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

Trust, safety, clarity, Love

The post I have avoided writing. I put my face in his, and said “Fuck you. Fuck right up you.” I continued on this theme, and when he turned his face away and said “I’ve already apologised” (I had not heard it) I still continued. All my anger and frustration came out at him. He approached me later and we discussed the incident, at the stall where I was telling Greenbelt about Quakers. Well, he had told me not to behave discourteously, in a way which I had not actually intended to behave, and I took umbrage; and it was raining, which is difficult at a festival; but my frustration was at you (I told him at other things as well as him).

It occurred to me that you had let me down deliberately, and perhaps just because it occurred to me I have no trust, so should stop bothering with this. More likely you did not take sufficient care not to, and I resent your lack of care for me- so again should stop bothering, perhaps. Well, no-one else was two hours late, though possibly it was a series of unfortunate events. Then I did not speak to you. I did not say what I wanted, or ask what you wanted.

At that other time, I thought you were showing insufficient care, and then we got into a pointless argument: I did not receive your text, only one saying “message cannot be displayed”- I believe you sent it because you said so. That is what I wanted to get across. I seem to have communicated doubt that you sent it.

If not for Stuff, this could be perfect. Well, there is Stuff. Some of it is just who I am, I might be like this with anyone; and any friendship has tensions-

Do I want you, or someone entirely different who exists only in my imagination? What would I do to get you? I would self-censor, seek to manage you by not showing parts of me you had indicated were unacceptable, building resentment in myself and not communicating. I know because I have done this and agonised about it. I want to be influenced by you: I want to add your responses to the world, to my range of options.

I do not want to say that this game is over. So I did not want to write this. Yet if I try to continue with it, my resentment of you may be too great- I already blame you, it is your fault, you should have been different. Or I resent the how World is. I have still been thinking, the solution is

See reality. Accept reality.

Because loving the wonderful being that I see imperfectly, but there are things I am clear that I see that are Wonderful, seems possible-

Happiness II

Happiness is dangerous. It is a threat. I might do something in spontaneous joy, and it would be silly, and I would look a fool, and that would be a complete disaster!

It is strange that when I drag the Foundational Truths of my Existence into consciousness, and examine them, they appear so wrong. I don’t think I have exaggerated this. I would far rather be right than Happy.

And yet recently I have had moments of Happiness, and- the world did not end.

The heart of the human is Love, and love is simple. It is unaffected. It is effortless. It is me.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, the mystical marriage of St Catherine

“Rather be right than happy.” Mmm. So “right and happy” is possible in some situations, but we are discussing situations where it is not; and both “right” and “happy” have to have some meaning.

If “right”, I am in a place of intellectual understanding which I can justify by rational argument to myself. It’s not what works, because we work with other people; rather it is what ought to work, what by my own moral judgment ought to be accepted. That is, my right is judged by others to be wrong, but that is OK, because they are wrong.

I would rather be right. I would rather be alone with an understanding which no-one else accepts, with a plan which does not work, than surrender my understanding and-

I am working this out as I go, here. The alternative to my rightness is shadowy, I can’t quite picture it, but I know my rightness is Wrong. It is treasuring my comfortable resentment. It is what I have always known, it is where I am now, lonely yet keeping myself to myself, retreated to my living room.

Or-

Stupidity is doing the thing which you know does not work. Yet if I have an idea of how to achieve something and it does not work, I would be happier doing it again, like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the Hill-

for Sisyphus defied the Gods, sought Control in defiance of Reality-

so I try my plan again, and though it does not work, again, it is my plan, it ought to work, I am safe in my comfort zone. Happy enough, or as happy as I can be, even though miserable.

I would rather be Right, because Right is what I know. Opposed to this is the strange, shadowy concept of-

Happy-

Lingering resentment

Boucher, birth of Venus detailI asked if people would still transition if the most feminine man or most masculine woman could express themselves freely without judgment from society, and Rimonim took me to task. The aspect of the question I find most troubling is the value judgment against transition. … it implies that transition is somehow undesirable..

And, he felt intense alienation from his body: the body issues are important. Commenters agree. When I finally sought it from my psychiatrist, my desire for the vaginoplasty was intense, and his recommendation brought me great happiness. I hardly think the social pressure to transition in this way would have affected me so strongly, if the far greater social pressure not to transition at all did not.

The first way I thought of responding, to say It’s alright for you! You’re a man!  shows how intense my rejection of my femininity has been, even after transition. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and that just feels ineffectual and vulnerable and easily hurt, and so I am this badly hurt because of it.

On the body issues- I did not fit the script, self-identified as transvestite, did not particularly mind my penis even after going full time at work aged 35. But then I was not conscious of my feelings until they irrupted in my early thirties- anger, frustration, resentment and fear, later simplified to rage and terror. That is, while the inner critic cries, “This is rationalisation! You can’t know that! Of course you don’t want to imagine you are an autogynephiliac pervert-” I am pretty clear, say 95% certain. The rage and terror was because I suppressed who I am so thoroughly that I blotted it out of my conscious awareness, including any body-related dysphoria. Right now, after the Essence process, it feels as if I am my feminine self, which I was first truly conscious of being, as separate from my masculine front, in February 1999, aged 32. Such a long journey, such a long tunnel.

It feels, also, that I am far more conscious of feelings. Once they come out in adulthood they are far harder to suppress. So I do not think I am suppressing a sense of trauma at the loss of my gonads. That’s a 1% possibility, perhaps.

Am I still carrying the pain and anger I could not admit? OK, how do I feel about my breasts? It irks me that the left one is so much bigger than the right, but not very big at all, and that the aureoles are so small, and I may be carrying pain that I felt the need to wear breast forms rather than chicken fillets years after starting hormones-

and I like my breasts. I like the shape of them. I am glad they are there. I am on tentative steps towards excess of joy weeps:

it is so good I can hardly admit it to myself after so long.

I have held myself so tense for so long that relaxing into self-acceptance is difficult. It is alright, really.

I am unsure where I am with this

I am unsure where I am with this. Perhaps writing will make me clearer. What should I call it? I thought “Procrastination”, but alternatively “Whinge” or “Whiny teenager”. “Bullying” is a possibility-Burne-Jones, Princess Sabra led to the dragon

Every month I anticipate Area Meeting with concern, then during it generally feel I am doing well, and after feel tired from the concentration. Every month, after, I receive an email from Ruth: this is what you did wrong this time. Sometimes she rebukes me in meeting: I should alter the minute to include the name West Scotland Area Meeting. “The name was in the draft minute that I sent you”, she said. I did not say, I do not need draft minutes from you, nor that the additional name was unnecessary.

Where am I with this? My attempt at posting jocularly has failed. I feel belittled. I feel bitter and resentful. It is not going to overwhelm my self-control, but resentment stays as an itch, a sore. I still feel that my self-control is locked down too hard: I carry on by denying the feeling, at the cost of it lurking in my subconscious. My ideas about Being Positive get in the way, too: it is hard to admit an uncomfortable emotion, and a difficult to resolve situation. I find myself unsure whether I should be applying serenity or courage, and feel as if I have neither, so take refuge in passive-aggression.

With the tabular statement, she sent a post-it note: “Abigail- Please sign & send to Recording Clerk ASAP. I photocopied the two sheets so that you have a copy for minuting in January.” I did not deal with it before, and my procrastination lesson is that one does not need to do the whole thing at once- add to agenda, draft minute, etc. I am procrastinating this, and unsure why: it is one thing to put off drafting a Questionnaire which I imagine will do no good and be badly drafted and be Yet Another Failure, another to put off posting a form which has already been completed.

So on 27 Nov she emailed, Please can you let me know whether you received this and if so have you sent it to Friends House?  If you remember, we didn’t get it right last year! On Saturday 6th she wrote a reminder, copied to Ian my assistant clerk, and on Sunday spoke to Annette asking her to get in touch with me about it. Poor Ruth, having to protect the AM from my incompetence!Burne-Jones, the Princess tied to a tree

So where am I now? I feel my problem here is what I tell myself about my uselessness, inability to improve situations. I am more powerful than my inner critic will admit. I need to develop more constructive habits. Etc, etc, all the usual stuff. For the moment, perhaps, having a cold will serve as an excuse. At least I have a slug for my post, now.