Men and Women: healing the wound of the planet

What is wrong with the relationship between Men and Women? Sixteen questions on how it could be put right, from Jamie Catto:

15) Where do non-binary, trans and LGBTQIA people intersect with these questions?

Mentioned as an afterthought, on the outside looking in, at the sharp point showing the conflict clearly. As the wise others, who can’t play the game, so have a clear view of its rules, or as people broken by normality and desperate to fit in, even if it means negating ourselves. Hoping to save the World, or hoping to survive. Let’s start with some of the easier questions.

14) Are there different laws in your country depending on your gender?

I have a detailed knowledge of the Equality Act rules on women’s services, where trans women can go, and the rules on when we might be excluded. Rape is defined as the penetration of a vagina by a penis without consent, and in Scotland these specifically include trans people’s surgically constructed organs. Only heterosexual sex counts as “adultery” or “consummation” in marriage law. I could get more technical if you like.

3) What checks and precautions do you take to feel/be safe when you go out in the evening?

If I have more than one drink I want to sleep in the same building. I just don’t go out, especially since March 2020. When I go out I don’t take precautions particularly and sometimes I have only just avoided trouble.

4) What would it take for you to feel safe without taking those precautions?

A bit more money, so that they did not seem like precautions- taxis everywhere, go out when I feel like it. Walking through a park alone at night? I just don’t.

13) Do you think men and women have different brains?

I know they do. Women have more white matter than men. The Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, central section (BSTc) is twice the size in men that it is in women, slightly larger in gay men, and the same size in trans women as in cis women, but no use as a diagnostic tool because it can only be measured by dissection. I looked into this stuff, trying to work out whether I was truly transsexual, before I realised the only question is, would I be happier transitioned.

Men and women have similar psychology. There is no trait, vice, virtue, emotion, or aptitude, which is in one sex and not the other, or is not equally valuable in both, but gendered expectations exaggerate or squish traits, which harms everyone. People vary within sex far more than across it. So,

1) What are the most uncomfortable stereotypes you feel are associated with your gender?

Stereotypes affect us because of the demands or expectations of other people. I face the “tolerant”, who judge whether I am trans enough- “Have you had the operation?” I also face the hostile, for whom I can never be right- performing femininity I am a reactionary, enforcing a stereotype, but if I play with the stereotypes I am a man, not even a “transwoman”. Some accept me as I am. So stereotypes are uncomfortable which are furthest from who I am, like with everybody, and so will be different for everybody. But stereotypes which I fit are also uncomfortable, because they can be used against me.

The one which has harmed me most is conventional heterosexuality. I don’t identify as lesbian because I have my father’s sexuality: a pansy, or soft male, attracted to viragos, or strong women. I was so terrified of not being seen as a Real Man that I did not know that, and before transition I could not form relationships as I wanted a partner to complete my Normality disguise rather than to relate to. My mother died and my father found a new partner who was right for him, but I see men with the wrong woman who wants them to “be more manly”, and they try, making themselves miserable.

Stereotypes are harmful because they don’t take into account human variation and persist because seeing a human as they really are is hard, and the stereotypes often kind-of fit.

7) Do you want more touch that doesn’t necessarily have to lead to sex?

I want cuddles. To have sex would mean breaking down so many trauma-induced barriers that it may not be possible.

6) Do you have anything you need to be forgiven for?

Yes.

8 ) What would it take to be seen as you are without other genders’ preconceptions and definitions of what your gender is and should be?

When someone has expectations of me, it sets up a fear reaction in me: I must fit in or I will not be safe. So I have to accept myself as I am, know myself, and heal away all the inhibitions which prevent me from seeing who I am, which are reinforced by disgust and horror at who I am, and an inability to perceive who I am, or see that as in any way good. This has been a lot of work. One phrase I have for it is “step into my power”, which gets in the way for me, as my concept of power does not fit who I am. It has been a lot of work, and I am getting there. I am not weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous and deluded, as I thought, but loving, creative, beautiful, soft, gentle, peaceful. For me a better word than “power” is “grace”.

What questions did I leave out?

2) What would it take for Men and Women, and the nuanced genders in between, to step into their full potential together?
5) How can Men heal the abusive and violent sins of their ancestors?
9) What do the different forms of violence and abuse, on both sides of the gender divide, look like?
10) What positive progress do you notice in these areas? What gives you hope?
11) How do you perpetuate the sense of battle and divide between the sexes?

The “nuanced genders in between” are mentioned in the second question, and still an afterthought, because all these questions assume a conventional heterosexuality, with a man “wearing the trousers” in a relationship with a woman, and I can’t begin to answer them. I am not a man in that sense, and while I have suffered harassment as a woman- a man coming on to me on a bus, abused as a “whore” or “slut” when I did not conform to a man’s expectations that I would do what he demanded- it has been less, and as an adult. And I yearn to surrender myself, but to a woman, not a man. My scars are different.

16) What questions are missing from this list?

The questions address various aspects of

How are you hurt?
How have you hurt others?
How can we make things better?

So, ask those general questions directly.

And finally,
12) What would you like to do that you can’t do now if you changed gender?

I did! It liberated me to be myself!

Come, join me.

Gender essentialism

You are either a man or a woman. Between the two there is a great gulf fixed. This matters to me when my friend insists I am a man. There is a package, of all the things which make you a “trans woman”- which bits matter to me? How much of that is social pressure and internalised self-phobia, and how much, well, essential?

There is social pressure. A trans woman is accepted in a way transvestites are not, despite the work of Grayson Perry and Eddie Izzard. We are legally protected, they are not- well, I thought so until I looked again at the  Equality Act 2010 s.7. I am unclear what “other” attributes could be meant.

I use a female name, dress in women’s clothes rather than feminine or flamboyant men’s clothes, and have breasts and a vagina. Where does the continuing desire to be like this come from? I understand androgynous people, mostly AFAB, have greater difficulty, so do I want to pass as binary because of social pressure or because of an innate Real Me?

I feel that if I do things from my Real Me, my organismic self, I have integrity, I am more free and truthful, though of course I am a social animal and epigenetics shows that nurture in some way creates nature. I am hyper-feminine, and that is Real and beautiful: but should it govern the name I use?

I feel desire to use my name, and revulsion at the thought of using my former name. I would experience it as crushing. I am glad to have breasts. I felt such happiness when the vaginoplasty was recommended, and such revulsion at the thought of the loss of a toe, that I feel this is Who I Am, not merely a response to social pressure.

After the Essence Process, it no longer matters to me when people call me or refer to me as a man. I experience this as liberation: people could hurt me, and they cannot in that way any more. I feel that it is a change in me, that now I am sure of my own femininity so do not need reinforcement from others; and that when others challenge my femininity, it does not raise painful echoes in me. In the same way, being able to present myself in different ways could also be liberating. I want to use my baritone rather than counter-tenor voice because the deep one is stronger with a better range and holds the note better. I want to develop both.

It matters what I think, not others. Being called “particularly masculine” really hurt. Now it does not. Possibly, my other desires come from my fear of rejection and my judgement of myself as wrong- internalised self-phobia- rather than from reality. I am not saying that they are wrongful desires, but that not having the desire, not caring one way or the other, would give me more options, make me more free.

Here is a third Cranach Melancholy, with subtle differences from AndrĂ©’s book.

Cranach Melancholia

From another perspective:

Patriarchy has created an ideal woman, a person exactly how the dominant males would want women to be. However, no woman could be like that, surely: it is repulsive, a simulacrum rather than a living breathing human, any woman wanting that would be in servile self-abnegation, distorted by the culture, needing her consciousness raised. Any free human being wants autonomy, self-determination and equality.

No woman is “feminine” in that way, so these feminine men, “trans women”, M-T are completely confusing. They are the shock troops of patriarchy, enforcing false consciousness on women. They are the enemy.

Encounters at Buddhafield

campsite

After a hot and sweaty ceilidh,Tara I am standing outside the marquee with my wig in my hand, and a small girl approaches me. She could not be more than six.

-Is that a wig? I say, yes, it is.
-Why do you wear a wig? I show my pate- very little hair grows there.

“Put it on,” she says, definitely, imperatively. “Now, a boy might kiss you.” She turned away, leaving me, well, awestruck.

“41 is a prime number” announced a high, clear voice. How old is he? I asked his aunt Lucy, whose tent was near mine. I had approached her for a chat, and we had chatted easily of life and stuff. She spent days cycling here. “Five in three months’ time,” she said. “His father’s a mathematician.”

When I told that to R, she disapproved: we pump children so full of information, nowadays. Though she was reading very early. I was impressed at his ability to take in such a complex concept. Earlier I had watched him climb onto the canvas of the bell tent, stretching the guy ropes. Initially he was leaning on the guy, then straddling it, then finally climbing on the canvas, looking over at Lucy and me, three yards away. When he was lying on the canvas, feet off the ground, she told him authoritatively not to climb on it. She explained she needed to sleep there, and did not want the tent pulled down. And when he reached out to touch the guy rope, later, looking over at her, she told him not to. “I wasn’t climbing on it,” he said. No, but we need to sleep there.

Boundaries tested, boundaries stated, all beautifully done. How difficult to raise a child! I still don’t feel ready for that effort. It feels that my emotions would be too quickly engaged in the No. As I had breakfast at my tent, I listened to a man tell his son The Truth, addressing him as “Son”- the fatherly fount of wisdom- and then saw that the boy had indeed gone to lie in the sleeping-place as threatened, and the father had to tell his wife The Truth. And she told him The Truth.

Then there was Finch, whom I saw in his sling, and wondered at how small he is; then we knelt in the women’s space tent for a workshop, and cooed over him. Hands! Toes! Face! He was seven days old when the camp started. So tiny! He was eight pounds when he was born, a good weight- but babies grow so quickly, one rarely sees one that young.

They’re all boy, aren’t they? I said, admiring, and we talked of how difficult that can be. In a workshop, the facilitator referred once to choosing a partner and working with “him or her”. At the end, when she asked for “challenges”, I said this challenged me, as it excluded me. I am both, and neither. We talked of it, after. I think I let her off too lightly- gender binary is all-pervasive in our culture, and I was at pains to point out that it was not her I objected to, but the cultural assumption, and that her workshop was wonderful. I did not make clear enough that dividing people into “man” and “woman” oppresses both, and that anyone may choose to distance self from it.