Femmephobia

Femmephobia is devaluing the feminine and only valuing the masculine, seen in those strands of feminism which work only for the interests of masculine women, in conservatism cutting the welfare state for dog eat dog survival of the richest, and my own internalised transphobia, my shame at being Unmanly. Where feminine is seen as wrong in men or restricting in women, that is femmephobia.

The feminine is the precision-engineered ball-bearings making the engine of complex modern society run smoothly, without which it will seize up. The feminine is the nurturing which gives people solid ground to walk on, faith in a secure, loving home from which they can venture out to strive, achieve and do good. Management styles seeking to develop a worker, increase their confidence and job satisfaction, and thereby get the best from them, involve feminine care to see the good and correct by praise not blame. Macho dominance does not work.

We are a social species, living together in vast cities, crammed up against each other in underground commuter trains, our faces inches apart. We need restraint and care for each other to manage this. Feminine delight in colour and beauty brings joy.

Why fear it?

Feminism recognises the devaluing of women, though often it conflates projecting femininity onto women, demanding femininity from them even where it does not fit, judging them as unfeminine, with that devaluation. If a feminist imagines patriarchy oppresses women in general, not just her, by imposing “femininity”, she misunderstands other women and comes to loathe femininity. Then feminism becomes a minority pursuit for unfeminine women.

Where men lack security, in our modern violent world, they conflate femininity with weakness. If he once rests or lets down his guard, like Samson sleeping on the lap of Delilah he loses his strength and is enslaved. In acceptance, femininity finds strength and resilience, the ability to bend where the unyielding will break.

When trans women are brought up to be Real Men, rejecting femininity as weakness, as Wrong for them so that they will always be inadequate, we fear it in ourselves and fear any sign of it letting others find out- for they will mock and deride and humiliate us. Even after transition I find it hard to relax into my femininity.

Only once be unmanly, and you have lost your honour forever? That myth prevents people from accessing their gifts, the anima in man, the animus in woman, from being the self that best answers each situation. It is like throwing out half the tools in your box, and using a hammer where a screwdriver is needed.

I find it hard to relax into my femininity, even though I wear a wig, make-up, and skirts. I am not manly, nor seen as such, yet still experience my femininity as a lack not a gift. Yet there are people secure in themselves who can use all their tools, men unafraid to be gentle, forthright women. Perhaps only those of us who least fit the stereotypes cling so desperately to them.

Mohammed is said to have written, Women are not created weaker but more generous than men. They are created more beautiful and less fierce, as beauty hates to hurt and harm others. That is why they seem weak to people, but in reality they are not. Angels are the strongest of created beings, and women are closer to the angelic nature than men, as they are readier than men to carry angelic light. It is the good manners and ethics of spirituality which they carry which makes them less forceful than men. If he had said “feminine people” and “masculine people” he might have been closer to the truth.

What is Trans?

What does “Trans” mean? There are many answers, and this is mine.

Trans starts with the concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity”, which do not fit men and women as we really are. At its worst, toxic masculinity rejects the expression of emotion apart from anger and derision. Boys and men are expected to put on a manly mask which suffocates them. Women are objectified, valued for their looks, treated as weaker and needing looked after by men while made responsible for most housework and care of children, the disabled and elderly. Feminists call this “patriarchy” and differ in their emphasis on how it affects men, but it hurts everyone apart from a very few high-status men.

Patriarchy fits no-one. Everyone needs to deny part of themselves to fit in. Those who particularly do not fit are trans, or trans-like people. To call myself a “feminine” man is ridiculous, as “feminine” relates to women, but the word has come to denote qualities prescribed by patriarchy for women, such as being sensitive, empathetic, compassionate, communal, unselfish, supportive, motherly, nurturing, gentle, forgiving, and caring. These are my natural qualities, though my attempt to be a “Real Man” has twisted me.

Femininity can also refer to certain mannerisms, body language, or physical appearance.

I am mostly interested in trans women. Some of what I say could also apply to trans men, and I could use inclusive language, but will discuss trans women only. Trans women may be Gynephile, attracted to women, or Androphile, attracted to men. Androphiles are called “Homosexual” by the researchers, denying that they are women, and Gynephiles are called “Non-homosexual”, which I find demeaning, even though some of us present as bisexual or asexual. If I am not a woman then I am heterosexual, attracted to women. Trans in androphile and gynephiles may be different phenomena with different causation.

There is research on trans, and on the wider question of whether femininity and masculinity have any reality separate from culture. There is a wide range of masculinity and femininity in men and women, but by and large women are more feminine. Whether nature causes this, or nurture, culture and society, is strongly disputed. I would not accuse researchers of fitting the evidence to their preconceptions, but the questions are so political that they might choose research projects to confirm their claims, and interpreters can be wholly political. I read one conservative Christian sniffing that trans women’s brains are different because we obsess about trans, promoting dendrite growth in particular areas. And even if parents of both sexes expect a toddler boy to slide down a steeper slide than girls the same age, what could that mean? I do not have the time or education to assess individual research papers, leave alone the wider questions.

Studies show some brain differences- in the 1990s I was aware that brain dissection had found the BSTc, the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, is twice the size in men as in women, slightly larger in gay men, and female size in trans women, but what could cause that or what it could mean is a mystery to me. We could use it for large claims, that trans women are apart from men, really women, and some do, and there is a huge backlash. Brain research does not justify the large claims of some trans folk.

There is no clear cut-off between trans and cis-gendered. There is a spectrum of masculinity to femininity in men. So other circumstances will decide whether you transition, such as whether you have a partner and what they feel about it, what your job prospects are, or how well you pass. I read of a person who had been the subject of a documentary on transition, but stopped when he found a male partner.

Some men are aroused by cross-dressing, or by thoughts of themselves as women. This is more likely a by-product of being feminine than the cause of transition. Some are satisfied with recreational cross-dressing: at the Northern Concord, it seemed to me that some were just blokes down the pub, who happened to be dressed rather strangely, and some were feminine.

My particular interest is the gynephile trans woman, especially me, and her counterpart the masculine woman: viragos and harridans, sissies and pansies. This is the sexual orientation that has only hurtful names- the woman “wears the trousers”, the man is “pussy-whipped”. “Beta male” may be a more positive term, or “Alpha female”, but both these terms are claimed by other groups. My parents were like this, terrified of people finding out, and inculcated in me terrible shame. My mother would not let me play with Action Man because “boys should not play with dolls”. My father objected to women on Radio 4, claiming to loathe the sound of their voices.

In the Underground last week I saw a woman, her leg crossed, her foot against the shin of her man, holding his hand and squeezing or pinching it. I felt they might have such a relationship, and felt envy. It is not the same as BDSM.

I don’t know how the desire to present female and actual femininity are related. I tend to feel that some men feel that their characteristics are more acceptable in women, and it is in part a desire to fit in with social norms. I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”- if only I could have realised I am not that kind of man.

Though I had the operation, I oppose it. I had it because I thought that it would make me part of an acceptable class, that it was better to be transsexual than transvestite, rather than because I wanted it for itself. Before, I had been ashamed of my slim wrists and arms, but after I found them beautiful, so it enabled me to love my body- but I wish I had found some other way. For a time, it all seemed to fit: I was a “woman”, so I felt this way, and was pleased to appear this way. Possibly we have the operations because doctors wanted to be seen to be doing something, or even wanted a subject to experiment on. I feel some people want the operation simply for itself, and should be allowed to have it. In a world without patriarchy, we could know.

I have fellow-feeling with radical feminists, even TERFs. They are revolted by body-modification, and some lack any sense of proportion about trans women, as if we are the only feminist issue they care about, but they are often masculine women, and not fitting Patriarchy in a complementary way to me- how could I not sympathise? I would put them in a group with trans folk, those who are gender non-conforming, who do not fit patriarchal views of gender. We have so much in common, it is hard that we do not work together. We are oppressed by Patriarchy in such similar ways.

The basic phenomenon is feminine men and masculine women, but how we respond to that is shaped by the culture and our experience. I suppressed it, and tried to be Real Manly for years. There is transphobia, and internalised transphobia, which prevents us from flourishing. We learn to be ourselves better, but still in ways twisted by oppression. We must build coalitions and learn to resist oppression more effectively.

The words you use to describe the phenomenon affect how you understand it. But we don’t understand it, not really, so we need to keep playing with the words. I would ask potential transitioners, Who are you? What would really fulfil you- is it really this off-the-peg solution? I would refer to “gender diversity” rather than trans, for “gender-diverse” is how people are, and “trans” or even “gender-non-conformity” are choices, ways to deal with the pressures of Patriarchy on gender diverse folk.

berthe-morisot-summer-day

Detransition III

Detransition is for losers. Detransition is second-rate.

Whether women are more feminine than men, separate from the influence of society and social constructs, I don’t know. Research shows we speak differently to babies depending on whether they wear blue or pink. Friends observe toddler boys swaggering round and sweet toddler girls wanting hugs; and they may just be reacting to adults’ subconscious approval or preference. Whatever, adults show a huge range of behaviour, including decisive women showing leadership and gentle men showing emotional intelligence, at least from the perspective of me, aged 50 in 2017.

It wasn’t my perspective in the 1980s. I remember seeing two wee boys in a bus station, one sturdy Scots, whose mother seemed quite happy with him bullying the other, who went for cuddles with his mother, and feeling a strong preference for the former. That was how boys should be, I thought.

Expressing female gave me the confidence to be myself, but now I want to use the whole range of my voice, not just above the break- and fear that makes me not a liberated person, who can be however she chooses, but a pretty rubbish trans woman who can’t even pass. Others often take you at your own estimation.

Transition is for losers. We don’t fit the social construct, so we go to all that effort. I don’t feel I have the ability or the right to be myself as a man, so I never reach the career my education fitted me for, never marry, and undergo the pain and expense of physical alteration. Be yourself, without the need to alter yourself. Self-confidence is the thing!

However if transition is for losers, detransition after physical alteration is worse. You decide transition was wrong, you were conned, all that effort was a waste- so you make the effort to revert. More effort, doubly a loser. That transition was wrong for you, even a betrayal of all gender non-conforming folk, a blind alley, a torture to conform to stereotypes- does not mean detransition is any improvement.

It’s second rate. It never made you happy. It never fitted you. But you are idiosyncratically you, from your nature and nurture, and no off the peg persona will fit you. Detransition is avoidance activity. Rather than becoming comfortable in your own skin, you enter another long-term change with a distant goal of a body and presentation the way you like; and this may involve painful, self-punishing procedures; and may even involve curtailing parts of you which don’t fit the new presentation.

I am feminine. I don’t fit, I feel ashamed, I try to fit, then it seems I might fit if I transition so I work very hard at that and still feel I don’t fit. All that effort is chasing shadows, chasing my tail.

What did I expect? There was another road you did not see. If I only do this, I will be happy, successful, congruent, integrated, life will be less of an effort. If I am not, well, there must be something I can do to reach that happy state. Happiness is somewhere to be had.

Don’t detransition. There is no point. Callahan gives all her energy to being gender non-conforming.

Or, we shall not cease from exploration, and each step takes us closer to congruence and understanding.

Just be you.

Other people are judging!
-No, they’re really not. Not nearly as harshly as I am, anyway.

That illusion. If only I do what I don’t see yet everything will be alright. It is possible, and therefore not doing it is proof of my inadequacy. The illusion is not true. Transition is second rate, but was the best I could do. This, right now, really is the best I could have achieved.

breslau-sitting-woman

beta male

If you are considering transition, I would not go as far as to say Don’t- but ask yourself, “Am I a beta male? Can I enjoy that, and not transition?” I am suffering transition Regret at the moment. But first, what is a beta male?

Here’s Evan Marckatz, a man who explains men to women. A woman asks about the “total sweetheart” “beta-male” she’s dating. She wants to “take control” but resists the urge because the Guru has advised otherwise. The Guru tells her that advice only applies to alpha males. “He’ll be thrilled that you’re taking control”. If that’s what you want, have fun!

“Is his behaviour normal?” is the headline. The answer implied is that it is not Alpha but quite within normal range.

I first heard the term as the heading of Robert Crampton‘s family life column in The Times, shortly after my Op. I have no idea why he chose the title. I first heard someone say it of himself in November: he meant happy with his emotions and not pretending to be macho, I think.

When I clicked Google’s favoured result, the site started opening new windows on sports betting and I shut it down. A beta male is the opposite to an alpha male, the difference is the mindset. We listed lot of Beta male characteristics and traits you must avoid to be an alpha male. Make sure to read all this article. We Don’t Want You to be is The guy who Scared of his own desires the man who is. “Traits you must avoid”- how to tie someone up in even more knots. This is toxic masculinity at its worst, men denying themselves to pretend to be some macho monster, the only acceptable emotions are anger and contempt. There is nothing to learn here, just scared men projecting their weakness onto others, disparaging it, and getting more and more afraid of their true selves.

Urban Dictionary gives a variety of results. To have your wife be more of a man than you. That is silly. What does “man” mean, anyway? James Bond. What? The type of guy who doesn’t flex, attempt to demonstrate his self worth in obnoxious or superficial ways, but instead exercises real life control; without announcement, or for the sake of publicity. That is, someone who is not a bully or show-off but still masculine and effective.

This is more like it: A man who is content with nontraditional gender roles; i.e., he is not threatened by intelligent and/or powerful women, and he does not have to be in control of every situation to maintain his sense of self…The beta male doesn’t buy in to the basest stereotypes about male behavior, and that’s hugely sexy. It is all about different ways of relating. Sensitive, nurturing, conflict-averse communicators make great partners, says Salon.

I would not suggest anyone should avoid transition, hormones or surgery if that is what they want, but they might consider “beta-male” as a way of expressing their true selves without all that trouble. There is confusion about what it means- people say, “Not alpha-male” and mean “Not a real man” or “Not infected with toxic masculinity”; people extend it to mean any man aware and unafraid of feeling, rather than particularly feminine men. But there is a start at positive language, appreciating not denigrating.

I am in a state of regret. I am still taking the paracetamol. I want relationship, and imagining that it might have been possible but for my transition casts me into misery, frustration, despair. And- transition was how I managed to be myself, how I avoided suicide, what I wanted more than anything else in the world, my own decision, the only way forward I could see at the time, and probably I am too feminine to fit “beta-male” anyway.

Urban Dictionary. Evan Marckatz.

Continued: Beta Male II.

Bouguereau, Dante and VIrgil

Abashed. Delighted.

The demand that everybody display in public his innermost motivation, since it actually demands the impossible, transforms all actors into hypocrites; the moment the display of motivations begins, hypocrisy begins to poison all human relations.

-Hannah Arendt

She talked of politics, but that applies in knowing myself- I found years ago that I could discern good and bad, selfless and self-aggrandising, brave or cowardly, mean or generous, motivations for any act of my own. Seeing another, I feared he tortured himself by desiring to be Good rather than do as he wanted- for the moment you analyse possible motivations, you cannot know yourself to be good.

Where not constrained to act for a necessary end, should I just do what delights me?

I was delighted to find this Marion Donaldson dress in a charity shop. It flatters the figure, and stands out, with bold floral design in blue, red, green and intermediate colours. Then I went for a coffee with a friend. I noticed the other women could dress in a beautifully feminine manner- that floral sweater is pretty- yet all wore separates, mostly trousers, and I was abashed. Then a preview of a BBC4 documentary: the academic presenter wears a dress, and I feel delight: I am not alone. I noticed in France a few years ago more women wore dresses, perhaps because it is hotter.

Do I want to stand out, or fit in? Thinking of it, it might be good to improve my eye for these things, and get a wider range of clothes. I am fifty, and I am doing teenage still. I resent that it is so much effort, and want just to carry on as I am until a sudden intense feeling that that is not good enough.

Transition seems to be awfully to do with clothes mocked Lionel Shirer in Prospect magazine, but well, clothes are how we present ourselves to others.

I like dresses, and I wanted dresses for the Summer, and people do not generally wear dresses. I will wear them at Yearly Meeting: I don’t expect others to, but there some non-conformities seem OK.

I would like it clear and sorted, and it is not. I want to be, not all the time to have to become. As opportunities arise, or I have energy to seek them out, I may get a wider range of clothes to express myself or fit different situations while dealing with other issues. And that sudden self-conscious discomfort was useful information: it does not mean that I am useless and stupid, but that there are other possibilities…

I can’t make sense of this. I have conflicting desires and feelings, different levels of energy or discomfort,

but it is alright, really-

Degas, before the mirror

Letting go of “femininity”

I look at cis women and see energy and vivacity; and I wonder, what does femininity mean? Is there any quality of “femininity” I share with them? Feelings, actions and interactions- are they distinctively “feminine”? Now fewer roles are specifically women’s: the Engineering department is the last part of the university which is mostly male, and after you have recovered from gestation and parturition your partner can share your maternity leave and take care of the infant. Human beings are malleable: an organisation will take its culture from its leaders, people have particular roles in families. Zimbardo and Milgram made people cruel, and women in England have much deeper voices than those in Thailand- this is cultural, not racial.

Some women seem comfortable with cultural concepts of femininity, and some rail against them. And everyone is different goo-gooing at a child- “Yes, you are!”- from typing a report.

Not really liking the idea that my transition was merely the outworking of a sexual fetish, I warmed to the idea that I am “feminine”. It is a sop, a comfort blanket, an excuse, a sign I do not accept myself- I transitioned because I am feminine and therefore transition is alright. No.

Gender Identity- Clare.
Sexuality- Clare.

I am me, and need no rationalisation or excuse. I have made my choices. And as I struggle to understand myself, “femininity” has been a prism through which I have seen my characteristics, judging myself, interpreting myself- I might understand better if I did not need to be “feminine”.

Though “femininity” has also been a way of seeing those characteristics as good, worthwhile, bearable rather than weak and unmanly.

This does not mean that I cease to see myself as feminine, even ultra-feminine; only that I don’t need it to be true, and I don’t need it to be other than a cultural construct.

There could be regret the other way. There appear to be normal people who have marriage and family. Anyone could look at another’s life and think, that might be preferable-

but it would not fit me as my own fits me.

Yes, I do feel so wrong sometimes that I wished someone entirely different occupied my space; but it would not be better for me.

We have good and bad luck, character, choices…

And I can mourn femininity. It seems to me that it is not valued by our tough, go-getting society, where ambition and drive are valued more than gentleness, which has always been vulnerable to being seen as weak. My feminine self could be more used, and valued, than I feel I am.

Bosch, John the Baptist in the Wilderness

feminine feminism

Feminism is divided. One side says without patriarchy women would think like men- which makes trans women doubly deluded. It dates back at least to Mary Wollstonecraft, and may include Artemisia Gentileschi, whom I love: raped then forced to become engaged to her rapist, or she would be seen as dishonoured: see the strength of her Judith or Susannah. I hear the anger, and admire the people.

And the other side discerns differences between the sexes, and celebrates them. In 1999, in the white heat of my spiritual awakening, I read Feminist Counselling in Action by Jocelyn Chaplin. She wrote it in 1988. Thinking, society, have moved on, and even Chaplin apologises for using the words ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ which she places in quotation marks: they are burdened by so many layers of socially constructed meaning that I would prefer not to use them at all… ‘female’ and ‘male’ imply some rigid biological determinism that I also reject. This book does, however, stress real differences in ways of thinking that thousands of years of patriarchy have associated with females and males respectively.

She values feminine thinking, as do I. It is not all women, or no men. She posits a masculine control model, with a strong mind rigidly controlling a vulnerable body, against a feminine rhythm model with the person flowing between mind and body, joy and sorrow, valuing both. Masculine hierarchies emphasise competing opposites. Non-hierarchical feminism stresses interconnected opposites, which she dates back to neolithic Goddess worship.

She also writes of helping a woman assert herself against a harassing male; replacing patriarchal dominance with feminist equality. What am I to make of this: one client saw her rational side as cold and calculating. She wanted to get rid of it altogether. Its opposite, the feeling side, was seen as all good. In counselling she was able to see both sides as valuable… the very thing we call our weakness can be our greatest strength. There is patriarchal conditioning, overcome. Her model is a saner maturity for men and women; though valuing the feminine.

1988 is so long ago. Mrs Thatcher had changed Britain; but the Left was still resisting. The people won the second world war, and decisively voted for equality after. Without the Labour government in 1945, my father could not have gone to University after demob. In the 1970s, Britain was at its most equal.

I love the Icelandic drama Trapped. Dark things happen: a man discovers his friend is responsible for his daughter burning to death: so he burns him to death in his shed. Yet against the unforgiving icy landscape, people must all come together, work together, to survive.

These are huge themes. I am not saying Radical feminism is right-wing. I value its anger which is passionate energy for change. But I beg you: please, please, can there be some space for me?

Gentileschi, Judith and her maidservant

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner is the most prominent trans woman anywhere, a big target to hostiles, not particularly a good role model, but a way to get us noticed. If people know about us, we are less threatening. Should we defend her? A comment here:

Bruce was born male and raised male—and he was a jock…The males in my family were jocks—and while their life experience was that of being treated like young princes—my experience as a female was that of being treated like a servant. While they were at some sports field tossing a ball while people eagerly watched and cheered, I was doing their laundry…

Bruce’s life has been one of extreme MALE privilege. He has been fawned over and catered to as are all male jocks.

So fast forward, and Bruce announces at age 65 he’s “always felt [he] was a woman”… his having this dream life of extreme male privilege not afforded to ANY woman, especially back when in was in his 20s and women were bared from holding certain jobs, like being a cop.

Not entirely a dream life- she lived with gender dysphoria.

Bruce doesn’t have a clue what it is to be a woman, because all his experiences have been as a fawned over male.

Some women resent successful men, because patriarchy kept women from such success. I sympathise. But also, some women reject transgender when they don’t feel the “gender” “feminine” applies to them. Female sexuality, but not “femininity”. Females’ experiences, not a set of feelings peculiar to females.

then-

This is why some women take issue with male to female transgenders.

She applies it to us. All of us. To me, she says, I totally support you doing whatever you need to in order to feel comfortable in your own skin yet she “understands” the women who “take issue”. We are a class. As Stewart Lee says, mocking Islamophobes, “I hate all Muslims- except the few I have met who are all all right”. She says about Caitlyn what others say of all of us.

Just to be clear, I have no objection to anyone wanting to change their name, their gender, their body, whatever. It’s their business. I don’t care if Bruce wants to present as a woman, that’s his personal choice, BUT I do have a problem with him claiming he’s been a woman all along. It’s total B. fucking S.

It doesn’t matter what he “felt” inside. The reality is, he wasn’t ostracized or marginalized. … For him to now claim he’s “always been” a woman—after he has reaped the rewards as a male—is an insult.

Unfortunately, “claiming to be a woman” is what we do. We pretend to be Manly to cover up how we feel inside, then we transition. Caitlyn made her money as an athlete, some of us barely muddle through. Caitlyn appears on a magazine cover, glammed up by the best make-up artists and photographers, and that is what celebrities do, not just her. Notice- she has to do that, to get what she wants. She has to behave as a woman of her class, now.

Women have been kept from particular roles and shoe-horned into others. I have been unable to be myself for thirty years, and only when I transition can I find and value myself. “I have been a woman all the time I presented male” means this is not a whim, but liberation of my real self: feminine, but arguably not female.

Caitlyn’s struggle is my struggle. Her privilege is that of the rich. Attack the privilege of rich celebrities by all means, but if you pick on the trans woman as trans, you pick on me too. So we have to defend her. Our arguments fail completely if they fail in her case. And if others divide us into “suffering trans” who get sympathy and “privileged trans” who do not, who can be attacked, all of us will be called “privileged” eventually.

I wrote that, then she commented again: Transgender women want to go into female dressing rooms and bathrooms. Some women don’t feel comfortable with that. And that’s okay. It’s their right to not have someone they view as male enter their private area. All that sympathy for my victims, and I get erased.

Mmm. What alternative do you propose? And how important is it, considering the number of trans women?

Artemisia Gentileschi, sleeping Venus

I like myself

It was nice. It was just really really nice.

I am sweet. I am loving, gentle, peaceful, generous, creative. I am the precision-engineered ball-bearings which keep the machine of human society purring along smoothly. I am highly intelligent, and this is wonderful. It is really beautiful to be me. I have great gifts, for my delight and the benefit of humanity.

I phoned the Samaritans with the purpose of being positive about myself and my situation. I would enumerate my reasons to be cheerful. Over an hour with Linda I did. Coming to self-acceptance and my current understanding has been difficult, and I have managed it because I am perceptive and creative. I have responded well to my situation. Linda observed that I am honest and passionate. That is true.

Out of work, it has been good to have the time to care for myself and to heal, and-

I deserve it.

I am worthy of this. It is not some imposition on society, but a positive good.

At the end of the call, I surprised myself by saying

I like myself.

I have not thought of it like that before. I am pleased. I wonder how many people can say that. Try it. Look in a mirror, and say that to yourself, and smile. See how it feels. Let me know, if you like, in the comments: let us celebrate one another. Thirty years ago, I saw the dentist’s wife for the first time, and my friend turned to me and said, “I love me. Who do you love?” in mockery and resentment of her self-assurance, which I might have thought arrogant. “I like me” is difficult- but it’s good if you can do it.

I phoned the Samaritans to psych myself up for applying for another job. I would be good for it, and it would be good for me. I have now emailed the employer’s contact. I was with my radical feminist friend on Wednesday night. I took off my wig to put on my cycle helmet, but we continued talking. “You have lovely male energy,” she said- and, given that she uses the word “male” in the peculiar radical feminist sense, I can take that as a compliment. West of Candleford, miles from anywhere, I had a puncture; I phoned a taxi which took me and the bicycle home, and next day took the wheel off, went to get a new tyre, and put the wheel back on. I am pleased with dealing with that problem. As he drove off, the taxi driver said, “Goodnight, sir,” but rather than thinking “Oh my God! He thinks I’m a man!” I thought, “What a nit.”

I googled “I like myself”, and find it is a picture book. A mother writes, My daughter thought the little girl was “funny”. I found her quite delightful, I could feel the happiness she exudes while reading this book. How lovely!

After all my self-doubt, this is an improvement. You can think well of yourself too.

Pretty trans woman

The “extreme male brain”

Is there such a thing? Do trans women have a “female brain”, or people with Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism a “male brain”?

Here’s the Disability Studies Quarterly, giving a good kicking to self-proclaimed experts on Asperger’s, which may also apply to such as Blanchard. Asperger’s is rhetorical, says Jordyn Jack: discourse fills the space that certainty in medicine leaves unoccupied. It’s not making stuff up, exactly; it’s creating a theory from little evidence because you can’t create a better one. Like GID, Asperger’s was messed about by the DSM revision: now it is lumped in with Autism, before, it was separate. The fault comes when Blanchard or Baron-Cohen cling to their theories in the face of contradiction, using them as a framework for their understanding, and excluding other possible understandings.

Another thing we might find useful in this Disability Studies article is the will to find something valuable in a condition. It is not something less than normal to be managed; it is something different, to be celebrated. It contains genuine gifts which the “sickness” model does not recognise: they are not disabled, they are “neurodiverse”. Certain traits of Aspies are responses to extreme stress from not being understood; they arise from how society treats disabled people, not the condition itself.

Baron-Cohen has the idea of a single axis or spectrum- incrementum is the word Jack uses- from female to male. Baron-Cohen’s evidence for this includes the greater weight of the male brain, and greater size of the amygdala, though the differences are small. BC links his idea of a scale from empathising to “systemizing”, ie finding order and structure, associated with engineering, computing and hi-tech, but not with “good people skills”. BC’s “systemizing quotient” test associates stereotypically culturally masculine interests with systemizing. The sex differences are a result of the questions chosen. The cultural understanding of nerdiness is skewed to stereotypically male interests.

In the 1940s, the term “computer” referred to a human working on repetitive calculations, this work was done by women, and the first electronic computer programmers were women. The work became man’s work when it gained status.

Emotional intelligence is increasingly recognised as essential in the workplace- teamwork, communication and interpersonal skills, initiative and adaptability, even in technological jobs. Where empathy is measured by physiological responses, sex differences disappear.

Autism might be understood as an “intense world syndrome”, characterized by a hyper-reactive and hyper-plastic brain that makes the world seem over-stimulating. Autistic individuals, then, may experience an excess of sensory and emotional input—not a lack thereof. Symptoms such as repetitive behaviour and withdrawal—which are not explained by the EMB theory—can be understood according to the “intense world” hypothesis as coping mechanisms individuals use to deal with overstimulated senses.

My Aspie friend agrees with the accepted symptom, that he has a lack of understanding of non-verbal communication, but he is particularly empathetic. His two friends I have met- note the weight of my anecdotal evidence- do not seem abnormally “masculine”.

Caillebotte, detail from view from a balcony