried about, and worried people might think about the thing they were worried about. I had done all I could about it for the moment. So possibly I am worried. I’ve just looked up the difference between worry and anxiety: here it is. Worry is verbal, in the head. I used the word correctly, even though I could not have specified the difference.

Next day, I went to the surgery. Because of The Disease, you go in and announce your presence, then wait outside. Only where a physical examination is necessary do you see a professional in person at all. I chatted to a man of eighty, who arrived on an electric scooter. Someone was going to give him a lift, but had not turned up. He told me he was fed up, and made clear he meant he wanted to die. He had had a cataract operation in February, and when he went in they had told him they had to remove the lens. They really should have told him that before, as that is how you treat a cataract. Then they told him he could not drive for weeks, and now he has double vision sideways and all the opticians are closed. It is good to chat. He had been in the army for ten years, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a formative and terrifying experience for him.

A woman turned up in a mask. “That looks professional,” I said. It doesn’t have the vents or filters, she said, it’s from her husband’s work, and more a dust mask than an airtight mask.

I decided to identify this tree. I think it is a silver birch. Say if you think different.

The nurse, in an apron of plastic film, a hair covering, and a mask, chatted away as she fastened sticky contacts to my skin: chest, abdomen and ankles. That was the caring touch. It mattered, despite her latex gloves. She so misses touching. She is a huggy person. “Normal sinus rhythm,” she said, and the doctor confirmed.

Going without touch matters, as a human being, a primate, an animal; and it is how things are. I will accept it.

Then I went off for blood tests. I was challenged at the door: have I had a cough or fever in the last seven days? No, and not a headache, loss of taste and smell, or lesions on the toes either. The phlebotomist had to have a good dig around in my arm before finding the vein.

How can you just enjoy cycling? I realised I was pedalling along in a fury of resentment. I resented the wind, I resented the inclines, and when I was working hard I cudgelled myself to work harder. I should not need to drop a gear, here. No wonder I never want to go, though I get some pleasure when out. Yet the most memorable moment of the thirteen miles was stopped at a temporary traffic light, when I stood and looked at the trees. A worker approached the light, opened the metal box wired to it, apologised. Oh, that’s alright, I said. They may have been non-binary and I was keen to identify their assigned gender, just like a straight person probably would be. Something about the hip to shoulder ratio in the shapeless overalls made me think them female, but only the voice (goggles, hard hat) made me sure.

So today I decided I would enjoy the cycling. I looked at the gorgeous pink blossom on two trees. I looked at the many different greens on the foliage, and the shivering wide-leaved grass. I dropped a gear when I felt the need, and may have gone faster as a result. I praised myself for going up the inclines, and fully enjoyed going down. I thought of that resentment: only appreciation and love will do. “Love! Love! Love!” I cried.

I want views from another country, so tag this post Mauritania. Mauritania, in West Africa, has some fascinating rock art.

The Real Self and the Critical Voices II

Cycling would be lovely if it weren’t for the cars. I have been writing verse in my head, coming over. It needs work, particularly changing the first few lines from only being sexual insults, but it has promise:

You’re a s–t
You’re a death-wish driver
You’re a t-t
You’re a one-hand swiver
I would be quite chilled
if your death you willed, not mine
But you place a stranger in mortal danger
you filthy swine

Overtak
-ing should not cause danger
why not brake?
Can I make it plainer…

Last couplet needs done too. I have the rhyme, there is some wit…

There’s anger there. I go into my rational mode. At the CAB we had a trickle of people who came in the day before they were due to be evicted by bailiffs, their furniture placed on the pavement, the locks changed. It wasn’t my problem and I never did get to the bottom of anything they could do in theory, but I remember the volunteers’ distress and wish to rescue them. I am almost certainly going to hit a wall. I don’t see how I can avert that wall. There are rational things I should be doing according to my culture- there are jobs for the taking, if only I will apply, if not pleasant ones. It is up to me.

I find myself deflecting my train of thought. I am thinking of taking notes on my phone and surreptitiously starting the voice recorder, though I have been told the service does not allow it.

My plan, such as it is, is to give my real self a voice. Life does not seem worth living if I cannot consciously be in this part of me which I have called vulnerable bit, real self, inner light, crushed God-

I am taking notes as I go, and I wonder what part of me does the writing.

The critical voices tell me I will make a fool of myself. And- it is me, and I want just to do. Paying attention to what I feel with my fingertips helps get me into the state of Presence which I desire.

I want to push boundaries as far as I can.

I am utterly frightened. I do not know this part I call my Real Self. I cannot predict it- in my imagination, it is merely foolish and ridiculous. It seems OK moment to moment. That teddy bear seems more for looking at than cuddling, so I ask if I can borrow Sally’s scarf. This is pushing a boundary, and she agrees. I want to enjoy its colour and its softness. It has many colours, many tones. It is viscose, so it could be softer, but feels alright.

She passes me her scarf, and I feel anguish. The critical voices are at me again: I am putting it on. I am play acting. Don’t be silly. As I realised before, the internal conflict is far more debilitating than the feeling itself: I could feel the anguish, and it would pass through me, but if I try to suppress it my resistance strengthens it.

I need to be in touch with my own feelings, or I am unable to perceive my world.

Boundaries. I want to push them, but crossing them would be against my own interest. I think of violence.

-Can I rummage through your handbag?
-I think I’d have to refuse that.
-You heard the air quotes even though I did not do the gesture.

Where does the anguish come from? To ask for something, and be given it? From past refusals?

I fear the Real Self because it is weak, overemotional and irrational. I fear my feelings because I fear the consequences of showing them or acting on them. I would act irrationally and so be under threat.

I am conscious of my surroundings. Repeatedly there is a bleep two devices make when connected, followed by the disconnect bleep. It is so expressive: the first ready and hopeful, the second an ending. I am so sensitive to this stuff. There was that DLA client whose brothers had to look after him because he was this sensitive walking down the street, and could not go out alone; but there was something attractive about him, and he had an attractive girlfriend despite his disability. I saw him two or three years later and he looked worn, on some horrible suppressant drug. For me at the time, the sensation of Presence was so rare as to seem a Transfiguration moment, and for him it was sickness. And now I want it.

I want that full sensitivity.

Cycling home in the sunshine, just above freezing, I find my final couplet:

That’s a speeding ton of metal that can kill
Maybe someday you’re this dangerous, it will.

Motivation III

It is like living with a sulky teenager. You get up at a reasonable hour and just before leaving for work in the morning you say, “You know you’ve got that to do today? You will do it, won’t you?” And the reply comes back, “Yeah. Don’t you trust me?” Then in the evening you get home and say, “Did you do it?”

Silence.
-Why didn’t you do it?
-Dunno

Irritating. But I really did intend, and I don’t know why I didn’t. Because I didn’t want to, or thought something would go wrong, perhaps. It is like watching someone else doing something incomprehensible and trying to work out why they did it. I don’t consciously understand my motivations.

I have slime in my bicycle tyre, to seal holes less than ¼”. I cycled to Oundle to the charity shops, and found a Laura Ashley dress. Well, Oundle is a smart area, so has good charity shops. The LK Bennett dress was too small alas. It was terribly hot, and slime actually erupted twice from my front tyre, wetting my legs. That might indicate the hole was too big for the slime to cope. I pumped the tyre up a bit, and my foot pump broke.

So I thought, I will cycle into Swanston, go to the fruit stall, the supermarket, buy a pump and call in at the cycle shop. And I didn’t. So I wondered if I had not because of the chance of something going wrong, or possibly having more to do than usual. Or even J’s suicide. It’s a helpless feeling, thinking I ought to do that and not getting the motivation together to do it. Anne used to say “Action” which was enough to get her in gear.

So I thought I would get the bus. That would get rid of one potential problem. Then actually I cycled into Marsby and bought some food though not as much as I would have, finding that my hand pump could get the tyre hard enough and there were no further punctures, that I noticed. I could just get a new tyre, inner tube and slime but money’s too tight to mention. But having that air leak through my tyre, not the wall of the tyre but the tread, means I could trust it less. Of course if I got a new tyre things could still go wrong but might be less likely to.

I am usually safe for the moment if I just stay indoors. Jesus said, face reality. Build your house on the rock. You know how things are and what you must do, so do it; do not deny how things are. However, not wanting to see quite how bad things are, or to deal with the problems, makes sense to me. I know it’s building a house on sand, when troubles come I am unprepared and my house falls down, and still it feels better now but for the nagging doubts where reality can’t be completely suppressed from consciousness.

Or I am psyching myself up to deal with it, like sitting here hoping motivation will simply develop and I will take action. But, thinking, oh I could take the bus, and finding out my hand pump would work sufficiently even though slime blocked the valve, is something like that: by waiting, I become better able to deal with the problem. Just waiting and not doing anything is not always merely silly.

Part of me is the sulky teenager.

I went to Edinburgh, stayed with my nephew, got to know his fiancée a little bit, saw my sister and my other niece’s partner who seems a decent enough bloke, there was no great coming together but it was just nice and I felt auto-schadenfreude: I was glad I was sad when I left, because sadness at leaving shows pleasure in meeting. It is good to see them. Then I saw my neighbour in the back yard, we chatted away pleasantly, I petted her dog, she said “You seem cheerful,” which I heard as a threat. Obviously you are not depressed.

“Who I am” v “Men in women’s toilets”

I am hopeful about greater rights for trans people, because our arguments are more winsome. We gain sympathy, and the TERFs and conservatives don’t. We lose on logic. “Piss off, you’re a man” they say, and keep reiterating. One TERF identifies as a MERF (Go on, guess-) they are talking of TIMs, trans-identified males, and M-T, male to trans rather than male to female. If a trans woman spends too much time with their websites and twitter accounts, and not with affirmation in the mainstream press from the likes of, say, Margaret Atwood, they can get wearing. I take encouragement from their desperation: But they’re men! Men! Men in women’s washrooms! They just get ignored. “Trans women are women” say female Labour MPs, and here’s Angela Rayner MP, who has an inspiring life story and is just pure dead brilliant:

We are also calling on the Government to reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to change the protected characteristic of “gender reassignment” to “gender identity” to provide proper protection for trans people.

Margaret Atwood, feminist: It is always – ‘What do you mean by the word?’ For instance, some feminists have historically been against lipstick and letting transgender women into women’s washrooms. Those are not positions I have agreed with.

We generate empathy. This is who I am. This is what I wanted, more than anything else in the world. This wins hearts, and where the heart is with us the mind will find a way. Cold rationality has nothing on sympathetic emotion.

This morning I fell off my bicycle again. I hate that road, narrow and busy, with a narrow path by the side that cyclists are permitted to use, which is potholed and muddy. I skidded in a muddy puddle, bent the supports of my mudguard, possibly knocked my derailleur out of alignment and the chain came off. And after, every motorist that passed me without courtesy, just a foot away, without care for my safety, shocked and angered me.

So, I don’t get propositioned, cat-called and touched up in the street. And I can sympathise absolutely with a woman who, having suffered a particularly egregious example, dodged into a toilet and was angry and shocked to see a trans woman. Normally it would be bearable but in that particular situation it was not. There, I have given you two examples where the slings and arrows of quotidian irritation might become too much, and perhaps you can supply your own. I feel if TERFs said, I saw this trans woman in the loo and it creeped me out, it was too much for me after what I had endured that day, they might win more people over. But instead they say, men in women’s clothes, whether trans women or not, might be a threat; and everyone knows they are exaggerating; and trans women cannot be blamed for people pretending to be trans women.

And if one said, I have given birth, I love my body, it is a woman’s body doing what a woman’s body does, and I loathe the simulacrum of a woman that is a trans woman- that might work too, though love of your own physicality need not mean despising someone else’s, nor excluding that person.

So they are reduced to calling us perverts, even paedophiles. It won’t work. Hate never does.

Treating me like a woman

It is nice to be looked after.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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