The feminine self

I am smiling, though I feel intense misery: I smile because this is me, the most feminine part of me, speaking now. I definitely don’t have multiple personalities, and this is me, speaking naturally above the break, wearing earrings and enjoying the sensation of them in my ears.

The process, the whole animal, does not cry, and here am I, I, crying, and feeling the joy at being this feminine part of me, and surprising myself as I did not expect this. Another, perhaps more cynical or appraising rationalist part wants to break through and I don’t want it to.

I do not need looked after.
I do not need restrained.
The world is not dangerous for me, nor I for it.

I speak from this place when I stop fighting, relax and open out. I am exploring now, I don’t know what’s going on. I want to see the world from here, from this perspective, and I want to show it to other people. Normally I am more guarded than this.

In this feminine part is my appreciation of beauty. I look at the stems and leaves pattern on my net curtains. The curves are dancing. This feels more authentic than any other part of me and I don’t really know what she wants, what she does, what she can do, she has been despised for too long.

Going back to one of my myths: I wanted to build the dome, I wanted to do it quickly and efficiently, and well- out of fear of being useless, fear of being seen to be useless, and because it would prove my value, to me, and possibly to other people. I think doing it was valuable, I am not merely projecting. I don’t think it was just fear.

Fear and love, the two great motivators, running from or running to.

This is where my playfulness lives. This is where my ability to know other people lives, not analytical, though the analytical is not alien to this, rationality is a skill this can use. This is in no way an emotional part separate from my analytical power.

Why would you fear being childish? Because it is vulnerable. Yet- vulnerable to what? The judgment which matters is my own. If I fear this I cannot show it to anyone. Yet they might accept me like this.

This is beautifully soft, and can be determined. I am determined now. I hunger to know how I may be when I am like this, because the lesson I have learned that being like this is dangerous is I think a childhood lesson which no longer applies. Other parts of me seek to protect me from the hostility of others by making me shut up and vanish, but I don’t think everyone would be hostile.

This is the part of me that writes poetry.

I often wonder how my analogues are doing in alternative universes. In how many am I dead? Do I have children? Fear and desire- in one, I present the most popular television programme, to millions of adoring fans. It is an hour-long interview in which I strip away the masks of others, my own authenticity inspiring theirs, generally as liberation and occasionally as complete humiliation- a politician would have to be very brave to accept the invitation. An hour long interview with someone revealing entirely who they are, any age from five to ninety.

Though while electrons are capable of quantum superposition, being a fuzzy cloud expanding to fill the whole universe, I am not.

This feminine self is where my hurt is. I had no access to this at all, because of the hurt, and there is still the possibility of hurt, though not the annihilation the child feared.

This is the part of me where my strength is. In part this is scared, and in part she has complete confidence.

A friend went over her handlebars into a ditch, and has been terrified of cycling since. I suggested she cycle in the carpark of a supermarket after it had closed, when she has an expanse of tarmac and no cars, so that she can learn to trust.

I can learn to trust. I have been hurt, and can practise on small things-

I want to show off, because I want admiration and affirmation- though since this experience I have been affirming myself. This is where the possibilities are. This is where any desire worth anything is.

I have hidden it, and fought for it, and had glimpses and occasional moments of being, my feminine self is still unrealised seventeen years after transition, often quickly submerged or suppressed.

Authenticity is possible.

Hello.

Seven Samaritans

I am scared of phoning the Samaritans. I have an idea of what I want to do with the conversation, which terrifies me. My judgment that I am worthless, without the most basic resilience or intelligence, is mine, and I feel that it comes from my childhood. However from the same place comes my judgment that I had an unexceptionable childhood, and that no-one would be affected negatively by it except someone who was worthless, stupid and disgustingly fragile.

“You were tortured,” Liz said, referring to how hurt I appeared in 2011.

I had the thought that I would talk about my childhood with the Samaritans. I would project my judgment on them that there was nothing wrong with my childhood, so saying it would take my courage. Then, in speaking it out loud I would advance towards believing my childhood really was difficult. I was not in this position because I was worthless. Unfortunately, I could not have the conversation I desired.

I explained to the first what I wanted, and he took control, asking questions. When in answer to a question I said I noticed I felt worthless when I was twenty, he asked “Did something happen when you were twenty?” Yes; but something to make me notice the feeling, not something to cause it for the first time. I was fed up with his questions. I was afraid of addressing the question: I would talk about my childhood, and believed he would find nothing wrong with it. As I was psyching myself up to start, he filled the silence with distracting questions. So I rang off.

The second wanted to explain his role to me in great detail. He listens because he makes mistakes himself, he said, though he should not have told me that, he said. Everyone suffers with depression and anxiety, he said. If you’ve locked your door then gone back to check it’s locked that’s obsessive-compulsive, he said. There’s no stigma here.

The third wanted to explore the fact that I might get help anywhere else? Have you had counselling? he demanded. Yes. “Has it helped with strategies?” Oh, you mean like cognitive behavioural therapy. No, I am trying to get to the root of the problem, why I feel the feeling so I can lay it to rest, not how I can tell it it’s stupid and drag it around with me. “Are you on any meds?” No. “Have you spoken with your doctor?” Erm. “How are you feeling today?” “Is it an especially bad day?”

-You’ve just asked two questions, I said. Which do you think is the most important?
-Is it an especially bad day today, he said. No.
-How do you think we can help?
-I am frightened of you, and I want to face my fear.
-Why?
-Because I am projecting judgment on to you. Does that make sense to you?
-No. We don’t judge.

I rang off again. I find women Samaritans more useful, so when the fourth to answer was the fourth man in a row, I rang off immediately. (Hello! Any Samaritans reading this?)

The fifth was a woman, called Samantha, who thought we had spoken before. I felt mild embarrassment at that, but when you phone them as often as I do it’s possible, I suppose. She said they try not to remember calls. In a brief moment, facing my fear, I thought, I want to convince them it was unbearable, but not by showing pain or distress in my voice. I want to talk rationally, as if communicating my feeling by tone of voice would not be an acceptable way of convincing them. That is, I devalue my emotions, at least for this purpose. I want to persuade by rational argument, and as I am projecting judgment it is that I need to persuade myself. As I faced my fear, she interrupted to tell me to get on with it. They have lots of callers to speak to. Have you had help?

Yes. Counselling over decades. Sorry to trouble you.

I ring off again.

With the sixth I realised I did not just fear judgment, which I was quite clear I was projecting, but also incomprehension, which was only partially projected. I needed to convince myself of the difficulties of my childhood leading to my ongoing feeling of worthlessness.

I am not just calling to confuse Samaritan volunteers. I am in need, and have nowhere else to go. My seventh call was to another Liz. I said I needed to make a declaration to another human being. I started by saying good things people have said of me, and that I believe them: in fact when someone pays me a compliment I write it down in order to squeeze every last drop of affirmation from it. Friends have called me “bold and brave and honest and open”, and see kindness, gentleness, tenderness and tenacity, courage, authenticity, insight, integrity, and concern for others in me. I do too. And I felt worthless, because of the difficulties of my childhood.

We discussed my childhood for a bit.
-Your feelings were not appreciated, she said.
-No.
-That must have been tough.

The relief I feel hearing that is great. I am understood. She sympathises. Perhaps in her eyes I am not worthless.

-How do you get on with your parents now?
-They are both dead.
-How did you feel about that?
-Relief. (That’s not the whole of it, but a large part of it. I can love them now they can’t hurt me any more.)

-Are there people now who make you feel worthless?
Enough to keep my old conviction simmering.

We also establish that my desires were not appreciated, such that I did not know what I wanted. I had no particular friends, and was not given choices. We ate meals together, and talked of current affairs: there was one right way to see current affairs, that Thatcher was Britain’s saviour, which is not an opinion I cleave to now. I say how devoted my father was to self-improvement, reading and treating high culture as work, which he must concentrate on to gain appreciation. I say my mother wore the trousers, and this was something we could not discuss.

Liz wants me to look in the mirror and affirm myself. She keeps mentioning this. “Look in the mirror and say, ‘I am not worthless’.” I want to say it to her, and I want to say it with my whole being, with all of me accepting and believing it. I am not there yet. However, in continuing conversation I say with a part of me, in a soft voice, “I am not worthless”. Then with a rational, conversational part of me I say “I am not worthless”.

I have faced a lot of challenges. I tell her of Dr Patel. I did not just want to be invisible, not to be noticed because it was a threat. Nor did my father. I wanted what I saw to be right. This comes from integrity.

I called the Samaritans this afternoon, and eventually had the healing conversation I had wanted. And this evening, I am not saying “I am not worthless” but, sometimes calmly and confidently, sometimes repeatedly,

I have value.

Smiling, and even believing it!

I had a dreadful childhood. I was kept warm and well-fed, and pushed to academic success, and my feelings, desires and even my very nature were so systematically devalued by my parents especially my mother that I could not value, or even perceive them. I was taught to hide my nature in terror and pretend to be normal, and not even to realise that was what I was doing. I could not have typed this paragraph yesterday, and even now it starts with the positives, reducing the weight of that word “dreadful”. The positives are there and they do not begin to mitigate the depth of the trauma. Acknowledging it is a step to healing it.

What I like about myself

I can imagine a teenager writing that in their diary and here I am, fifty three.

I like what I like. Or I like that I like what I like, it is good to like what I like. Not everyone likes the same things and that’s ok. I saw at the CAB that I liked talking to people, relating to them, getting them to open up, hearing their woes and thereby making them feel better, and I liked delving into regulations and the precise meaning of words. These things seemed not obviously to go together and I rejoiced that the job including both fitted me so well. Or, I made it include both, I could have got away with a much simpler understanding of both law and people.

It is good to value what I value. I value beauty. Uli said she lived with that painting for weeks before she noticed the butterfly, and I saw it in minutes. The liking means I appreciate and attend.

I like my writing. I like the sinuousness and the suppleness of it. If I trusted it more I might write thousands of words at a time, rather than hundreds. I may come to trust it.

I love my journey. I love the work I have done. It shows courage, integrity, and a powerful life-force oriented to healing and sanity and willing to go wherever I need to to find that.

I like my gender.

Oh wow. Can I say that?

It is me. It is how I am, what I do, how I relate to people. It has never given me problems, not ever.  How people react to it has, but not my gender itself.

My creativity. It is not just the writing, it is around how I see and react, how I respond to problems.

My depression? Mmm. When nothing else took me away from toxic situations, that did.

Welcome is every organ and attribute of me, and of any [one] hearty and clean,
Not an inch nor a particle of an inch is vile, and none shall be less familiar than the rest.

Not my inner critic, though, not how hard I am on myself, I was terrified into that long ago. Introject, I understand the word is.

My body. Oh, my body, the way it moves, the way it looks, the way it heals. The miracle complexity of it, the wonder of hands that can play a piano, legs that can cycle, the nervous system conveying feeling from my whole skin. And the senses! So much delight through the senses!

My ability to give myself wholly, and to hold myself back.

My Love.

None of this is self-concept, the ideas we have about ourselves before we know ourselves. All of this is who I am, known from observing myself and how I respond, really.

The integrated human.

The Light.

I could not have written this in a diary as a teenager, and I honour anyone who knows themself like this at that age. For me I was firmly stuck in my self-concept, not beginning to see how it was not who I am, and an idea of what is Good different from the one I hold, now. So I love my ability to see and understand, to hunt down truth for nothing less will do. I shall not cease from exploration.

Esteem and self-esteem

Had I killed myself in 2003, it would have been because I saw myself as bad, deserving punishment, in part; if I were to kill myself now it would be because I saw no other way out of a desperate situation.

Some may be shocked by this opening. I have been suicidal, and am now passionate about suicide and its victims. No one deserves it, and people have suicidal thoughts and impulses, and sometimes act on them. It needs spoken about to be understood. Taboos make the suicidal person more isolated.

It means my friend’s answer to suicidal thoughts- “it’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem”- suddenly makes sense. Before, I saw the problem as me, and so not temporary or changeable.

I am not suicidal. But, having seen that I have value having been convinced of my worthlessness, that thought about suicide illustrates best how great a change this is.

When I was 19 at a time of stress I realised I had two views of myself- as the centre of the Universe, of supreme importance and capability, and at the same time as completely worthless and of no account. Neither view was in touch with reality, and I realised that immediately, yet I was convinced of both and could not shake them.

In June 2008 I wrote over and over again in my diary, I am a human being. I am a human being. I am fearfully and wonderfully made and one of seven billion. Could I come to a position between those extremes?

I grew increasingly conscious that what I saw as worthless was more authentically me, and the route to health went through seeing that worthless creature and finding something to value in her.

And now I think I have.

I have managed to find myself acceptable.

I can value myself as a human being. I have gifts, and they have value. I have creativity and energy, and what they produce is worthwhile. As I walk through the world I do more good than harm.

This change affects how I see motivation. Shall I get up to go to the office? At 8am, I have no doubt that I will indeed get up at 8.30. But then 8.30 comes and I do not get up, and I curse myself as a worthless piece of sxxt, and wonder if something on my phone will give me a big enough dopamine hit to get me moving. It never does.

Then at 9.30, or so, I admit to myself I am not going to get up and go to the office, and think about how else I might spend my day.

Then I went into the office and realised how scared I was of it. I am there and something in me judges me and finds me worthless, the monster from which I can only fail to flee.

Part of my bind was the unconscious conviction that I should not be scared of anything so if I was I was a worthless, etc, because no one with any backbone could possibly be scared of that.

But no. I have value, and because of my experiences I have motivation problems, a conative disorder, or depression.

I had just about stopped beating myself up for not getting up. Cursing myself had been less and less effective. I am still kind of stuck seeking motivation from my phone, but perhaps taking time to centre down would be more effective.

Do I want to get up and go there, now?
Do I need to stay away?

I don’t know. I am reeling. And still. I value myself. It’s an improvement.

Cross-dressing for comfort and pleasure

My friend, assigned female at birth, pronouns she/her at least for now, is wearing a packer. She likes the way it feels, how it makes her feel. She’s talking about it more, too. My idea of butch lesbian style had not moved on from denims and DMs, and a particular hair cut: I see the haircuts are more varied, and men’s jackets and ties are in. It is very close to dressing as men. I don’t think they are trying to pass as men, and the voice would make that difficult. You need T, and most people need chest masculinisation, to pass as a man: it grows facial hair, produces male pattern baldness, and alters the voice. Even with T, many would not pass as men before someone attuned to checking them out, as the voice and face shape can be distinctive, as well as physical size and waist to hip ratio. Facial masculinisation…

(pause to Google)

Oh gosh, facial masculinisation is a thing! Augmenting the adam’s apple, altering the nose, producing “a more chiseled and defined chin and jawline”, forehead and cheekbone treatments… “Since 2015”, the website says, and probably for a few intrepid and determined people before then.

Anyway. You can probably but not certainly pass, with extensive surgery and hormone treatment; or you can just put on a jacket and tie. You can change your name if you like.You should be able to decide your own pronouns.

I tend to feel that you will be accepted by others if you accept yourself. People will pick up on your self-consciousness or self-confidence, and often reinforce it; if you think you’re all right, others will too. Some people conform, and some cannot. Those who cannot or will not, if they have sufficient brass neck to face it out, others take them at their own estimation.

Regular readers know what I think about the “Some people are trans, and need surgery and hormones” argument- it’s doubtful. Trans people insist it’s “Dysphoria”- we get shirty when others talk of dysmorphia, which is a matter of dislike of body shape, as in BIID. People undergo surgery for self-acceptance, societal acceptance, and sexual performance. It’s a crutch. You’re not being yourself, you are conforming to an ideal you think people will grudgingly accept.

Surgery for self-acceptance is a blind alley. It will make you a “true transsexual” but being that is no improvement on being a feminine man or a masculine woman. I have the additional thing to accept: not just who I am, but what I have done. I paid to be castrated in a fruitless, foredoomed attempt at Acceptance. Some say they will tolerate a trans woman in women’s changing rooms post-op, and that means they will strongly object to a glimpse of a penis. I found swimming pool changing rooms less threatening after the op, but that is a high price to pay. Some people are more likely to tolerate you if you have surgery, but is that worth it?

As for sexual performance, everyone has to learn how their body works, and changing it won’t necessarily increase pleasure. You can still orgasm post-op, but I find that I do so far less often, and others probably do too.

So, what about just cross-dressing, for trans women? The more you do it, the more going back to presenting male becomes unpleasant, and at last unbearable. It is associated with sex in a way women’s jackets are not: high heels put you in a female courting position, while women put on make-up to please themselves, and to look good to other women, etc, etc, it makes them attractive to men; it is a turn-on, as well as a way of expressing your true self and relaxing. That we may be aroused when dressed female is used by our opponents to falsely suggest we are a danger in women’s space.

Someone I know wears skirts without any attempt to pass as female. Their pronouns are “They/their”. It is brave.

Or you could dress as a fop, or dandy, pushing or transgressing boundaries with a silk scarf.

It is hard being a feminine male. Society denigrates feminine characteristics, though everyone has them and they are necessary. I don’t have an answer here for anyone else, for I have not reached one for myself. Trying to be manly was a painful failure, as was moulding myself to a box marked “transsexual”: to be myself I hardly know how to start. When I say society should be more tolerant, it could be that I am projecting, that I need to tolerate myself better. Whatever, I am delighted that my friend is enjoying packing, and hope it does not mean she will seek surgery.

Other people’s anger

I don’t really like “gay panic” killings to be part of entertainment. Two TV dramas I have seen this month included a gay panic killing- one might even have been a trans panic, as the murder victim was female in Virtual reality but male in real life. Yes, I know they exist, and there was no sympathy for the murderer in either, but someone I could identify with was bludgeoned to death. Women complain about the number of women murdered in such dramas- it always begins with the death of a ‘girl’…

Why should a gay pass be such a provocation, anyway? Both dramas showed it raising uncomfortable echoes in the murderer. The organismic self, feeling attraction, comes up against the self-concept, furiously asserting “I’m not gay”. All the rage and terror that elicits is projected outwards, onto the nearest possible victim. If that gay man is disgusting, then the murderer can ignore his disgust for himself. And he makes his disgust and anger indisputable- surely he cannot be gay, when he feels so strongly.

Such cognitive dissonance, the conflict between who I am and who I ought to be, is painful. Turning the anger outwards may reduce the pain, but cannot address the problem. Neither can my instinctive method, which is to turn the anger inwards. I beat myself up for not living up to who I ought to be. Well, I am not that person, and so the anger only hurts me; but turning it inwards has the advantage, for me, that it does not manifest in conduct which others may find objectionable, until it means I have no motivation to do anything at all.

So now, having drained away my motivation and my self-respect, the anger still turns inwards. I beat myself up pointlessly. It’s other people’s anger, which I feel because I have taken it into myself from them: so as not to suffer it from others, perhaps. So as to fit in. It may be old anger, from my parents’ generation or even before, which no-one would feel now except me.

Who I am is who I ought to be.

The problem is changing my self-concept, so that it matches my organismic self.

The gay panic comes not just from the murderer’s homophobia, but from society’s. His self-concept would not be straight but for homophobic messages from the wider society, or from his upbringing, that straight is better than gay. Concepts of how people ought to be get in the way of anyone seeing who they really are, even the people themselves.

I hope my explaining who I am, here, may help anyone who shares my characteristics. If it brings out a strong emotional reaction- even one of revulsion- it has something to tell you.

The anger is merely destructive. Not all anger is- we get angry against injustice, and that may give energy to end it- but this anger either turns on an other who has innocently drawn the angry man’s attention to a characteristic he must deny, or on the angry person themself. His anger at the other does not change his organismic self, only allows him to deny its reality. It blocks him from seeing himself clearly, and prevents self-acceptance. My anger hurts me, and changes my perception of my real attributes from gifts to weakness.

Perhaps I could consider the anger. Why was I angry? What characteristic am I angry at? How could I see it differently? Self-acceptance is my work. How can I see something in myself, which is so frightening I use anger to prevent me seeing it?

Accepting Ourselves

The NHS and professional bodies are committed to ending the practice of conversion therapy in the UK. With “gay cures” it is clear that means attempts to make a gay person attracted to the opposite sex or not attracted to their own sex, but what does it mean for trans folk?

We self-diagnose. No-one goes to a doctor with a set of symptoms and is surprised to be told they have gender dysphoria: if you know of anyone, please tell me. We have contacted people in the community and reached an understanding of what we want. Possibly we have got hormones off the internet, or already transitioned.

Gay identity can be liberated. Battered down by the homophobia pervading society, a person can actualise their fully functioning human identity by therapy, accepting their attractions, using them to build relationship and community, and getting sexual release without shame. The whole person is good, right and acceptable. Self-acceptance empowers them to fulfil their goals and share their gifts in society.

Trans identity comes from a feeling of not fitting, not being congruent. My being, my personality, character, real me, inner self, conflicted and oppressed through internalised transphobia, are nevertheless right and beautiful and can be liberated by good psychotherapy working with my intense desire to know the truth, my human capacity for growth and healing, and my Love. But that misses out my body.

Bodies are embarrassing. We cover them with clothes, not just for warmth. They do embarrassing things like belch, fart, excrete, menstruate. They get sore and tired. We want them to be other than they are, so diet and exercise to change them, rather than for the joy of it. Encouraged by the culture, we imagine an ideal body and always feel we fall short of it.

My body is beautiful.
My body is acceptable.
My body is full of potential.

I can develop it, but should be careful when I imagine I should constrain it, and only do that for good reason. Here is Walt Whitman, section 20 of Song of Myself, worth glorying in for its shocking Acceptance:

I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.

In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barley-corn less,
And the good or bad I say of myself I say of them.

I know I am solid and sound,
To me the converging objects of the universe perpetually flow,
All are written to me, and I must get what the writing means.

I know I am deathless,
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept by a carpenter’s compass,
I know I shall not pass like a child’s carlacue cut with a burnt stick at night.

I know I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize,
(I reckon I behave no prouder than the level I plant my house by, after all.)

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.

One world is aware and by far the largest to me, and that is my- self,
And whether I come to my own to-day or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness I can wait.

My foothold is tenon’d and mortis’d in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

Is that not glorious? Read it again, breathe, glory in it. This- this creature, body, mind, spirit, brain, thews and sinews, questing intelligence, empathy, Love- is completely and entirely beautiful. My body is beautiful.

I only realised my body is beautiful after transition. My arm is beautiful: rounded, long and slim and strong enough, with a lovely, dextrous hand, and before transition I saw it as thin, weak and unmanly.

Something does not fit. What is it? There are three alternatives:

  • The soft, gentle, empathetic spirit
  • The body, with penis and testicles, precisely the size it is
  • The cultural understanding that a man should be like this and a woman should be like that.

We take into ourselves that cultural concept. First I tried to make a man of myself, to fit that concept, and then when I began to accept my spirit as it is I transitioned, so I could be that spirit-self and at the same time conform to the cultural understanding. My presentation, as a man, dressed as a man, did not fit, so I changed it; my body, with a man’s facial and body hair, penis and testicles, did not fit, so I changed that too.

The NHS wants to end conversion therapy, but what would preventing conversion therapy look like, when the culture does such a brilliant job of convincing us that we are wrong, inadequate, not as we ought to be? It gives us two courses, both of which involve converting us to fit in: make a man of yourself, or alter your body and express female. We start therapy converted, not accepting ourselves. Therapy addresses the mind, and helps us accept our spirit, but does not address the cultural rejection of the body. Unless  therapists take into account the conversion wrought by the culture, and oppose it, they are complicit with it. All of me is acceptable, just as it is, body as well as spirit.

The problem for me is that I don’t know if I could convince my 35 year old self, committed to transition, believing that was the way to accept and liberate my feminine self, and to give a clear impression of who I am so that others can interact comfortably with me and I with them. Clothes are so much of how you signal who you are. I always knew that I might be trying to live as a man five years after, but I had to get there via transition.

To accept my spirit, I had to transition, and spend years on it. I could accept my body if I saw it as female. I still best get a handle on my personality if I conceptualise it as “feminine”.  To accept my spirit and body together without transition might have been too much for me.

My right to exist

I am a trans woman. I have a right to exist as a trans woman.

The empathetic person wants other people to be happy, and unfortunately that can leave no room for me. I had great joy at work when people opened up to me, and it seemed to me they felt better for being heard. I saw myself as worthless, only of value for what I can achieve. How must I be? I asked. What must I do? It was never enough. So I burned out.

First I saw an idea(l) of manhood which I pursued, and then I decided to transition, and both times I was crushing myself into a box which did not fit me. So I am crushed. This is a failure, and it is not wholly mine, but a failure of society, which puts everyone in boxes and specifies what we are supposed to like and dislike. My first box did not fit at all, and my second box never fitted either. I realised at the time I did not fit a box marked “transsexual”, only a box marked Clare, and I proceeded to have a conventional transition.

Ah. The fear was there. I knew I did not fit, but tried anyway. I did not have the ability to forge my own way even if I knew it was the only way I could prosper.

The curse of intelligence is treating life like a problem to be solved. Not all intelligent people do this but it is our temptation. Having failed twice to fit in by conforming, I tried again. How should I stretch, squash or contort myself? And I can’t. You can’t please more than one person.

Having tried to fit in, I am trying to be myself, and finding it difficult. I paused to meditate, and then watch Star Trek: Voyager. B’elanna Torres visits the Barge of the Dead, and finds her honour. What do you want me to be? she asks the Voyager crew, desperately. Only yourself. Well, that’s a coincidence.

In meditation, the words Love and Charisma came up. I have to love the world. It is the only way. Conforming or contorting come from fear. And- I have Charisma, though I have no idea how to use it.

Start from where I am. We know God by participation in God, not by trying to please God from afar. God loves the real me, not some idealised or perfect me. Ah. Of course I have been before. I do not step through a door and find everything easy. Created half to rise and half to fall, I return to my vomit. And then come round in the circle again.

I am a trans woman. However I got here, I got myself here myself. That means I start from here. I have these ways of being and I will not apologise for them.

What do I want?
How may I get it?

I move my locus of evaluation into myself.

I-Thou

Of course transphobia exists. There are people I revolt, simply by existing. So if you doubt it-

What did you do to provoke him?

I came within his line of vision. That was it.

I want to be believed. That I might not be is difficult for me. I spoke to him. That was enough. He went off on one. Further questions perplex me. There is nothing more I can say. I can give examples of transphobia, from my own experience; I can make analogies to racism, homophobia or other prejudice; but either you believe someone you do not know might be revolted by my Clareness, my refusal to pretend to be a Real Man™, or you don’t.

You understand revulsion, right? A pile of vomit on a pavement outside a pub? A paedophile? (Yes, yes, I know, Quakers try to see the humanity of everyone, but that should be a sign of exceptional empathy and imagination, not their absence.) Some people appear perfectly normal until one day there’s a spider in the room and you see how they react. And you sympathise, because you understand arachnophobia, and they are ashamed, and you are delighted to dispose of the spider for them, and reassure them. The difference here is I am not a spider but a human being, and he is not ashamed but self-righteous about it. He does not accept there is anything wrong with him- it’s not him, it’s me.

Might I not be afraid of you?

If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear. You will simply be aware that honest people carrying out honest procedures will produce the right result. If you are afraid, that is evidence of guilt, for the only possible fear is fear of discovery.

I could front it out. Nothing to see here- well, what do you think happened? Surely you cannot believe that I did anything remotely objectionable? But you continue, just sitting there, looking at me, and I start to sweat, and I can’t meet your gaze, and I break down sobbing All right I admit it! I transitioned! Of course I provoked him, I revolt him, I don’t deserve to be in the same room as him because I transitioned! I tried so hard not to! Please! You will see I bear guilt, for that is the guilt I bear.

This self-loathing is so hard, and has driven me into failed attempts to avoid it. If I can be a Real Man I will be alright. That does not work. Then, if I transition I will be alright- except that made me hunt Womanliness, and I am not “a woman”, I am Clare. Eventually, when there was nowhere I could hide from myself, I sought to find myself so I could come to accept myself.

Acceptance by others was a powerful way towards this. I became a member of the Religious Society of Friends in February 2002, and their acceptance and my sense of it gave me the courage to transition two months later. And more recently, perhaps in the past year, I have thought that this gives me an unhealthy attitude to my Quaker meeting. On the plus side, it gave me a serious commitment and desire to serve; and it gave me unrealistic expectations, demands that could not be met. It left me in a state of dependence. The Society was my source of acceptance, and I have to accept myself without that external source.

I get closer and closer to that. And now I recognise that if rejected I won’t die. It is such an odd saying- you see someone, distraught, and say “It’s not the end of the world”- well, it never is, the world goes on, and losses can feel that bad. “It’s not the end of the world” but we don’t always see that and we need it pointed out to us.

In meeting this morning I was thinking of Martin Buber, his “I-thou” or “I-it” relationships, his crying out against treating another person as an object to be used, an it, and requiring “I-thou”, the relationship of human beings. That requires an “I”, a being with a sense of self, because otherwise I cannot have a proper sense of the selfhood of others. I can have an “I-thou” relationship if I can say “I”. I am I. There was ministry about being damaged human beings and accepting others are damaged too. I can accept you are damaged only if I can accept I am damaged; if I am in terrified denial of that, I cannot accept that anyone else might be less than ideal.

I get closer to seeing myself, to self-acceptance. I might be able to see other human beings as other human beings, and that would be a good thing. “I-thou”, a relationship, with people, not quite so alone in the cold unfriendly darkness. Those training to be US Marines are not allowed the word “I”. Instead they say “This recruit” when they refer to themselves. They lose their identity and get it deliberately replaced with an identity as part of the Marine Corps, so that they can risk death, and kill others, because they are told to. “I” is precious. If I am I, I am human, and you can be human too.

olga-boznanska-portrait-of-panna-dygat

Imperfection

I glory in my imperfection, because it is freedom. When do you repent? When you realise you have something to repent of! All that time I was stating repentance weekly- the remembrance of [sins] is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable- I had no particular consciousness of doing anything wrong.

It’s a glorious, sunny Christmas day, well above freezing. It is a Spring day in wintertime. Peter is doing the homeless charity’s Christmas dinner, so drives me to Meeting. I walk from there to the Meeting house, wishing a man and a small girl Merry Christmas. In Meeting, I am moved to minister. I feel Joy. I walked here from the Sunlight centre, and felt Joy. I was tempted to overreach my leading, preaching a little homily, but that was it, so I sit.

The acoustic’s dreadful in here. K is moved to respond to my ministry, but he heard the word “dry” not “joy”. He speaks of Patriarchy: oppressive expectations and coercive control of women and girls, but inability to be really themselves for men and boys too. (Well, it is a man talking.) He is talking at school of patriarchy, which makes Western civilisation dry. I really want to correct him. I said “Joy”, the happy union of delight and contentment, not “dry”. However, that is against the rules. You do not speak more than once in a meeting. I have to allow it. No real damage is done.

I said “I am selfish,” and that delighted me. It was terrifying, then it became alright. It is liberating. I am not worthless when I am not perfect, I am human, and in between.

I am generous
I am courageous
I am perceptive
I am creative
I am truthful
I am cursed

and I am selfish
and I am cowardly
and I am cloddish
except when I am not
and I dissimulate
and I am blessed


Have I no control? That is bearable, because it has to be. Anyway having control, like a child playing with a train set, might pall. Real human beings are far more interesting. I do bad things, including where I cannot say sorry or be forgiven, and scarce know how bad they are: Did that hurt you? Does the fact that I did not realise make it OK, or make it worse?

I mean well. Normally that is enough, sometimes it isn’t, and anyway in the long run we’re all dead. Life is tragic, a matter of loss after loss, and beautiful, with finite discrete moments of joy.

Some people this driven, who must always be perfect, have the talent to manage it; but faced with evidence of my imperfection I have fled and hid. No-one could be as good as I wanted to be. So. Metanoia. You change when you realise you have to, and that it is possible. I will not drive myself so harshly: I will accept my imperfections. Only then can I see them clearly, and bear them; and keep buggering on, and mitigate them.

Another opposite: I had been overweeningly arrogant, seeing myself as the centre of the universe, and self-abasing, seeing myself as worthless. Neither of these views were accurate. Self-acceptance might bring self-knowledge, and a just appraisal of my capacities. Though I will always get things wrong- the world, and all the life in it, is too complex a puzzle for me, to puzzle it out.

botticelli-the-flight-into-egypt