Journeying towards God

God appeared to be a monster, and I fled. I found Christianity as a framework, an understanding of good behaviour which would train or mould me into a good person. Underneath the training, held down by powerful guards but never silenced, was something I could not name, which acted through me or influenced me in ways I did not know.

I attempt to use words, and even the word “I” breaks down here: “I” in that paragraph is the “I” “I” imagine, which the part of me which is conscious conceives to be how “I” am, how it imagines my personality and character to be. Underneath there is an unconscious I, the thing I could not name.

The journey towards God is bringing what is unconscious into consciousness, so that the conscious conception of the nature of the person as a human being comprises the totality, the whole nature of that human being. For each person it is different. My understanding of it includes some theology, some psychology, but mainly is my dogged attempt to find that unknown being, to see what I could not see, to dissolve the pretences and blind spots preventing me from seeing; and my experience is of it-I, breaking through from below.

It feels like a river- however firmly the river has been dammed, eventually the stream breaks through and the natural flow asserts itself.

I am made in the image of G-d, so I may be like Christ. In Him the divine and human nature are united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration. This is Miaphysitism, the belief of the Oriental Orthodox (Churches including the Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian), a word I have just learned. I am not, yet, so united, but believe this non-dual state is possible for all people.

I want to be understood, heard, believed, accepted. That “I” is the unconscious “I”, where all my power, desire, love and creativity reside. First, in an act of self-surrender, by the conscious I. This may be aided by others, seeing and valuing the unconscious I, accepting in the moments when it bursts forth: in the counsellor’s “unconditional positive regard”, perhaps. For I, united I-I, know it.

The journey involves shedding my introjects, all the judgments of others I have taken into my conscious understanding of who I am of what is important and therefore what I should consider important and therefore what I value, which is not what

I

being the unconscious I

truly value. For the Buddha, who had fabulous wealth, and had been taught to value that wealth, it involved leaving that wealth behind, but that does not mean that anyone can learn from him that they should “give all they have to the poor”, or that ceasing to value wealth and instead valuing what elementary Buddhist textbooks teach will be liberating. The liberation, the non-duality, is in shedding whatever one is forced to value which one would not have valued without that external force.

I

state that rather it means setting aside all you imagine you think is important, and delving to what is truly important to you.

Ah. That unconscious I is speaking, more and more, which puts the conscious I in fear, excitement and delight. Sometimes- more and more- I and I unite and I am one.

Mystic language appeals to me, yet materialist language may be available. This is a healing process, a maturing process- the river will not be dammed in the end. Religion may aid devotees towards it, if it does not create more introjects to ensnare those devotees. Humans will our freedom.

Parts of the Human, which have not been loved and accepted, lie in strong chains. Vigilant guards are ready to push back when the prisoner shows signs of acting, crying “Wrong! Stupid! Meaningless! Wicked!” So my Shadow terrifies me (conscious-I). The guards are part of me too, which I created as a way of survival. I find the unconscious I, see the error of the guards, and quiet them, in contemplation and meditation.

Where is the Life? Where is the Drive? The unconscious i hurts so much, so my way to God is through all its pain. I believe the Quaker term “Inner Light” refers to this unconscious I.

I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame
The Righteous One shall make many righteous.

If any of these words speak to you, I pray they may bring you to full humanity, which may be Divinity. And let us share our words if we want to understand as well as to Be.

The real self and the critical voices

The risk of imagining a “Real self” separate from the negative self is that I could project onto the negative self all the bits I don’t like. However that would not even convince me, and certainly not a magistrate. The negative self is part of me, within me, a voice, a part of my brain circuitry, part of an organic whole.

My real self has been so suppressed that I have been consciously analysing my desires from outside, rather than feeling them from within. I find what I want when I see what I do. I have desires, and carry them out, but not through conscious planning. The Real Self is where my desire, energy and motivation appear to sit. So I want to make it conscious so that I am less conflicted.

Possibly the Real Self spoke on Sunday, in immediate anger.

I realise, with Sally, that that is what I want to speak about, and that the critical voices immediately tell me I should not. Don’t talk about that, it will not achieve anything. You need this time for more important matters. It’s self-indulgent, which is their strongest word of condemnation. I realise how the critical voices inhibit me from speaking my desire, even here, in the counselling space, though they are not strong enough to change the subject, and eventually the desire gets through.

It’s wallowing, and I do not want her sympathy. I would say how miserable I am and you would say, “Awwww”.

It’s what I want and am terrified of showing that I want.

-That’s the conflict there, she says. Well, yes. The critical voice stops me speaking, and frustrates my desires.

As a child I was so squished that I was unaware of being squished. My mother believed her complete control was for my good. In my early thirties, I realised it was time to rebel against my parents and I have been doing teenage ever since. I feel it was a working out of human organic development and healing- that this phase of maturing can be suppressed, but not prevented indefinitely. The stream can be dammed for so long, but eventually it finds its way.

Mmm. Sunday. I feel wretched about that. Normally I would suppress that wretchedness below consciousness, so that it becomes a weight I keep carrying. I feel if I become conscious of it, I can let it go. Just as when meditating, if I feel an itch, but resent it because now is the time to be pious and holy, meditating- the itch consumes my thoughts, because I am trying to suppress the feeling. If I pay it attention, feel it fully, then it bothers me less and I can move on.

If I feel the feeling fully I can let it go. That’s the hypothesis, not completely demonstrated yet. I worried from my negative self that I am a bottomless pit of pain, I just feel the pain and it is neverending, but I don’t think that, not really. I can work through it.

Now I feel the desire to tell you something that makes me happy, and the critical voices say that is boasting, it is Bad. Well, that video makes me happy. It is always easier to think “This too will pass” when I am happy: I observe that in other people as well as myself. I am happy to have contributed to something which has value. I want it to be seen. I consider I have done a good thing, and that pleases me.

I am unsure about my desires, and I don’t appear to have any particular overarching desire, yet I have-

pause. The critical voices are at me again. They diminish everything my real self says, trivialise its words, take away the words’ meaning and importance. I have desires, and pleasure in accomplishing them, and frustration at not. I am not getting much of that pleasure, and the critical voices inhibit it.

Last time, I had the idea that I had to pack the real self away, be in some other part of me, in order to be sufficiently safe and in control to cycle home. Yet my real self is my own desire, rather than introjected desire, my own feelings conscious not suppressed, my real self is where the power actually is and the distrust which I have internalised for it has not led me to a better way of being.

The critical voices are far too strong, completely dismissing my Real Self. Yet they have their place, they could make a valuable contribution. They have something to do with What will other people think and it is possible to estimate that. They need balanced. My default state at the moment is that the critical voices are suppressing me, but I am coming out.

Rabbit

The cuddly toy rabbit is a tool for my use. A child gains comfort from cuddling such things, and even for an adult it can be reassuring: a friend gave a cuddly toy to all her trans friends going into hospital for GRS. Here, in counselling, it is a way of communicating non-verbally, with Sally and with my conscious mind. If I threw it across the room that would be a definite communication which would do no harm. I look down at it, avoiding her eye. I can sit it forward on my knee, between us, as a Protector. I shrink into a small space and cuddle it.

Before I cycled to Swanston I knelt in my ritual space. I am going to a safe space. I can speak from myself there. With Sally I declared my intention, to speak from myself. That is where all the motivation, energy and desire reside. That Real Self has rarely had a voice in my conscious mind. It was the part of me speaking when in 2001 I laid on the floor in a foetal position weeping “I am not a man”. It was the part of me that in 2015 could barely say anything more than “I Am”; when saying “I Am” felt wonderfully liberating.

With the rabbit to reassure me I speak from myself. I think of going into mindful presence- of being shocked into it, before it became habitual- and my thought was, I want to speak and act from this space. Well, now, I am. There is a high risk I will lose all my income, and what I am doing about that threat is to speak from my Real Self.

This self is surrounded by judgment, which can be extremely cruel- “fxxkwitted uselessness,” for example, about a simple mistake which would not have mattered much even if I had made it- and which, like depression, one might see as weather- it may be rainy or sunny and we still do our thing. Or, like thoughts during meditation might be seen as passing clouds, to notice, let go, not dwell on. Consciously, my rational strategy was to manage it- placate it as little as possible, wheedle, make sensible suggestions, with the intent of getting it doing sensible things, and that has not worked, so my final despairing throw of the dice is to try to speak from it. And, I (believe- have an inkling-

KNOW

that that is where the energy is.

I have taken notes of the session. I want to speak from the Real Self, and say more than “NO”- now I am rocking, and cuddling the rabbit tightly.

Is the Self childish? There is some evidence for this- consider the cuddly toy rabbit- yet I don’t think so. It shows some signs of being able to defer gratification and choose worthwhile things.

It was the logical next step to explore this part of me, all other things having failed.

The Judgment is keen to protect me, but in fact doesn’t.

I told that story, I have told it several times before. I wanted to make a man of myself, so I joined the Territorial Army. On little more than hearing my accent, the man suggested I go for officer training, so I put down Jane Austen and picked up Clausewitz.

-I don’t know who Clausewitz is.

He wrote “On War”. His famous quote is that war is the continuation of politics by other means, and he said military plans do not survive the first contact with the enemy. Anyway, they thought me “Insufficiently military”, which at the time really pissed me off and now I think a wonderful compliment

(I am using the exact same words as always to tell the story)

so told me I should do a year as a private soldier- a “Driver” is the word, in the Royal Corps of Transport. So I put down Clausewitz and picked up The Good Soldier Švejk. I explain to her who Švejk was.

-I don’t know what “insufficiently military” could mean.
-Probably that I wouldn’t shoot someone if told to do so. I could explain it from a conservative standpoint- I have read Jonathan Haidt- and indeed George Orwell who had fought for the Republic despised pacifists.

I am empathetic. I know the arguments against anything I could say. In part this is the Judgment crushing me, and in part it is Empathy, a gift not a curse.

This is my Real Self. I am Empathetic. I am Soft. I am Caring. These are good qualities. I am Sensitive, and this does not merely mean “easily hurt”.

When it is time to go, the Judgment pipes up. It does not trust the Real Self to be in control as I cycle home. I must gather round me my layers of protection

The man’s protection rots her soul

to leave this room. The trouble is, the Judgment, which wants to protect me, cannot, and is no more safe cycling than the Real Self. I go to the supermarket, then cycle home. A heavy rainstorm soaks me, water spraying up from the road, but it is alright.

Here is a definition of Wellbeing: “Social connectedness — who you depend on and who depends on you, and having a feeling of belonging; safety — when we can express core parts of our identity without harm or shame; mastery — the sense that we have influence over our future and have the skills to navigate life; meaningful access to relevant resources — the ability to meet our core needs in ways that aren’t dangerous or shaming; and stability — having things we can count on to be the same day to day, and knowing that a small bump won’t set off a crisis.” My goal with this counselling is Safety.

The Beautiful Self

I go for the first session with a new counsellor. Of all the fascinating things in the world, what is better to contemplate than my navel? Yet I was anticipating humiliation, and as I walked from the bus was in defensive anger. In the summer a service had spent a long time scrabbling for an excuse not to see me, over three separate assessments quizzing me in detail about suicidal ideation, and still getting it wrong. In the waiting room, where I was half an hour early I found a 4′ high teddy bear, and this poem:

Um. Greater need than mine, perhaps, and completely negative. The poet’s mother is disabled by her own hurt. Still the offer of a cup of tea was welcome, and I accepted. Hospitality brings us closer. There was also a thank you card, pinned up in the waiting room, so I noted it- “You have taught me that not everyday is easy to get through but no matter what happens something good will always come out of it” which sounds like a desperate attempt to be positive in terrible circumstances. The gratitude is hopeful, but other services use this office so it could be for them.

I was back where I started. Summer 2011, I went to Midsummer camp and burned in the bonfire to rid myself of it the word “negativity”. A week or two later I awoke at war in the HAI workshop, with two separate trains of thought running through my head- “She [Uli] is awesome and that’s wonderful and this is so exciting and that’s beautiful” and at the same time “This is rubbish and that’s ridiculous and I can’t be bothered with it”. I had to choose, and with F’s help, I did. And more recently I wrote I am in Heaven and Hell: the breadth of my experience is such that both are appropriate metaphors, for different parts. I find the world glorious and unbearable.

That card again:

You have taught me to
not only stand up for myself but
to love myself and be confident in the person I am…
You’re the reason I can finally say I’m happy to be me

Wow. Possibly her first ever relationship where she was respected and valued for who she is. People do value me for who I am, but as I find it difficult to value myself I rarely see that.

I thought of calling this post Counselling CCL. Over twenty years I have had counselling weekly for long periods, probably averaging at least thirteen times a year. And I move forward. I see things. I am going round not in a circle but in a very tight spiral. My GP said “You are very intelligent” and I realised that I heard that as a judgment- why aren’t you doing anything with it? So now I can say, “I am very intelligent”. It is not a boast, and not a confession, but an assessment. This is one of the resources I have.

This public service which I am not paying for is time limited, to seven sessions, so I go in with a sense of urgency and get to my playful self. That is a way of seeing it; I must write how I see that Self, which will be poetry. I could call her “Positive” or all sorts of things. That is where my energy is.

OK. Positive, playful, creative. Crushed and denied for so long, and resilient, and always here. In a sulk, perhaps; not taking the advice of the inner rationalist- “Don wannoo”. Where the depth of my feeling, love, brilliance is. With some understanding of deferred gratification and the need to make provision for the future, I notice I am not taking the action I judge I should. I have strong forces within me, and I need to get them pulling in the same direction.

A counsellor said “You are a mass of scars” and I feel that is still a fair summation.

I hurt.

I have two speeds, “Captain the engines cannae take it” and dead stop, but where I am motivated I have huge drive.

This woman just seemed nice. I liked her. And, I am better trusting, I will get further if I trust, I can rely on the confidentiality and the basic decency of a person who would make a go of this kind of work over fourteen years.

I became present.

My self esteem is on the floor- or below it.

-What do you want?

These things seem inextricably linked for me. I want to work on- ah, that’s what to call her:

my low self esteem
getting my inner parts talking, and pulling together
bringing out my Beautiful Self.

And I may yet surrender enough to cuddle that teddy bear. I know it would feel good, if I could burst the barrier of judgment and shame.

The Real Self and the Inner Light

Quakers have the concept of the Inner Light which comes from God and which shows us the Way, which we then follow. For example early Quakers had a thrawn determination not to admit anyone as their superiors, just because the authorities called them such: removing their hats in court would have been showing respect to the judge, and Quakers were imprisoned for refusing to do so. Most people then would have removed their hats before a judge without thinking about it. It was just what everyone did, the societal expectation unconsciously obeyed. The Quaker refusal could be called monstrous egotism, asserting onesself over society. Alternatively, it is selfless, because it involves considerable personal risk and suffering in prison, and righteous, a stand against false authority coming from power rather than consent.

I can create a selfish and a selfless explanation of it. And the selfish explanation does not necessarily make it bad- though here I am analysing a corporately discerned campaign of many Quakers, so biased to see it as worthwhile rather than as, say, subversive of social cohesion and threatening a new civil war.

The analysing gets in the way: words make judging the rightness of the action more difficult. From a Quaker perspective, “hat honour” is clearly from our inner Light, the Spirit, God, because it was discerned by so many and carried out for so long. Most people do not wear hats now, and we have different ways of showing respect or a sense of equality.

Identity is a series of constructs dependent on specific circumstances. My friend said that is a quote from Patrick Marber- perhaps he paraphased it. After I committed to transition, the things I would have said about my identity changed. If I say I am “Scots”, what I mean by that depends on circumstances.

Jacques Lacan, a psychoanalyst, may help explain. The role of the analyst is to hear the voice of the unconscious, which makes itself audible through the censorship of consciousness in riddles, allusions, elisions and omissions, explains Caroline Belsey in Poststructuralism aVSI. In the same way, Quakers sit in silence listening to the inner light. I write poetry, sometimes: writing prose I seek to make sense, which involves using the meanings my society has adopted for words having their common use. That common use guides my thought, making some ideas unthinkable, like George Orwell’s Newspeak: The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. That works with English, too. Audre Lorde:

The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

So we create new words, to name new concepts. “Slut-shaming”, for example: it is no longer just the way of the world that single men and women who have sex are treated differently. We can point it out, argue and protest, assert different values.

Speaking in order to make sense to others within my community, I am trapped by my community’s unspoken assumptions. It is a continual struggle to escape those assumptions. I do not even see them, for they appear to be mere reality, the way things are/should be. In the same way my self-concept is bound up in words, ideas of how I should be or am, which get in the way of seeing my true nature.

Winston Smith escaped stultifying convention in sex with Julia, where the brain escapes its linguistic analysis in the moment of release.

The organismic self, spontaneously relating to its surroundings, responding to stimuli, is restrained by convention. Thinking differently is a huge struggle. Quaker practice can break those bonds. We sit in silence, attentive to the inner light. We speak from that light. Together, we can decide to go against the culture, led by something so powerful we call it God.

The language-animal, classifying and conceptualising with words learned from others, will fear that light. The light is unbearable to it.

The idea of the Real Self

A concept of a “Real self” could get in the way of being real. If it is a virtuous concept, and I want to see myself as virtuous, it might nudge me to take action I otherwise wouldn’t; and that could be “The practice of Virtue Ethics” (good) or Hypocrisy (bad). How would I know? More likely, it would make me deny qualities. The idea of onesself as “depressive” rather than “having depression” makes depression harder to heal, I read.

Or again my female/ feminine self must be the Real Me, to make transition as irresistible as it was. I had resisted cross-dressing for a year, once, and then started again. I drew comfort from Carl Rogers’ idea of the Self-Concept and the Organismic Self, but that does not mean the Organismic Self is fixed: it could be responsive, in the moment.

Meeting Jeremy Corbyn made me more hopeful about politics than I have been.

That thesis. The experience of violence or control makes it difficult to maintain an individual identity, and as a child I felt controlled, and now I feel my personality was subsumed in my mother’s, for her desires.

I’m feeling malleable, that my feelings, desires and acts can be moulded by others, and that would be fine if I felt myself part of a supportive community, but a threat when I feel marginalised and of low status. If I am moulded I feel it is not in my interests.

The need to preserve a self-concept will get in the way of other needs, eventually undeniably. That could be part of the Waking-up, Rock-bottom moment: you give up trying to pretend that you are who people told you you were, and seek your own interests. Suffering is the origin of consciousness, wrote Достоевский.

If I am malleable, there is no way of escaping the pain. Not in integrity, I am merely, always, confused and hurt.

-One of my trans friends who is exuberant and bubbly most of the time and withdraws from contact with people at other times fears therapy because she’s frightened there’ll be nobody there. You keep taking the skins off the onion. Take the muddle away and there’s nothing underneath, it’s muddle all the way down.

But it could be freeing. If I have integrity, if I am a lump of iron I need a me-shaped hole to fit into. Being mercurial means I can always fit, just flow into the hole available.

Or that I can’t get a complete handle on it using my own language and conscious understanding does not mean that there is no- I’m using too many negatives. EVEN THOUGH I cannot understand myself that doesn’t mean there is no self to understand, but that self includes

malleability.

I so want something to rely on!

And I had set my heart on having a self-understanding, and relying on that. And having it fixed, rather than having to keep updating it in the light of new information.

Being malleable. That could be bad- there’s no real me and no end to pain, or good- being fluid and able to react.

There should be a Truth, which is comprehensible, except there isn’t.

I see everything in a binary way, and judge it as good or bad. Innate quality is not contrary to social construction, we are nature and nurture. I am a different person in a work situation, and with different friends.

I seek safety, and often it seems to me that I am seeking safety from illusory threats in illusory protection which might be more threatening. I’ve got loads of three dimensional blocks and I’m turning them round and thinking, they must be able to fit together somehow. I’m really intelligent and I must be able to do this. Maybe it does not matter if they don’t- I have partial, inconsistent, and changeable understandings of the world and that is the best I can do, and it’s good enough.

We only assert gender if it is challenged. Most people don’t have their gender challenged. I say I am a woman, and others say no you’re not. But cis women get moulded by the beauty myth into trying to look a certain way.

And if cutting my bits off was a mistake, I have got to get over it sometime.
-OhmyGod that was stupid I can never trust myself again

My Rock would be an unquestionable view of myself as trustworthy, always doing the right thing in the moment, and that is illusory. Rather, I do my thing in the moment and do not understand it, but I have survived, so far. I might trust my reactions more than I do, if I did not second-guess them so much. But if there is a Real Me, I do not know her- or at least, cannot describe her with words.

(c) The Foundling Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Masculine ideal, feminine reality

I lay on the floor weeping “I am not a man”, and I knew I had to transition. But what is this “Man” I was rejecting? It was the idea of masculinity I had taken in from my family, the wider culture and individual interactions with people. Underneath it was a Real Me, rebelling and subverting it, so that I was at war with myself.

I imagined myself manly, and took action to develop that. I joined the territorial army. Why did they not send me to the District Assessment Board? Because I was “insufficiently military”. This does not mean that women could not be army officers. I told a female officer I would be attending, and then later that I would not, holding back tears. Tears would certainly not have been military, and she acknowledged that effort while distancing herself- I had been a possible friend, and was now a private.

What else? The army is the myth I picked on. Walking the Lairig Ghru, perhaps, and back by the Lairig an-Laoigh. I was at risk, and should not have done it alone: at the end, I was exhausted. I had to ford a stream where the plank bridge had been washed away, wading thigh deep in fast flowing, cold water; I did not know what the Ordnance Survey map symbol for “cliffs” meant, so clambered down rocks, twisting the frame of Trefor’s rucksack. I was OK, I managed. I feel that self-reliance is a good thing which need not be gendered, and I coped with the challenges I had not anticipated. I don’t know where I am with that: proud of doing it; not sure about the instinct which drove me to it, which could be an idea of manhood and my own failure to live up to it, bullying myself or developing myself.

Developing myself was good. I wanted to keep fit, and settled for swimming about a mile three times a week. I could enjoy the effort. Everyone should exercise.

Interactions with others- it is so instinctive. How could I know, now, or read from memory what was going on? What I thought at the time and what I would think now support my ideas and desires. When I started in Perthshire, I wrote in my diary: “I cannot endure this job. I must enjoy it.” I did not understand the world, any more than anyone else in his early twenties. I know more three decades on.

It seems that the “manhood” was one part of my being, who I thought I had to be to fit in with society, and my femininity was unconscious, manifesting itself in my behaviour despite attempts to control it but not acknowledged or valued, seen as weakness and failure. I have two models to understand this. Picking on two parts of the self oversimplifies, but the models do and I feel they map on to each other fairly well, and to my Masculine Ideal v Feminine Reality.

Richard Rohr, mystic contemplative, favours the unconscious self which comes into consciousness as we age, the Reality which I had to transition to unearth. Life and God ask us to let go of our false self—the passing, egoic identity we’ve manufactured in order to cope and survive. To be freed from self-preoccupation, we must be centered in the Real, our inherent and unbreakable identity as God’s beloved. Once we’re connected to our Source, we know that our isolated, seemingly inferior or superior individual self is not that big a deal. The more we cling to self-importance and ego, the more we are undoubtedly living outside of union.

Steve Peters favours the ideal self which you consciously imagine yourself to be. Unusually, he gives his academic title on his book cover- “Prof”- to give himself credibility. Do you sabotage your own happiness and success? Are you struggling to make sense of yourself? Do your emotions sometimes dictate your life? Yes, yes and yes; but I had to let them, as trying to impose that ideal which I came to consciously was torturing me. He wants to give the ideal the power to control the emotional, unconscious part underneath, which he calls the “Inner Chimp”.

The book cover quotes “Sir” Chris Hoy: The mind programme that helped me win my Olympic Golds. The Inner Chimp, laziness and the inability to defer gratification, gives way to an ideal of devotion to training and mastery.

Possibly making a crude identification- Feminine Reality equals God’s Beloved equals Inner Chimp- gets in the way. Rohr has seen the beauty and wonder of the Human part, which he finds underlying, and Peters the beauty and wonder of the conscious understanding, which he wants to develop. Peters wants the Chimp on board, and the person finding goals which the whole person supports.

Certainly some people find the negotiation between the two easier than others. I find it particularly difficult. I feel seeing the wonder, good and beauty in both parts would help. I need to understand, value and reconcile both.

A joyful, playful child

The compliment I treasure as much as any other is, “You can seem serious, but underneath you are just a joyful, playful child”.

On the bus, my attention is wholly on my phone, narrowed to the glowing rectangle. I am safe, scrolling down through facebook or site stats- Ooh, another page view!

A couple in their sixties get on. He walks quickly down the aisle then stands waiting for her. She progresses in a stately manner. “Will you move over please thank you very much” she says to a young man in an aisle seat. He does. “Sit there,” she commands her companion, waving at the seat. He complies. She sits across the aisle from him.

Watching is better. Later, I walk along Nupton Road, beside a park. There are mature trees growing through the pavement. There is so much beauty in this town, but from the bus I was beguiled by buildings- ordinary buildings, you might say, and I enjoyed their colours and sudden shapes as we moved past.

I sit erect, trusting, sufficient. I have dignity. I am safe in my society, even the malicious cannot easily hurt me, and I am rarely even mildly discomposed. What crush and constrain me are fearful fantasies.

At the bus stop a woman glanced over. Her “celebrity” magazine article is about Piers Morgan, and she wears bright Azalea-red lipstick. Did she show surprise at my voice? Who cares, really. Well, I do. As Lucy said and I repeat to my Aspie friend, those of us who are different should not have all the work of keeping the more normal ones comfortable. Or, we need greatly to expand “normal”, to include everyone. It could have been interest. I imagine disapproval. It may just be in my head.

Two policemen in Kevlar with sub-machineguns patrol the shopping mall. I am glad I had heard of Mr Corbyn’s rally, they would have freaked me a bit otherwise.

I reach out to caress the rough bark of the tree.

On the bus, a man in a wheelchair and his partner get on. Both are very tired. He can hardly speak, only make very quiet noises. They miss their stop, because she did not see it and he could not get her attention. The bus driver says he will drive to the end of the line then take them back, and I am surprised at how good his hearing is.

“You had a button,” she says, and he lifts his arm to show there is no button on that handrail. I see one on the other handrail, but perhaps he cannot push it with that left arm. I am a bit sorry, as I am facing him. I thought of moving so she could face him, but did not do so before she sat on the other seat.

I have just had a vile, humiliating experience. I have abased myself, and may not have done enough to avoid being wronged.

Here’s Jamie Catto. I think my dignified child needs looking after. She is not wise to the ways of the world. She will show herself off to be Not Normal, and get squished. She does not anticipate what will happen but is just enjoying the rough bark of the tree and the sudden shapes of quite ordinary buildings, on a slovenly street. Or seeking refuge in her phone. He says the thing I trust to look after her is insane and also fails to anticipate the future, simply believing wild guesses and fantasies.

The child knows what is going on and what she must do, and she is afraid and angry. Or something is afraid and angry, these feelings are inside me. Part of my brain may assert control and I am not sure which bit is best, even if the child is the bit I love, and love being.

Richard Rohr says all breathing is sacred breathing, and our true life is love without ego, which I identify with Jamie’s sane part. Wake up. Rohr, a Franciscan, is as happy with religious and spiritual language as I am.

I touch the rough bark of the tree. I am cracked open. At Yearly Meeting Gathering I walked to the Friday session in delight, loving the profusion of seeds, so many in one bundle, so many bundles in the sycamore. There are also conkers. Approaching the Arts Centre, I started to skip, because I anticipated beauty in the Quaker business meeting, and someone told me after how she had been- not sure what, now, moved pleased delighted happy- to see me skip. Others like the child.

When I became a man I put away childish things. But then, I am not a man.

Rohr gave the exercise, Sitting at a table with a pencil and a piece of blank, unlined paper, look at a nearby object (for example, a vase of flowers, a chair, a tree outside). Turn your attention to the empty or “negative” space surrounding the object. Rather than focus on the object’s contours, look at the lines and curves of the space butting up against the object, the places in between and around the thing itself. Breathe deeply and begin to draw these nooks and crannies of air and emptiness. Keep your focus on the “negative” space as you draw. And I thought, something impossible the Teacher demands and the students attempt with diligence, because they want Enlightenment. Cycling to Meeting yesterday I was a soldier, thinking of my thighs- I saw the moon and trees, some of the time, but much of the time my attention narrowed to the road, and other road users. Only one car passed terrifyingly close, most were far enough away. And I thought, there is no gap. There is always thing, even the light refracted through the atmosphere or that light marbling of almost-not-cloud in the blue. Aha! A Spiritual Lesson!

Anger rage frustration and fear, and an inability to care for herself due to being very very young indeed, and I am almost resigned to the fact that the Child really might be my best option: best for seeing reality, best for seeing people, best for deciding, best for acting.

Abraham Maslow wrote, The most fortunate are those who have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy. Yes. A ripe peach! The bark of a tree!

A song

Birds gotta swim, and fish gotta fly
I’ve gotta be the same girl till I die
Can’t stop bein’ that gal o’ mine

Tho’ I weep, and storm, and rage, and cry
Try to deny- Oh how I try I
Can’t stop being that girl of mine

It cannot be true, it must be a lie
Awake all night, I ask myself why I
Can’t stop being that girl of mine

Then become calm, give up with a sigh
Under the fake, it is the real I
that can’t help bein that gal o mine

Written while considering transition

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.