Sympathy with the devil

EarthriseWe create what we need.

Seeking to enter in sympathy with all human conditions, I pick on the Nazis as a good theoretical example. Certainly they were the baddies. I was pleased to read of the Ustaše that while they allied themselves with the Axis in the second world war, this was a way of building alliances against the greater Serbian kingdom of Yugoslavia, their historic oppressors, historically clients of Russia.

Nirad Chaudhuri tells of the riots in Delhi during partition, that there was an inoffensive Muslim street-food seller, and his Hindu neighbours decided to lynch him. Chaudhuri exhorted them to leave him alone, and go with him into the Muslim areas to defend their fellow Hindus. They refused. I can admire the moral act of Chaudhuri and sympathise with his neighbours, in that situation of black and dark grey.

And with the Estonians who suffered under Russian rule, with Russian rather than Estonian the medium of education and ethnic Russians moved in to their country, who restrict those Russians’ descendants now to tolerated residence but no citizenship.

Where are you, and where does your act come from? A reason may not be an excuse, but may help one understand, may be some mitigation, for people do their best under difficult circumstances and under appalling pressure people do appalling things.

And- if I can sympathise with such monsters, I might even come to sympathise with my own monstrosity, cowardice, stupidity, perverted deviance and uselessness.


No, I do not think of myself only or constantly as those things; and there is an undercurrent of self-loathing in me which I overcome so gradually. It could, I suppose, give rise to loathing of all humanity; and in me it has produced an attempt at sympathy, feeling with all sorts and conditions of people. This is sometimes theoretical rather than actual; it is not my only constant response; it is part of my response to my world.

I am kind.
I seek reconciliation.
I seek the healing of hurt.
The wounded surgeon plies the steel

Picture, title, ideas: I do this with clichés, with the tools I have.


I know some people listening are thinking, “That’s a bit sad”, and- some people are thinking, “Yes. Mmmmmm….”

I heard the first bit, and thought, he is projecting. He thinks his own interest in the ZX Spectrum computer, with its 48 kilobyte memory- it could barely hold that Rich Text File I just emailed- is a “bit sad”. And then he says something positive. Is he projecting then, too?

There will be people who dismiss his interest as a foolish failure to interact with the real world, and there will be people who sympathise- all kinds of human reactions- and all these reactions are in him. Even though he is interested, he judges his interest, and finds it wanting. All those reactions are in me- so I can feel with the man who rejects, and with the man who affirms. Actually, the phrase “that’s a bit sad” was the words used by the man on the radio this morning, but I have not quite remembered the words he used after. They were affirming, but “Yes. Mmmmmm….” is my expression, I think slightly different from his- though I am not sure quite how. Like trying as an adult to make a sound in a foreign language, Japanese or German, or even a different English accent such as Scouse. Others can hear a difference I cannot.

Or it is the way I want to recall it.

In my ritual space, after hearing this, before putting on my gi, I feel playful. Yes, I could channel Qi to my chakras, but that is not the mood I am in, now. Such a wide range of human emotion and reaction in me, that I may relate to so many different humans. Yet with my own accent or idiolect; some seen and recalled, some seen at a slightly different angle. And- of that wide range which I can be in my ritual space, some I can recognise and welcome, some feels strange or frightening- conditioning, it seems.

The All is in me, or its Emanations, with a distinct Clare flavour. So beautiful, when I can bear to look at it.

Emotive argument II

It is an odd feeling, at the refectory: that goes with that, but is not what I want. I do not feel revulsion, exactly, I was eating it only at lunchtime, but I am quite clear that it is not what I want now. D remarks on the odd combination on my plate, bits meant for the other main course, bits from the salad bar, some for taste and some for need- something carbohydrate- and more from impulse or instinct rather than the usual learned habitual response. I normally have a cooked breakfast when I am away, and this morning I did not want one. Someone comments that is “good” of me. Strange that we think of impulses as harmful, and restraint as moral. For me, then, it was instinct and desire rather than conscious restraint, and I think of self-care as morally neutral, just what one does, rather than virtuous.

So I am happy with emotional decision-making. What feels right? What calls to me? What hunch do I have about what will enhance my life, rather than what arguments can I create? Often the arguments feel like post hoc rationalisations not reasons.

We communicate these emotional decisions. It feels good to be with others who feel the same way, and I follow those feelings. A dominant person expresses feelings to mould the feelings of others.

Empathy seems to be a good way to make group decisions.

I want to please people. This shames me, it feels like part of my hiding away, and also pleases me, as a way of getting closeness I desire. Strange. It is what I want.

Odd people as you cannot shout “fire” in a crowded theatre, or incite people to murder, so no-one should incite listeners against a minority group, as that is hate speech. What is the boundary of that principle? There are clear examples of it in Nazi propaganda against Jews, and Hutu calling Tutsis “Cockroaches”, saying we must fight against the oppressors and defend ourselves.

There is hate-speech like that about trans women. Saying we oppress anyone simply by being ourselves is such hate-speech. It declares us as enemies. Derision and disgust reduces our humanity and makes us an acceptable target.

How might we answer hate speech? We have some latitude, because it hurts and triggers us, though it helps to name it hate speech, so we can state why it is objectionable rather than just angrily object. The angry objection without the articulate justification loses sympathy.

Consider the radfem critique- “Trans women” are self-castrated men. This is not hate in itself, though it often goes with hate, but it has no real understanding. It is a hostile understanding from outside, like an Apartheid policeman’s understanding of black people, or an Israeli settler’s understanding of Palestinians.

Why would we castrate ourselves? Try to enter into this empathetically. Not because I am mentally ill, because my depression arises after the desire, not before, unless the desire is followed; nor even because I am a woman, because that is a matter of definition- I am a “woman” if your definition of woman includes gender identity, and not otherwise. I have no idea where that comes from, though it goes with “feminine” aspects of my personality. Because I want to. Because I wanted that more than anything else in the world.

It is kind to treat me as any other woman. It makes me happy.

Mmmm. I accept the utility of the scientific method. It is possible to make objective observations, then theorise, then predict, then check the prediction. I am fed, warm and dry right now because of the scientific method. And- this rational objectivity does not work in human relations, or at least I cannot make it work. I have tried.

How may we relate to each other?

People try to live by rational objectivity. Helen who commented here has a fixed and settled view on homosexuality. She needs that even though she may have no lesbian inclinations: in her church it is important that everyone believe the same things. They have one view of what it means to be human, and what is permissible. Enough of them must want that: if enough of them wanted greater diversity of opinion, they would have it, and the others would learn to live with it or leave.

Or, perhaps, the worship creates such a feeling of togetherness that the people are bound together in fellowship. Mmmm. Understand from inside. They are wrong about queers, and about Adam, but they have something valuable. What is it? And, where may we agree, what do I share with them?

Suzanne Moore storm in a thimble, miles away, which need not affect me at all, and I am in tears of rage with it.

I feel like a child talking to a teacher. She started it! My long explanation of precisely how bores her and breaks down, so before I am finished I am the one getting the strap, and it is not fair. The teacher is The Guardian itself. It is supposed to be progressive, and should not insult trans people.

Onywye. Suzanne Moore wrote in the Guardian with the throwaway line We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual. Irritating but not lifethreatening. Some trans folk objected, and there was a twitterspat.

Julie Burchill then wrote in the Observer a deeply insulting article- calling us “bed-wetters in bad wigs” was not the half of it. Well, I wear a wig, and with such a short urethra, post-operatively, I had some problems before I got my pelvic floor so strong. Lots of women have. The Observer has apologised and withdrawn the article from its website.

Then Suzanne Moore wrote a follow-up. To that teacher, who does not care about the subtleties, it might seem an apology. Suzanne has had friends who were transsexual, apparently.

But to me (subtly and out of the teacher’s attention) it pushes my buttons. It starts with the title. I don’t care if you were born a woman or became one. When does she think I became a woman? At my sex-change operation, perhaps? I have always been a woman. I have always been me. I have had one gender. Pre-transition self-identified trans women are women.

Then she says Some trans people appeared to reinforce gender stereotype going. People comment that I seem more feminine than most women- I am exquisitely attuned to surprise or disapproval in that. It is an old feminist trope for hatred of trans women, though Moore extends it to men as well. I do not wear lace-trimmed skirts to oppress women, but because I like them. If you don’t like being criticised for your clothes or appearance- I assume Moore doesn’t- then don’t criticise mine. Simple, basic empathy.

No-one can speak for anyone else, she says. Moore does speak for me when she attacks the Government. She thinks I should focus on that, and get behind her, so she may insult me with impunity. No. I happen to find the insults the most important thing in the article. Her telling me what I should think makes it worse. She could always attack the Government without attacking trans people.

I am just angry. It brings up my stuff. Someone links it on facebook, I read it (yes I know I should ignore it, but well, I read it) and I get wound up.

Oh and- Julie Burchill objected to being called a “cis woman” to distinguish her from a “trans woman”. It is an ancient Latin prefix, commonly used, and it is the only way to refer to a non-trans woman which does not insult me. “Real woman” “Born woman” “Natural woman” and the rest all include me.

Thanks to these bloggers for support and information.


18 January: I am coming round to defending Suzanne Moore.

She does not think we trans women are really women, that is the thing. She thinks we are castrated men. She thinks if we call ourselves feminist we are faking; she may dislike our “femininity”; she is not going to come round. Even in her latest piece she says something about not liking the word “cis”.

I like what she writes about the Government. She said initially that we should get behind her attacking the Tories, and actually, she is so good at that that I am willing to overlook the odd throwaway line about Brazilian transsexuals.

Yes. It is “trans women/ trans men/ trans folk” rather than “transsexuals”. Yes, omit the “trans” unless it is relevant and necessary, and yes “cis” is the only way of describing non-trans women that does not insult us- for yes, I am born female too. And I know how much people get hurt by these remarks. And, still, hooray for Suzanne Moore, giving Cameron another kicking.

Press Complaints Commission ruling exonerating the Burchill article.

November 2020: Moore “left” the Guardian.

Woman trapped in a man’s body

Snakes 1Tweet from Ricky Gervais: RG: Some transexuals think they were a woman trapped in a man’s body. KP: But what next? “Doctor, I think I’m a gerbil?” “Well you’re not!” 2 January 2013 at 10.03 am.

There are lots of answers to that “woman trapped in a man’s body” line. Here is my favourite. That blog site has not posted since 2007, which is a great shame: here is another beauty: rather than arguing sterilely about the meaning of privilege, We could try reminders that we’re not abstract constructs. In that vein, I thought–if it’s not too personal–we could talk about, well, each other. Go and have a look, you do not have to hunt far here for treasure.

“Woman trapped in a man’s body” is a line I hate, because it oversimplifies, and is wrong, and a line I love, because it explains. Here am I at 46 still finding aspects of myself I hardly dare call “feminine”, which I resent, so that the essential work of loving them is so difficult and time-consuming. I read the phrase, and think, well, that is OK, I am a woman- while parts of me still retort, no, I am a man, and wanting to dress female and use a female name is ridiculous.

And it oversimplifies. I am Me, I do not fit any pre-defined box.

P1000727So, for others.
I had my testicles removed.
That is disgusting and horrible and you are sick and OMFG and-
Well, I am a woman, and my man’s body did not fit me.

And if someone is seeking to understand, willing and able to see me as a person, the phrase might help them grope towards understanding and accepting something so weird I can barely understand it myself.

But if someone does not wish to understand, it becomes a way to reduce me. Rather than seeing this complex breathing human being before him, Gervais quotes the cliché of a “woman trapped in a man’s body” which he then mocks.

I paid to be castrated. You can either do the difficult empathetic work of imagining what it might be like to want that, and do that, or you can ridicule.

Simply not understanding and accepting is difficult and painful, more difficult for the intelligent, who have so little practice in it. And the intelligent can produce an understanding which is wrong, but with their intelligence almost make it work.

It is not as simple as being a “woman trapped in a man’s body”, it is as complex as takes a hundred blog posts for me to explain to myself, leave alone anyone else. And- that phrase might be the key for a beginning of understanding.

At 11.39, Gervais tweeted, I love the fact that my tweets always annoy and please exactly the right people. Haha.  In other words, fuck you, I do not care what you think. Thank you, Ricky, it is always good to be reminded many people don’t.


Never mind walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, I want to walk a mile in my own. High heels are pretty, and all, but why should so many women’s shoes have such thin soles?

Onywye. Some people have no empathy at all. You may have seen the nutcase pastor, Charles L Worley, a Baptist from North Carolina, who wants to take the lesbians, and the queers, and the homosexuals and put us behind an electrified fence. We would die out because we don’t reproduce. Obviously he imagines that we do not have straight parents. But for me the most striking thing he said was that it made him puking sick- “Can you imagine kissing some man?”

Presumably he has some women- straight women- in his congregation who quite like kissing men, and can imagine that easily. He cannot empathise even with his own congregation. He says The Bible and God are against homosexuality, but he is not preaching the word of God: he is preaching his own feelings, his own disgust for other people who feel differently from himself. Whereas Christianity is about Love for others, which must include some attempt to understand where they come from. Not telling them that his way of feeling and thinking is the only way.

Ron Racer has a blokish blog, I quite like it, and here he supports gay marriage while expressing his feeling that gay people are “a bit ‘off’.” He does not think we can be born that way: there might be a genetic predisposition, but “a dick in the butt is a choice!” Well, yes and no. I asked him, can you imagine not being attracted to women, but only to men? So, sex with women did not do anything for you, and your only chance of having your jollies or building a physical relationship was with a man. Then “a dick in the butt” is choosing not to be celibate. Ron, you choose not to be celibate, don’t you? Can you begin to understand that choice now? He replied that in that case he would probably try straight marriage.

Most people can empathise with someone in a directly similar situation to one they themselves have experienced, though some fail even in that. It is a worthwhile struggle to accept others’ choices, because that enables me to accept my own. We who are in a position of weakness get the practice. With thin soles, I feel the ground beneath my feet.


Another thought on Leviticus. Those opposed to equal marriage often cite Leviticus 18:22:

22 Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.

It is more rare for the Oppressors to cite Leviticus 20:13:

13 If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Even the Oppressors realise that the call for Death is nutty, and few of them (except Charles Worley) really support it. So why do they not realise that the condemnation of gay love is equally nutty?