Gender counselling 6

It seems insane. I seem insane. I make no sense to me. I terrify me.

So I wrote that I left Serra feeling opened up, not judging or perceiving but allowing and becoming aware; and when with Serra there were Understandings, word pictures of how things are, and indeed of I had reacted.

-I know the rules say that my phone should be off, and I am hoping for contact which if I do not answer will occupy so much head space that I will be unable to concentrate.

The phone rings, and it is someone else. Hope- dashed; but no-one calls this phone! I have hardly given out the number, people don’t call me on it! Text-beep. I grab the phone, look at the message. Again, not as I hoped.

-What if she doesn’t call? Serra asks.

Still on the floor, I come close to her chair and quote,

The Desolations are not the sorrows’ kin
Sorrow is gentle, singing her sons to sleep
The desolations know no word or music
Only a harsh inarticulate cry
inaudible to the poetry-pampered ear.

If Serra is my mother, saying she’s no good for you, you know, as well as at times that teen BFF that I never had, as I still presented male then, then F symbolises adulthood and freedom- in the game I play with Serra- even if in reality, I may have to make my own adulthood and freedom without her help. I am only aware now of the passionate intensity in my voice as I quoted because Serra pointed it out, and my anger was with her- even if you are right and this is going nowhere, I do not want you pointing that out to me. So my counsellor lets me again rebel against my mother, I separate myself and become free.

And that man. He wants to die (at least in my understanding of the situation). I sympathise. (Do I want to die too? God it is so pointless and boring, nothing and nowhere and endless, though I would not want to admit that.)

I cycle, and I get better at it. Thirty miles in three hours on Tuesday, over beautiful country roads much of it single track, with the seat higher risking back pain and avoiding that by extending leg and ankle more. Not instant perfection but slow incremental improvement through effort. And I give a lot of thought and effort to Quaker clerking and I am doing good there too.

At one point she leant down and touched my foot, and then realised she had crossed a boundary. It pleased me, and at the end I asked for and had a hug.

What is “Real Me”? Possibly that bouncy me isn’t, either. Questioning everything I do could open me for useful change, or paralyse me. So- as a practice, be open, for everything is beautiful, even me, judging, condemning, pretending, acting, hiding, all reasonable legitimate choices though I hate it all

Open! Love it all! Saying my affirmation on Friday morning I forgot one word. The words I forget are the important ones. I could not think of it, so looked it up: it is Compassion.

Today (Saturday) two moments of arrogance. I thought during worship of standing and saying

I am the Goddess.
Everything God made
God made for me.

but thought, no, I know it, and do not need witnesses. Perhaps it is good I did not share that, perhaps it would have been OK. And, what would George Fox have been today? I answered my own question: Revolutionary; speaking directly to the Hearts of some people; taking no shit; and Solid. Present. Clear. I knew in that moment I described myself.

Then a few minutes later I am exhausted, just wanting to get away, barely able to be polite. I contain multitudes, I am extremes, I cannot bear any of them-

I have resisted, and continue with my spiritual work of Permitting, though it is all impossible and insane. Had it been easy I would have done it already.

Monet, La Femme Ă  l'ombrelle

Gender counselling VI

To see Serra Pitts, the psychotherapist at the gender clinic. It is like a deep massage, where she digs her elbows in to untangle all the knots, and yet always keeps one hand flat on my skin, of which I am intensely conscious. I came out exhausted, and Open- it feels like I have no presuppositions or assumptions, and can see the world as it really is.

However in the counselling room, what matters is not the reality for other people, but how I have conceived them in my own mind, or even what they symbolise for Us- I make Serra my mother then my mother and I discuss the World. So what it means for the people I describe does not matter, whether my picture of them is a hyper-realist one or a bad cartoon, distorted as George Grosz but also completely missing the point. Or even, not how I see them but what symbol I can make of them, for the work I do here. (Do I protest too much? I mention someone’s severe pain. I don’t want to disrespect, and I do want to talk of it.)

We talk of looking for work.

It’s odd. I came in, bouncing, tiggerish. I had been joking, fooling. Like this morning, with Peter talking about difficulties changing signatories on a club bank account. You take your passport and driving licence- they take fingerprints, DNA- do a strip search… free form associating until it becomes ludicrous. Only with the receptionist, and that woman waiting for her CBT. A cis-woman, I am certain of it, they must have cis in this block as well as trans. She thought my watch was gorgeous.

-How do you feel?

I slump to the floor.
-Do you want to stretch out? She shifts furniture around, and I stretch. Thank you. That is really kind of you.

It’s this job I could apply for, working on anti-trans hate crime in Scotland, lobbying, training, networking, campaigning.

I am in the garden (writing, now.) “Would you like a cup of tea? They’ve just made a pot.” Oh, OK. “That would be lovely, thank you.” Rather than going in to get it, not to be any trouble, I let her bring it to me.

It would be a chance for reasonable work. They might not judge my two years of “sorting my head out” too harshly, my dreadful CV. And with Serra is the first time I think of this job as interesting, as worthwhile possibilities, as something I could enjoy, rather than another judgment and rejection, or failure and despair like the last three. And, she says, I could tell them who I am, and I think yes, possibly my word would be enough, even though I could not prove it. Though right now- Saturday evening- it feels like only a chance for rejection, or failure. And a dreadful faff. So strange, how moods move.

Monet, Femme à l'ombrelle, tournée vers la droite

Starting again

If I do stuff and nothing happens, what’s the point? I got this wonderfully elegant admission of failure and argument for despair on Kiwifarms, where they laugh at people. Well, indeed. I mess around on my blog, and watch recorded TV. I only don’t fit the “living in my parents’ basement” part of the clichĂ© because my parents are dead, and I am a bit old.

That last job. We thought we would open our doors and people would come rushing in, because they always had: in Oldham I used to arrive at 9am in January in the rain and find people queuing outside for the doors opening at 9.30, in the hopes of not being turned away. We simplified the service we gave drastically to cope with the demand. Yet almost no-one wanted my particular service, and I would sit idle, writing my diary or reading TVTropes on the internet. I did try some marketing and building relationships with potential referral agencies, but to little effect. With a string of failures over six years, I despaired and gave up, and am still given up.

No, I don’t want to apply for that job in Edinburgh. I don’t want to move to where they have not had a Summer and people are in their winter clothes (Frances reports) to take responsibility again. Even though I can see it is a good choice from limited options. I don’t want to go where my family are where I might try to re-establish contact, or might not.

I don’t practise the piano because of the amount of work necessary, and even when I did mistakes crept in. Aged 23 I could play Rhapsody in Blue from memory, and now I make mistakes with Ludovico Einaudi. Well, I have the time to practise, and I don’t.

Dunno. That meeting was good. I don’t quite get the man, whose reserve might be even greater because of my way of letting it all hang out, but at least we are working together.

I cycled thirty miles on Tuesday, in three hours. It is a beautiful circular ride, on country roads mostly with very little traffic, and rolling rather than hilly, though some of the inclines are a bit tough for me. It is the furthest I have cycled this century, in a day. I maintain fitness and increase my ability to get about.

I notice small, incremental achievements caused by my action. I am completely lacking in confidence: my first question is always “How am I wrong, here?” which when in balance may make me usefully flexible and now puts me in a funk.  Notice all the achievements. Notice all the positives.

Monet, En Norvégienne. La barque à Giverny

The White Knight

The White Knight is the character who rescues those unfairly oppressed. In business the white knight rescues from the hostile takeover. Some suggest the White Knight rescues women expecting a romantic reward, and Urban Dictionary says the female equivalent is the mother figure. I like rescuing, but get warned off. “You’re not helping”, the critics say, “he is beyond help,” or that I should only help those who deserve it.

I get an immediate good feeling from attempting to help. Perhaps I am even altruistic, but also I get something from it. I am interested in people, and applying my mind to “Who is this person? What makes them tick?” increases my knowledge and understanding of others- which clearly benefits me. I like to see myself as a good person, and part of that self-image is that I am a helper.

Then, everyone is interesting for at least an hour. I met a man whose OCD took the form of doing things alphabetically. His weird escape from reality into a tedious obsession would pall, quickly, but exploring it for an hour passed the time. Eventually the mental health team found something to motivate him. He was interested, took action, and achieved something. I was not paid to rescue, exactly, but to give a particular kind of useful assistance.

Merely paying attention makes people feel better. Face to face, I put my listening face on and they open up, and I can see the relief. It is not much effort.

Getting people to turn their lives around is of course far more difficult. In the past I have come up with all sorts of Good Advice, the person has not taken it, and I have become frustrated and angry with them. Now, I disengage. Possibly, they have taken it in: I found in my early twenties that I would react angrily to my father’s good advice, and find myself following it six months later.

I don’t generally find I am repaid. The good feeling I get has to be an end in itself.

He saved others, but he cannot save himself! gloated the bystanders at the crucifixion. My own life is a mess. I can come up with Good Advice for me, too, but do not take it.

You thought I should start submitting articles, and this seems a possibility: general interest with a particular perspective. It seems to me it needs developing: how, do you think?

Monet, The stroller (Suzanne Hoschedé)

Human Rights for Trans people

Being a post-operative transsexual person, though not pre-op or non-op, is a “protected status” within the meaning of the European Convention on Human Rights, article 14. This is the result of Carpenter v Secretary of State for Justice, in which a post-operative trans woman challenged the requirement to inform the Gender Recognition Panel of the details of her surgery. I found the case on Halsbury’s Law Exchange. What does protected status mean?

Article 14 provides, The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this European Convention on Human Rights shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.

This means that the State must not discriminate against a person because s/he is post-op trans, in enforcing rights under the Convention. Cases cannot be pleaded against other parties. A case must be pleaded about another right; but even if that case is not established,  it opens the door to the trans person pleading discrimination.

I am unclear as to what that might mean. The Human Rights Act remains essential for British freedoms, even for “British values”; I feel I am more likely to need the protection of other articles than article 14 as a post-operative trans woman.

Though post-operative, I resent this shibboleth of The Operation as the sine qua non of any protection under any law. Post-operative trans folk are a tiny minority of trans folk. I am more likely to be treated badly because I am trans, rather than because I am specifically post-op. Though as it is difficult to discover a person’s operation status, or even their desire permanently to express themselves in their true sex, other trans people may be protected because would-be discriminators fear legal action.

I doubt the British state will treat a post-operative trans woman differently because she is post-op. If they did, they have a discretion to justify why different treatment because of my operation is appropriate.

Monet, Sur la plage Ă  Trouville

Daily Mail morality

How wonderful to be a Daily Mail reader! You can feel morally superior not only to immigrants and benefit claimants, but also the Prince of Wales’ wife! Their Saturday headline was Camilla shouldn’t be queen, say public. Morally superior, but only at the cost of being permanently angry, and daily apoplectic: yesterday’s headline was “Labour’s Queen of Hypocrisy“- Labour MP says something moderately sensible, having bought a housing association house in an auction. How that might make wanting housing associations to maintain a stock of affordable housing hypocritical is a mystery.

I asked the coffee bar owner if that was his politics. Diplomatically, he said they used to get the Daily Mail all the time, and he’s not entirely happy with that, but now they get random newspapers. It’s an election campaign! That means you can offend everybody!

Mail morality is based on hating, fearing and feeling superior. On 27 October 2010 it cried “75% of Incapacity claimants are fit to work”, not bothering to state that the test had been rewritten with precisely that purpose. It has been made worse since, but then someone unable to use a pen to “make a meaningful mark”, such as a tick or cross, would only score nine points, insufficient to get the benefit.

March 4 2015 neatly linked two hate groups: “Jihadi John family’s 2o years on benefits”.

Thought or analysis is rare. Mail readers are told the emotional reaction they should have. A measured response, on the one hand this, on the other hand that, is unheard of. Mail readers are told that their thoughtless bigotry is courageous: on 16 March it screamed “At last! A man who dares tell truth about race”. Occasionally it gives a useful tip, though long after you heard it somewhere else. For example, you should shop around when you renew insurance; but it couched it as Shock! Horror! “The betrayal of loyal customers.” You are a good, “Loyal”, person, and it counts for Nothing! What a wonderful opportunity for self-pity. On the same page, familiarly, and with mocking condescension and fake pity, it addresses the Duchess of Cambridge: “Oh Kate, are you really showing grey roots at 33?” Do we care? Mail readers are obsessed with the Royal Family.

A large part of the front page each day is a picture of an attractive woman, usually in her thirties, because the readership is older. The top third gives a Special Offer: “Free bag of compost delivered free to your door!” As opposed to the usual delivery of manure.

I know it is an old joke. Dan and Dan nailed it brilliantly. Who’d live in a democracy, eh? I choose my picture to give us something beautiful.

Monet, Impression, soleil levant


I am a woman of courage, and I did something courageous today. But first I want to say where I am.

I have lived my life trapped beneath self-contempt so deep that until I was 33 I loathed and denied who I am: I pretended to myself I was something else so hard that I believed it. And I still have contempt for myself, though it lessens.

And in my years as a recluse I have moved from despising my femininity, to celebrating it. What keeps me here is my fear of the world, and my despair. So it would behove me to deal with those, as well as recognising and celebrating my achievement in accepting my own femininity.

I have always felt

that each success was only to be expected
so nothing to be proud of
but each failure was a
again proving beyond doubt my worthlessness.

Not particularly healthy.

One of the gifts of the Hoffman Process was to see how much we follow patterns ingrained in our parents, unfree whether we copy them or rebel. During that week I identified one of my patterns and called it “Shit-hoovering”- collecting stories about how threatening the World is, in order to justify fleeing it. Hoffman says that once one sees the pattern, one is freed and at choice whether to follow it or do something else. Um.

How great my fear is!

So, what was the courageous act? I cycled down to the shop in Marsby for groceries, a two mile round trip.

I was even frightened of that. The inner critic pipes up with the “even”, so I reject it. I was frightened of it. I did not want to go. I did not want to leave my house. I did not want to speak to anyone. So in the shower at 3pm I bigged it up.

Because I fear it, 
This is something 
It is worthwhile, because it is caring for myself. 
I have denied my courage for too long.
I will celebrate my courage.

Indeed I thought of boasting of it here.

A woman stopped by the kerb to let me pass before she crossed the road, and as I passed her started to sing “I believe I can fly.” The song circled in my mind as I cycled on.

I will celebrate every single ACHIEVEMENT.
I am where I am. 
Monet, Camille


The Hungarian woman I talked to on the train shocked me. “I like talking to people on trains,” I announced, and she had no objection. “Do you like yourself?” Well, it is what I want to know.

She thinks she does. She notices that people in England tend to be unhappy in their twenties and thirties, taking on their parents’ neurotic fears. “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children” I quote, and she assents. In Hungary too. Even for people born after 1990? Yes, because the school system is the same as it was before. She blames the politicians. It is better now she is forty. She has degrees in biochemistry and nursing, and was head of department, yet earned £300 a month when the prices were the same as here. She was living on toast.

So she came to England, and worked cleaning ten hours a week, because she spoke no English. She refused to claim any benefits. Now she works as a nurse: her accent is noticeable but comprehensible, and her vocabulary fluent.

She finds the politicians here too lax on immigrants. That shocked me. People born here should be able to claim benefits because their parents and grandparents paid in, but immigrants should not.

At St Pancras, I always check out the policemen’s weapons. I have not seen guns lately, but today they are in black rather than hi-vis, and the clubs at their belts seem bigger than normal. Then I saw two men with rifles. I asked why. One, well over six foot, replied courteously enough that they were there to disrupt criminal or terrorist activity, hoping not to use the guns but able to if necessary; the other faced away from us in an alert pose. I don’t like it.

I went to see Stuart Lorimer at Charing Cross. I told him of Essence, and he said I appeared serene. I told him of wanting to clean my teeth because I wanted to, and he assented. So now I stay at home, I will have coffee with friends two times this week, I join the Quaker meeting and the Green party.

“Both lovely organisations”, he assents. “It sounds a lovely lifestyle. Stress is overrated. I am on my first day back from three weeks away. I was reclining by a pool, and I thought that I could go to museums and archaeological sites, and I did not want to. I just wanted to stay by the pool.”

I don’t feel I am suppressing emotion- he says that is not how I appear. I wonder if there could be more to life. I don’t want anything particularly. It is not that I feel dissatisfied as that I assess intellectually that most people aged 48 would want more.

He suggested seeing a clinical psychologist for counselling when I first saw him, and this has not transpired. He will chase them up. What would I want from these sessions?

I want to know what I want.
-An existential question.
-Is it an appropriate question?
-Yes, I think so.
-I saw a counsellor in Marsby. She wanted me to set goals.
-Goals are also overrated, he says.

He would like to see if this serenity persists. I believe it will, I say. I am in truth telling mode, knowing the truth of it as I say it. Actually, given that my inner critic was nagging me to get a job continually to November, and I was in my sulk, perhaps merely accepting and enjoying my quiet life is worthwhile.

Clanking back slowly on the Piccadilly Line, I feel absolved. It is OK to be doing what I am doing. It is a lovely feeling. It has been quite a pleasant day, on the buses, trains and tube.

He is compassionate, and I bloom. Just like then.

Monet haystack, white frost, sunrise

Not inadequate

Feeling inadequate was so long my default position. I responded by seeking always to be in control, at last by retreating from the world. This morning I avoided control, chose what I wanted though it might not have worked, and felt liberated. It seemed important:

I wanted to cycle this morning. My front tyre was just hard enough to ride, but when I pumped it to harden it further there was a hissing noise. Is it slow punctured? I would be later than arranged with Richard, and could not let him know because he did not answer his phone or have an answerphone. It was about the best day for cycling I would get in January, forecast sunshine with light winds. I felt I wanted the exercise and the challenge, and decided it was not my inner puritan driving me. I liked the exercise, and the frost on the grass and hedges, and the view over the valley in the sunshine.

And it felt like had I been Seeking Control, I would have caught the bus: it would have got me to the café on time. I would have fulfilled my obligation unquestionably. Richard said he was scrutinising each person coming in, disappointed it was not me: I felt a pang at that, because I have felt the same way.

Coming back it had clouded over. The direct sunshine makes such a difference: I was cold, it was a slog, and at home I put on my coat and stuffed a hot water bottle inside it. I warmed up well enough.

It seemed I had done what I wanted, even if it were not sensible, and taken a risk, which made me uncomfortable but was alright; and so I am pleased with myself. I have learned more about dressing for cycling. Being sensible is not as overwhelmingly important as I had feared.

Monet Haystack, snow effect, overcast day

The Sun Good News challenge

On the railways

Rail headAnnabelClaude_Monet_-_The_Gare_d'Argenteuil is a pretty slip of a thing. She asked if the train went to Derby, I said I hoped so, and that I liked chatting on trains. She does too. We established that people make mistakes with both our names: she gets called Abigail, and I (ahem) Annabel, occasionally. I admired her beautiful cardigan, a patchwork of different coloured wool, some of it mohair. Either self-deprecatingly or boastingly, she says she got it in a charity shop near where she lives. I congratulate her.

She does not like the news, because it is all so negative. Everything on it is horrible. She saw a woman on “Benefits Street” who pawned the medal her daughter won in an athletics competition: “Where’s my medal?” “We can get tea tonight.” So she stopped watching it. This prompts The Sun Good News Challenge. I found it on the train, and was immediately irritated: a band has got into Britain’s Got Talent as a backhander, it trumpets. Tony Benn was a “rabble-rouser” and supporter of idiotic causes like feminism and disarmament. However, it reports on a primary school teaching mindfulness techniques to pupils: breathing and presence exercises. Hooray! A story in the Sun which pleased me! Though they nearly spoiled it, by ending with a quote from the “Campaign for Real Education”, calling this a waste of time. Annabel has bought the Sun once, for a calendar with pictures of the Royal Family including Prince George.

She works in something like credit control, only chasing up suppliers: sometimes there are problems with the supply chain, and she sorts them out. She has been there for six File:Hans Baluschek - Die Eisenbahn No. 6 (1898).jpgmonths. Before, she worked in a hotel. She liked talking to people. People in the office are really lovely. So why consume news at all? We learn how the world is from our experience of other people.

I notice that I am making all the conversation, and am abashed. “You do that very quickly,” she says, admiringly, as I do the futoshiki puzzle, so I explain it to her. It is just practice, I say, but she does not like puzzles.

No chat on the train to Swanston, though a couple:
-It’s not a club, it’s this funny social thing.
-Oh come on, guys, you’ve got to grow up sometime.
“Why?” I said. “It’s crap when you’ve grown up, I assure you.” This elicited laughter, but they went back to looking at their magazine. Later a snippet of conversation: “Having drugs isn’t a bad thing.”

And I found this wonderful sign in the loo. I have heard of fake signs in the Tube, though never seen one: making it look almost like a sign East Midlands Trains might exhibit may make it stay longer. Never flush your hopes and dreams.

Also visiting B was A, who is in the band Gibbet Hill. I said it was “listenable”, and she might have thought me dismissive: she explained she first was paid to go on stage aged 14, so that is a fifty year stage career, and because of contacts in the University music department the band has once supported Guns and Roses, and played various festivals. Relations are so poor that when S phoned to say that the hospital recommended fewer visitors, as too many could be stressful, J thought F was lying, and getting at her.