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….

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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

true

Pearl of great worth

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Portrait_de_Caterina_Sagredo_Barbarigo_par_Rosalba_Carriera.jpgJanet 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.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/be/CdM%2C_intaglio_di_giulia%2C_figlia_di_tito%2C_seconda_met%C3%A0_del_I_secolo_dc.%2C_acquamarina_firmata_da_Evodos%2C_montatura_carolingia_%28IX_sec.%29_con_9_zaffiri_e_6_perle.JPG/470px-thumbnail.jpgI 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-

Butches

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-

File:William Blake 007.jpg

File:Malevelence.jpgOh!

 FUCK

Christianity,

FUCK

those useless shards of Buddhism I have picked up,

FUCK

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.

James Cantor

Last post on paraphilia for a while, I hope. The reason I bang on about it is that I have suffered from crippling shame, and I seek all ways: cognitive-behavioural, psychological, emotional, rational- to overcome it, without denying truth. 

I sought help from James Cantor, and am grateful for his generous and detailed response. He referred me to his article “Is homosexuality a paraphilia?” This title seems to assume that it is helpful to lump together shoe fetishism and lesbian transsexuality as a single phenomenon, paraphilia, from which homosexuality, a characteristic of Dr. Cantor, may be distinguished, but the article includes this passage, which helps me in my task:

Other than by being sexual, the most salient feature on which male homosexuality and the paraphilias resemble each other is their lifelong nature—starting in childhood and being immutable despite all efforts to convert them to conventional sexual interests. There have periodically been claims of successful conversion of homosexuality to heterosexuality or of paraphilia to euphilia, but such observations are perhaps better attributed to more mundane reasons, such as demand characteristics, suppression of only the overt expression of the undesired behavior(s), or a reduction of sexual desire in general, rather than in any change in actual focus of whichever sexual interest. Similarly, reports of adult-onset paraphilias might instead be attributed to (typically neuropathological or drug-induced) loss of the ability to suppress already-existing interests.

Unfortunately for me, academics usually have to charge for their work, but a search on that site for paraphilia produced this. Click on “Show summary” to see the abstract. It says that  researchers looking at Body integrity identity disorder (BIID) first classified it as a paraphilia. Rather than being impartial investigators assessing evidence, they reacted out of emotional revulsion, and linked BIID to things also conventionally found revolting.

I wondered if lesbian transsexuality may also be distinguished from paraphilias. A shoe fetishist will agree that there is no point in licking and kissing a Jimmy Choo apart from arousal, and if he ceased to be aroused, he would cease the fetishistic act. Whereas, there may be a reason for imagining myself expressing myself female separately from being aroused: gender dysphoria. The gender dysphoria may arise prior to the sexual arousal. There is no reason to assume otherwise. This is true whether or not gender dysphoria in people with testicles who are attracted to women, and those who are attracted to men, is more than one phenomenon. Indeed, I was more committed to transition after taking testosterone suppressants.

In his article in The Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology on “sexual disorders” Dr Cantor is careful to distinguish autogynephilia from gender identity disorder. They may co-exist, but he does not posit a causal link either way.

That is the crux for me. I am quite happy to admit that I was aroused by fantasies of me as female and pictures of me dressed female. I have no wish to distance myself from the shoe fetishist, who gets aroused by one thing other than a human partner, I by another. What hurts and shames me is the idea that that is all it is, that I am recognised as different by everyone I speak to and all it is is a sexual fantasy, rather than the Real Me.

The intellectual basis for freedom from shame is established.

Today, Gauguin, to cheer us all up:

Vulnerability and-

Many times I have seen Brené Brown’s first TED video circulated, on Facebook and email lists, and I am endebted to the ever-wonderful Judy “Twoblogs” Wall for her second. I also recommend Dr. Brown’s blog. Vulnerability is a good thing. Vulnerability is the bravery which speaks to people, which elicits the Yes, the Yay, the true connection. What other words apply?

Strangeness. I get the feeling of being more alive, more real, and this is a strange, heightened experience. A good one, I want more of it, I want to play in it, get to know it, get to trust it, and that needs time. (Not necessarily effort. Let go the effort. Let the experience bed in in its own way, I tell myself.) And “strange” may be a better word than “good”, because I still name some emotions unpleasant, or difficult, and I can find those there too. This does not make it “wrong” or “difficult”.

Authenticity. I link these experiences to my first sense of the Real Me. This is a word Dr Brown uses at least once in her videos, and I prefer it to “vulnerability”- because how vulnerable are we? We are not being Defensive when we are being Authentic, but how many people want to attack us anyway? And if someone does, perhaps it is easier to block an attack in a state of relaxed aware authenticity than of fearful, clenched defensiveness. Or the block may be proportionate to the attack, whereas an attack out of the defensiveness may be too violent.

Bravery. Dr Brown also says this is brave. Trans women habitually deny bravery- I transitioned, we say, as a matter of survival, not because of great courage. I feel like that here. My masks are just too constricting. I cannot live like that any more. And yet, OK. Why should I deny a good quality in myself? Yes, it is difficult. Yes, it is brave. Moving forward in unknowing, where I may feel even illusory fear, is brave.

Openness. This vulnerability makes us open to others and to experience, which looks beautiful and inspiring, and invites connection.

Receptivity. Not monitoring so much in myself in order to hide it, I am more able to see what is around me: opportunity and beauty, and human beings more as they really are.

The word “vulnerability” is scary. It may be a way in to the state I crave. The rewards I may get from it encourage me to seek that state out.

I love this photograph, public domain via Wikipedia, because I do not see foundation or other makeup on it. If there is, it is subtle. That is a vulnerability many women find testing.

Conscious incompetence II

In 1998, I realised how much I wanted to die. I thought, the world is grey, life is horrible, it can only get worse. That Autumn, I had my introduction to Carl Rogers’ thought through a counselling course at the local college. Over six months, I became aware of something within me, which I named the “vulnerable bit”- buried very deeply behind layers of protection which I named the “Shell”, locked away.

On my last evening at the counselling course, after I was kicked off it, I had a strong sense of just being that vulnerable bit, out in the open, without the shell. I was talking to another participant, and I felt I was me, not pretending, not acting, not self-protecting, just open. I wrote this verse, just the first two verses at first, I added other verses years later:

Tonight I was two souls
First by force and then by choice
This man makes his will, Truth
and then I hear another voice
This voice gives a piteous cry
and from my pain I turn my eye
 
Lady now you need not weep
Your beauty is for joy and song
The flower so long in darkness kept
will soon rejoice to see the sun
That man, his will, his truth, will go
I am myself. Myself I’ll know
 
Tonight I was two souls
Through blessing I became myself
The fear that makes me man grows less
The woman smiles, and moves to health
The man’s “protection” rots her soul
when she can shed him she’ll be whole
 
Today I was two souls
A woman, sensual, sovereign
A man, whose fight for false ideals
now falls away, an end to pain
He leaves behind the master’s role
She welcomes him, and I am whole.
 
 I did not like that verse. I did not like the metre, or some of the language, and I was not ready so strongly to identify as female, but I knew that the “Vulnerable bit” was in fact the Real Me. That was who I am. The thought terrified me.
 
Starting to live full time female, I felt I was doing enough self-acceptance to get by. I met a woman who came to LGCM events because her teenage daughter had just come out as lesbian, and she was amazed by me. She thought I had what she wanted, that self-acceptance, self-actualisation, accepting who I am and living authentically from that. I had not, even eight years after transitioning.
 
I had the sense, occasionally, of being in the vulnerable space, open and unprotected. I did not know how to protect myself, other than by retreating into the shell.
 
At the HAI level 3 weekend, I had the sense of being that vulnerable self, open and present, and for the first time protecting myself with adult boundaries rather than the Shell. It seems like I felt unsafe very young indeed, and created the best protection I could at the time: and now I can protect myself in an adult way. This is something I need to think about and practise.
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