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One is rarely in need before strangers, especially in my withdrawn and isolated state.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.

Knowing you are trans

I am sailing close to the wind on that facebook group. I asked them how does being a woman differ from being a man? What does it mean that a trans woman is really a woman? What does it mean to be a woman? I feel that is different from knowing that transition is right for me: I have found a role I want to play, but do not have the essence of a woman. To say that I am a woman, I first have to say what a woman is.

A difference: not every woman can have children, but every woman deals with issues around female reproduction. A similarity: every woman has the experience of men coming on to her and not taking no for an answer: that is about fucking not romantic attraction. Mentally disabled women suffer more sexual violence than the general population. Trans women have that experience, and it is horrible, though it would be worse aged 13. We have the experience of being heard and respected less, and also the experience of being suspected of male violence, and potential victims of it- when someone says “I would never hit a woman” I can’t know he applies that to me.

That is seeing “being a woman” from a particular feminist perspective, in terms of restrictions. In terms of positives, we might think of being adored, Cat-called, Beautified, Idealized, but that does not happen to every woman and is less likely for us. Beauty is a lot of work, rather than a pleasant state, for most.

Someone said “Read Whipping Girl by Julia Serano” and others said don’t play the TERFs’ game.

People talked of hating breasts or of feeling that they ought to have breasts. That is trans as body dysmorphia. One said what it means to be a woman differs by culture. We can’t say what it means to be a woman, just be the best we can be. Women may have any human characteristic or quality.

My feeling is that the desire for bodily alteration arises from desire for the cultural role. That means that the desire for bodily alteration or hatred of ones body as it is does not indicate that I am a woman, but that my way of being is wrongfully despised.

I knew. I was in Russel Reid’s consulting rooms when he said I should have the Operation. I remember the delight I felt. It is one of my memories of intense happiness, relief, joy, affirmation.

I had intended to transition in September 2002. That was the date I had fixed on in 2000, when I decided to transition. I wanted to prepare. Then in March 2002 I woke in the night thinking how much I envied Vicky, who had multiple sclerosis without remission, and less than two years after diagnosis needed help to move from her wheelchair to a chair. I am thinking of a horrible struggle I saw, of two people failing to get her from her wheelchair onto a stair lift. I don’t know whether the look on her face was pain or mortification. It was not my place to interfere. I don’t know how long she survived after that, we were never close, I knew her as a volunteer at work.

I would have swapped lives with her! No-one doubted that she was a woman! I realised I had to transition as soon as I could.

So, there was the absolute conviction, and intensity of desire, which others now say is proof they are trans, or even proof they are women, and now I have changed my mind and concluded it was about social roles, and valuing my qualities, not about being a woman or even being trans. It was only about doing trans, as the best route I could see to self-acceptance.

That facebook group has just expelled someone for making transphobic statements. Any posts that deny the validity of transgender itself are not accepted in this group. I am close to that line. Trans is about roles, or culture, and not about essence. I acknowledge it exists, even that with the culture as it is that it is necessary. I wish that it didn’t.

Both

I am both a man and a woman, masculine and feminine, male and female.

Of course I understand the disgust- I feel it! The reason we do not associate with each other is that we remind us of ourselves! Like that woman at the showers- hair hanging straight down to the shoulders, as far forward as the edge of the eyes, fringe covering the eyebrows, some sort of 1960s hippie dress in Autumn colours, high neck mid calf long sleeves- the voice was well-practised, light, above the break, and instantly recognisable as trans.

She was as careful not to offend as a whipped dog, and no-one comfortable in their own skin would have been bothered. I felt disgust and pity, and it was because she reminded me of me.

Be fully and completely yourself. Of course you are not responsible for how people react to you! You should not alter yourself to avoid intoxicating others with lust or rage, disgust or pity. I do nothing else. It is an impossible trick to pull off- in a room of three people, there is no sweet spot which will make all of them love, or merely tolerate, me, and usually they do not care all that much. I cannot fit one Procrustean bed, leave alone several at once, and yet I still try. Without knowledge I try to predict others’ reactions, and get it wildly wrong, or forget myself and become embarrassed. Embarrassment is my constant state.

No woman would dress like that. We are not, really, like women, we are ourselves. I want to show extreme soft femininity, and there are other ways women show that. I show weakness. Creeping about in fear, shame and embarrassment increases those feelings. Self-consciousness disempowers.

Letting go of this burden means ceasing to judge my own actions as “manly”, “feminine”, “provocative”, even “weak”. There is the desire, and the judgment opposing it, as I tie myself in knots. The answer is to affirm my choices. Ah, that is my feminine side. This is joyous strong Manhood. I cannot be consistent, or sensible, or womanly, as my self-censorship is incapable of judging these things, either too restrictive or too permissive. That hippie dress is a trans woman’s dress, even if a cis woman might get away with it.

One way is to delight in the condemnations my inner critic throws at me. That is self-indulgent, or selfish, or ridiculous, or cowardly. Well- Yes! Hooray! It is what I want! How could I ever fail to be ridiculous?

I saw my friend dying in hospital, and before that I saw her in conversation, staring downwards, occasionally glancing up to meet my eyes then looking down again. “I’m tired of living and scared of dying,” she said. She had been an Elder then was driven out of her church. Of course it was better for her, expressing female rather than presenting male, or she would not have done it, and it had huge cost, to try to find a trans-woman’s way of being, experiencing the real and imagined dislike of others.

Or there was the educated woman with a less-educated partner who objected to the long words she used. By the time she escaped him she only used words of one syllable.

I cannot win their tolerance. They might not want me to try. I cannot find some rule, some pre-formed way of being that will keep me safe- not “being a man”, not mere transition, not something else. All I can do is be myself and trust in God. But then, I have been practising this, and getting better at it, for years, so encourage myself, and express it better.

Transphobia IV

My mother said, “They want to be disgusting because they are disgusting”. She was talking of homosexuals, a word she could hardly bring herself to say because the thought was so revolting. The thought may have been more revolting to her than the actual person would be- I hope so- if you cut us do we not bleed? Moral disgust is like physical disgust for rotting flesh, activating the same brain area. I can’t be certain. This is one of those filters which prevent some people seeing the humanity of others. Perhaps it would have prevented her. She was a product of her time and circumstances.

“Trans women get a sexual thrill from fooling others into imagining they are women”. Really? Is that all, do you think? Do you know anyone like that? Trans women are people with particular feminine characteristics. Of course not all women are soft like this, but it is an accepted gender expression for women, when we were too frightened to express our femininity as men. I do not have ovaries, but if the law and society call me a “woman” I can express myself as I am. I am not fooling anyone, but expressing myself.

Radical feminism, when it addresses transgender, is a conservative movement. It is femmephobic. When a person identifies as female, what is being defined as female? Is it the breasts? Lips? Ass? Slim waist? Small hands? Batting eyelashes? Flirtatious smile? Long hair? Finger-nail polish? Eyeliner? Lipstick? Submissiveness? Thighs? Heels? Demureness? A want to be taken care of? A want to be adored? Cat-called? Beautified? Idealized? Softness? Quietness? Well, what is wrong with any of that? (Except catcalling). It’s not for everyone. It is for some of us. I would put it more positively, the desire to promote reconciliation and smooth conflict, and not all of those apply to me. If there were not such social pressure to conform to gender stereotypes, perhaps no-one would transition, but right now it is my way to be feminine.

Just as the conservative says, men should not be like that, so the radical feminist’s revulsion comes from her idea that no-one should be like that. We are disgusting because we want to be disgusting. No, I am this way you don’t understand and don’t want to be because it is how I am, or as close to that I can get with the ways of being and expressing myself in the world that I see available. You are not like that yourself. Hooray! Your way of being is beautiful, and I support you in expressing yourself, and oppose the forces that would oppress you. That writer objects to feminists being empathetic to confused and vulnerable people [us]. Empathy is wrong, as it sees us as people trying to live our way in the world, rather than as subhumans or enemies.

That “radical feminism” is conservative because it preserves gender norms. Rather than being freed to express our gender and subvert patriarchy, we would be shamed and bullied into presenting male, and be unable to express ourselves.

As it is conservative, women promoting this view write for conservative publications such as Standpoint and the Federalist, a publication not afraid to promote conservative lies about climate change. Just as they lie about climate change, they also lie about transgender, claiming we imagine all gender non-conformity is transgender.

Consider the risks taken and the effort required to transition, then continually just living and expressing feminine after. The sexual drive is strong, but we take those risks to be our true selves, not to get a sexual high. Who would want to be aroused all the time? My transvestite friend had a week of it, and was sick of cross-dressing by the end. He could not wait to get his acrylic nails off. He dressed to arouse, in short skirts, I wear practical as well as pretty clothes. That is perhaps why he could not make the imaginative leap to see that transition was right for me. The conservative man feels disgust for me, the radical feminist feels the same conservative disgust. Men should not be like that. People should not be like that. I am Human! See that I am Human!

Celebrating femininity

Is there anything in femininity beyond oppression of women? Is there anything positive in it? Is there anything which might be real in an AMAB person, that she would use transition to express her true self, as we generally imagine we have done? I am still thinking of my sternest, least forgiving critic, whom I will never persuade, and her strong arguments, and trying to convince myself that there is, that I have gained something by transition to balance its costs.

I pick on a will to co-operate, and to support, and aversion from competition, which hurts feelings. People have observed women who are not feminine in this way: Eric Berne’s game “Let’s you and him fight” considered a woman provoking battle, as Helen did without counting the cost. And Jesus wanting to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings is feminine in this way. But I am talking of femininity, not how women are. I see it in me, as a thread throughout my life, and think it is beautiful. I have enjoyed court victories, but mainly when I felt I was fighting injustice, exercising an impulse to protect. And having blundered into litigation work twice in my life, I wanted to settle fairly rather than fight.

Arguably it comes from oppression. The NYT had a powerful argument for that: a man sexually assaulted Taylor Swift during a photo shoot, and after she thanked him for his participation. That automatic thank you, smoothing away conflict, at the cost of subservience, self-doubt, even self-flagellation, is instilled into girls and women. Her mother worried she had raised her to be too polite. Possibly it arose in me from caring for my mother’s feelings- yes, really, possibly my mother made me a pansy through wanting too much to make me a “proper boy”.

Also in NYT I read of Michel Foucault’s (or Theodor Adorno’s) term subjectivisation — a phenomenon in which individuals subject themselves to a set of behavioral regulations, and by doing so, acquire a sense of their own identities. My critic has studied and written on Foucault. This is the opposite of Richard Rohr, where today I read The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Surely Foucault would see subjectivisation as a bad thing, a way of creating some sort of false self. For my critic, my “femininity” is an act, a pretense, a thing apart, though for me my whole existence.

So for her, my discomfort in the masculine conversation yesterday, my pleasure in the feminine, would arise from this is not how I am supposed to be; for me, this is not how I am. If I admit the possibility of her understanding being true, that could be a feminine socialised self doubt, where women keep smiling, swallow their feelings, will not rock the boat, are not assertive, are subservient. Seen that way, from the point of view of a woman not naturally subservient who has asserted her right and been repeatedly attacked for it, I get that “femininity” would be revolting. She might note my occasional anger and competitiveness, and see them as my true, manly self. I can be very angry. “I want to control you,” I said to her, forcefully. I feel I was provoked-

and she could wipe the floor with me, then blame me, I deserved it

This is an increasingly competitive world. Twentieth century principles of the good society, caring for all its members and ensuring that all share the benefits of that society, have given way to neoliberal ideals of funnelling all wealth to a tiny minority of capitalists. Having to compete yet being forced into that subservient role against ones natural character would be revolting. Yet if society is not to implode, some people have to salve feelings, and to work for reconciliation and co-operation. I felt that was the real me, so far from how I perceived I ought to be, as a man, that I transitioned. To be who I really am, that is a price worth paying.

Not Cis; not a TERF

My friend loathes the word “cis”. She told me of going to University, where the young ladies had a curfew of 11pm imposed on them, and had to wear a dress for the evening meal on Sundays. Male guests were not permitted after 7pm. She rebelled.

She was amazed and repelled by how compliant the others were. This was in the ‘Seventies, not the ‘Forties. I love her strength and determination. She managed to get round some of the rules, and was part of the pressure for their relaxation. There was no curfew when I went to Uni in the ‘Eighties, though one lad asked when “Lights Out” was, and we got the impression he would have liked one.

Back in the Eighties, feminists talked of “Consciousness raising”. If you could explain to women how oppressed they were by patriarchy, they would become feminists, fighting it. No-one talks of that now. No amount of consciousness raising will drive the soft pink floral sweater from the nation’s wardrobes. Some women see the oppression and fight it, some women love femininity and work with it. I don’t know whether James Damore, formerly of Google, is right that women are generally more co-operative, interested in people rather than things, or whether that is from socialisation or predisposition, but some women are.

Why should she be called “cis”? She rejects the feminine gender stereotype, because she does not fit it. She is a radical feminist: women share reproductive organs, and femininity is merely cultural, merely oppressive. She is a woman, but that does not make her a particular gender, and her gendered expression sometimes fits and sometimes fights the gender stereotype.

I wish she would meet me half way. I would love co-operation between her gender non-conformity and my own, because the gender stereotype, the Patriarchy, oppresses both equally and because I am more interested in people than things, and in co-operation. She called Trans a conservative movement. Tell that to the conservatives, who hate us! I suppose her argument is that we go along with the idea that my co-operativeness, etc, makes me feminine so I should express myself as female. Feminine = Female is a conservative idea. However, I have sought out the way society permits me to be my extremely feminine self- it is transition, which allows me to escape the masculine expectations forced on me. I love floral blouses and dresses, so want women to wear men’s shirts, jackets and ties if they wish; and if they wear dresses I do not imagine that says anything about their levels of co-operativeness or interest in people.

So, she is not Cis, because she does not conform to gender. Not only trans people reject the gender enforced on them. I could argue that it makes a useful shorthand to distinguish those who call ourselves trans or non-binary from everyone else, but she is not having that. She even rejects the idea that we might be particularly distant from the stereotypes, thinking gender oppresses everyone, apart from a few “alpha” males.

I would not presume to state her argument against the word TERF, but she is not hostile she says to trans women, only supportive of the rights of- she would say “biological women”. Calling us “women” sticks in her craw, but it is our way in to freedom.

The lesson I draw from this is that it is a disaster for both trans folk and her kind of feminist that we should be ranged against each other; that the oppression we suffer from Patriarchy, or whatever, is very similar, as is our interest in attacking that oppression. I feel in some cases her side’s objection to us is rooted in revulsion from femininity, falsely enforced on them. Femininity freely chosen is beautiful.

Norethisterone IV

My dear friend Richard explained to me that I transitioned because I misunderstand what femininity is. Well, of course I do, but I feel he simplifies it worse. My father, a pansy, found a virago, and they were married for 33 years. Then 18 months after she died he found another, who is now his widow. He was happy.

We had some difficulty on finding the right word. I want to be- dominated? No, no, yuck, the connotations of leather, pvc, whips and chains revolt me. Subordinated, perhaps. Ruled, even. Those words will do. He says this is inauthentic, a cop-out from the existential duty Sartre called all human beings to. Yeah, right- so tell me again why Sartre had a fifty year relationship with a woman who was cleverer than he was.

I said that if I were a woman seeking a man, wanting to be dominated would be unremarkable, and at that he said no, only equality is acceptable within a relationship. Why should my father not be happy? Or I? He insisted, and then said I misunderstood femininity. He accepted it was cultural. Women are strong. I agree equality is a good model for a relationship, yet feel “Wives be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord” is OK if that fits the people involved- and the other way round, too, for some couples.

What would a gay man know about it anyway, I wondered. Possibly he was projecting, but as we were getting a little heated we agreed to change the subject, and went onto politics.

I have enough norethisterone to have ten nine-day sessions of it, at the dose I had been on. I find that it makes my emotions more intense, so came off it, and the endocrinologist said I should not take it, but I wanted to experiment. At times, more intense emotions could be fun or a learning experience. This is day three.

I arrived a little early, and phoned his house in case he had not left yet. When we had poured the tea, I noticed a tedious chord progression in the background music- I V VI IV repeated, eight semiquavers to each- so unimaginative- and complained about it. “That sounds like Batman”, he said, Nananana nananana… I put my hand up to stop him, embarrassed and peremptory. Ah. Possibly that’s the norethisterone. Its purpose with HRT is to prevent endometriosis, and as I have no uterus, it has no value. My needs and desires have greater immediacy, and then I find myself apologising and explaining.

Sartrean authenticity may be impossible.

Interloper at home

Everyone who experiences themself as a woman is welcome. So I went over for a chat, and am now on the constituency party women’s forum Facebook page.

And looking up at her, beside her friend in the “I am a Feminist” t-shirt I felt like an interloper. What do I have in common with these women? It is just nervousness, but I am wondering what it could be, a shared experience of upbringing, unwanted sexual attention or even a female body that locks me out, makes me Other. The trans are welcome thing is policy, not these women’s choice.

It is just nervousness but it feels real.

A few days later, to the Tate. In the Members’ room I hear two men talking of what makes you the same person as you were years ago and what if you could be uploaded to a computer. They are transhumanists drinking Schiehallion lager- drinking rather than climbing or dancing- and I say I think of myself as a process, rather than a being. I do not understand object oriented ontology, but I like the idea of no hierarchy of objects- no order of importance between quarks, individuals, biosphere. Transhumanists are individualistic, and he says the culture is. They go on to Fermi’s paradox. I say aliens are likely to be social. It is worthwhile passing on how to make a flint axe, or smelt iron, only in a social species. If they have developed space travel and not wiped themselves out they will be collaborative. If they have not destroyed themselves with weapons or climate change, they will be altruistic.

He tells me that does not follow. Just because it has happened with us that we are co-operative, does not mean aliens will be.

We are sharing ideas, but also competing. I tell them how interesting it has been talking, and go to the Farrelnissa Zeid exhibition.

She was married to an Iraqi Prince, who served as an ambassador till the revolution, when he took a rented flat. Aged 57 she cooked a meal for herself for the first time.

It is quiet. Which of these huge canvases is “My Hell”? I ask the security guard, who asks another worker. She has graduated from art school, like most people here. The security guard goes round the room looking at the captions, slightly embarrassing me, as I could do that myself. Rose and I follow at a more leisurely pace. I only asked as it is named on the introduction.

She wants to know what I think of the last room, so we walk through. The Princess’s style changed dramatically. I love those oblongs of resin, with things embedded- they seem so fragile.

What are you working on now? This is a personal question, don’t answer if you don’t want to. She is doing embroidery, of Lisa Minelli as Eva Peron. Lisa wanted the role but never played it. Eva had cancer, but still went campaigning- she had a thing made so she could lean but appear to stand. It is about stories we tell about ourselves and others- Eva’s ability to stand, Lisa’s about Eva, Rose’s about Lisa and mine about the picture. All untrue. It is taking her years.

Oh the sunshine is glorious! Outside is a work of art, that word repeated. I ask a woman to take my picture in it, and she is happy to.

To the pub. I get a pint and look quizzically at the front step. The door is narrow. Can Efrat get in,  in her motorised wheelchair? An Irishman asks if I would like to sit with him. He calls me “Darling.” I say I am waiting for a female friend. I go off to blog. Well, it’s a nice enough place to sit, and the live music is good. He goes to the toilet, and says to me, “Your friend not here yet?” No, she isn’t.

Efrat wanted to come here because it had an open mic, and she wanted to sing. Actually the blues band did not like her song so did not let her, and played boringly but at huge volume. Rather than talking, we typed on my phone. She was born in Beersheba, and though her English is good it is slow for her. We got onto whether people could live in peace in a state of anarchy, when it was time for me to leave for my train. She wore a ballgown decorated with classic tattoo designs which she bought in Camden.

I fit well enough, and know which sex I prefer.

ВПЕРЕД

That nervousness with women could be my pansy sexuality, the soft male deferential with women, wanting to attract the strong woman. It might even work! This couplet I find extremely sexy:

Boys are like rules they were made to be broken,
girls are like guns you better run when they’re smoking

Sex and Gender II

Sex doesn’t matter.

Sex is physical, gender is cultural. Sex does not matter unless you are having it, looking for it, or looking for someone to have it with. Sex, maleness or femaleness, is so little of human experience that, compared to gender, it does not matter.

Gender is how we relate to each other. Arguably it is gender rather than sex that men generally ask women out rather than the other way round. Gender is how we present ourselves to each other, or even to ourselves. Gender is our whole lives.

So if you are forced into a masculine gender, when it does not fit, it is as oppressive as to be forced to be someone else, pretending all the time, never allowed to be yourself.

That does not mean that you would be happier in a feminine gender. It can be as restrictive. It probably fits you better, but there is that small matter of sex, a tiny part of life but important all the same, and the fact that the feminine gender is not “opposite” to masculine. It is not binary, On or Off, 1 or 0, but a huge range as diverse as all of humanity. Your gender does not fit the culture, male or female, and you can try to make it fit or be yourself. Those are the choices.

“Transsexual” makes no sense at all. You cannot get female sexual organs, only a rough simulacrum of them. You might think that customary ways of using what you have don’t really fit your gender, but alteration can’t make it better. If you want to be passive, having The Operation does not suddenly make that permissible.

I felt it did. I felt sexual passivity and post-op trans organs went together. After the operation I could give myself permission. If only I could have given myself permission to be passive without the operation.

Only non-binary can fit a human being as they is. No-one fits gender stereotypes, some people can sort of fit just for a quiet life, some of us who don’t fit at all have to rebel and create our own gender, idiosyncratically ourselves.

I wrote a post called “sex and gender” in 2013, and put it completely differently. At the time, I felt a strong need to change sex in order to feel permitted to change gender. I associated the feminine gender too much with the female sex, and denied my own idiosyncrasies to try and fit the feminine gender as I had tried to fit masculinity. What a shame I could not realise any of this before now.

Being the Good person

I am cycling on the road slightly downhill with the wind behind me, and someone is cycling out of the park on my left, into my path. Surely he will stay on the pavement? I look, worriedly, at the back of his head and hope he will look round. I cannot evade him because of the oncoming car. I can’t stop, so I scream; he looks round and brakes.

I pedal on, and from far behind me I hear his aggrieved exclamation: The fxxk! Scream like that? And now, I am so envious of him: that reflexive self-righteousness, he resents me and my wronging him. He is the good person here. Whereas I am analysing the situation and after much thought, have decided that my conduct passes muster, though I wonder if I should have reacted sooner.

There are advantages to the worried assessment- “Am I good enough? Did I wrong him?” which seems a more feminine response. The cars I notice waiting behind me for a safe, courteous time to overtake are driven by women, the cars which breenge past far too fast and close are driven by men. The advantage is that you probably won’t be in the wrong, and won’t have a collision. It means I need approval from others, though. There are advantages to the reflexive self-righteousness: you never need to think about second-guessing yourself, and nothing bad usually happens because other people manage to clear up your messes or take evasive action before you smash into them.

I used to see S every week or so, but have not for ages; but she has been to Woodbrooke and wanted to tell me about it. At one point I state something passionately, then half-apologise for it: “That was vehement,” I say, feeling her out. Oh, she says, that’s just the normal way of speaking, for her and her family. It is not for me. My passion is usually behind a diffident manner, which can be painful for me: I am restrained by my own fears. “Like an elephant with a-” I am miming a shackle round my ankle, but do not need to, because she got the allusion immediately.

“We need to be with others to know ourselves, because we see ourselves reflected in them,” she says. Yes. Of course. I am learning, now, from my interactions. I judge myself. I always ask, “How am I wrong?” I know this from interaction, but I am a recluse because for so long I judged myself reflexively and unconsciously, so I was always wrong, all the time, and when I was hurt too much by interactions and could take it no longer I needed to hide away. Right now, I am having the interactions I can bear.

From facebook: To state that zazen has a definite and particular form, and to cling to that position leads to one kind of trouble, while stating that zazen has no particular form sends one off in another confused direction. There is no logical resolution to this problem. And it is this illogical paradox with which a true practitioner of Zen must ‘sit’ both literally and spiritually. Yes. I reacted to that: it is seeking safety in rules- like I do. I am more or less happy cycling because I think I know the rules of the road, and what I am entitled to- it’s a formalised interaction. If I said, “Non-theists are not Quakers” it is an attempt to find safety in rules. In this future situation, I will act in this way, and I will be right. S said, “That’s why Quakers talk all the time”- because human situations are so complex, so making rules is difficult. She said this not because she had seen that in facebook, but a propos of something else. Perhaps I am in a computer simulation, where the same lesson comes to me repeatedly, or perhaps I am just open to it now.

Also on facebook, someone wrote,  Anyone who was abused in their formative years is likely to feel they are ‘a lesser being’ than all others and may live in fear of rejection and abuse; so they will continually seek and need the approval of others. And on-going approval will also help dispel their fears of engendering further abuse. I felt myself completely worthless, so I do need approval: developing my own grudging acceptance, just-about approval for myself is difficult. Here is David Brooks on another aspect of needing the approval of others.