Need and desire

Why “Need,” and not “Desire”?

My wise friend H did not like my formulation, I am Love, Will, Playfulness, Curiosity, Need, Courage. She pointed out “Need” sounds, well, needy. Needy is not good. Adults get their needs through exchange, economically or socially, and needy is needing without having something to exchange- though lots of people like to think of themselves as Charitable therefore Good, so the giving is the reward in itself; and some may be altruistic.

I picked “Need” because some needs are very basic, and I have them. I need food and shelter. Without these I die. They are not mere desires- there are moral rules around how one may satisfy desires, which do not so clearly apply to needs. Particularly, I have moral scruples around desires, which may be over-scrupulous, and working out what are my Needs as a way of surviving.

I am still unlearning my toddler’s lessons, and learning more worthwhile toddler lessons. I  learned I am worthless. I wanted to hide away. I wanted not to impinge. So I did not know what my desires were. They could not and should not be granted.

I need society. I need human interaction. Too much alone, I shrivel up. It is not just a desire.

I need safety. This one is really strange. A troll posted on a Quaker facebook group a 22 minute video arguing that “Evolution is not just highly unlikely, but impossible”. The point of the video was that as we do not yet understand how abiogenesis, the start of life from non-living matter, could happen, God must have done it. It enraged me, then I was weeping at the horror of it, and I am not sure why. I expect Quakers to seek the truth as they best can. I know Biblical literalists have this deep need to believe in Biblical creation, and that makes them impugn the integrity of evolutionists; at any rate they believe something I find false, and no argument across the aisle will produce agreement. As we do not know the truth about abiogenesis, a person of integrity may posit their best guess. People can be wrong in an interesting way.

Perhaps I can tolerate a certain level of precariousness, but at that level small threats become too much. I expect to trust people here. I find I cannot- and the bottom falls out of my world-

This Need not Desire is a toddler’s eye view. Toddlers have little agency. Adults should have the ability to choose what they want, and gain it. I don’t have strong belief in my agency. Too many experiences have contradicted such belief. This might have some link to the inexplicable Sooner strangle an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.

The moral imperative works the other way. I have need- and I have value, so it is a moral imperative to preserve me, and fulfil my needs. And, I may graduate to desire, when I reach teenage. Baby steps…

Truthfulness II

I am a truthful person. I value my truthfulness. But it is not a bulwark against the vicissitudes of life.

When I was considering transition, I interrogated myself- is this fantasy? Is this sexual perversion? If it was true that I was transsexual, then it was right for me to transition. On balance, it was, but I wanted more than that, I wanted to be clear that life would be bearable afterwards. Then I had lots of insults in the street in the days after, and broke down in tears.

It is a pain being trans. Not transitioning can be ghastly. Transitioning can be ghastly too, though not always: some of us are extremely strong and resilient. I saw one on the telly last night, being asked about her academic expertise with no need to allude to the fact that she is trans. Her face and voice are good too, but there is something about her figure and her hairline that meant I read her, so I went to look her up: she had been outed by the gutter press.

What is the truth of a situation? After a certain amount of effort to understand, further effort does not produce proportionate gains. I had the feeling of trying to remain upright in a storm at sea, with the deck bucking and twisting beneath me- holding myself tense is exhausting, relaxing and going with the movement, riding it, might be easier.

And, I keep the truth of my current situation below consciousness, much of the time. I do not like it, but do not see how I can improve it. Though I take action to improve it when I can. This might be common: Quiet desperation is the English way sang Pink Floyd. Ah, it’s from Walden: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.

I love my truthfulness, and fear that it was important to me in part because it was part of my self-image as a Good Person. I need to be a Good Person so I will be Safe- but that does not matter either, bad things happen to good people. And- integrity matters. Insofar as I lie to others, I lie to myself, which makes me less able to respond to the world as it is. My reputation matters to me.

And- I go back on my word, and I lie. I let people down. Well, I am not perfect. No-one is. I do my best.

Attention III

Is your desire for attention Histrionic personality disorder?!

It is a bad thing to look for attention if that gets in the way of more substantive goals or causes distress to self or others, causing problems with two or more of affect, cognition, interpersonal functioning or impulse control. Do you feel uncomfortable when you are not the centre of attention? This could be a great motivator. You make yourself attractive, and practise good conversation. You build a good career because people pay attention to successful people. Or, you act out a role in all relationships, and behave seductively or provocatively for a more immediate attention hit. This may alienate friends. Then the downer afterwards just gets worse, and you get depressed. You cannot delay gratification.

Your feelings may be rapidly shifting and expressed shallowly- they are real feelings, but their effect is to get attention. That is, you do not consciously choose behaviour to get attention, your preconscious emotional responses pursue it, in maladaptive ways. You may use physical appearance or theatricality to gain attention, and may be easily influenced.

These characteristics are exaggerated from traits which are entirely healthy, or part of the human condition as a social species- we need others.

I googled “need attention” and found psychcentral.

I read this and recognise myself. So I analyse. Am I like this, in a harmful way? Is it harming me? People have conflicting desires and needs, and learn better or worse ways of fulfilling those needs. I analyse too much, because I am good at analysis, or can produce understandings which please me. I feel unsafe, so analyse in an attempt to protect myself. If I can find what desires give me lasting happiness and the optimum way to pursue them, I can be OK. My moral understanding- what I ought to desire- and my ideology, my false understandings of how to get it, get in the way. “This ought to work! They said so!” I say, and double down on my failed course.

Or I go into a sulk.

I don’t feel safe. All my attention then goes on seeking to make myself safe. Perhaps I am really bad at life- I could write how much people achieve that I haven’t- and perhaps as Hardy wrote, the failure has a unique perspective on how to succeed.


Safe spaces

No, I do not erase feminism. I subvert the patriarchy by rejecting male privilege and the male role in which I was brought up. We are subject to violence for this. I have been assaulted, and shouted at, and after a lot of verbal abuse pointed stares began to get scary for me.

If I was cis, I might still be working.

A university campus should be a safe space for trans people. It is not that we should not be exposed to hostile ideas, but that they should not be given authority. If we discuss around the seminar table the idea that a trans woman is a man, really, or what that should mean for women’s spaces, that is different from Germaine Greer being clapped and cheered for saying “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock”. That feels unsafe to me. It feels hostile.

Ideas can erase me. I believed the theory of autogynephilia, that I was a pervert, and transition was an erotic fantasy: trying to live it would be impossible. I disgust some people, and that theory is an excuse for them.

Why Evolution is True wrote about Maryam Namazie being heckled at Goldsmiths college, and the student feminist society supporting the Islamic Society in opposing her speaking. Previously, the Islamic Society invited a speaker who calls for the murder of apostates. Maryam Namazie, an apostate, stands up for women’s rights against FGM, the veil, Islamic oppression.

Goldsmiths should be a safe space for apostates. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. To whom is Namazie speaking? Not just former Muslims, but mostly white atheists. Someone learning in class that evolution is true, yet who, because of background and culture has a large part of his identity as Muslim, may feel erased (the non-inclusive language is intentional). It is not just the idea that I am in error about certain things, but that my identity and heritage are poisonous; that I am the enemy and the oppressor; and that they may use force against me. God save me from people who need to defend themselves or those they identify as my victims against me.

The ideas are not a threat, but ideas backed with power to enforce, or by a cheering audience, are.

I believed my employer would find a pretext to sack me. I believed autogynephilia theory. I envied a woman I knew who was dying, slowly and painfully, because she was unequivocally female. I would prefer to be an obvious tranny than to present male. The drive is that strong. I don’t feel safe. Disagreement with me about the nature of my idiosyncrasy is OK. Hostility to me is not, even if justified as “free speech”, because it silences me and therefore reduces free expression. We have to get along.

Here is MTV, advertising a quiz on Disney channel cartoons beside a serious article. Don’t be a jerk. Form your arguments in a way that’s respectful. It’s a bar so low you could trip over it. As I write, all nine comments are hostile.

Here is The Atlantic on physical intimidation used to “protect safe space”. But no-one is just talking: they are seeking to get their way, including the use of force. Words hurt: those pastors saying that queers should be put behind a great big fence, while their congregations shout A-MEN, frighten me. Before you can attack me, you have to dehumanise me. Scapegoating gives any group a warm glow of righteousness.

I know it is not simple. One might call the Apostates the victims, in need of protection, until like Maryam Namazie they speak up and I call her a helper of oppressors. Some feminists claim that my presence in women’s space makes it unsafe, because I am a man. Perhaps those of us who can, should speak up for our own victims.

I quite like the idea of being a Social Justice Warrior, even when the term is used in a hostile, unsafe manner. My irony detector is set to zero.

Blake, Canterbury pilgrims detail



I met a film-maker. We got on well, and had a meeting about a film on the transsexual experience: I would be creative director. I missed our second meeting, and never heard from him again. He did not reply to my emails, texts or calls.

Stated that way, it seems I was the author of my own misfortune. It did not seem quite that way at the time; I had texted and called to say that going into London was rather expensive for me, and could we talk by Skype instead? I had no response to that, and it seemed reasonable to me; and then months later I thought, what if he wanted to try me on camera? You can’t do that by skype.

It might not have come off anyway. He had other stuff to worry about. Yet still, my decision seemed reasonable at the time and possibly caused me a serious loss. Never mind the Big Thing in my life: I tried to fight transition, I could not resist it, and my sister and father stopped seeing me. Loss after Loss, caused by my failure, stupidity, inadequacy…

A man I met had been walking through the station when someone he did not know leapt on his back and slashed him across the brow with a razor. It was pure luck he was not blinded. For years after he could not go outside unaccompanied. Bad things happen to good people. Lightning does strike in the same place twice, for the obvious reason that the thing struck is higher than things around it.

I half remember, perhaps half-understand, that Krishnamurti said we should forget all that stuff. Just live now. Past pains and pleasures are an indication but not too strong a guide.

Words can liberate. The word “transsexual” liberated me to transition. Without the concept, I would not have done it- perhaps with different concepts I would be living entirely differently. Words can constrain: if my narrative is that I respond in a particular way, I cannot respond otherwise. I wrote: gender: Abigail; sexuality: Abigail; perhaps it is, full description: Abigail.

Salvador Dali, Berthe

Safety harness

In which I demonstrate the efficacy and necessity of a safety harness.

dome pin

With friends to erect the Geodesic dome. I thought we could build the top section first, and do lower circles later, but not with these steel units. Each pins to the next hexagon or pentagon with two pins to each side. Mark, whose dome it is, does construction professionally but made the dome as a hobby. He is generous with encouragement, enthusing about our contribution. “Are you happy to climb?” Yes. Yes, I am.

It has been raining, and the segments are slippery. In walking boots, my foot will be still at the join, but not in the middle. The lowest strip has been assembled already, and I climb up with Mark to put the next row on top, aligning the loops to let the pins drop in. I have a belt to hold pins, and a long strip of metal to hammer them in.

The next row is easy enough. Andrew and Tim hand us up the segments, and we pin them in. The following row we have to lift the segments into position. I notice how I compare myself with Mark. It is his dome, and he has erected it several times, and yet I want to be putting as many pins as he. I am pushing myself. At that point, the rain has stopped. The lower segments are dry, and my foot will not slip placed on the middle of the pole. You can get into a rhythm, stepping up the middle, hand holds easily reached.

We have a short break. It is raining again. The poles get slippery, but we hope to continue. Now, we have to hold the segment above the half way point, as that is its centre of gravity. Mark is doing most of the work. I struggle, now in a safety harness, clipping and unclipping it. It gets in the way, holding me below where I need to be. Working together, we can get the loops in line to put the pins in, but it is so frustrating when they are not quite aligned or slip out of the way. Segments just off the ground are wet from the wet grass, and my boot slips.

Down I go. I am hanging a short way above the ground, with a graze, scratch and spectacular bruising on my bicep, shouting.

Mark holds two pins to the scratch, to cool it down. I could hold them myself, but I am just happy to be valued, to have this sign of care for me.

After lunch, I went up again with Mark and Andrew.

-How do you feel about climbing again?
-I would like to do it, but have no particular thing to prove, and am not attached to it.

However, I really want to go up again. Now, the segments are leaning inwards at a sharp angle. We have to bear their weight as we pin them in. Andrew, climbing for the first time, is a lot faster than me. The belt carrying the pins is very heavy. Before we finish the final row, I have to come down, nearly weeping with frustration.

I have learned a lot from this, of how I am. I was comparing myself to a man, who should be far better than me at this task, and pushing myself near to exhaustion: I could barely clamber round the segments before I came down, and was still ashamed to descend before the last row was complete. That shame means that I won’t stop until I am dangling on the end of a rope(!) and also punishes me with misery, where I could reasonably be proud.

The thing I learned about you is you are a really hard worker, said Jude. Some might see that as patronising; I was glad of it. I have been thinking, since, of being so driven, which has caused me to stop. I could, perhaps, notice the achievement.

Covering the dome

Confusion and clarity

Klee- Oriental pleasure garden, in partG was excited by the first meeting of the Green Party in Swanston, and wanted to do something for it. Oh, remember Advices and Queries- don’t work too much? What is it? Eventually I find the quote:

Attend to what love requires of you, 

which may not be great busyness.

I have not actually read Advices and Queries for a long time, and sat with it at the start of Meeting, in love again with its sonorous phrases:




Are you?

One thing which makes it beautiful is its clarity. Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? I have always sought clarity. I sought it in the law, though in practice I found pseudo-clarity, like this:

Work done in expectation of payment means more than a mere hope that payment will be made at a future date. There should be a probability rather than just a possibility that a payment will be made. If a person reasonably expects payments for work done then the condition is satisfied. However, if the person knew before starting the work that payment was unlikely to be made, the remunerative condition is not satisfied.

That’s the Tax Credits Technical Manual. If you specify every possible situation, the thing which must be done will always be clear. However, in my experience Real Life brings hopeless confusion to it, and the desperate efforts to answer every question merely increases complexity and confusion- as if confusion were the real goal, with the apparent clarity only an excuse to blame others for it.

It seemed to me in meeting that the answer is Love, not Fear. If I did that job I am considering applying for, or A’s job, in fear, I could never assuage my fear. Am I doing it right, and is my job safe? Am I caring properly for the thing entrusted to me, and is it safe? Yet if I did it in Love- what will build this up, what will make it more beautiful, I could get endless joy from it. Then K ministered, and said how pleased he was to go to the Green Party meeting- I was delighted to see him there- and of his desire for a politics of hope.

I had a lovely meeting. Love, not fear. Then we had our business meeting, and S resigned her membership. On Friday, S and I had had coffee together with Quakers, and discussed what more she could do in the Society, so this was a shock. After, E asked “Are you alright?” and I started crying, angry that I was so upset. I should not be emotionally labile like this after the endocrinologist adjusted my hormone dose.

It seemed to me after that I have created my safe space in my living room, and the Quaker meeting, and I explore other potential safe spaces such as Greenbelt, yet even in the Quaker meeting I am not safe from painful change I cannot control.

The Message from the Subconscious

File:Iceberg 16 2000 08 12.jpgI am a good person, intelligent and reliable.
I can keep myself safe.

It is the Therefore that is the problem. I must release it, accept not knowing. It is like trying to ride a bicycle: I am reliable enough, can observe and react quickly enough to be safe enough: balancing on this reality, rather than pretending I can keep myself safe, so wobbling forward rather than propping up the bicycle and standing still.

I am not safe in my living room. My benefit has been cut already, and will be cut further.

To put it another way, how long can I use those threadbare excuses- that hurt me, and that, and that- that job, that betrayal, that woman- for sulking and skulking at home? I am not safe, but no-one ever is.

The final exercise of mega-me, in groups of six, is to be that all-you-can-be, larger version of ourselves, and plan a scene to be improvised, with that mega-me as the focus. We take it in turns, the others being supporters. Some delve into deep personal blocks or family issues- for the subconscious, triumphing in play and in reality feel the same, says Claire.

In my exercise, I want to not-plan. I will just speak, as moved in the moment. I want to use the large group as my supporters. B believes that I need subconscious nay-sayers, and the small group should echo the Inner Critic. He is a little too enthusiastic at this for my taste- he asked me “how long I had been a transsexual”, analysing not empathising. He knows a transsexual who is really tough, he told me. I had half-formed thoughts of a routine before this, mocking Thriller modes:File:Iceberg at Elephant Island.jpg

The Thingummy of Doom looms above us!
Can we reach the-
Escape switch-

While B enthusiastically mocks, I tell my audience that I like to be the centre of attention, and feel I have to perform, yet now I wish to be Fully Authentic and speak in the moment, and end by- sitting in the audience.

People, asked to give encouragement, speak of my dignity and poise in speaking this.


This post starts with me kicking myself and saying “Get on with it”, as I do occasionally- well, I am posting daily- and then I write of my Speaking Spontaneously, the Message to the Flourish, in which, I notice later, I stop and sit down, the other side of the audience from my group supporters/critic. That is, I stop trying. Which might contradict that “Get on with it”.

There is no source of Wisdom, only of wisdom, contingent and momentary. There is no source of Understanding, only occasional flashes. I am in a state of conflict, in equilibrium.

David Brin: The thing about such states of equilibrium is that they can seem steady, even permanent, until-
each one ends, as abruptly as it started.


Footbridge safety: slippery when wet. Walk, don’t run, and always hold the hand rail.

A person is liable in damages for an accident if there is damnum injuria datum– loss caused by wrong. For there to be a wrong, there must be a duty of care- if it is reasonably forseeable that the wrong, negligent failure to take a reasonable precaution, may cause an accident, and the accident happens, then there is liability.

The footbridge at Bedford station is not particularly slippery, but if someone did slip or trip on it, the question of liability is whether there was a reasonable precaution to take which had a good chance of preventing the fall or the hurt. Such a precaution might be, covering the surface with something less slippery.

That precaution would still be available whether or not there are warning signs of the risk. What caused the accident? The carelessness of the person who fell, or the slipperiness of the surface? Both. The person who walks or runs over the footbridge is aware that surfaces can be slippery.

I find the warning signs patronising, as if I do not know that hurrying on a slippery surface increases the risk of falling. So, placing the warning sign there is not a useful precaution to prevent accidents. It tells no-one anything they do not know already. Instead, its purpose is to blame the other. You hurried, you fell, it is your fault: it attempts a moral defence. It is not effective as a legal one: in law the question is whether a different surface is a reasonable precaution against accidents.

That works, for me, as a moral argument. Our society is too litigious. The solicitors’ haiku:

 Have you stubbed your toe?

There must be someone to blame.

Come. Sue him with us.

But then, I have slipped and fallen in the street but not injured myself.

Actually, I felt my usual irritation seeing that on the station foot bridge, but by the time I was down the stairs- shockingly, without holding the hand rail, you will be glad to know that I was uninjured- I had forgotten it. I stood on the platform for ten minutes, enjoying the sunshine, the quiet and the trees.

Also on Bedford: it is a much better shopping centre than Swanston, with Next and M&S, but I could not be bothered. A few days before, I had got chatting to a man on the bus when I went to shut the window and he objected. He told me that he had moved from Bedford because it was full of “supplicants”. I dislike his use of the term- we talk of benefit “claimants” because there is a moral right to a reasonable level of support, which one “claims” rather than begs.

Life problem

I have hidden my light under a bushel. This is how I perceive it:

Now, I have not worked since March 2011, and have only applied for one job this year. I am living off my savings which will last the rest of this year. I spend much of my time in my living room, blogging. I am intensely lonely. Possibly because of hormonal imbalances, I weep daily.

I have raw, incohate, undeveloped talent in performing and in healing, and I am taking some action to develop these. I blame myself for not taking such action earlier- I am 46.

I am transsexual, and people who spend a little time with me notice this. I could do more work on my voice- it has far greater power below the break than above it. I am filled with resentment at being visibly queer, even though I meet little outright hostility- even, a great deal of acceptance. That is it- I resent myself, I want to be other than I am, I want to be normal and to blend in.

I am doing spiritual growth stuff, again not fast enough for my liking. I have been using the metaphor of pupating for thirteen years. I have an image of me working with ease and delight and earning a good income, and I resent the gap from reality. 

I view myself and the world with a paralysing mix of resentment, anger and self-pity. And disgust. I harangue myself- you want it to be easy, don’t you, you want all the work to be done. It seems to me that it should be easy. I should unite with healing groups, train in performance, get a job to earn money while doing this-

Or, possibly, I see the step to take, and do not take it because I know it will be too painful and difficult.


Added: If I am a freak, that serves my interests and keeps me safe. That is, if I know I am a “freak”, I can withdraw from human contact, protect myself from it, and so avoid the possibility of hurt when it goes wrong. And of course prevent the possibility of it going right. I can avoid those painful distressing feelings.

It’s not the despair. I can stand the despair. It’s the hope.

Clockwise, Michael Frayn

Just like so many of the lies I tell myself, there is a certain amount of evidence that it is true- and it is just not. My wise friend emailed me,

I know you’re in a difficult place. But, I feel you have enormous, generous love and light in your heart and soul and like so many of us, fail to nurture yourself with it during hard times. Really hope you find your way to enable you to turn up your inner light: NOW. Right away! Don’t be defeated! You are a strong woman! You have worked hard at being authentic and true to yourself. Watch yourself develop and grow when you switch over “to the light”. I know you can.

Just keep going!!!!

I can listen to my friends.