Be kind

A message for the last day of 2020: be kind to the anti-trans campaigners. Be kind to everyone, all year round.

This has been a hard year. Right now in England, with a new variant of Covid apparently 56% more transmissible than the original, the disease is spreading even where non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants are closed, and the schools will be closed for at least a week after the holidays end. We are a long way from herd immunity. The hospitalisation rate is as bad as any time in April, and while the death rate is generally less as there is hard-won expertise in treating Covid, the hospitals are full. The economy is shrinking, people are isolated, hurting, and fearful.

The death rate, 981 in the UK recorded on Wednesday, is likely higher because of delays in reporting over Christmas, but still frightening. In Milton Keynes, 1.5% of the population, over three thousand people, tested positive in a week.

Consider the anti-trans campaigner. She may have been in an abusive relationship. She will know women who have. She suffers unwanted pressure to have sex, and it is likely she has been assaulted, perhaps raped. In feminist spaces she meets other cis women and feels commonality and solidarity. And then, something happens and she feels alienated by trans women.

It is unfair that someone might be offended by one trans woman, and hostile to us all ever after. When someone compares trans women in women’s space to “poop in soup,” she is clearly using us as a symbol of all the causes of all she has suffered at the hands of men. Her anger is disproportionate, and may be hurtful to vulnerable trans women. If you are likely to be hurt by such things, avoid the places they are said, and be sure to drain every drop of nourishment from all the acceptance you receive. There are horrid things on line, but there is so much human love and acceptance.

Reacting in the same way will do little good. It hardly even relieves your feelings. Be kind.

I feel intense sadness that anti-trans campaigners, who are often far from gender stereotypes, should be pitted against trans people. Joining in the anger on line only inflames it, in the world and in myself, and can only add to my hurt. Remember that hard-right individuals and publications seek to pit us against each other to disrupt solidarity, and should be resisted.

I wrote this after my first visit to Ovarit to read their comments about me, pondering a second, when I read Ky Schevers’ thoughtful posts on retransitioning, after detransitioning into the gender critical community. People are confused and hurting. We should not be fighting. If a trans person tweets the Ultimate Putdown to some gender critical tweet, remember the person on the other end could be someone like Ky. Enough people are bullying us, and we should not bully each other. We need to make our “We” bigger.

I had that second look. They really did not like me looking at what they were saying about me. There is so much hurt around.

Kindness to yourself

“Practise ways of being kind to yourself,” she said. He had a way: put your hand on your heart, and make this noise: Awwww. Awwwwww. He meant it entirely sincerely, which is mindblowing: normally no-one would use such a noise to an adult except in cruel and bitter irony, but it can be an act of acceptance and healing.

We are broken to be whole. Yang, the Will, makes and does. Yin receives, hears, and is impacted by the world- it notices what is in the world, and it notices and hears my own feelings and reactions. There is no need to rescue, fix or control such feelings. There is no need to take the Spiritual Journey too seriously: stop striving, and just Be. Every twenty minutes, ask, “What am I feeling?” Often I don’t know. If I am tense, that is against my self-image, which says I should not be tense, I have nothing to be tense about. That makes me tense and stressed most of the time. Be open and curious. Welcome the feelings. This is not a struggle, breaking through, deep work, but kindness and gentleness with the self.

In 2011, I wondered how to keep the sense of being in touch with perception and feelings during action. Sometimes it happens. I feel it now.

Humans are approval addicts, and the Shadow self includes good things like our Shining. So when we are first shamed, a part of us sloughs off, remains at the same level of maturity, and guards the doors against such shame. It’s a child that age desperate to stop me shining, with all the intensity, anger and desperation of that child. If we listen to our own feelings, we can recalibrate and discharge them.

“I am now a human being who is willing to feel and be with my uncomfortable feelings.”

Something upsetting. If it was a training, what was I trying to learn? If it was a reminder to self-care, what self-care is necessary? How is it an invitation to show up more, to be more honest, visible and vulnerable? How does it hurt more because of pain in my past? What are the gifts I can share with others?

My Not Going Out is not a minor thing at all, it is not a “minor thing” at all.

With feelings, find the Heart Mountain. The mountain will not be moved. Be in the heart, and check in with it. There is the trigger, and the explosion- if it is in the mountain, I can feel the explosion, see how big it is, permit the feeling, then Respond. The wise kind part of me feels the feeling, the charge goes down, and I can be a reasonable adult.

This is difficult. My ego is always telling me to be that reasonable adult, so I mimic an idea of a reasonable adult while suppressing the feeling, then my mimicry becomes ridiculous and I break down. Many things trigger me into my protective mask.

What are the primary triggers that most knock you out of your heart? I need to consider that, but I need to practise being in my heart as well.

The self-hatred, the cry that I am Wrong, or not good enough, is all in me. My masculine protector cannot protect me. My feminine self is now safe enough. The main threat to her was that The Monster Will Get Me- my mother, withdrawing love for the child. There is no such monster now, except for my own fears.

My great desire is Safety. I beat myself up over this, quoting the Parable of the Talents to myself: “You wicked and lazy slave!” is the kind of language I use to myself; but I imagine there is a safe and sensible course of action which will produce a predictable result, and even two possible results which I can predict make me seasick.

My needs are in conflict:

The need to survive
The need not to be overwhelmed
The need to be the real me in the real world

The conflict is almost entirely unconscious. I need to bring it into consciousness, into slow thinking, perceive what is going on, work out a response, consciously, and accept all of it. I need to treat it with love or I will be unconscious and unable to see.

Under all that, everyone is lovely and generous.

Jamie Catto’s exercise was to write comic scenes where I am ridiculous because I go into my mask, my pretending self. I did not because my mask uses ridicule to suppress my real self. Don’t be stupid and don’t pretend, or act out a feeling, the mask tells the real self. However, in the mask I lose all my power.

I could not tell a history last week. With my psychotherapist I got as far as saying my parents loved each other very much, and were a strong partnership, and could not say how this damaged me. This week I told a history and noted that I could not merely assert something, I had to prove it, to my own satisfaction, with a story which demonstrated it to me. I could not say “This is how it was/is”. I felt angry with her and expressed it- “I don’t give a fuck what you think”- though in acted quotation marks. Where does the anger come from? It is anger at being judged, and the judgment is in my own head. I told of the FaurĂ© “Song without words” and my love of its beauty.

After, I had a healing cry, over my mother’s death, over my hurt and the waste, which was exhausting. Here is the Sorrow. It is healing. From the Atlantic, I found two quotes which speak to me.

“The nature of their brokenness is incompatible with [what do I want more than to hide?] But as a man of faith I would like to believe there is transcendent grace.” As a rationalist, I might say, human resilience and creativity.

The second was about mass shooters, which fits my self-loathing. “You were owed something, or your life should have been X, but because of”- my upbringing?- “you can’t access them”. Don’t Wallow! I tell myself sternly, which only makes me feel more hurt, incompetent, and exhausted. I beat myself up so hard it makes me too much in pain to do anything. I am not kind to myself. So I may benefit from working on being kind to myself.

Breaking down the barriers

If I had no problems, I’d be miserable.

A green caterpillar had dropped onto my clothes, and was now going round and round my table. It would grasp the table with legs at its rear, and lift its front end, waving it about, trying to sense food. Then it would put its front end down, bend and bring its rear end a few millimetres forward, and lift its front again. This was perfectly rational behaviour, but ineffective as there are no leaves in that room. There’s an Iris Murdoch character who finds a snail somewhere, say Kings Cross, and takes it somewhere else, say Hyde Park, as it needs soil and vegetation.

-Will you take it outside?

In the Still Face experiment, a mother faces her baby, who cannot walk or talk, expressionless. The baby tries to interact, smiling, laughing, pointing to something so she will look as she looked a minute before, but she does not react. The baby quickly gets distressed. In one of the various personal growth email series I accumulate, the exercise was to watch the video and state three emotions the baby was feeling. I thought of perplexity, and one other, but could not think of a third. After about a minute, I thought of fear– and instantly felt huge distress. I interpret this as referring to my own unbearable fear. It is a memory, empathy derived from having had the exact same experience.

With Tina, the problem is to tell her about it, and then I find the barriers. I am talking of other things for fifteen minutes after thinking of it- instead I was enthusing about various things. A Quaker I met in London on Sunday, from California, told me how meditative she found life-drawing. I was excited to hear of a radio programme about people who have no mind’s eye, as I find it hard to explain to people and have not heard of others like me in that way before.

I was fascinated by Salvage magazine: I got a paper copy. An essay argued, pace Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language, that demand for clarity is authoritarian: the idea that a piece of prose would have one meaning which could be discerned by every reader, rather than provoke different minds in different directions, is limiting.

After about a minute of the mother’s still face the baby is distressed, and the mother starts responding again.

-I am wondering what would happen if I didn’t explain to you why I’d started on that, just turned to another matter.

After a long pause I feel hurt, and the thought crossing my mind to stop me articulating my hurt is that I’m making it up. I feel the hurt comes from my early childhood, and the thought is that it could not possibly. As I tell Tina this I am forcing the words out, pausing between each. There is a brake in me, a barrier, against articulating these things.

Then the thought crossed my mind that I should be
facing- current- problems rather than- moping- or-
wallowing

Then the thought that the internal blocks and barriers preventing me from moping and wallowing are for my own good. Yet the exercise of discerning what the baby was feeling during the Blank Face distressed me at that moment. So it is a current problem.

I have two habitual metaphors. One is seeing through my blind spots. How can I see when I don’t even realise there is a blind spot. And the other is breaking down a wall with my head. That’s what this feels like: I have internal blocks and barriers to seeing certain things or seeing them in a particular way and having discerned them I want to break them down.

I NEED YOU TO UNDERSTAND!
THE DISTRESS IS REAL!
THE DISTRESS IS CURRENT!

(I am talking to myself, of course.)

It seems to me that if I can overcome the block I can allow and assuage the distress. Unarticulated distress congeals and haunts me. My attention may heal it- fifty years later.

It felt wonderful to be able to say this to another person. Typing it, even to blog it to anyone who might read it, is comparatively easy. I celebrate that I can see the blocks, see the truth behind them, and articulate it to another. I am making progress. And then I am tired. It is hard work.

I have been here before, of course, considering the blocks, considering the distress of the baby, but I am clearer now.

-Did you feel loved as a child?
I don’t know what I felt as a child
-When did you start feeling?

At University I noticed that I did not know what I was feeling, and around the age of thirty I could articulate strong feelings, sometimes. Strong feelings got through. In childhood I don’t remember noticing feelings, unless extremely strong.

Strange that “unaffected” has the double meaning of not showing emotion, and not pretending it. Why should “simple and unaffected” be a compliment?

The caterpillar had climbed onto my phone, and I took it outside, trying it on various leaves to see if it liked them. I could not hold the phone still relative to the leaf, so the movement of the leaf might repel the caterpillar- so I thought of holding the leaf against the phone, and the caterpillar crawled onto it. This could have been my act of kindness, or just doing the thing in order to see if it were possible, out of interest. The caterpillar could have been a pest, even an invasive one. I want to say I was kind, and I have blocks against that type of claim too.

I was kind. That pleases me.

There. I said it.

Birmingham

I got chatting to a woman on the train. When I found she lived in Swanston I cadged a lift there from Nupton, saving about forty minutes waiting in the cold or clanking along in the bus. I almost warned her not to trust strangers, but am delighted with this stranger’s kindness.

I must get a notebook. The train recording voice kept repeating something like If you have a pushchair, please step onto the platform first then remove the pushchair backwards. I love “Please do not behave like an idiot” notices and announcements. Presumably they had a pushchair accident recently, perhaps with shopping (please God not a toddler) falling onto the line. We could condense announcements: Please remember to take all personal belongings, including pushchairs, if you are leaving the train. “I knew there was something I had forgotten” is not an excuse.

I can more or less remember the words of the recorded voice, repeated at each station, but not of the plummy young accents in the train to Birmingham. They were gossiping of a girl who, desired by a young man, made out with another woman to mess with his head. I could have noted the details, and the words they used- something like “psycho bitch” in tones of approval, but if I try to remember now I would write the kind of thing I myself would say enthusing about her. The character would flatten out. Or the man who sat beside me. He wanted to tell me how he did not understand the ticket machines. He had not used them before. He had left his travel pass at home, so had to pay ÂŁ12 for a ticket. He has family in “Cov”, but he likes his flat in Birmingham, where he has lived for twelve years. He smelt a little, but not the worst I have smelled. I wondered if people from there generally called it “Cov”.

A woman on the bus got the Metro free paper. The front page story was of a rapist aged 17 who had attempted to murder his victim to cover up his crime. “That’s somebody’s son,” she said. “Seventeen, and his life is blighted for ever”. I hope that is a commendable ability to see the suffering of all involved, rather than a patriarchal valuing of the boy even when he does something so vile. She did not comment on the woman involved.

I went to Birmingham to meet Lucy. She was delayed by snow, and I hung around a bookshop. I hated “The Chimp Paradox” so much I almost bought it to challenge my preconceptions. A psychiatrist, Steve Peters, simplifies brain physiology to argue your frontal lobe is your human part, rational, compassionate and humane, and the limbic system is your “inner chimp,” the emotional part which thinks and acts without our permission. You have to tame your inner chimp. I am with Mary Oliver, You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves and Walt Whitman, I know I am solid and sound. Like all people. It behoves us to know ourselves, and have all parts in concert, but there is no “rationality”, not even any analytical thought, without emotion. Reason is the slave of the passions, and if I subdued my “inner chimp”, or “soft animal”, I would merely become the slave of someone else’s.

Acceptance

File:Malczewski Jacek Umywanie nog.jpg“Do you want women to accept you as a woman? If so, what are the reasons why we should?” My friend could accept me as “a lovely person who wants to be a woman,” but not a woman.

What is a “woman”? Here, we mean a person with two X chromosomes, a uterus, ovaries, female skeletal structure who is probably straight. Why not? That is the vast majority of “women”.

I am not sure I “want to be a woman”. Menstruation sounds a bit of a pain. Much as I complain about my narrow hips and wide shoulders being a tell-tale sign, I am not sure I want to learn to use a different skeleton. Being attracted to men? Well, that is a large part of the personality, and I am not sure I want to change attraction. I would like a beautiful alto voice, and am not sure I want to give up being able to go baritone.

I am quite certain I want to express myself as female. It is more important to me than being accepted by other people, and that is extremely important to me. Over ten years that certainty has not wavered. I am not going to revert: that would make life easier in so many ways, but for the fact that I could not bear it.

What do I want of others? I want them to use my name. Now, it is simply my name. The old male name is not my name, I have Affirmed a Statutory Declaration that I will never use it again. If they refer to me I want them to use female pronouns, “she”, “her” and “hers”. I do not want people to avoid me, or to get into conflict with me, and so acceptance as a “lovely person” is better than seeing me as a horrible woman.

File:Malczewski Jacek Portret kobiety.jpgWhat are the reasons why you should accept me as a woman?

It is being kind to me. Being cruel makes the world a more unpleasant place, including for the cruel person. Being kind makes it pleasanter. Being cruel drives people apart, being kind builds connections, and connections are good for people.

There is no benefit to anyone in rigorous, logical categories, in this specific case or generally. They can never be the whole truth. A lot of women do not fit that strict definition, XY, uterus, ovaries, even if you miss out being straight. The map is not the territory. The categories are a jumping off point to greater understanding- if you cling to the category you prevent greater understanding.Why call me a “woman”? It seems weird, but, well, I am one.

I have no idea if those are sufficient reasons. How might I deal with non-acceptance? There are many strategies: demand, challenge, passive-aggression, whining, argument-

the only one which works, really, is forgiveness. How many times should I forgive? As many as seven times? No, seventy times seven. I obey Jesus’s gentle suggestions, not in order to be good, but for my own benefit.

I had not heard of Jacek Malczewski, a Polish symbolist, 1854-1929, before seeking out illustrations for this post. I started out seeking pictures of Rejection, but was waylaid by his beautiful strangeness.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/Malczewski_Jacek_Meduza.jpg

Learning through Joy

Thoughts provoked by Wisdom Pigeon, who quotes Aeschylus:

He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.

File:Einstein1921 by F Schmutzer 4.jpg

A good source of wise Internet quotes

So I asked, can one learn through Joy? And Wisdom Pigeon comments on learning through pain: joy is the reward after.

Liz asked if I would like some toast, so I put it under the grill myself because of her physical difficulties. I burnt it, because I was distracted, then I burnt the second lot; then she pressed me to do a third, and I demurred. I really did not want to. I would make do with the burnt lot. She pressed me, and eventually I accepted, and did not burn these.

At the Children’s centre Lucy the manager was listening to my moaning, and she said she would make me a cup of tea. I refused, I should make my own cup of tea: and she was surprised by my vehemence, and insisted, and made me tea.

These two small acts of kindness last March, when I was finding life difficult, did not produce so much an immediate sense of joy as a niggling doubt, a strangeness- the world is not as bad as I then saw it. This was part of my movement towards my greatest learning of last year, moving from negative to positive, glass empty to glass full. So I think one can learn through joy, through glimpses of beauty.

As Wisdom Pigeon says, though the lesson is painful, having learned it is joyous. Much of my pain comes from demanding that the world be other than it is, and there is relief in the moment when I stop.

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I commented on the blog of a woman afflicted by suicide, and she valued it, saying, “That should be in the books.” So I offer to you what I said to her:

The suicide was not the most important thing in your father-in-law’s life. It is not the one thing through which you should see him.

I am tempted to write further about suicide, but that is my sole pretence to originality, so I will stop.

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British politicians say we are having a hard time at the moment, and appeal to the votes of the “Squeezed Middle” through our resentment, avarice, and fear. Hafiz saw how we are in Abundance, though so many do not see it. Daniel Ladinsky, again:

Dear ones
why let your winsome body act
As if it is living against a tyrant’s knife?

Why pretend your expansive existence,
Your Imperial Nature

Have all been squeezed
into a tiny red hot skillet

That is being kicked by a camel’s hoof
Over the dry sand?

For your friend Hafiz
So clearly sees we are all immersed
In the Soft Brilliance.

Tantrum-power

The child wants a Milky Way. He has it in his hand, and will not put it down. Mum does not want him to have it, perhaps because he should not pick it off the display, but is happy to buy him another. She has one in her hand, and no, she will not put hers down either. The child is shouting inarticulately, and crying, and stamping his feet. The silent father looks at his son with an expression of utter perplexity. And I think, oh, that child has such wonderful spontaneous energy! How I wish I could let rip like that!

In Perelandra by CS Lewis, the main character feels rage at the Devil, who has taken over a human being and is tempting a new Eve on Venus. And he has the sense that this is what anger is for, that this anger is pure and right and this energy invigorates him.

I wonder if we stop shouting and screaming like that, in some cases, because we see how it hurts and upsets our parents, and we no longer wish to hurt them in that way. This could be out of Love for them. The child thinks, well, I like my parents actually, and there is this gift I can give them. It could also be out of trust that the parents do actually always seek my good. Developing such self control, aged 3, that one could pull back from the rage out of love and trust would be a powerful blessing. Woe awaits the child who has to develop that control out of fear of the consequences. Then the expression of energy becomes a thing to fear, he fears it could mean his own death and suppresses it. It takes a long time in adulthood to realise that such energy no longer is such a threat, and longer to take the realisation into ones heart.