Dialogue of the Inner Voices

Anxiety is fear, curdled.

Two of my inner voices have been diametrically opposed, struggling, both miserable, both mostly unconscious, manifested in lassitude and misery. Both want my good. Both are Welcome. My Frontal Lobe, as the conscious part of this process, this animal, this Euarchontoglire called Abigail, invites both into consciousness, to see if they could be brought into dialogue.

One is resentful, frustrated and angry. It wants me to justify my existence, to have meaning in my life. It wants to stretch me and push me to achieve. The other is resentful, frightened and hurt. It feels bullied by the Stretcher. I call it my No. No, that is unreasonable. No, I will not go out cycling and struggle up hill, being cursed as weak and useless.

Fear, unheard, slops around inside like stagnant water, like bilge water in a ship. It could have been useful. It warned of a threat. And now it has gone bad, detached from the threat it warned of, attached to anything it can slime. It becomes anxiety. It does not mean there is no real threat, just that finding that threat is more difficult, and needs patience; and anxiety may linger after I find the threat, unsure that I really have dealt with it.

So the Frontal Lobe, the Love, the Reconciler, to make this a positive sum game brings both voices into separate rooms, lavishing praise and gratitude on both for their care and labour, with a hint of a suggestion that their aims might be achieved better if a few small adjustments were made.

There is the Stretcher, which the Protector wishes to call the slave-driver. It wants me to achieve. I am competitive, and it encourages me this morning to go cycling. The Protector fears the slave-driver will get angry and frustrated, and start to bully uselessly. Harder! Faster! I cudgel myself, scourge myself, as I go up hill too slowly for my liking, not wanting to go down a gear because I should be able to do it in this gear. The Stretcher is continually bamboozled, as well as resentful, that this is not as easy as it thinks it should be.

Well, the lie it imbibed was that things are easy and its performance should be perfect. It has fixed at quite a young age, this aspect of myself. At that young age, I decided that difficult things should appear easy and require little effort, and the Stretcher, frustrated, resentful, angry and mostly unconscious, affecting me unawares, has not learned how to- drop a gear, literally and figuratively, to break the task down, take it slower, make it easier, take the time necessary to learn it, build up gradually.

With Love, the Reconciler thanks it for its determination to achieve and develop, and suggests it might achieve these worthwhile goals more easily by breaking the task down. That is a long hill, steep in places. I notice that if I drop to a gear lower than I ever use at the steepest parts, I can rotate my pedals quicker, and be in a higher gear later on when it is less steep. I have noticed that the cyclists who pass me turn their cranks much faster than I do. Possibly that is a technique which would make me more efficient. I read about it last century, I think, this idea of Cadence, around the time I found that a simple change to my breaststroke technique made me a faster swimmer.

(Last century. There’s the resentment, the self-blaming. How stupid I am, how stupid these voices! That resentment does not help. Turn it round. Here I am learning ways new to me, which will improve my performance. I will achieve the goals of both!)

Now is what matters.

I am in conscious incompetence. These are decisions to make. Gear 2.1 is much lower than 2.2. I can go up hill in 2.2 but it is a struggle. Then 2.1 feels too low. I may learn which works best by trying both, or perhaps work harder for a bit in 2.2 then go back to 2.1. Trying different combinations may help me learn. Bringing this to consciousness and putting it into words, doing something I don’t know will work in a spirit of enquiry, may help me improve.

This is the aim of the Stretcher.

The Reconciler has also been aware of the Protector, also in its room. The Protector is anxious. It has been scourged and cursed before, it will happen again! But the Stretcher does not seem so angry and frustrated. The Protector might be enticed. Sunshine is good for me. Birds and blossom are beautiful. The Protector wants me to achieve, too, just not to be bullied. Bullying is a No.

The Reconciler hears that demand. No Bullying. Well, that seems reasonable. The Stretcher does not realise it is bullying, that is the problem. Do you see it wants our Good?

Mmm. The Protector is not absolutely convinced, but willing to suspend judgment for the moment. Then its anxiety comes over it. What if my tyre punctures or Something Bad Happens? It has worked so hard to protect me, it needs my care itself.

Most of the time I was out, the Protector was grudgingly admitting that the Stretcher was behaving more sensibly, though some of the time one or the other panicked and needed reassurance. Well, I am a sensitive soul, and that is a blessing, and I need my own love and reassurance. The Reconciler worked to reassure both.

This is a work in progress. And I notice my progress, and give each of these voices, and my whole self, necessary praise and thanks.

Touch

I have not hugged anyone since 6 March. The attention and touch to my bare skin yesterday moved me. Human fellow-feeling also moved me- texting can be beautiful- but I need reassurance of my value, and caring touch made me feel better. I will wring all the pleasure I can from the experience.

I saw my pulse was low, and did something about it: search to find if that’s a problem, phone the NHS, speak to my GP. She arranged the CCG. Then on Thursday evening I found myself thinking about it. Would I be OK? I analysed this. Possible heart problems are a thing people might be worried about, and worried people might think about the thing they were worried about. I had done all I could about it for the moment. So possibly I am worried. I’ve just looked up the difference between worry and anxiety: here it is. Worry is verbal, in the head. I used the word correctly, even though I could not have specified the difference.

Next day, I went to the surgery. Because of The Disease, you go in and announce your presence, then wait outside. Only where a physical examination is necessary do you see a professional in person at all. I chatted to a man of eighty, who arrived on an electric scooter. Someone was going to give him a lift, but had not turned up. He told me he was fed up, and made clear he meant he wanted to die. He had had a cataract operation in February, and when he went in they had told him they had to remove the lens. They really should have told him that before, as that is how you treat a cataract. Then they told him he could not drive for weeks, and now he has double vision sideways and all the opticians are closed. It is good to chat. He had been in the army for ten years, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a formative and terrifying experience for him.

A woman turned up in a mask. “That looks professional,” I said. It doesn’t have the vents or filters, she said, it’s from her husband’s work, and more a dust mask than an airtight mask.

I decided to identify this tree. I think it is a silver birch. Say if you think different.

The nurse, in an apron of plastic film, a hair covering, and a mask, chatted away as she fastened sticky contacts to my skin: chest, abdomen and ankles. That was the caring touch. It mattered, despite her latex gloves. She so misses touching. She is a huggy person. “Normal sinus rhythm,” she said, and the doctor confirmed.

Going without touch matters, as a human being, a primate, an animal; and it is how things are. I will accept it.

Then I went off for blood tests. I was challenged at the door: have I had a cough or fever in the last seven days? No, and not a headache, loss of taste and smell, or lesions on the toes either. The phlebotomist had to have a good dig around in my arm before finding the vein.

How can you just enjoy cycling? I realised I was pedalling along in a fury of resentment. I resented the wind, I resented the inclines, and when I was working hard I cudgelled myself to work harder. I should not need to drop a gear, here. No wonder I never want to go, though I get some pleasure when out. Yet the most memorable moment of the thirteen miles was stopped at a temporary traffic light, when I stood and looked at the trees. A worker approached the light, opened the metal box wired to it, apologised. Oh, that’s alright, I said. They may have been non-binary and I was keen to identify their assigned gender, just like a straight person probably would be. Something about the hip to shoulder ratio in the shapeless overalls made me think them female, but only the voice (goggles, hard hat) made me sure.

So today I decided I would enjoy the cycling. I looked at the gorgeous pink blossom on two trees. I looked at the many different greens on the foliage, and the shivering wide-leaved grass. I dropped a gear when I felt the need, and may have gone faster as a result. I praised myself for going up the inclines, and fully enjoyed going down. I thought of that resentment: only appreciation and love will do. “Love! Love! Love!” I cried.

I want views from another country, so tag this post Mauritania. Mauritania, in West Africa, has some fascinating rock art.

Feelings about feelings

My feelings are my response to the world. If I reject my feelings, I reject my self. I have been taught to reject my feelings, and this paralyses me. My feelings still affect me even if I am not conscious of them. It seems to me that I need to be consciously aware of feelings in order to process them.

I went to the supermarket yesterday. I cycled along the unmetalled road, in the sunshine, enjoying the colours of the lakes. Impressionists using strange colours for water, not blue but colours I cannot name, make more sense to me, and help me see the water more truthfully. I needed to go as I had no fruit in the house, and wondered why I had still not wanted to get up. (At last I was aware of not wanting to get up, rather than being unconscious of it, or in denial.) Why would I not want to be here?

Well, there is the effort of cycling, which is harder on this track, though there is little wind. And, I am outside. There is more sensory stimulation outside, more light, more noise. Rather than the various electric hums of my household, there are birds. Inside, where I prefer to be, I am in control, safest in the immediate moment, and outside is different. And there are people about. People are weird, and possibly threatening.

Knowing that everything must be perfect as I perform this task, of going to the supermarket, finding and buying things, and bringing them home, and therefore everything must be predictable, I feel anxiety. This is completely wrong of me, proof of my weakness and inadequacy. I should not feel anxious.

“You are terribly harsh with yourself,” said Andy.

Because I judge myself for being anxious, I rarely permit myself to be conscious of anxiety, and noticing it can be surprising. And realising how liberating knowing my sadness could be, I am determined to excavate it. That judgment may in the past have made me more effectual- I suppressed my anxiety, and got on with the task in hand- but now it cripples me, stopping me doing anything. And, so distanced from my own feelings, the choice of that task would rarely be my own.

Unconscious anxiety just stops me acting. I do not want to feel anxious, so I do not want to go out. So I lie in bed, half the morning, wondering if I will ever have enough motivation to get up; and when I think, oh, I’ll have lunch then watch TV all afternoon, I finally do.

The emotional being then becomes a recalcitrant servant, always needing coaxed, never doing as much as my conscious sense of rightness or need wants it to do. It is rarely brought into consciousness and it rarely makes positive choices to do something that I want to do. When I am conscious of my feelings, they disturb or distress me; they feel as if they are merely wrong. So I continue suppressing them, and notice I am not doing what that sense of rightness feels is appropriate.

My income is low, and I have been dipping into savings. I was not really conscious of income and outgoings. I was more and more careful of what I spent, for example not buying clothes, but had no real idea of when I was exceeding income. I paid utility bills when I got threats of legal action. It seems to me I am unconsciously resentful of my situation without any idea what to do about it, and I would be less vulnerable if I could monitor my spending, fit it to my income, and pay bills as they come in. I did not like the idea of powerlessly resenting. It feels to me this is more conscious, more truthful, and I should be in credit at the end of the month, just. The feeling affects my actions, whether I am conscious of it or not, and may be noticeable to others, even if I do not see it myself.

In the past, the denial of my feelings has served my purposes. The feeling was too scary to be admitted. But this is a child’s perspective. Generally, the sooner I am conscious of feeling the better it will be.

Being a Trans Activist

How can I cope as a trans activist with all the hostility to trans people, especially in lockdown with all the uncertainty?

Someone shared an Etty Hillesum quote: Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will be in our troubled world. In Occupied Amsterdam under the Nuremberg Laws, she put that into practice.

Someone wrote, And to claim peace, we must excavate our shadows, make the unconscious conscious, reclaim and accept all parts of self.

Contrast Hilary Mantel’s description of Stephen Gardiner: Master Stephen resents everything about his own situation. He resents that he’s the king’s unacknowledged cousin. He resents that he was put into the church, though the church has done well by him. He resents the fact that someone else has late-night talks with the cardinal, to whom he is confidential secretary. He resents the fact that he’s one of those tall men who are hollow-chested, not much weight behind him; he resents his knowledge that if they met on a dark night, Master Thos. Cromwell would be the one who walked away dusting off his hands and smiling. I know resentment. I know threat and conflict, even fleeing down unknown streets at night. Resentment is curdled anger. Anger may do something about a situation, resentment cannot. Resentment focuses on the “things we cannot change”, but the “wisdom to know the difference” is hard practice, especially if there are few things we can change.

I read that rights for trans women are rights for sex offenders. I object, and read that the statement is unobjectionable, even though I feel anxiety in the supermarket, partly feeling fear, unjustified at the moment, that I might be abused as a trans woman. Etty Hillesum bought toothpaste in a pharmacy, and a public spirited citizen challenged her: as a Jew, was she entitled to buy that? She replied she was. And there are public spirited men wanting to stand up for the rights of women against perverts, by which they mean me, and so far I only meet them on line.

I sat in the Quaker meeting, on Zoom, in my exercise. It is possible to challenge an ASA ruling: can I do that? I want the people who pay to tell everyone that I am dangerous, or might be so that no-one should take the risk, rebuked. And I can’t face doing the reading or the writing to make that happen. The answer comes: I can do it, if I can let go of attachment to outcomes. Taking advantage of a video call where I can mute the microphone, I repeat that to myself aloud. “You want to cling to it, and you stop further messages,” my friend said. Perhaps; and I want to accept it, take it into myself, and act on it, because surrendering the need for a particular outcome is difficult. I have seen that with benefits appeals: if people could accept the loss, and make the appeal because it was the thing they could do at that time, they would be far less stressed; and some of them won their appeals! But that is easy for me to say, and instead, often, they resented. I have seen that expressed as a Law of Change: The individuals and the group may have goals, but they may not have cherished outcomes. It is a hard lesson.

So I wrote my challenge, and sent it off, and now see that it would have been better had I spent more time on it, and read it over and revised it before sending. But I hated it too much to do that. I hated the advert and my hate extended to the work I did against it. I would rather not have to do that work. Or I hate my work because I anticipate it will be inadequate, it will not achieve the goal I desire. I will not work well if I hate what I do, only if I can pour love into it. I read that there is an infinite fountain of Love, which I can bathe in, draw strength from, send to wherever I see needs Love. For example, Etty: I should be quite unable to do the work were I not able to draw each day on that great reservoir of peace and maturity. I read that, but I am not sure I trust it or have learned how to do it yet.

Etty Hillesum is of course my teacher and not my comparator. On 15 July 1942 she was given a job with the Jewish Council, and wrote, Tomorrow I must betake myself to hell, and if I am to do the work properly, I shall have to get in a good night’s sleep… Despite the deadly fear I saw in all those faces. All those faces, my God, those faces! And later, They are merciless, totally without pity. And we must be all the more merciful ourselves. I love her ironic prayer: “Have You any other plans for me, O God?”

A last Géricault. Though this woman is in a room, her desolation is hardly less than the shipwrecked man’s.

Be yourself

I know what I must do. Why do I not do it?

  • Because I do not imagine it will work.
  • Because I do not imagine I deserve it.
  • Because I am frightened of what will go wrong.
  • Because before I do it I can imagine doing it brilliantly, and after doing it judge it wanting.

I know what I must do. Why do I still think about and analyse it?

  • Because that is my defence against my fears.
  • Because it puts off starting.
  • Because analysing is the gift I love.

So strong for such a vague memory! How was it? Mum, Dad and me, I think my sister too, feeling content and at peace. Or something. Happy, possibly. Companionable. We weren’t failing to enjoy something we knew we ought to enjoy, and not understanding our feelings at that, but uncomfortable; we were definitely together rather than separate: we all knew we felt the same way, though I don’t think we articulated that. Possibly we could not be verbal about it, only pre-verbal. Dad suggested we all go to the pub in the village. Mum demurred, knowing (how all-knowing I am in my memory!) that this would not prolong the feeling as Dad hoped. I don’t know if we went or not.

So I know at least we always wished each other well, however we were together.

Three months before my father died, I went to Edinburgh to visit him in hospital. He said to me “I awoke in a world of women!” Hospital is not like that, really, but close enough for him to believe and be delighted by his fantasy of being under several female thumbs, all at once. Fxxk yeah. I get that completely. I am in utter sympathy with him.

Dad came close to admitting it before. Mum was a district nurse, and he would remark how delighted he was to see “Totty” in her nurse’s uniform, in her car, driving off to sort some patient out. A firm, decisive woman- but a nurse, which is “Women’s work” so in some way reconcilable with conservative views of men’s and women’s roles, even as it would subvert them. At the time-

yes, I know, I reconstruct memory, I don’t really know-

at the time I was embarrassed by these outbursts. I did not say anything, or I said, “Oh, Dad,” deprecatingly or something- no idea how I behaved, but I felt embarrassed. I still do. We are up a country road, between the garage and the bungalow, no-one to see us but cows and not always them and I am embarrassed and do not want him expressing this.

Oh I resent being crushed like this! I have no-one to blame, or “the sins of the fathers”, or parental weakness and failure rather than deliberate wrong, always doing the best they could, or “Society” (I read Warlord and Commando comics, tales in cartoons of wartime derring do in world war II and I, sometimes other wars, nothing newer. Different world.) So most of my energy was devoted to finding how my mother expected me to be, and being that, though I went to school and was with children my age so some of my time was devoted to finding what they expected one to be or admired and trying to be that.

Should I like pop music? (That encompasses Rock, punk, ska, jazz even…) No, it is merely screaming. It is of negligible quality. There is no tune to it. Classical music is real music. People at the school like pop, though, so I remember in the PE changing room someone naming David Bowie songs and claiming to know them, then he asked “Do you have an album?” No- then denying knowing others. Perhaps he named some twice and I claimed then denied knowing them. Just confusion.

It was much later I realised how some songs spoke to me on a visceral level, expressing just the feeling I had in the moment, realising, justifying and intensifying my feeling, helping me recognise it. I will survive…

I felt similar confusion meeting a solicitor in B—, someone in another firm whom I would need to trust, who might be on the other side of transactions- How should I be with him?

Be yourself!

Oh, don’t be silly, I could never be that.

And feeling after I had been gauche. Of course these are the normal experiences of callow youths, not knowing how society works or how people are together, and I feel I had a handicap in learning.

F, kicked out by her parents aged 17, made her way in the world, and I wonder why she tells me stories of Glasgow in the 60s. To encourage me, show possibilities? I feel it as judgment, what, surely everyone can do that? Or most likely because it is what she is thinking of now, to help her do what she must do now, which she tells me too.

I am here

With my life as it is, all I have to do is ensure that I have enough food in. I could even wait until I had not, and go to buy it then. If I don’t have milk, I can’t have tea or cereal with milk until I buy some. I don’t have to tidy my living room, or clean the filthy basin in my bathroom.

If I don’t clean my teeth, I feel uncomfortable, and if I don’t have enough fruit I feel out of sorts. I love fruit. Peaches in the summer, though I could get expensive ready-to-eat peaches now, but sweet conference pears are almost as good for intensity of flavour and juiciness; grapes, plums, and citrus- tangerines, satsumas, clementines, whatever.

I love pictures. I love the mannered strangeness of Giulio Aristide Sartorio, my latest happen-upon. I keep telling myself I could get the train to London to the Tate, which always has wonderful exhibitions. Getting to Swanston, getting the train, getting across London takes trouble and expense, but it is manageable. I have not got round to it. I am unsure why not.

I have managed to strip my life down to minimal challenge. I blog a lot (I like blogging.) I watch a lot of television.

How I respond to challenge may be the issue.

I am in trouble. Various people are going to meet to address the problem of Clare, and may come up with a solution I do not like. I have a knack for focusing tensions in a group around me, and while I feel those tensions are the problem rather than my wickedness, I am unsure I could convince them of that. Hollyoaks has nothing on the way I manage my personal relations. There is little I can do, I just have to wait until they have met.

I would like someone to give me a hug and say there, there, it’s going to be alright.

I have had the thought,

I am here.

Now, I am finding what that might mean. This morning, I cycled into Swanston for the fruit stall. It was not there last Tuesday, but was today, perhaps because the weather was better. I could always ask them why they don’t come. I got apples, plums, grapes, and satsumas, much cheaper than the supermarket. I am pleased.

If I cycle, I save the bus fare, but there are costs to this. That hill is hard work. It’s cold. I will get sweaty and possibly smelly. I don’t like the jacket (I could replace it). Most of the road is between hedges which are ugly, and much of the landscape beyond is featureless. The sun, and the brightness, are beautiful. An overtaking driver gave me far too little room, so that when I swerved to the right to avoid a pot-hole just as he passed me, he was frighteningly close.

Three miles from home, I address the thought, I am here. There is beauty where I am. I have an effort to make. It seems to me my ways of dealing with the efforts I have to make are denial and resentment. I deny the effort. Anyone with the slightest resilience, anyone with any value as a human being, would find them minuscule and unworthy of notice. (Therefore I have no value.) Then I resent. I should not have these difficulties.

There is some pleasure in facing where I am. Three miles to cycle, with some climbing. These delights, and these difficulties which matter to me. These blessings and the forebearance of my situation keep me safe enough.

I look out the window at the sunset. The sky is so beautiful!

giulio-aristide-sartorio-wee-boys-smile

Resentment and grief

My veteran feminist friend had an acid phrase- her first husband had a “colossal sense of entitlement”. He had had no right- an accident of birth had put him very close to a large inheritance, but another had put someone else even closer. It is pointless to resent such things. Naked we come into this world- Bible? Shakespeare? I Timothy, actually- and he has no more right to that inheritance than I have, though it might be galling to be so close. We have no right, but it’s hard to get your head round that sometimes.

I have no right to anything but what I create for myself, and not even that, because I can only create it being part of culture and civilisation. (There’s the argument for taxing the rich in a nutshell: spread the benefits of our culture.) A sense of entitlement is laughable, really: to be under a cloud because of an accident of birth only hurts him. Pitiable. Disgusting, even.

I have huge resentment about where I am and what I possess, and that is no better. I feel I was entitled to more, which is not true, and this only hurts me; at best I rail against the difficulty of the world, which is, well, difficult. So the resentment puts me under a cloud, and my sober realisation that I have only myself to blame and nothing to resent really makes it worse.

Count your blessings, name them one by one…

I wonder if I could picture it as grief. You suffer a loss, and you grieve, and it is a healing process. Eventually you face the world again. We do not berate people for grieving loss, even though we could mock someone for pointless resentment. In this case I would be grieving unconditional love from my mother, and grieving her inability to give it: perhaps if there had been no Second World War, then a great Spiritual Awakening around 1950 we would have been OK. She was hurting too.

In a weekend of rituals, I stood on a chair and the others there enacted my ancestors- 2, 4, 8, 16… 32 born in the mid 19th century, all including my mother with their hurly-burly done (All the quotes today!) all now willing me well. It did not really take. Yet they are all willing me well, in my imagination or mitochondria or the survivals of their thought resonating through the ether, wanting their descendants to do well. They would not want me to feel bad. Grieving lost possibility, I might heal. Seeing myself as grieving rather than resenting, I might judge myself less. The judging only does good if it motivates me.

I had a powerful post-stage high from Greenbelt, and the downer has taken until today; so I may just be seeing things bleakly. Say the affirmation again:

I am Abigail
and I am beautiful, physically and spiritually.
I am gifted, intelligent, articulate, with wit and eloquence
and I use these gifts to bless myself and others.

I do. So I have changed it.

Where is God?

It is as it is.

She is one of those people who is entirely unafraid of judgment and just embraced life as it happened to her, the good and the bad. Oh, not me- I don’t know the woman- it seems like a good way to be.

I got my theodicy first from The Problem of Pain, where CS Lewis wondered why God does not save the child killed by a speeding car. God could slow the car, or pull the child out of the way, or make the child see the car and escape. We learn to avoid cars, we are not born knowing how. It is for the driver to avoid the child, and if I were unable to take a risk and take the consequences life would be less. If no harm could come to us we could never triumph- never even succeed; if we need not work together how could we come together?

In the book of Habakkuk, the rich oppress the poor, the powerful nearby empires threaten the people, and the prophet fears; yet he knows that God has a vast eternal plan for our good. It’s just taking longer than we might hope. Voltaire mocked the idea that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds, but perhaps it is.

I have not wronged the trans-excluder, but she has been hurt, even wronged, and simply by existing I become the symbol of it for her, the focus of her rage. Same with “Truscum”, who have adopted the slur as a badge of honour: they know that they are really transsexual, and everyone else is just a pervert who should get some self control. Even though I had the operation that is not enough for them: I transitioned in my thirties, and am gynaephile, so they reject me. They could be accepted by Everyone- but for the perverts who spoil it for the true transsexual people.

(Or, that’s one way of seeing it. Later: Ah, there’s one.)

I cannot hate anyone. Some hate the immigrants, taking our jobs- there is no room for them! They must be prevented from claiming our state benefits, though they contribute in tax more than they take. It would be a poor trick, to pretend to be better than an immigrant. I know there is no nourishment in hate.

I have been overwhelmed by what has happened to me. Why would I want to transition? Why should I have suffered for it? I am not a bad person! I don’t come out fighting, because that is not who or what I am, and I hide away, because that is my family’s habit and my upbringing, yet the enormity of my experience has crushed me, so I do not want to go out. Caring about appearances makes life almost impossible. I resent it. Others have their burdens, I have my blessings, yet my struggle seems uniquely hard to me and counting blessings is no consolation. Or-

Elie Wiesel saw a child hanged in a death camp. Too light to pull the knot taut, he took half an hour to die. “Where is God?” “In that child”. God suffering with us, Christ crucified.

“It is as it is” is where I need to be. Nothing else is bearable.

El Greco, the feast in the house of Simon

Gender recognition II

When I sought my gender recognition certificate, I needed the reports of two doctors: one the psychiatrist who had diagnosed me, and my GP. I needed to state what surgery I had had. My word was not good enough for them: I needed documentary proof, such as wage slips, that I had been using a female name for two years. I needed to swear or affirm that I intended to live life long in my new gender. It is all a matter of policing. The State needs to ensure that I am not frivolous- as if frivolous applications for gender recognition could ever be a serious problem.

When I got my passport, the passport office asked if I had had surgery, though at the time the guidance was that they should not. I needed a letter from my GP.

Why should I need a psychiatrist? Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness.

The parliamentary committee recommend self-declaration of gender. In place of the present medicalised, quasi-judicial application process, an administrative process must be developed, centred on the wishes of the individual applicant, rather than on intensive analysis by doctors and lawyers.

I went through the procedure because it had to be done. Given that the law could recognise that I was female, I wanted that, so I was happy to do what I needed to, to achieve that. I knuckled under. So it is wonderful to read of the healthy resentment of the witnesses campaigning against this scrutiny: it is humiliating to have your gender assessed by someone else. You are the only person who can come to that realisation, not a panel. It is an outdated system. So Ashley campaigned and petitioned, and her actions are part of the pressure which has achieved this promise of change. I had had the operation, so was OK, but the gender recognition panel has insisted on really intrusive levels of detail about the surgeries that people have undergone or their intentions for future surgery, and is incredibly pedantic about any perceived inconsistencies in the medical reports.

The Council of Europe resolution calls for quick, transparent and accessible procedures, based on self determination.

I had my passport and driving licence changed before I had my GRC. I would not have wanted to use a passport saying M in those two years. That has been a problem for others, since the Gender Recognition Act. Yet I could obtain a passport immediately on change of name, saying “F”- I would hardly have wanted to change it, if I were going to revert. It would have been practically unusable. My very desire for it proves it is right to give it, and if it was not right, I bear all the loss.

Degas, after the bath

What I want III

I want to be safe. I do not and never have felt safe- this is not simply “because I am trans” and yet being trans has poisoned this, as everything else in my experience. I want to feel safe in the short term: medium/long term being less immediately important.

We were discussing Maslow’s hierarchy, and in this particular summary they are, Survival (food and water); Being safe; Feeling a sense of love and belonging; Having esteem; Self-actualisation; Knowing and understanding. Working with the homeless, said Eileen, knowing that they are not safe, she sees that they might consider the “higher” needs but only momentarily.

And so I retreat to my living room. This is only safe in the short term, and militates against “a sense of love and belonging” but has been the best I could do, given my false understandings of the world and my contempt for myself, and the way my other attempts at safety have been stripped from me as impossible and illusory. I wanted to fit in and support myself, and I could not.

I only sought work for safety. That is hardly unusual- I wonder how many people get beyond this stage if Maslow’s theory has any truth to it- but the safety I sought was against what will people think? in my particular false way of seeing that. My resentment is overwhelming: I resent being trans, even though I would not exist if I were not: this agglomeration of atoms as cis woman or cis man would be so entirely different from who I am. My rage and terror is greater.

I am not working towards medium or longer term safety because I do not see how: the effort will be too great, the chance of success too small. My old negativity has never gone away.

I get better. My contempt for myself lessens, as I realise its depth and bring it to consciousness. And now my contempt is conscious rather than the all-pervasive natural way things are, I may lessen it and consider my good qualities. Eileen did not understand why I needed to retreat, mentioning gifts including articulacy and intelligence. I can hear that, now. I would have heard it as a judgment- why do you not do something with them?- but not now.

Bringing this to consciousness I might start to consider medium-term safety rather than immediate safety.

Thinking, over the last three years I have been working as hard as I could, might bring me to amazed despair; or the hope that if I understand better I might manage more.

I want to be safe.
This is an entirely reasonable desire.

TItian, Diana and Callisto