Expressing emotions, as a trans woman

If you transition male to female, and take hormones, the sensation of your emotions becomes more immediate, more demanding. They impinge on you.

I was not actually crying, but thinking that if I do start to cry I won’t fight it, I’ll just let myself cry. Fighting it is the problem. Then I thought, if they asked, “Is there anything you need, Clare?” I would say, I might start to cry, and if I do don’t worry about it. I get emotional. It’s not a bad thing.

She told me, You have a remarkably calm presence most of the time. You are one of the few serene people I have ever encountered. And there’s a very sharp contrast.

I answered the bit about “serenity”. It’s the acceptance, isn’t it. I practise acceptance. I’m getting quite good at it.

-The majority of human beings are profoundly afraid of distress.

Elders told me my distress was a problem, and I thought, how can I not be distressed? (But perhaps I could prevent it from being visible.)

-It’s that we’re British.

What I’m saying is quite Hippy, really, hippy commune kind of stuff. Let it all hang out, I said: and then she just shut me down, started talking about a TV programme she liked, it had a hippy in it but really was not relevant. But- you’re a counsellor! You are supposed to work with this kind of thing! Hello! I’m Clare! I am emotional! That is, I have emotions like any human being.

All women have this problem. We talk about pre-menstrual tension. It starts in the teens. And to be taken seriously, in Britain at least, they have to appear calm. Perhaps also in US cities: being demonstrative or emotional makes a woman appear unserious, so that her ideas are not heard. Or simply being perceived as a woman therefore emotional, so that she has to cultivate that “serious” demeanour. Hannah Bardell could not come out as lesbian until her thirties, about six years ago.

Men can get rowdy when drunk, and alcohol weakens inhibitions. I don’t like men drunk.

How can I deal with my feelings in society? She had an Italian neighbour who was demonstrative: the energy, the effervescence, the sheer whirliness of that person was there, all the time. High, low, angry, you know, everything was marvellous or everything was shit, she was very angry or she was very upset, just constant.

-You have this calm, serene peace, and then it highlights your distress or passion in sharp relief, and that is what people perceive as “dangerous”. The trouble with this is, she has expressed the matter very positively, and if you call someone “dangerous” you might express it less positively.

Actually I think the dangerous part is the repression. I shove my feelings down below consciousness, and when they erupt (what a dangerous-sounding word) they have all the energy of that repression behind them, like a Jack-in-the-box.

I am dealing with my repression. On Monday I was sitting out in the gorgeous sunshine. The air was a bit chilly but there was almost no cloud. I was meditating for about half an hour, conscious of the birds, and what I was feeling came into my consciousness through allusion, through stories. I found myself thinking about X, and then thought, Oh! I am sad. As the feeling was acknowledged the story changed, and I found another feeling.

You transition, you start taking hormones, and your emotions become sharper and more demanding, yet it is not acceptable to express them and you have to deal with it.

For me, this is the heart of my spiritual growth at the moment, being conscious of my own feelings, my own inner guide, so that I perceive where I am and can respond to it rather than using failed responses designed to keep up appearances. That means reducing the repression. It is a tricky tightrope. I have been appearing calm by repressing feeling. I want to feel the feeling, which can mean appearing emotional, so that I get comfortable with feeling and can appear calm again.

I also want to appear intense. My intensity can feel threatening to some people. Intensity is liberating. Do not hide your light under a bushel. You have to be careful with it, though.

I was sitting in that office thinking of offices I have known. Katie mentioned “hot-desking” and I was back in the chaos of July 2006, not enough desks or computers, and the rest of that chaos. I was back in my terror. I have been broken, repeatedly, so I withdrew, and now I want to rejoin the human race.

And with Tina, she was always shutting me down. I say I want to be emotional, and she says it’s not British. I say I want to be intense, to dance like everyone’s watching, and inspire them to do the same. She says people perceive it as out of control.

-Control’s unbearable! I can’t do control! The control is why I broke! I value myself too much to control myself now. Possibly I might come out the other end and be more aware of when I am shining, but shining is Good! It’s me! Honest, truthful, living my integrity! My parents could not stand my intensity, and that is why it is still a problem. And Repression is the problem, a child’s way of dealing with the intensity or a low status way of dealing with it, don’t come to the alpha-male’s attention. Women got called “hysterical” and still are punished for being “emotional”. That’s what you wanted, right? To be treated as a woman?


Stiff upper lip public reaction to the death of Diana astounded me. I was not entirely alone. I remember sharing in the office our incomprehension, and disapproval of the mawkishness. We looked upon mass hysteria unmoved. And- Britain mourned, publicly, weeping in the streets, dumping flowers in huge piles, and creating a Princess Diana Memorial Garden only a few yards from my office.

When I was 16, Jane’s parents moved away as her Dad had another job, and her best friend Jackie started crying. Soon, all the girls in my year were crying, even those who had hardly known Jane. The boys and I looked on bewildered.

Ian Hislop, in his programme “Stiff Upper Lip, an emotional history of Britain”, pointed to the visible stoicism of Diana’s sons, aged 9 and 15, in her funeral procession. Private Eye mocked the mourners, but it was the moment where Britain as a whole grew more in touch with our emotions, able to perceive and express them. It was a moment of maturing. The stoicism of Keep Calm and Carry On is wonderful and necessary, but not when it means repressing emotions: I need to perceive and integrate them.

I have only created an illusion of stoicism in the past by suppressing my emotions, and I cannot suppress them any more. I doubt I ever worked at my full potential, I gave too much energy to holding those emotional reactions in check, and thought myself Worthless, only of value for what I might achieve. And anything I achieved was only to be expected, but anything which did not go my way was My Fault and Very Bad. I could not carry on that way, and while I have seen this as failure and falling away, I choose to see it as the beginnings of a better way of being. Repression was the only way I knew. but I was getting steadily worse at it, crying in the tribunal waiting room in 2004.

How do I deal with my feelings? I repress them. That was my habitual way, and is even now an instinctive way, and so I still try it sometimes; and I still feel that repression is good and the right way to behave.

I want to develop a Stoic response, conscious of the feeling, accepting and allowing it, while Carrying On- a homunculus in my torso weeps and screams while I hold her and care for her, and do what I have to do. I am practising this. I have not perfected it, yet, but I am getting better.

I have been ashamed at how much we “mention the war”. It is sixty years since, have we nothing to be proud of since then? But- we mention the war because we have a right to be proud of it, even if those who served are dead, or over 86. And, I think we seek in ourselves that stoic keeping calm and carrying on. The “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster was never published. It was kept in case of an invasion or similar catastrophe, third in the sequence illustrated here.

Thanks to Questrix for this wonderful spiritual practice: “Gam zu l’tovah: Even this could possibly be for the good”. This is also different from suppression: I have my first reaction, but I do not cling to it, it is not the end. Similarly, STEB.