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.

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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.

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Contempt

I thought “I am this person whom I hold in contempt”, and it felt like such a relief. It gave me delight. I am- this person. There is self-acceptance, being with who I am. The contempt lessens.

Then this morning it flipped. “I am the one I hold in contempt” I thought and it made me desperate and miserable. All that denial and self-loathing and lying to myself and not realising who I am, so my actions and motivations were opaque to me, so I had no idea what I wanted, so I wanted Appearance more than Reality, so my life has been this bad- and what can I do about it?

Yesterday I went into Swanston to meet R, first time cycling there after a two week viral infection, and when I got there realised I had left my wig at home. I sat in the cafe in a shapeless nylon jacket looking androgynous, conscious of my mary-janes and feeling embarrassed. I had to go round the supermarket anyway, feeling humiliated. I felt in a brain fog, after not sleeping well. Caring about your appearance matters, particularly with people you know who might not be friends. This would reduce my status. It is less bad if everyone I know who sees me is my friend.

“I am the one I hold in contempt.” It felt like an earthquake, an opening on desperate misery, finding my pain. That is an awful situation to be in, though not necessarily an unusual one, there is the Shadow, do any of us measure up to our own expectations? I phoned the Samaritans hoping to gain some understanding, but (in trying to explain) told the woman stories of my past and escaped the desperation into exhaustion. No greater understanding.

I anticipated aftershocks, but have not felt them. I feel OK- it seems I am solider, more self-accepting. I am the person whom I held in contempt. I like myself now, even if I find myself infuriating sometimes. I am- this person. This is as it is. It is actually bearable. It is even pleasant.

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Self-love III

I hold myself in contempt. Admitting that might free me from it. Possibly, it is because I am trans.

You know how it is. You work hard to make a man of yourself, trying to live up to an ideal. It is a good ideal, it just does not fit you. It is something to admire, and you hurt because you do not fit it. You do not consider your gifts, but instead compare yourself to the ideal, and find yourself wanting.

And, that contempt follows society’s views. Women should be a certain way, but that is less than men’s way, less than the go-getting, active, energetic male: it is supportive, decorative. Women should not be like men, not assertive (bossy) or leaders (aggressive). And I should not be like women should be, anyway.

So when I transitioned I still held myself in contempt. In the Quaker course Gifts and Discoveries we were to imagine ourselves as Legion, the man possessed by many devils (who were cast out into the pigs) looking into the eyes of Jesus, and I ran from the room and curled up into a ball. Beck put her hand on my back, and eventually I felt cared for and could uncurl, and express how that made me feel.

Admitting this is liberating. I am this person, that I hold in contempt. That contempt is not proportionate. I am this person, and have to look on this person, rather than averting my eyes from one who is contemptible; to see, and to love. My contempt stops me from seeing myself clearly- from my pain, I turn my eye.

I am not alone in contempt. Bonhoeffer wrote,
Who am I? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

I don’t know where he was with that. I have noted it before: I wrote 18 months ago, I have had utter contempt for myself, and curing that has taken all my intelligence, courage, and energy. I am closer to recovery than ever before. That contempt for myself has been my burden, and when I stagger under it, that becomes evidence to justify the contempt. It always feels like I go round and round the same stuff, again and again, yet each time I go higher or deeper.

I am this person whom I hold in contempt. The contempt is not justified- if someone expressed such contempt for these qualities in another person I would rebuke them. You cannot dismiss someone like that. So I am capable of seeing value in my own qualities in another, though this is also a Christian thing- do not judge others. We judge ourselves, as miserable sinners. There is no health in us.

I am this person. I must see what I most despise, and come to respect, value, love it. That way is liberation. I have been saying to myself, “I am the one whom I hold in contempt”, and finding it reassuring- I am that person, and I cease to deny it. I don’t need to assert, “I am not contemptible”, for that means deciding what “I” am, and my old sense of what is contemptible might get in the way- “I am not that”. Instead I think, “I am this”. So I don’t need to “free myself” from the contempt just yet, only sit with it. What will happen will be OK.

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I am I

Why would valuing my gentleness be a bad thing? It might- give me a false view of myself, so I suppress anger, which emerges in passive-aggression- it is hypocritical. And: it is part of me, which is beautiful. It is part of “non-reactive presence”. Respond, rather than reacting; but that includes presence to self.

Gentleness is definitely a good thing. It is naturally me, and I like it. And so is fear. Steven Moffat made The Doctor say, Right now, you can run faster and you can fight harder, you can jump higher than ever in your life. And you are so alert, it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared? Scared is a super power. Yet fear does not make me like that, but like the rabbit in the headlights, crouching, still, hoping the threat will go away. Not fight or flight- freeze.

Freezing is only a good option if fight and flight can’t possibly work, must be worse.

Hiding has always been my way. Try to fit in. I remember half-learned ways not working with other groups. You can please none of the people any of the time, especially if you worry about it and emphasise the negative.

It seemed when I cry talking to the Samaritans, it is to communicate my sadness to myself. If I can recognise it and allow it I cry less.

So, I have this hurt, frightened, creature to care for. It does not find it easy to see light in the gloom or worthwhile prospects. It appears to have little energy, and a liking for hiding away. It finds honesty difficult- it seeks safety in denial, and in seeing things in a particular way.

It remains angry about childhood. I know the lesson that my parents did their best for me is a good one, but the anger needs accepted and acknowledged not treated as a problem. Treating my feelings as a problem is the problem.

I don’t like it much. And you are thinking- I really hope this is me projecting, though surely it can’t be- how ridiculous! Self-indulgent, mean-spirited, boring, obsessive, repetitive, missing the point-

And I have to care for it, for it is the source of all my joy and every authentic experience.

And I still distance myself from it. This is a rational, sensible being writing, which has lots of good qualities. Lots.

Ah. Yes. That is what I must do- integrate, or admit it. I am one human being, really. I am the hurt, frightened creature. I am that which I most despise. I am I.

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Being good

What would it mean to be good? I wrote “I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person” and it felt like a huge insight: everyone wants to be able to live with themselves, and that gets in the way of seeing themselves clearly.

I am amazed by a self-pitying rant on fb from someone I met once, who carried around with him the defining characteristic of his life, as if his heart was really on his sleeve. I can’t give details as it might identify him. He could just have walked away but was self-sacrificing; it could be noble, passive-aggressive, ridiculous, a pure act of love. I liked him. He was doing his best under difficult circumstances. Now I find he is on a fb group I am on, when I read his complaint of being accused of being a misogynist by the woman he chose to marry. Um. I read on and find she has sought an injunction against him for harassment. I don’t know whether this is the woman who did not participate in the self-sacrifice, or a different woman.

His self-righteousness is such that he can tell of her allegation of his being a control freak, even dangerous, and seek sympathy. He goes round healing workshops in tears. He’s been judged negatively. He shares his Great Wisdom: it is the sitting with, the processing, the allowing of the pain, that, as it works its way through me and out of me, seems to create space for a flowering, a blossoming to take place.

Look, mate, if she’s getting the courts and the police on you it’s time to back off, however much she has let you down. How is this working for you, exactly?

And another says, Bless you. You are a warrior. You believe in yourself, your broken vulnerable heart finds your way.

Ah, self-belief. What’s that like? Today I am thinking about a meeting, and rather than thinking what it might achieve I am thinking of all that could go wrong.

I have no idea what “good” is. I grew up with a Daily Mail morality, I am now hard-Left; I was conservative Christian- abortion bad, gay bad, saying “There is no health in us” in a general confession every week- and I am now liberal Christian. I lie, feel guilty about it, tell myself I could not do better. I can forgive myself a lot. Perhaps I get it wrong both ways, tolerating aspects I should seek to change, being hard on myself when I could do no other.

Also on fb: “Sometimes I’m so down on myself”. It is not just me. We judge ourselves and get unhappy. We direct our anger against ourselves rather than the world.

Will Self writes of a man who nurses his unrequited passion for a woman. She allowed him to attend her musical performances, but not to approach her. Instead, she allows him to write to her once a week, and he does, copiously. She never replies. This is insane. But romantic Love is not there to make us happy; it has no purpose at all, it just happens to have coincided with enough successful parturitions to be a common trait. If I think too often of a woman that I am nervous of seeing, if I cannot just switch that off, though it is not as bad as it was four months ago-

I want to be able to live with myself. I have all sorts of guilt and second-guessing, denial, misinterpretation; it could be a hiding to nothing. Can I free myself of any of this?

-Accept- it is as it is, I am as I am…
Every day is a new day…
act to achieve real-world desires not produce emotional states…
understand…

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If pressed to define good, I would say it is whatever promotes human flourishing. That means the flourishing of the whole biosphere, and the fulfilment and happiness of the greatest number. Nietsche put it differently: What is good? Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is evil? Whatever springs from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases – that resistance is overcome. At the moment, I am not good by either definition. I am closer to the first, but far less than promoting human flourishing I am reduced to not causing much harm- and even on that, I am part of the oppression of food animals and third world sweat shops.

Jesus said, Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. I can’t manage my difficulty living with myself by calling myself in any meaningful way “good”. It involves too much denial. Perhaps I am good enough, as good as I can be. I have needs and desires and I act to gain them. My managing to live with myself is more about considering my intentions, and deciding they are good enough. This might be too high a price to pay; there might be better ways of living with myself.

It is as it is.
I am who I am.

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The whole world

Self-acceptance is world-acceptance. What I cannot bear in myself, I cannot bear in the World.

I am a human being who could not see how I really am- like so many; who wanted to be other than I am; who saw how I really am as weakness and wrong. My route to self-acceptance was through transition. It needed all the work I did: hundreds of hours of electrolysis, all that seeking out treatment, including the operation. I now read of Mark, who is “trans non-binary, feminine with a beard”. I can’t say their way has been easier, nor that it is over.

It was my way, where I was. It was the way I took, worked out from who I am and where I had been. It was as it was. It is as it is. I am as I am. I know how much I wanted transition, including the operation. I wanted it more than anything else in the world. So I took it.

It was the way I knew that I could be myself. I don’t know in a world without prescribed gender roles whether it would ever have occurred to me. I can’t say it couldn’t have, and I want it to be open to people if they choose it. And I want people able to transition without needing to risk sterilisation.

Someone who “walks their talk” is not learning or growing, because first we see how we should be, including talking that, which perhaps this is, and then we practise it, and it grows in us, and it is fixed and real and we walk it. Or we walk it but do not know it, and feel fightings and fears within, without. And still walk it. I have been loving and generous. I am glad of it.

As when I became conscious of Spiritual Growth, I still want- not to feel uncomfortable emotions, to have certainty, to have control. I cannot have these things, though I just might fight myself less.

Oh, can I say this?

It is as it is.

I so want to say that. It seems right and behovely. It is hard for you to kick against the goads! Human unhappiness comes from resisting what is; which is not to refuse to change it, but to work with what is, rather than rejecting it, for what is not. To keep trying. To see things as they are, not as they are not.

I think of two poems:

And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

And,

What is, is not. You must love
And let loose of the World.

Authenticity II

What is authenticity? Is it even possible? Are we all hypocrites, pretending- the word derives from ancient Greek for “actor”. WYSIWYG is a compliment, everyone admires that.

When I typed the title, wordpress let me know I had posted on Authenticity before. There, Jnana commented that we discover ourselves through others. We respond out of our wounds, our hurts. We lash out when we see in others what we fear in ourselves. Or others see something in us.

And we are all influenced, perhaps even created, by other people. We are social animals- we see and we imitate, our genes are activated by our environment, nurture is nature.

Possibly when I am least self-assured, I am most authentic. I have a response I have repressed, but then I come out with it, self-conscious, self-doubting, unsure this is real or authentic.

We learn and grow and mature.

We want to appear to be good, and in practising that we may become so.

The law of non-contradiction is true- a statement and its negation cannot both be true- yet it is difficult to apply it to my experience and understanding. Both p and not-p may appear true to me: I cannot simply choose one, and reject the other, but must live with both until I see where I have been wrong before.

Not knowing is difficult, yet necessary. The discomfort is good, it motivates me to resolve the paradox; my truthfulness, knowing falsehood harms me, lets me live with the discomfort until I can resolve the paradox truthfully.

I want to be authentic and I want to fit in. Trying for either is painful.

As for reverting-

if I did it because I thought- oh, help! That was a mistake, in 2002, a wrong turning! I must put it right! I was forced by oppressive kyriarchal society into a wrong turn. I must go back, I must put it right-

if I thought that, panicking-

that would be a way further into the maze.

If I revert, that must be because it is right for me, now. And I need not make a Decision- I could start by being Stephen, just for a day. I cannot be Authentic for all time. I can only let the process unfurl, in the moment. I will be authentic in the future if I am authentic now, but these authenticities may appear different. It might feel right, even if I could not explain why it was right, in words.

Artemisia Gentileschi, self-portrait as a martyr