This post has been amalgamated into the essay Positively Trans.
My thought that someone was more intelligent than I provoked amazed disbelief. So you’re very very very intelligent and she’s- pause to count the veries- very very very very intelligent? Yet I got a 2:2. I did not want to do the work. Or I wasn’t clever enough, or not engaged and interested, or had other desires, or-
it is important to see these things clearly-
“Have mercy on yourself!” said Menis, and “You are very hard on yourself” said Andy. I judge myself harshly. I did less and less voluntary work and job-seeking until I withdrew, and still half of me was kicking the other half in the kidneys shouting “Get up Get up DO SOMETHING!” Now I am still frightened of the future, frightened of possible homelessness, yet with little motivation.
I have no partner, children, house, job, savings, pension. I am alone and vulnerable.
I have been so ashamed of who I am. I was Worthless, only of value for what I could achieve, yet wanting to hide away because anyone seeing my Shadow (most of me) would be revolted. In Carl Rogers’ terms, my self-concept and organismic self felt separate. Then I found my Vulnerable Bit, soon renamed Real Self, and more recently as I come to accept my shadow, I feel ashamed of denying it for so long, and ashamed of hiding away now. Shame is my Iron Maiden.
And I am beautiful. All this in me which I have denied and repressed is beautiful. Because I have repressed it, I have no partner, children, etc…
So from hating and despising myself for not being other than I am, more intelligent, with more energy and motivation, I could move to hate my parents for screwing me up quite this badly, except that they always did their best, and I have first “forgiven” them then Accepted them, delighted in their struggles and strength.
And I could move to hate the World. It has Oppressed me! All those evangelical Christians, and the unthinking despising of Queers and anything not Normal, which came from Victorian times and lasts, in pockets, even now; those Evangelical “Christians” or Catholics who write that LGBT is “intrinsically disordered” or Against God’s Will, the Tories wanting to repeal the Human Rights Act…
I have met people more intelligent than me before, but two men stick in my mind- the one who came to CAB about his pension, had read the regulations and tried to explain them to me repeating incessantly “Are you wi’ me, are you wi’ me?” I wasn’t, but did not realise that until later, I wanted to be the one explaining. And, more tragically, a big man in a thick black coat, stinking of- probably urine- a mass of anger almost unable to speak, radiating
An anti-role model. A place I might yet not avoid.
I want to transmute it into love. As with my parents I see their strength and struggles, so with the World: to see all its beauty, all the support I get- for while my life has never seemed easy, it really has been- all the progress, Good, Healing.
If I see the World as it is
there is nothing I can do but
That mother comes to mind again. She is the controlling parent, telling me the sensible thing to do, what people expect. How much better to realise that I am beautiful, and worth presenting at my best advantage, and presenting myself well because of self-care? That became so real for me just over a week ago; and now, having coffee with Sabina, putting it into words again does me good, especially when she agrees. It is not a lesson I can just see the truth of, then put seamlessly into practice. It needs my attention.
I tell her something about which I feel guilt and shame. It took courage to tell her, getting over my projection: I imagined her face going blank and hostile, and turning from me. I imagine you doing the same. I know what I will do, I have a right to do it, and still I need absolution for it in one or two more conversations. The shame has poisoned my last two years. She tells me I am quite right; there is no need to be ashamed. I feel absolved.
-People need- word beginning with A. She could not think of it immediately.
She was thinking of the word Approval. That is far more threatening. It gives away my power, appoints someone as my judge- and yet, it is attractive. I want someone to rely on, someone bigger than me who says “It’s going to be alright” and reassures me. I could I suppose fantasise one of a number of women I know. In my mind I tell her my problems and she looks at me gravely with those wise eyes which miss nothing, and nods: understanding, not condemning. Were I Catholic I might select one from the Lives of the Saints.
That moment of presence. I think now of a moment at Greenbelt where a branch and leaves caught my attention completely, and I was Present. Is it spiritual or neurological? I don’t think it matters- even if this was an effect of a neural circuit I share with all mammals, even all vertebrates, it gave me joy. Wanting that experience again would be resistance to the Now; but I could get the same feeling of perception and delight in the yellow of that taxi over there; or in our conversation.
The difference between synchronicity and coincidence is how you see it: meh, or joy. This is a choice.
The trouble with D’s idea of Spiritual Growth is that it is all so linear. You move from stage to stage, whereas I have learned some quite advanced lessons and am yet to learn simple ones- you too, though which lessons will differ. Another would think of them as life lessons, not spiritual at all.
We touched on this, and I still want an answer. My CV is comically dreadful.
-So, Miss Flourish, I see you worked as a solicitor. Wouldn’t you get bored working on the checkout?
Not an answer to endear me. Or,
-You want to work in law? You last worked as a solicitor in 1992, and I see that three times you have left a job with no job to go to. Even twice might be unlucky, but three times?
-Well, what I was doing in 2009 was sort-of legalish–
So I keep on, with the spiritual lessons, and the analysis, and the ersatz human contact of facebook and wordpress. I despaired. No longer despising myself- WHAT TO DO, NOW?
So much laughter this morning! Delight, and communion!
We drove round delivering the U3A newsletters, delivering ten in just under an hour, and so saving £3 on stamps. Then we had a root around in the charity shop, then went for a sit down, a coffee and a natter. As a present, her daughter had got her and her husband a weekend in the Cotswolds, with a “Pudding Club” dinner. “Have you heard of the Pudding club?”
I had. “A very small main course, then on to the puddings?”
-It wasn’t, actually. It was a proper roast dinner, with a large helping of turkey. Then we started on the puddings. They were all proper traditional English puddings:
(she counts them off on her fingers. She’s going to enumerate all of them!)
-Spotted dick, and apple crumble, and jam roly-poly, and Christmas pudding….
-There were seven puddings in all, and then after you could have extra helpings. I missed out on two, Steve had all seven, one man had three extra, that’s ten puddings!
Can I reciprocate?
-On Sunday at one in the morning, we were lounging around, under duvets, singing to a man with a guitar.
-Were you cold, or something?
-No, it was just nice to snuggle up, I say vaguely.
I would have called her a bit of a bore, but she has managed to fill our time together, and fill the time for conversation far better than I had, having far less detail to share. She recalls a pleasant memory. As she speaks, she feels that pleasure, and communicates it. I feel unable to broach the topic of my recent epic journey of self-acceptance, though perhaps that is unfair, and it would be heard kindly and with a similar feeling of pleasure. They walked around the village, and through a butcher’s window she saw the man making sausage links by hand. He was so quick! It was wonderful to watch.
After writing my own post, I googled “Feminine men”, and found this post on Thought Catalog. The comments from women are encouraging in that they all agree, but discouraging in that they say things like People often think I’m really weird when I tell them all this and I know no one who is like me too.
Then I found Love Red Nails, first “Women marrying feminine men“. The writer talks of wanting her partner in a dress for the wedding. They often share clothes. Out came my internalised femme-phobia: it is alright for a man to be feminine, but cross-dressing is going too far, I thought. I resented her mentioning this, thinking it made a lovely idea tawdry and fetishistic, even though I express myself female all the time. Trans women are encouraged to distance ourselves from transvestites- it sometimes seems we are more acceptable if we have a “medical condition”.
It is about sex. Of course it is. How could finding a partner not be? But it is also about relating to the world as a whole, in all of life. That I should still think of dressing feminine as a dirty little fantasy shows how pervasive femme-phobia is. I read what the male commenters have to say on both these posts, and feel they shouldn’t be saying these things, they should keep quiet about it, even as I begin to say the same myself. All my fear comes out. I clicked Submissive men and read Sensitive or submissive men are very different from normal (sic) guys in their behavior. What’s normal? People are like this! What is the feeling about camp v “straight acting” gay men atm?
Then Lucy writes about women who like feminine men, whether they are cross-dressers or are “on the passive side and not afraid to be vulnerable”. Um. Passive. Vulnerable. Not well regarded, and not comfortable even for me. That physically delicate and vulnerable type of man gives me a sort of protective instinct. I just want to hold him tight and keep him safe from the big bad world. I never decided to be that way, it’s just what comes up in response to what I see around me. That is what I want in a woman, though it makes me ashamed. I still feel I should be stronger than that.
I don’t read much contemporary fiction, but am unaware of a novel in which a couple where the woman “wears the trousers” (not an attractive phrase; better than “pussy-whipped”) have a happy lasting relationship. Or on the telly- Stuart on LA Law, perhaps.
The Wall St Journal, no less, says “Women don’t want macho men” when their countries have good health-care systems, because the masculine man is more likely to get divorced, and less good with children. In passing, the female writer suggests the feminine men are more likely to get cuckolded- which is part of the femdom fantasy.
Also, there was Youtube, a series of pictures of men in “women’s” clothes, some of them growing or mimicking breasts, some not.
I want to say, How fantastic! Liberation! But I am still ashamed and frightened, and want to keep quiet about it. Is that “feminine”?
It is different for each of us, but our insights are collective: ours is a Do It Together not DIY society. Our discipline is difficult, for we must give over our own wills. We move away from a rigid demarcation of members from attenders. Most meetings use attenders to do particular jobs. Some attenders do not apply for membership out of a feeling of unworthiness, but none of us is Worthy in that sense (or all of us)- we keep learning. Some reject membership fearing the burden of the tasks of the meeting, and all those committees. We reject outward sacraments, considering the underlying spiritual reality, but we still have this process. And some, contrary to expectation, find joining transformative. Someone suggested a re-commitment act for members.
Though we are collective, we give space in which each person can work out her/his spiritual journey. We come together and maintain our cohesiveness not through all using the same words, but through mutual respect and care, which is more difficult. We share structures which permit our experiences to happen. We need something which can unite us: perhaps it is the power of God.
We issued a Statement on Gaza urging diplomatic recognition of Palestine. The clerks said that it was particularly carefully drafted, but some speakers from the floor quibbled, wanting more emphasis on Hamas rockets. They delayed our statement by only a few days.
I went to the “Jane Austen Dances”, which were on at lunchtime daily, once. I had not heard dances Jane might have done in Bath around 1805 called that before. It was crowded and enthusiastic and bodged, error-prone. On the Friday evening some people did a demonstration on the stage, but I did not find the chance to perform worth the effort of practising.
I found Ben Pink Dandelion giving the Swarthmore Lecture charismatic. He was eye-catching and charming. He waved a page of A4 saying it was his entire notes. After, a woman told me he was irked sometimes by female admirers sitting at his feet and looking reverent. In his question and answer session, I found his jokes not brilliant, and most of the laughter sounded feminine. But someone else said he is gay.
Thursday morning I was exhausted, and weepy, in misery around not being able to stay on the sick indefinitely, but not getting work either. I sat in the sun in the camp site with a novel, then wandered in to talk to an Overseer. Being heard, I could talk myself into calm. I had met the man at the clerks’ course, but did not recognise him because he had shaved off his moustache. Then I sat in the gathering tent chatting and joking.
Mark Smulian, an Israeli who had been part of a band with Palestinians talked, and led us in a workshop clapping rhythms and taking turns to improvise across the rhythm. Aged 18, he volunteered to be a paratrooper, and had to police a curfew. On patrol, he saw an “Arab” out, so gave chase, and when he caught her found she was 15, so let her go: his human reaction went against his training, law and duty. Thank God.
A filmed experience of YMG:
If I use words, I cannot avoid inaccuracy, interpretation and ideas. Sometimes when communicating, only silence will do. However, since communicating in silence remains a rare, intense experience for me, usually I have nothing better than words.
Words trap us in ideas. A clear idea is a vehicle for understanding, and a barrier to greater understanding: the idea that planetary orbit must be perfect, and therefore had to be circular, inhibited observers from discerning the true orbit. I seek to crack open ideas with paradox:
Both are true: God is God is not
This sometimes works, sometimes does not.
We know our experiences. We theorise explanations of them. My heart beat fast. I could not stay sitting. I had to speak. This I know, and others hear and instantly recognise their own experience. The theories are that God did it, or unconscious processes did it. If I demand that others accept a particular theory, I create a barrier between people who share experiences. Theist and non-theist share the idea that what is said may be good or bad- from God or from evil spirits, or from communal co-operative or selfish unconscious impulses.
Quakers say “Christianity is not a notion, but a way”. We use “notion” as a jargon term like Marx’s original idea of “ideology”- a false understanding. So my religion is one of practice and attitude, not belief or dogma. I have the experience of Unity in a business meeting, I do not need a theory of what causes it.
Rhiannon Grant led a workshop at yearly meeting on our words. She has done a thesis on the words we use. She invited us to put them in categories: words we never/sometimes/always use. “God” was in all three. I could say “Highest Good/ Truth/ Reality” as a synonym. Some of us are happy saying “Jesus of Nazareth” but not “Christ”. Sometimes it seemed that our most precise words were used less. I was pleased there to see again a man who, in this highly intelligent gathering, is particularly clear and sharp. He is enjoying being a Woodbrooke trustee.
Often we say what we are not. “Quakers do not have a creed”- yet we have accumulated a number of verbal formulations which we assent to, the first being “There is that of God in every one”, ripped out of George Fox’s original context and made gender neutral. We don’t have a lot of those, though, and most are images, leading people on rather than leaving them in a definite (so probably erroneous) idea.
“Inner Light” is a good word for what leads us. We know what we mean. Outsiders might not. So in discussions we seek to use words people will hear and resonate with, treading carefully and checking their responses. Though if someone merely wishes to deride my idiocy, I can be more knockabout.
One woman found she was using verbs rather than nouns: “Encounter” rather than “God”. Again, this brings us back to the experience rather than the theory.
Let there be no barriers between us!
As my words move in your mind
We become one flesh, like lovers
though we only pass in the street
At YM, we discussed the meaning of membership. I want to belong. When I joined Quakers, as I moved towards Transition I felt isolated and vulnerable. I was a stranger, and you took me in.
However we are counter-suggestible, often, and not all feel like that. One woman said she had been an attender for thirty years before joining, and each suggestion that she join put her off for longer. Sometimes, Friends wish such an attender to be an elder or a clerk. Thoughts, and thought-experiments:
In Tripoli five ex-pat Quakers have a meeting in each others’ houses. They all retain membership of British area meetings. Someone joins them, and wants to become a Quaker. For this person, a Membership procedure has great importance. They could, together, discern that this new person is one of them, a Quaker entire, but they have no power to call him a member of our Society.
I could say the first attender should grit her teeth and allow the formal procedures to recognise the reality of her membership, her being a Quaker, however unhappy she feels about joining; or the second should be satisfied with the welcome and inclusion he gets from the other ex-pats. Or, I could say that Friends should accept fuzziness around membership, that the first is obviously a Quaker and can be given the jobs, but the second needs a formal membership procedure and British Quakers should give him one.
We are members of area meetings originally because we operated a parallel poor law, and needed a group which would be responsible for our poor; but we don’t, now, and the difficulties of having a National membership should not be insuperable. A small committee could be appointed, or an existing committee could deal with it. We have lots of committees. Generally, we are members of particular area meetings now because we are members of communities of people, Friends in practice as well as theory, but not all of us need be.
Sometimes things are important to people, and the rest of us should look after them. I met a woman who loathed the very word “God” because for her it was irredeemably masculine, a Father which excluded her, and no matter how reasonable I am, saying God is agendered, and being careful with the pronouns and language I use, when she hears the word “God” she gets upset.
My role, here, in these disputes, is to be a peacemaker, a role most Quakers like. “Can you give what they want? It should not be too hard. It is not a great denial of Principle,” I say, winsomely, to both sides. This is more Quaker than “plain speech” is, so there.
Membership, the word “God”, the ability to reject formal membership procedures, all have value, but each individual human being has greater value.
To provoke thought, I suggested a “proposal of membership”. Elders could identify an appropriate attender, and bring the matter for the discernment of Area Meeting, then tell the attender that we will recognise her/him as a Quaker, a member, if s/he only agree to it. Some people are frightened of the membership procedure, imagining they might not get through. Some don’t.
We are serious people doing serious things, but it was a lot like a party for two thousand people going on for a week. S complained about looking like a little old lady, and was not reassured when I said she was a lot more impressive after one had talked to her for five minutes. Her hippy coloured trousers did not help: the eye passing over a “little old lady” does not notice them.
In the bar I would see couples chatting away, recognise the style of name badge, and ask if I could join them. I was not rebuffed. I talked to a big burly man with a thick, wild beard about the Salter Lecture, the “Socialist rant” as he called it. I was disappointed last year in the talk on co-operatives. It was on tax justice this year. He says law must follow opinion: tax avoidance must be seen to be Wrong before we can make it unlawful. I disagreed: the discrimination law was ahead of public opinion.
The Quaker Lesbian and Gay Fellowship would not change its name to a longer acronym, but a bisexual man said he was not recognised. So they have the slogan “Accepting all sexualities”. A woman challenged me on this- what about paedophilia? Well, Adam is a sympathetic paedophile. The act is abominable, the person tempted to it is not. I have experience of the Normal People pointing at the Weirdos Over There- me; and being unable to do anything but transition despite its weirdness and difficulty; so have sympathy. Bestiality- can the animal consent? I have read those who do it say the animal does, and bestiality is also compulsive. Necrophilia? Er-
She also said that if trans women really were “the shock troops of patriarchy” we could find a better way of going about it.
A woman told me about the historical Jesus- definitely Not God, definitely Jewish. She had been reading Geza Vermes. Oh, OK.
Two women talked of “our children”. Hmm. Are they a couple? It feels like they are, though the phrase does not make it certain, and I feel unable to ask: being lesbian is entirely normal, one doesn’t make a thing of it.
The last time I met Sue, I felt excluded. She did not want me there, and I thought- “But I’m not the Bad Person”. On the last evening I joined her and her husband, and we talked of how their children were getting on, and R’s children, and Cardiff meeting, which is growing, with more younger people. She was at the meeting with H and felt there was movement towards reconciliation. I have now facebook friended her. It was a gentle conversation. We hugged. I would not want to discuss previous issues, though perhaps “worship sharing” would be possible- saying how we felt and what we thought had happened, without discussion or dispute. Here at least we can take pleasure in each others’ gifts and happiness.
I noticed that what I remember of these conversations is what I say. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for it can help me get things clear in my mind to articulate them, and I respond to the other speaking at the time. However I thought it would behove me to listen a bit more, and try to remember.
One debtor I pursued would pay my client the supplier just before making his next order. Eventually the supplier got fed up. Several made up spurious complaints about goods supplied: almost always I acted for the creditors, but once I acted for the debtor, and it was my client trying that on. Sometimes it seems that the debtor would rather pay more money to a solicitor, to avoid paying a smaller debt- or, perhaps, run up fees without intending to pay them, either.
I have always dealt with these people at one remove, but have met fantasists. One woman told me she had been dismissed after transition, and her manager had written to the Human Resources worker: “Never send me a pervert like that again”. The HR worker was so shocked by this that she sent the letter to my friend, who used it to obtain £75,000 in compensation. The way I have told it, the story is full of holes: she told it slightly better, and I cannot remember or care how she filled in those holes. She also told me that she had two X chromosomes, but one had an “SRY inclusion factor” which had made her develop in the womb as a male. Apparently this is possible but uncommon. She told me “You look so feminine, possibly you have that too”- and I went away in a dream, to crash down to earth shortly after. I still resent her for that. I met one fantasist and heard later of her terrifying violence.
Then there were the two men who had served seven years for attempted murder. After one lost his DLA appeal, he started a long paranoid rant about how people in the DSS were conspiring against him. He had all his anger and malice, but prison had broken his ability to carry it out, except to his partner and children. As for the broken, grey woman who had chosen the other one, I never heard her speak.
Treading on difficult ground, here. I started with a specific case known to a specific person, whom I would like to call a friend even if a blogging connection seems too tenuous for that. Some reading will know whom I mean. I write selfishly- I do everything from selfish motives- and I am trying to be constructive. I can use both empathy and analysis, separately.
These people are at the tip of the bell-curve, but not a species apart: they show what humans are capable of, just as our heroes do. We can distance ourselves by seeing them as the enemy, the out-group- cockroaches, infidels, “gay activists” are such out-groups, and this is more difficult for me being in one such out-group myself. They show what those around me might be capable of. Yet- not everyone is like that: out of luck, we manage to avoid such urges, and rub along together.
Seeing one beggar at close quarters makes a far greater impact on me than knowledge of thousands of them in the city. This is a human response. It is the way we are wired up.