Threats and benefits

Fran: large groups of people seem to feel strangely insecure, as if they have to conform with each other in order to exist, and the only way to do that is to require everyone to be superficially the same. Very odd, for where is the threat?

Good question, which trans folk are uniquely well placed to answer, often conforming until we stop, and become our real selves.

The threat is to my identity. When I put on an identity I invested a great deal in it. It has overcome many impulses and feelings which I suppressed out of consciousness, because they terrified me. I still have that fear- “The monster will get me”- it is an existential threat, because I feared the withdrawal of my mother’s love at the moment I could not survive without it. That fear is hard to grow out of, even though I am now adult. So the identity, as a “man”, was me, safe and protected, and losing it would be becoming naked and vulnerable. This is terrifying.

For others, the threat might come from their age group, growing up. If you like X you are no longer one of the in crowd.

Then there is the difficulty of admitting you were wrong. So much of your life has been wasted. This is terribly difficult. When we assert something our self-respect and self-belief become involved.

You might be rescued by others who do not conform. You realise that there is no point in conformity after all, and you have tortured yourself into conformity for nothing. It is painful to realise you have wasted so much of your life and potential, so you may just snap back into denial. Yet if you can accept that lesson you can become free.

This is a slow process. I looked at myself in the mirror as I cleansed and moisturised, and thought, I like myself. I frustrate myself a bit. No, I frustrate myself a lot, but I grow to like myself. This is taking me years. I am frustrated with my slow progress, and pleased with my progress.

For trans folk, the difference between the conforming, adopted false self and the underlying real self is so great that we cannot continue with the process of denial.

The benefit is becoming integrated, becoming one. Rather than the competing demands of real self and false identity pulling me in opposite directions, I pull in just one. My feelings can overwhelm me, but I am not so much spending energy on suppressing them, and they do not so much nag at the corner of my consciousness until they can be acknowledged. I feel the feeling.

I know what I need. I work to get it. Increasingly, I flow towards it, the integrated self doing what is needed without all this analysis.

Knowing other people

Could you know any other person? Yes, but perhaps not deeply. We are social creatures, in social situations, and we respond habitually and with learned behaviour; we fit roles, from “class clown” or “nerd” onwards. We might understand ourselves under those roles, like the trans woman who tries to be manly. Every time you conform, you imagine that is the real you, and are pleased, like a poor tennis player having a good day and imagining that is their usual form. The true self, the woman, is a nagging doubt at the back of your mind that you cannot quite put into words. For we are a people of words, and we understand things by words, and do not understand what we cannot put in words. Already, much thoughtcrime is impossible because we have not the words for it.

You can know another only as deeply as you know yourself. If you gain words for feelings, and are taught to accept your feelings, you can find how you feel. Otherwise your feelings rage under consciousness, not breaking through. So I raged, and feared and suppressed my rage.

And now I wonder if I understand others. Proust delves deeply into his narrator’s feelings, responses, ridiculous miscalculations, fears, desires, and other characters are mostly façades. We hear what they say, he observes how they look, and that is it. If I too much value the conventional, how one is supposed to behave in particular situations, how one is supposed to find pleasure, then I might judge another on how conventional they are. This is a good person. He behaves as I have been taught to expect people to behave.

And then I grow to know myself. I am still often amazed that other people have similar experiences, or feel entirely differently, but grow to accept the possibility.

It has always been a delight to spend a weekend with people like me, and I first noticed this with Mensa, the club for those who score in the top 2% on an IQ test. (I’m in the top 1%). We used our intelligence like a Birmingham screwdriver. I have not been to a Mensa weekend for twenty years, and might not feel that now. My sense is that Quakers are different sorts, though mostly very intelligent, and I warmly anticipate Yearly Meeting in August. A Quaker writes, Authentic connection involves sharing self-knowledge and recognising, not only what we have in common, but what is genuinely different. I am unsure of that. I might be more comfortable resting in what the group values and does together.

Do I as a Queer person seek to pass as “normal” or find liberal, tolerant circles where I can find others doing the work of accepting me? Do we keep to the things we can agree on? I feel it is a blessing, being so uncomfortable presenting male that I was forced to find the real me, the woman, underneath, but if she makes others too uncomfortable I might pretend to me more like them, so they would not cast me out.

And the similarities are real. I value what I share with Quakers when we are most conformist to our own group. It is closer to “Real me” than other groups might be. How delightful, to let out a part of me with this group, or the trans women’s support group, which I cannot let out with those who would not recognise it. Do not cast your pearls before swine.

So, can I know another? Only so far as they show themselves in the situations where we meet. H said I knew her better than anyone apart from close family. We can know ourselves best when we can open up to another.



At first, you just are. You are immediately aware of your needs, and state them. You are made happy when your needs are met. You express your feelings when you feel them.

Then you are moulded and socialised. Some things are not OK, and are restricted with labels, or names- “bad” or “good”, and more specific words. “Stupid”. “Lazy”. We need to be socialised. We are part of a society and cannot live well on our own.

We pick up labels from our parents then the wider society. Labels can be used best for the good of all including us. Other labels are used for the good of the dominant individuals, or for the group but not for the individual labeled. Ostracism is the most terrible punishment. A label like “awkward teenager” might goad a person into trying harder. You seek to fit in. With practice, you actually do. You find you like it.

Or, it is too much and you find a label to free you from that coercion. I am an “introvert”, you say: not bad, not less than others, but with different desires and gifts. You do not need to crave the label “party animal” which always seems out of reach. Labels can liberate. I am “introvert”, so it is OK for me to feel or behave this way. I am an “introvert”, so behaving that way will be genuinely difficult for me. It is not “my fault” and it does not mean I am less than others. I will find difficulty, and still it may be worth my while practising behaving that way.

Labels control, goad, punish. Sometimes they get someone to behave in a different way, and sometimes they simply immiserate them- incorrigible, incapable, I hide away. And labels liberate. Saying I am “transsexual” allowed me to do and feel as trans women do.

Labels can help me learn to navigate society. I am socialised in a particular way, coerced and constrained by labels, and other labels permitted me to be. Feeling that is OK because I am X. Wanting that is OK because I am Y. Others are not like that, so feel and desire differently.

Labels which liberate can still constrain: my understanding of “introvert” can make me imagine myself differently from my true nature. At best, I can understand myself without words, and then create the words to understand better. The words are a scaffolding to build understanding, yet for freedom I must be willing to build higher.

Possibly I have no “true nature”, I am a creature of words, in society, moulded by others and by the ideas I take in through words. Possibly I have an essence or being in some things and not others; but possibly I cannot know. That in me which others have most desired and enforced might be the part of me which I most cling on to, terrified of their sanctions. Of course it is Real Me!

Sometimes the words fall away, and like in infancy I simply am. Aware of my needs, desires and feelings, I do what I do without conscious analysis, flowing like water, following the Tao.

Yet still I use words, to communicate with people on the other side of the world. People here I can communicate with more directly, and yet still use words to communicate as I have learned to. More learning is possible.

Sometimes I choose a picture particularly for a post, sometimes I just go through a series of pictures with little relevance to a post, and sometimes going through my series I happen upon a picture which fits perfectly. Here’s one:

The arguments for transition

It lets you be yourself.

You may become obviously a trans woman. You may become impotent and infertile because of hormones or surgery. You may spend a great deal on transition, on clothes finding a style that works, on hair removal, or on baldness treatments. You may suffer all of this. But it lets you be yourself.

You will still find it difficult to “be yourself” in certain situations. At work, you will probably do some things you do not enjoy doing, with people you do not like- not all the time, but some of the time. You will find places you can be yourself in your own time, such as Doctor Who cosplay, perhaps, channelling aspects of your character you cannot express elsewhere, or extrovert, even exhibitionist tendencies.

You should be able to be yourself with your family, but some families prevent this. Possibly most do, to some extent. That is how we develop blind spots, where we don’t know things about ourselves which others see clearly. We put up a façade to try to fool others, and even sometimes to fool ourselves, and there are parts so deeply repressed that no-one can see them. You should be able to be yourself with a partner.

I don’t believe I have a female spirit, soul or essence. I am a materialist. Professor Brian Cox puts it this way: CERN shows how particles interact. If there were spiritual forces interacting with matter, we would have observed them. Spiritual understandings still explain observed phenomena- “I have a female spirit” is a useful way of putting it, because people understand, but there are better ways of saying the same thing: “I have characteristics seen as feminine in my culture”.

I don’t have a female brain, and nor do androphile trans women. There are certain sex differences between brains, and trans women can have certain female characteristics in their brains, but it is not true that trans women before treatment have clear female sexual dimorphism of the brain, or that anyone does.

Patriarchy through culture oppresses women, feminine and gender diverse people. It is hard for a man to be feminine. So I suppressed my feminine self, which I could only express through cross-dressing, and otherwise tried to hide from everyone.

I am meeting someone for the first time in at least fifteen years, and will advise her not to transition. Don’t make the same mistake I did. “There was a door you did not see”. This is based on the above rational case; but people do not do what is in our rationally chosen best interests. It misses out the other argument for transition- that I wanted to, more than anything else in the world.

It is compulsive. It is sexually arousing. I tend to feel it is sexually arousing because it is compulsive, rather than the other way around, but still. I tend to feel it is compulsive because

It is a way to be yourself!

It is a way to be able to accept being yourself, to be yourself, let down your guard, know yourself, admit yourself, tolerate yourself, stop acting and pretending and feel less that you are wrong and inadequate. It is water in a desert, sunshine and flowers when you have been locked in a cellar. It is the best truth many people can find.

The masculine act is not you. Can you find another way to be yourself other than transition? Transition if, despite the consequences- mockery and prejudice, infertility, and cost and effort- it is the best way available to be yourself.

Developing gender dysphoria

If transvestic fetishism develops into autogynephilia then gender dysphoria, that would only be a bad thing if being a trans woman is a bad thing. Why on Earth would one ever imagine that? It is good for me. It enables me to be, to express myself, to interact with others, more authentically as me- whether that “me” is “male” or “female”, masculine or feminine, whatever.

That the process was intensely painful does not mean that it was a bad thing. The pain came from guilt and shame, and from unknowing and feeling not in control. Not trusting. But first I like feminine clothes, then I imagine a feminine lifestyle, then I realise my feminine self. All people undergo this growth into being the mature self, a process of being and becoming, like egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly. All the stages are necessary, and each stage is the real me.

I recall the pain, and it has echoes now, for I am still in pain. My pain is at the strength of the cultural forces pushing me into the false path of conventional masculinity, which still enrage me, which necessitate the strength of my NO!, my refusal, leaving so little strength left for my yes, my desire.

It involved masturbation, then feeling guilty. Why should sexual release be “bad”? It is a natural physical function. I felt guilt about it, because of the guilt about cross-dressing- which was rejecting the role mapped out for me, the conventional concept of manhood which did not fit me. It seemed to me that society pushed me into the wrong shaped hole, and I felt guilt at resisting. Though I thought Oldham CAB would find a reason to dismiss me, and they supported me: society was more liberal than I had thought.

Was the desire reinforced or fomented by the masturbation? I don’t think it could be instigated by masturbation, and I think presenting female would create gender dysphoria, the intense discomfort of the male in the female role, if it was merely a sexual fantasy. But yeah, theorists disagree, and say of me, s/he would say that, wouldn’t s/he? Sod ’em.

The process involves removal of male physical sex characteristics, and as far as possible creation of female ones. My facial hair was removed, and some have FFS. Does this mean I assert that my femininity means that I am a woman, or that women ought to be “feminine”? No, just that from whatever cause which I do not know, that is what I wanted. Possibly the cause is the Patriarchy, which almost tolerates me if I pretend to be a woman. I don’t know what the world without patriarchy would be like- yet I subvert Patriarchy, by rejecting male privilege.

Oh, come on Roughseas, I know you read this! So many pageviews from Gibraltar, the simplest explanation is they’re you. This tense paradox of freedom and unfreedom, in that being free- authentic- means having no choice- here I am, I can be no other. Say you forgive me! Another paradox: I am myself, and I am in the world.

I have been back with Prof Eric Steinhart, and today learn his pages are designed to be read with die Phänomenologie des Geistes, which I may yet read, though I might prefer an internet summary to an undergraduate module. And a line from Jonathan Franzen The Corrections, that Alfred blamed Enid for his confusion, for witnessing it into existence. I wrestle with this, as I have for the last four years, and take what I may from the thought of others, to push my own forward.

life is like a roller coaster

I am still screaming; but enjoying slightly more.

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 André’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.

Positively Clare

I have always faced the world with Courage, Love and Hope.

My mother said I was a good baby, quiet, giving little trouble, liking to be left under the trees to watch the light through the leaves. In delight she told of me singing to her. My beautiful self, soft, gentle, feminine, submissive yet playful and dramatic, was never accepted by her. She had me without wanting me, because it was the conventional thing, and was beset by fightings and fears, within, without. So she looked after my physical needs, and I looked after her hurts, curbing those parts of me which disturbed her, being the “good” child she wanted. She controlled me completely, making all my clothes- knitting socks and pullovers, cutting and sewing shorts. I supported her, caring heroically.

So my persona aged around 20 felt controlled. Others observed me as The Professor, pedantically explaining, or easily hurt, or sweet, which I recognise now, but I was unconscious of my feelings- and that was strong and beautiful, the best way I had found to cope with strong and difficult feelings. In my first job as a solicitor I found my delight in doing something useful and creative, my stubbornness, pushing on to my goals, and a love of country dancing.

I could not suppress all feeling. I bought and purged women’s clothes compulsively, so sought aversion therapy to control this.

In February 1999 I was born again, discovering my true self free and relating for the first time, and it felt like being someone entirely different. I recorded it in this verse, which frightened me at the time and which I now love: my poetry has been a way into my unconscious, and sometimes my conscious self has caught it up, understanding only later. Now, I am being that self more and more, and it feels like life made intense.

I decided it was time to rebel against my parents. I realised how I lied to myself to see myself as a good person, and set out to uncover my lies and blind spots, or my protections, my denials of what had been too painful for me to tolerate.

I transitioned in April 2002, and had my operation in February 2004, and gender recognition certificate on 30 January 2006: The above named person is, from the date of issue, of the gender shown. I am proud of my courage and determination in achieving this.

In the years since, I have found my true self and am more and more able to express myself as I am. Increasingly I accept my feelings and am conscious of them as they happen. I release my bonds of shame. I am my beautiful self. Myself I know.

I have always done what I needed to do to protect myself and advance my interests, and my world has been supportive, with beautiful friends. Sometimes it has felt precarious but I have always been warm enough and well fed. Increasingly I care for myself: I tidied my house yesterday and it is pleasanter to live in. I choose to liberate myself.

I have made this post without apology, stating the truth. I am made in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. I have responded to my circumstances as best I knew, in creativity and love.

All is well, and all is well, and all manner of thing is well….

Profile picture

And now, I permit myself a little panic:

It has been so difficult and I always saw myself as completely inadequate and blown around by winds and powerless and under Threat and I was going to call it “My Struggle” a bitter allusion to mock and denigrate it and put in joky asides to show I did not really believe it it was an act for a purpose and I am so ashamed and the Granite Statues are all judging me and IT IS TRUE it is true it is true it is true it is


Pearl of great worth was a pioneer of caring for dementia patients without sedation. Well, you would not want sedated, yourself.

Was it a carer I met, or on the telly? She told of a man who regularly wet himself, and given that he had been moved to a care home and been unable to learn where the toilets were, she could sympathise with him doing this, and his distress.

I met a woman who wept bitterly as she told me of her inability to care for her mother, her mother’s random and damaging acts, how her mother could get up in the night and wander off. Now I read of a man who talks to his wife in his love for her as she keeps up a wordless muttering, then, still holding her hand, talks to another as if she were not there. So relatives can mourn for a loved one even as the body survives; at the funeral they are not sad as they have done their mourning; yet they care for that living body as if it were still the loved one.

Janet believes in a “Pearl” at the centre of the human being, which is utterly Them. Peeling the onion, one peels off more and more layers but at the centre is a tiny part which can no longer be peeled. Julian Baggini, whose book The Ego Trick I got from Terry, says that modern theorists give no credence to this pearl idea- the self has no fixed essence, it is in part a construction and the autobiographical narratives we tell ourselves invent an order and cohesion that real lives lack, p.83. Though on meeting friends from undergraduate days he finds them fitting together as they had twenty years ago, the same mannerisms coming out; and writes of threads of memory connecting the child, the man, the old man. remember as an undergraduate arguing passionately that a gay man- with a partner, forsooth!- should not be serving at the altar of the Episcopal cathedral; and that it is not choice but responsibility to the child growing in her womb that the mother should think of. These arguments I find despicable now, but if you think no decent person could ever have thought that, well, walk a mile in my shoes. One is flat, the other high-heeled.

My morality may change from conservative to liberal (proving I have no heart and no head) but I see characteristics in my nephew as a baby, child and young adult which look consistent. And I think of my Femaleness as my core, which does not change. I add to that my feeling-intuitive nature. I was not conscious of them as an undergraduate but other people may have been, and I think of them as suppressed rather than as not there.

The Pearl would fit Carl Rogers’s “Organismic Self”, and perhaps I construct my understanding of my experience around that theory. Had I read Julian Baggini first, and loved it as I love Rogers, would I see myself as more changeable now? Some parents who seemed always peaceable in dementia become violently angry- “My mother never used to swear”- but then, if you do not know where you are and people you do not know want to tell you what to do in such a confusing manner, well-


ImageAs the internet is insecure, you should write nothing on it you would not write on a postcard. So says a guide to net use written in the 90s, shared on a yahoo group this year. That was never my way.

I like the lesbian blog Nothing Nice, Nothing Sweet. Some of her pictures I find bizarre, but this entry I find a complete turn on. Since seeing it I have returned to one website source of her photos, and been overwhelmed, and wept with the shame of it more than once. There’s another truth of the internet, it assuages the most recondite tastes.

ImageThough not particularly unusual in my case. It is recognised in lesbian culture in the words “butch” and “femme”, and generally with heterosexual couples in the phrase “she wears the trousers in that relationship”. When I was seeing C we referred more than once to the relationship of George Sand and Frederic Chopin.

ImageIn the conservative circles I come from, it is not admired. It is a guilty secret spoken of in mocking whispers. I have imbibed that, and so it is only now, aged 46, that I say, this is who I am. This is what I desire. This I know.

I thought myself asexual for a time, and now believe I was in denial rather than asexual. My shame was so strong that I repressed my sexuality. I experience no sense of choice in the matter, if I could change it I would, and being unable to change it and only suffering pain in the attempt to deny it I now try admitting it, which can hardly be worse. If my sexuality is not innate it is created by unconscious forces on which my conscious resistance has had no effect. I find ridiculous the new age reincarnation theory that we, as angels, choose the life experiences we will learn from in this particular journey in a body, but it has the value that it helps one to accept what must be accepted.

A gay friend who died years ago told me that he had been both masculine and feminine in his semi-permanent relationships- I am not sure which words he used- and he found that moving from one role in one relationship to the Imageother in another, he felt changes in his personality, and in the location and effect of erogenous zones on his body. Anyone who has experienced that or knows how common it is please leave a comment. I do not think that is my inner self. My attempts at expressing conventional male heterosexuality might have worked better if it were.

I am 46, and making the kind of realisation that a lesbian brought up in a conservative Evangelical household in Texas might make in her early 20s. I don’t know what to do with it, apart from that resistance does no good. I come out to myself.

I have had two cuddles in the past month- cuddles rather than hugs, with friends- where I have just dissociated and stiffened. Just possibly, acceptance might make a cuddle a pleasant thing. You might just see a Truffaut gamine in that last picture, but I don’t.

Real self

I have the idea that there is somehow a- Real Me, and if I can only liberate her I will achieve all I want to achieve and start to flow, gracefully- be all you can be, work where your deep gladness and the World’s deep hunger meet, etc, etc.


And yet there is all this stuff in the way. Anger. Fear. That stupid weeping.

The Monkey mind, the Id monster, the Inner Critic or Dark Side-

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those useless shards of Buddhism I have picked up,


the wisdom-bollocks spewed on facebook-

If I could get Mr Putin’s nuclear codes, Ha! I would do it!

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There is energy there...
and if any of this stuff made sense,
it would not be my Stuff...

Sometimes, kneeling in my ritual space is a Delight. I do not think to meditate, to listen to my breathing, I seek to Perceive. I knelt, and felt delight this evening. Welcome, Anger. You are welcome here. Tell me what you want me to hear. Teach me what you want me to know.