The privileged trans woman

Diana Thomas is a privileged trans woman, even though that’s normally a contradiction in terms. She wrote an article for the Daily Mail, headed “Ex-Cambridge University rower and married dad DIANA THOMAS spent six decades as a man… So why does she say trans militants are only stoking intolerance?”

She spent £40,000 on hormones, laser, electrolysis, and coaching to feminise her face, hair, body and voice. She will have genital surgery as soon as she can. Most trans women don’t have £40,000 to spend in that way. She was privileged because she got into Cambridge University. She says she went to all-boys schools, which probably though not certainly means fee-paying schools rather than public schools.

She attacks trans folk who don’t have £40,000 because we make ones who do, like her, look bad. “It would be transphobic to deny my legally female gender,” she writes, but she claims “trans activists” “insist that all a person should have to do to change sex is wake up one morning, say, ‘I’m a woman,’ or, ‘I’m a man’,” as if anyone actually does that.

She criticises how we “look, sound, talk or behave,” not accepting that we do our best to fit in, because we have internalised transphobia too.

She’s not entirely privileged. She suffers dreadfully from internalised transphobia. “I was filled with shame, self-disgust, bursting with pent-up anger and unhappiness. And yet, ironically, I thought I was protecting my family and my marriage by trying so hard to be a real man,” she writes. Now she is 62 and divorced. She feels some need to bare all in the Mail, and tolerate their use of a pre-transition photograph. That shows self-hatred. She does not realise she deserves better.

We all deserve better. In “It’s a Sin”, the men dying of AIDS think they deserve it because of their internalised homophobia, because homophobia was instilled in them like everyone else. Diana is still enforcing her transphobia on other trans folk.

In the article, she seeks to portray herself as a reasonable trans woman, when really she is refusing to stand up for trans people whose trans problems she does not think she will face. “I mean, just how lunatic do you have to be to transfer a male sex-offender — convicted of raping women — to a women’s prison, just because he has suddenly decided that he’s female, too?” I don’t know if anyone “suddenly decides” they are female, but while prisoners may lie I want trans women treated as women, even by prisons. I don’t think that’s a matter of “public institutions, so terrified of defying the latest woke diktats that they have entirely lost the faintest vestige of common sense”. It shouldn’t mean risking people’s safety.

She is not a trans man, so she does not care about trans men, either. She thinks inclusive language for trans men menstruating, having a cervical smear or giving birth is ridiculous, and that female columnists calling this “yet another assault on women’s rights” have a point. Here’s a sample of the inclusive language, about pregnant women and people, she so objects to.

If she did not have internalised transphobia, she would have more dignity than to write about her private prostate surgery in the Daily Mail. She might have got beyond “We’re born this way”. Yes we are; but we do not need that as an excuse.

She writes of her delight at a few words exchanged with other walkers in the country, which she thinks indicate her being treated as a woman. Yes, it’s lovely, and it’s also perfectly normal. “Old friends have rallied round,” she says, sounding slightly surprised, as if they would ghost her just because she transitioned. That’s the internalised transphobia again.

I would have hoped the press would have got beyond such stories. Some details are straight from the 1960s: “I was born male,” she writes. Now she is “true to who I am”, which makes her calmer and happier. Her life of achievement is mostly behind her. Write about our achievements, not the same old prurient rubbish.

Why does she say trans militants are stoking intolerance? Because of internalised transphobia, and because she does not care about problems trans people have, which she does not think she personally will face.

“Overt homosexuality provokes concern”

“The Fawn has a back room to which an admission was charged and where as many as 70 to 80 deviates had parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Most of the patrons were males, but on occasion police found women dancing with women.” There were 19 police visits in 1963, and a warning system to stop dancing when an undercover policeman entered. In December the State Liquor Authority revoked The Fawn’s liquor license, and the New York Times reported that on its front page, with a long feature article on p33. Police Commissioner Michael J Murphy said,

Homosexuality is another one of the many problems confronting law enforcement in this city. However, the underlying factors in homosexuality are not criminal but rather medical and sociological in nature. The police jurisdiction in this area is limited. But when persons of this type become a source of public scandal, or violate the laws, or place themselves in a position where they become the victims of crime they do come within our jurisdiction.

Even when they are victims, he blames them. He promised them “special attention”. Without “direct proof”, he suspected crime syndicates ran the gay bars. The bars charged outrageous prices, and hoodlums pretended to be rent boys, to beat and rob them, the journalist Robert C Doty reported. That couples dancing were sometimes women is his only mention of lesbians.

Doty proceeded to analyse the medical and sociological factors, like an anthropologist in a murky underworld, talking to “city officials, physicians, social workers and [gasp!] homosexuals themselves”. He calls them “sexual inverts”, and quotes psychiatrists saying 27% of those treated achieve heterosexuality. The psychiatrists blame “ill-adjusted parents”- “a close-binding, intimate mother and/or a hostile, detached or unrespected father, or other parental aberrations”. That is, when the offspring is gay, the researchers seek out something in the parents to blame.

The psychiatrists want public education to “improve family environments and reduce the incidence of sexual perversion”. “A single homosexual encounter would be unlikely to turn a young man toward homosexuality unless a predisposition already existed”, but strict enforcement of the law was necessary to protect “borderline cases”. Because a cure was possible, psychiatrists should not try to “adjust even the more recalcitrant patient to a homosexual destiny”.

Doty interviewed “a homosexual who had achieved good progress toward cure under psychoanalysis”, and quoted a psychiatrist claiming that gays “receive sexual stimulation from women”, but are so “crippled psychically” that they fear them.

Doty wanted to entertain readers with tales of “the dregs of the invert world- the painted, grossly effeminate ‘queens’ and those who prey on them”, or magazines with “photos of scantily-clad, heavily-muscled men”. He said there was a “homosexual jargon” but only explained the word “gay”. His attempt at a full account includes quotes from priests, that religions condemn gay sex but offer support to penitents.

The “organized homophile movement” campaigned for an end to discrimination on the basis they were born that way, and that they should be tolerated as a minority. No-one knew how many gays there were. The Mattachine Society, a gay rights organization publishing an intellectual magazine and educating the public on “the problems of the sexual deviant”- their words- estimated 600,000 in NYC. They thronged Greenwich Village, a restricted area around 42nd St., and holidayed to Fire Island and Jacob Riis Park beach. A gay man could live openly, almost exclusively among gays. Many pretended to be straight, and got married.

In New York City, around a thousand men a year were arrested for “overt homosexual activity”, most for soliciting (or trying to find a partner) but around 250 for “sodomy” and around 60 for sex with young men in their late teens, a felony. Gay men sought the repeal of law against private sexual acts and an end to entrapment. The Wolfenden report had recommended repeal of legal penalties, and Illinois had done so.

Doty finds gaydar fascinating. “Most normal persons” believe they can spot gays, but only the “obviously effeminate type”. They were in all levels of society, even “the corporation executive”. Many were actors, dancers, artists and in women’s beauty and fashion, where influential gays could employ gays rather than straights.

“Many homosexuals dream of forming a permanent attachment that would give them the sense of social and emotional stability others derive from heterosexual marriage, but few achieve it.” They are condemned to promiscuity and police harassment.

One psychiatrist thought public acceptance “based on the concept of homosexuality as an illness” could reduce the incidence of homosexuality, but another said social acceptance would prevent them from seeking treatment.

“Confronting these generally accepted scientific conclusions is the strange, ambivalent attitude of the homosexuals themselves.” 83% of gays said they would not want their son to be gay, but 97% would not seek a cure. Why? Doty quotes a gay man. With “no history of normal dating, I would be lost in the world of heterosexuals”.

Many people are still like Doty- bemused, tolerant, pitying or disgusted by turns, thinking being gay is less than being straight, being trans is less than being cis, not wanting to be cruel but revolted by us and what we do. “Surely they are not really trans,” they say to themselves of children undertaking the hard road to transition. So we have to prove ourselves with hormones or surgery, or we rebel against their control and seek surgery when social transition might be enough.

I want social transition, hormones and surgery to be a choice based on the trans person’s needs, not the hostility of others, either the need to prove ourselves or the belief that after surgery we will be accepted. Doty, the police commissioner, and the psychiatrists, all thought themselves decent, liberal men. In the article you can see their staunch efforts to preserve that self-image, and Doty’s attempt to foster it in his readers. They oppressed gay people. They should have known better. There are still persecutors, especially of trans people, who imagine themselves liberal and should know better.

Keeping up appearances

In what ways are trans people like disabled people?

The woman appears to hold herself rigid, and says that if she let go of control she would show tics. I have not heard of her condition before. She says that people wonder if she has Parkinson’s, and when someone encourages her to just let her body do that, she says it is painful. I don’t know if the movements themselves are physically painful, or if they are emotionally painful.

For those who can do it, holding in a tic seems to cost effort and energy, and give a sense of fear that the tic will prove uncontrolable, though that can be managed: someone might, wanting to seem dignified, control the tic but be prepared for it to come out. And, alternatively, stimming can relieve pent-up stress, but someone might want to avoid stimming, again so as not to appear different. Stimming is not a tic. It is experienced as something one might choose to do, or feel free to do in some places, less free to do in others, which relieves tension.

Dignified. Or, apparently normal. People whose limbs are twitching are seen as weird, and I do not want to seem weird.

-Please feel able to be like that here. People are welcome here exactly as they are.

And still she does not want to, and perhaps the pain is physical.

It’s a social rule, and here we can change the social rule. Elsewhere, fitting in, appearing normal, is highly prized. Well, moving through a shop or high street you don’t really want strangers paying too much attention to you, and being in a social group is different. We are here to be together, so being yourself is more highly prized.

I suppose if you were still uncomfortable with your disability, still in mourning that it had come on, still regretting the loss of complete ease in appearing normal and desperate to Keep Up Appearances because you feel others will judge you for it because you judge yourself and are not aware you are judging yourself because it’s too much to admit but are projecting-

then you might invest a lot in suppressing the tic, even in the most accepting social group. I do not see they accept me because I do not accept myself. I am still trying to pretend to be normal.

I wanted her to have the right to Appear Normal, to suppress her tic, if she wanted. It’s all very well to say Be Yourself. You are Welcome as you are here. Well, I am not disabled so that is not a difficulty for me, but it might be-

if she feared having let her control go, she could not resume it in less accepting spaces, for physical or emotional reasons

if letting go the effort might be that relief that releases all the pent-up misery of the loss, of having this new burden.

And it’s still all about how you appear. If it were completely OK to show a tic, there would be no problem. There is only a problem because there are places you can show your tic, and places you can’t.

Can’t? Well, you won’t die. There is inhibition within you, and social sanction from without, though part of the inhibition is imagining the social sanction is greater than it would be.

I mention all this because I wanted to protest what I felt was subtle social pressure to show her tic. We can be fully ourselves here, and you have to prove that to everyone by showing your tic. The non-disabled people have the option, whether to share or not, and might share something they feel a little uncomfortable about, stretching a little way outside the comfort zone, but you have to share your tic, however uncomfortable about it you are. My response was, well I am trans, and I am not going to take off my wig.

Because at least for me, the way I present is about appearing normal. I don’t dress androgynously. I don’t present male any more, so I present clearly female, which involves wearing a wig, however accepting the social spaces I enter are. And why would I want to show off my bald heid onywye? But if I could show off my bald head, then I could show off my character, without need to fit the box marked Trans Woman, and dress in a way to express my self, rather than my femininity.

RISDM 58-162

Trans pride and self-respect

I maintain self-respect as a trans woman, despite the hatred and mockery of the transphobes, despite the prejudice of society. How? Through self-knowledge and acceptance.

I am coming round to the phrase “I am a woman with a trans history”. You put your transition in the past, and move on to other concerns. You have done the emotional, intellectual and physical work of transition. It need not mean you abandon trans people or deny being trans. We can be proud of accepting this daunting and difficult path, and of the progress we have made on it, wherever on the path we are.

We can’t reach self-respect through creating a hierarchy of trans, this trans is better than that trans because they are further through transition, or transsexual as opposed to cross-dresser, or through attempts to create a war between androphile and gynephile trans. Every way of being human, including those “social conservatives” pick on to hate such as different skin colour or eye shape or sexuality as well as gender, is of value. The conservatives create slurs to denigrate those they hate, and get others to join in. Like in this post– content warning transphobia, obviously.

Self-respect is not “even though I am trans” or “I am trans but”. Being trans is a characteristic like being left-handed or aphantasic. It is something society enthusiastically tries to make me ashamed of, with the phobes making various spurious arguments why we are all dangerous or to be feared, and moralists calling us disgusting. If we are to be feared or admired it is for what we do rather than what we are. They want us ashamed, they want us hiding away, and therefore we need gay pride, trans pride as an antidote to that- I am happy to be trans, because if I were not trans I would vanish in a series of weird space-time paradoces, and cease to exist. The person in my space would not be me. This pride is not the opposite of humility, but of shame.

Like with aphantasia, the well-meaning often can’t quite believe how shit it is to be us. Look at this blurb on an aphantasia programme. What if you could not… it seems inconceivable, but that is the reality for some. It’s not concern-trolling, but the effect is to make people pity others as abnormal and lacking rather than value them (us) as diverse and gifted. It’s all-pervasive. My imagination is just fine, thanks.

Against this pressure it is necessary to say, I am Trans (aphantasic… Scots… ) and that is OK. That is the heart of Pride marches. This is who we are and you will not bully us into hiding it.

In the past I surrendered to that bullying. I conceived of dressing female as a temptation, as a bad, unmanly thing which I wanted because of Sin or something, and gained false self-respect by denying it. I am not really like that. I compartmentalised, imagining a good me shorn of all these bad impulses, and with righteous desires. Or, I hoped I could resist the desire to cross-dress, and make a man of myself. I felt self-respect insofar as I could make a man of myself, and when I could not that false self-respect was torn from me, which was extremely painful.

And in the past I gained self-respect by what I could achieve, which in the end was the most monstrous perfectionism: any achievement was only what was to be expected, any failure even if it was entirely because of circumstances beyond my control was a disaster. I could not cope with the pressure, and that self-respect vanished too.

I was left with myself, the trans woman, whom I despised. Feminine, emotional, every characteristic wrong. Taught to loathe and despise my true self I fled from it, but could not get away, and it makes me think of Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven.

I am myself. Myself I’ll know.

Then self-respect is a matter of seeing what I have been taught to admire, letting it go, and finding ways of admiring what is actually there. This person, with these gifts. There is no self-respect without self-knowledge and self-acceptance. A lot of this is what I am doing here in this blog: teasing out aspects of self which were not valued so which I denied, which I need to see and value for myself.

And as I strip away the false understanding, in order to accept who I am, I need lots of self-forgiveness. This is who I am, this is what I have done, these are the pressures and difficulties I suffered. I would rather be in a less precarious place than I am, but if I curse myself as useless or stupid for ending up here, that only traps me here.

In the lockdown, here is a verse I wrote:

Eight little peanuts
lying in a palm
wondering what would happen
would they come to harm?

Eight happy peanuts
One gets dragged away
where has it gone to?
None of them can say

Seven salty peanuts
are getting their kicks
another is taken
then there are six

six surprised peanuts
begin to get concerned
another is taken
nothing have they learned

Five roasted peanuts
looking all about
one of them is taken
he didn’t even shout

Four little peanuts
arranged in a square
Now it’s a triangle,
the fourth isn’t there.

Three sanguine peanuts
think it can’t be that bad
one is pinched in fingers
two are going mad

Two little peanuts,
lying side by side
One got eaten
The other tried to hide

One lonely peanut
hadn’t long to wait
Thrown up high, and caught in mouth
and then it was ate.

It is about death and the fear or even dread of death, though that is part hidden by playful fantasy. I thought it was for Covid. Perhaps it is not just for covid. “Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully.”

The weight of the world

I want to save the world because I could not rescue my mother.

The suggestion that TERFs claiming to protect vulnerable women from trans women is as baseless, as much in bad faith and as invidious as racists claiming to protect white women from Black men was like a plunge into cold water or a slap in the face for me. I simply could not have seen it that way. That someone else sees it that way gives me hope. Those calling me monstrous, those demanding protection from me, are wrong about me.

Then the leadership team of UNISON wrote a letter, including this: UNISON stands with our trans members and all trans people, who face high levels of discrimination and prejudice in work and increasing levels of hate and abuse in public spaces.

I am writing something for publication. I dumped a sentence in the middle of it, apparently apropos of nothing: A social work tutor said BAME and LGBT people were less likely to complete courses. The editors pointed that out. I really had not wanted to state explicitly, on my own authority, that people leave courses because being policed into heteronormativity or the constant reinforcement that Black is less, white is normal and better, is STRESSFUL!!!!!! It may be easier for me to speak, as an ally, on behalf of people of colour than to say it for myself. I should just cope, after all, it’s entirely normal, everyone has their problems.

It is about acceptance and rejection. I am crippled by repeated rejection. It sits like a reservoir of pain in the centre of my being. Conform or be cast out– I suffer from it now, and have not processed it.

There is a risk in writing of something I have not fully processed. The pain may come out. Excuse me for a moment, I need to scream.

NO IT IS NOT NATURAL AND NORMAL AND RIGHT IT HURTS IT HURTS IT HURTS!!!!!!

Ah, that’s better.

Writing of something I am processing may set me off, but it can give the writing an immediacy or edge which is harder to capture when I have finished the processing.

One group kicked me out, and another group takes me in, and my friend’s words and actions, especially the hugs, are warm and welcoming. And I want to say, look! Listen to them, this is what they say! I respect them (though I have riled them and they have rejected me I still like and respect several of them). Partly I might tell myself this is wisdom, seeing the positive in nine years of relationship and even Acceptance of Reality, and the thing in me which is harder for me to see is my assertion that they were right to reject me because I really am that bad, destructive, negative, totally worthless. And I am nervous about the new group. It is only a matter of time before they see how repellent I am, and reject me too.

I wanted to download four years of texts from my phone, with a particular person, as a reminder of her intelligence, strength, enthusiasm honour and humour. So I put a “phone manager” program on my computer which has probably hoovered up all my data to sell on. A few hundred texts is not much of a memorial- I have blog posts and diary entries, emails and even memories- but I wanted them because I cannot resurrect the friendship, which is dead. Previously I have felt good about dumping a long chain of emails as a sign of moving on, but not in this case. Despite quite a bit of fiddling, I could not download the texts.

I have not been crying much this year, and now I am weeping helplessly. I want the tears not to go down the tear ducts to the throat, I want them to well over, because that is a cultural proof that they are real. Sobbing is not enough. It is midnight, and I feel I need to talk to someone to regain equanimity. I will not tell myself sharply to GET OVER IT!!!!! It has to be the Samaritans. The phone rings out for a long time, then I get Ivy. She wants me to explain. I am crippled by rejection, I say. I do not want to give all the important or most recent examples, though I tell her of my father and sister to establish I am not whining over nothing.

Emoting for a bit to another human being gives relief from the immediate misery, and will help me sleep, so that’s a good thing, but I want more. This is shaking me to my core, and I want to understand why. I want all gender variant people, including the anti-trans campaigners, all working together for our common good, united. It is a ridiculous thought, and there is nothing I can do to forward it- or small actions now and then which have a pitifully small effect before the enormity of the task. I may go into pointless symbolic activity, like copy-pasting each of those texts individually, to create a relic or monument which I despise even as I create it. The relic is worthless, the desire is pointless, and feeling that is unbearable and I weep. Well, it makes sense to me, whatever Ivy or you think of it. I type notes as I talk to her, because I am questing for answers beneath my screams.

The pain is in my need to reconcile the irreconcilable. My love should be sufficient to understand explain and persuade. And it isn’t. And others see the dispute very differently. I am loving, creative, intelligent, articulate, persuasive, and that gets me nowhere because the problem is intractable.

I could not save the friendship and I could not save my mother.

I did all I could.

I could not rescue my mother. All I can do is rescue me, which I do more slowly than I would wish.

Transgender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria is discomfort caused by your assigned gender. Transgender dysphoria is discomfort arising from others’ attitudes to you being transgender.

“I used to pray every night to wake up as a girl,” people say. You experience that dysphoria, that misery, that down mood, and sometimes it’s just a background noise like living next to a busy road and having to have the window open, and sometimes it gets on top of you and you can’t think of anything else. The burden of expectations of the sex you are assigned cripples and confuses you. You are really of the other gender. And you hear about transition, and it seems a way to be truly who you are.

And then you find how difficult it is. You get abused in the street. One self-hating transgender transphobe writes trans people often experience a sense of insecurity and even shame, especially since the transitioning process can have a traumatic effect on their wives and children. Poor thing. She has traumatised her wife, and her wife, still living with her, lets her know it. I don’t know if transition traumatised her children, but she thinks so, and perhaps her continuing misery afflicts them.

Living a lie, she was affirmed as a man by her community. She could not express who she really is, but had some male privilege, which makes things easier for people. Now, visibly queer (no-one would see her as a cis woman), she gets to be herself and express the person she truly is, at the cost of prejudice and abuse. It is definitely preferable, I would say, but there is a down side.

She writes, I speak from experience when I say that it’s difficult for autogynephiles to admit the simple truth that they are simply heterosexual males who use the conceit of female self-identification as a means to rationalize their sexual attraction to a female version of themselves. So, when she transitioned, she did not think she was AGP, and that was sensible, because “autogynephilia” is a name for something that does not exist, an alleged causal link where even correlation is not established. However, now she asserts that she personally is autogynephiliac, against all the scientific evidence.

She writes, Shame is a powerful emotion, and a person who suffers from it often will be driven to control their narrative in a way that protects their sense of self-worth. So, she claims, she denied AGP because she was ashamed of it, and now she has digested that shame she can admit the “truth” that Autogynephilia drove my own transsexualism. How can this be, when AGP does not exist?

This poor sad trans woman associates with anti-trans campaigners. She has spoken at their gatherings, and had the powerful affirmation of a cheering audience. She has written for their publications, and had clicks, and all she has had to give for it was her integrity.

She transitioned, which was supposed to be the thing to free herself to be herself, the great emancipation, and she is still miserable. Therefore, she says, transition must have been based on a lie. But no- she would not be miserable but for the prejudice against trans people.

She thinks she denied the truth because she was ashamed of it, but now admits it. Rather, at first she expected to be happy transitioned, and found she was not. Faced with a wall of prejudice, she found herself with anti-trans campaigners who would affirm her if she spouted their ridiculous opinions. She has sought out that affirmation, and willingly paid the price for it.

She has not digested the shame, but sought a reason for the misery. What she did to end the misery did not work, she thinks, so the problem must be her. She was wrong to transition in the first place, because it was based on a “paraphilia”, rather than gender diversity. She finds some bizarre comfort in her delusion of having AGP- at least she does not have to defend herself from that particular hate any more. This was a stage I passed through.

She wants AGP “demystified and destigmatized” so that she suffers no shame for it, though that would also probably mean that she could not enter women’s spaces. I doubt AGP by itself could be destigmatized. Some people create hierarchies and seek reasons to despise others. Some people accept people as they are. Debbie may find she is the token acceptable transsexual with the anti-trans campaigners so imagine they have “destigmatized” AGP, but in reality they are using it to stigmatize all other trans people.

Transition makes life better. It makes us begin to resolve the contradictions within, heal the scars and introjects, and accept who we really are. And, it makes life worse for trans women. It makes us visibly queer so that we suffer street abuse and quiet discrimination. It’s just something people do. Open, tolerant societies make room for it, like the Women and Equalities Committee sought to do. Authoritarians, maintaining power through those social hierarchies, stigmatize it. Some trans women, unable to bear the pain and seeking any way out, accept the stigma.

The term “transgender dysphoria” was coined by Tina Torrontes.

Gender Expression Deprivation Anxiety Disorder

Transition is hard. Not transitioning can be harder.

These people are sad, depressed and deeply resentful… the more the individual struggles to rid themselves of gender dysphoria by increasing social and physical investments in their assigned sex, the greater the generalized anxiety and the harder it becomes to restart life sexually reassigned. I found Anne Vitale PhD on A Life Merely Glimpsed, whose writer identifies as a man who dreams of being a woman. There I also find Third Way Trans has stopped blogging, and made his blog private. Dr Vitale has reached her conclusions after decades of providing psychotherapy to gender variant patients. Now 71, she still maintains a website as a psychologist offering appointments by video call.

Dr Vitale says gynephile gender dysphoric AMAB people have an awful life, when they don’t transition. The androphiles have little difficulty expressing their femininity, dress androgynously and then transition successfully young. The gynephiles try to make men of ourselves. She was writing in 2003, and reporting childhood experiences in some cases from many years earlier. I hope no six year old boy would now be shamed for playing hopscotch with the girls- Arlene was brought to the front of the class, who were encouraged to laugh at her. The teacher had tied a broad pink ribbon to her. Now, some children transition.

Dr Vitale at first appears to blame intra-uterine hormones for gender identity- insufficient or inappropriate androgenization of the brain– but later says in some cases a “gender identity misunderstanding” can be “corrected” in some children. The explanation someone has for phenomena can affect their observations, as can any preconception. But I recognise the stories told. The children generally seek to fit in and follow the rules. They may be solitary, spending a lot of time reading or in solo sporting activity. They pray to God for transformation. In adolescence they cross-dress and masturbate.

In early adulthood many AMAB people present desperate to be told they are not transsexual, they fear transition so much. They can be particularly sexist- thinking negatively about women helps them fight the desire to be one. They think marrying, and then having children, will make their desires lessen.

Between 28 and 33 people generally reappraise their dreams and aspirations, and then gender dysphoric people may change sex or fight harder to stick to their assigned sex. In middle age those who have not transitioned may find the gender dysphoria gets worse as transition seems impossible, leading to depression, generalised anxiety disorder, panic attacks, despair and thoughts of suicide. One would close his office door, curl into the foetal position and weep- I only did that at home.

While Dr Vitale was aware of someone having GRS aged 71, other older people had low self-esteem and loathed their deteriorating bodies, though when aging reduced their testosterone levels that was a relief. Had they known their dysphoria was going to last, and be so dreadful, they say they would have transitioned when younger. They are depressed and resentful.

Written in 2003, this article anticipates the DSM V principle that the desire is not the mental health problem, rather the distress it causes is. Treatment should mitigate the distress. Dr Vitale observes hormones and surgery in most cases eliminate the anxiety. She says gender identity disorder is a continuum: some people will be satisfied with cross-dressing and do not need to transition.

This is an old article reporting twentieth century experience. Yet there are still older people who have not transitioned, who live closeted, who experience the distress and depression described. Younger people fighting against acknowledging their gender dysphoria, and terrified of transition, should consider how they would feel with similar desires in old age. Those who advocate against transition should be made to demonstrate some other treatment or course of action will produce better results.

Aware of mirrors in art in the Arnolfini portrait and Las Meninas by Velasquez, I magnified this mirror- but Simeon Solomon does not appear.

Toughening up

When he was a child, his father used to drive out from Denver into the Arapaho National Forest, to camp and hike with him. He was ten when he first walked 25 miles in one day. I could not match that, growing up in Argyll. I walked up to the trig point now and then, I cycled to Tarbert by Kilberry and back by Loch Fyne, but nothing like this. Once, they were out camping in snow, and afterwards a park ranger told them other hikers had said they feared for him.

The sympathetic response would be to ask what he thought. Instead I rolled my eyes, and said, “What would they know?”

He’s told me about these outdoor exploits before, and I realise I have no idea how he felt about them. In comes the self-criticism: you don’t see other people at all! You don’t care about their feelings! That isn’t true, though. Hmm. Well, how do you get from Denver, Colorado, US, to being a CPN in Swanston? Was he running away from his family? He has told me about going back to see them. Some of the conversations can be a bit difficult. They were so delighted when he got together with a woman, but now he’s with a man again, no longer that Bi passing as Straight thing.

This sweet, gentle man…

It is not just me not seeing others, or imagining they think exactly as I do. I pause to think about this. My own family placed a high value on self-improvement and on practical outdoors pursuits. Dad and I walked together over the hills. We fantasised rather than planned going up Suilven as he had done when at University, but we went through Glen Affric. I so wanted to make a man of myself.

Even though I know my concept of manliness did not fit me, and harmed me a lot; even though I have read others’ experiences, of fathers trying to stop their sons being “sissies”, though I know self-acceptance is essential for health, and others’ goals can cripple people; it still feels so utterly natural to me. What would they know, I wondered. Had he been Scots, I might have suggested that these carpers, or decent people seeking to protect him, were English.

Toughening the child up is just so normal, even for me, even now. So is family loyalty: I might criticise mine, but would defend them against anyone. Thinking about that is my answer to my self-criticism. Why don’t you see other people? Without thought, that question just leads to misery. Because I am thoughtless, stupid, only concerned with my own worries, obviously. It crushes me. With thought, I can forgive myself; and, considering what might be behind my unthinking response, I may be able to achieve change which the harsh self-criticism blocks.

Why am I so unfeeling to others? Because I am like that to myself. In my own mind I sometimes reach 49%, when the pass mark is fifty. I rolled my eyes, and have no recollection of his response to that. I did not get the impression that this had bothered him, but perhaps he was hiding that. Never cry! He might have opened up if I had sympathised, or he might have brushed it off (as I brushed off his consolations) but the topic of conversation changed.

Human beings are complex. A single word like “soft” cannot encapsulate us, but often is used to define us. With the Euro election and the Faragist hate campaign, I am depressed and I am talking depressingly. I want to encourage people and don’t.

-Why do you think you might not see people?
I demand too much of myself, so therefore I demand too much of others.
-It surprises me you are analysing this, intellectually, so much. Why is it all in your head?
Well, the heart is a muscle. The limbic system is in the head. And, my own emotional judgment of myself is so much on one note.

Oh my god
I just blanked him!
I was so unsympathetic
How shit is that?

I recognise I have mirror neurons, and I mirror people, for example picking up my glass at the same time as my companion does.

-You value your intellect so much, but your emotional intelligence does not always fire off so well. You have mastered, harnessed your intellect, you’ve played with it, you can ride it, you can get lost in it, you can dive into it.

-Your emotional self sometimes storms through thunderously. It is magnificent, quite spectacular and evidently as deep and prolific as your intellect. But you don’t harness it. It separates you from people, you know it does.

It is like the sea. If I try to stand erect on it, I will flounder dreadfully
but if I try to swim
that might work-