Speaking the Truth

I was in touch with my compassion.
I was in touch with my femininity.
I was in touch with my whole self.
I had never felt that way before.
It blew my mind.

That was February 1999, but this is now, speaking on the phone to Lucy:

I was in touch with my femininity, I said. I was in touch with my-

and the word in my head is “compassion” and I cannot say it. I was in touch with my-

it runs through my mind again. I pluck up the courage-

I was in touch with my compassion.

I am Abigail, and I am truthful. Andy Braunston observed in the 90s that I was very hard on myself, and I remain so. I could not say “compassion” because it is claiming a good quality and that is difficult.

And I had a vision of me as a small child asserting something to my implacable mother and being judged for it. My truth and value being rejected so that even now fifty years later I reject it myself, I cannot bring myself to utter it.

Yet I did utter it. It is getting easier. Especially, it is easier with her, I know she will affirm me.

I am Abigail. I am loving and truthful. I have the experience of gathering myself and saying something I know to be Truthful, with my integrity, with my whole being.

“I know you do,” she says. “I’ve seen you do it.”

Expressing myself female gave me permission to be myself with other people rather than attempt the male act. It freed me. I might now regret hormones and surgery, but I do not regret that.

 ♥♥♥

That conversation affected the whole week. I thought before, “The monster will get me”, and of granite statues judging me, and see more what that is. I was frightened of saying “my compassion”. I felt I would be judged for it. I had known that is not an adult assessment of what another individual is like, but a terrified child assessment of the whole world. When I make a claim like that, to compassion or some other good quality, I am a small child with my mother knowing she will deny it, even though I am 52 and she is dead.

I found myself able to talk of my compassion. I named it at Quaker Quest and in the Meeting for Worship the word “compassion” was woven through the ministry. I was in the same state of authenticity, speaking at Quest, and I named it- “I am there now”- though far less frightened, and less mind-blown. It is not familiar, exactly, but more known and trusted. I had thought a lot about what I would say and the stories I would tell, but in the end the words were given to me: “The truth will set you free”.

With H on Friday night, we discussed trans issues and were distanced, but the first glass of wine brought us together and I told her why I could not have spoken of my compassion, and now I could. I was crying again, I am so hurt by this. Awake early on Saturday morning, I phoned The Samaritans and told the man. I took a long time to pluck up the courage, once he had answered. The thought that it would sound ridiculous to him terrified me. After, I said “You heard how big a deal this is for me, didn’t you?” He assented.

This is a big deal for me.
I was in touch with my compassion. It is at the heart of me.
I will remember this, and claim my truth again.

Clarity and possibility

Clarity is not always a good thing. If you open Schrödinger’s box, the cat may be dead. But possibility may be an illusion: I hold onto hope for something which never materialises, until the hope dies by degrees. Too many such hopes, and hope becomes unbearable.

You will see I am not in my most positive mood.

I had many blessings at yearly meeting- hugs, gifts, encounters. New ideas increased my clarity. When I spoke in the auditorium there were many of the customary indications that it was ego-led, not spirit led. A Friend observed that she had not heard me speak at that YM, I heard an implication that I always had spoken at other YMs, and then I spoke at this one too. I was thinking of it the night before specifically as something I could speak on in Meeting. My heart was not beating loudly, it never does. And the synchronicities of it- my other experiences, my recent reading, seeing a man sitting alone, speaking to him later: I am clear what I said had value, and came to me as gift. It was worthwhile for others to hear it. It was ministry to the yearly meeting, and people came to me to express appreciation of it. It got into the minute. How positive I am can determine whether something is blessing or curse- I am clear enough this is ministry, and being given it is blessing.

My world is weird and inexplicable- everyone’s is, however clearly they realise that- and at yearly meeting I decided I had enough confirmation that the weirdness could delight me as well as

HURT ME

-that it might be worth taking some chances. For example that applying for a particular job might not be humiliation and judgment from beginning to end. I know the judgment is almost all mine, projected onto others and generally that does not make it bearable.

I am nearly or actually in tears as I write. Snap out of it, I command myself sternly. Become Positive!

As human relationships end, I can see there might be advantage in denying someone clarity- letting them have hope, without any intention of justifying it. Someone without hope might become a threat, and I can see that other ways of preventing me being a threat could also be unpleasant for me. Generally, my seething chaotic anger is directed inwardly at myself, and when it manifests to others it is never physical. Sometimes it is articulate passion, but more often it is conflicted: I fear what I want to say is ridiculous so the bits which escape me are inarticulate, confused and contradictory. Still the anger is perceptible, and might make someone feel a need to protect herself.

My negative mood convinces me that possibilities are illusion and certainties are of pain. It makes it harder for me to see others holding me in regard (admiring me is far too strong a word- any possible evidence of that at yearly meeting I must be misinterpreting, or at least the admirer is hopelessly deluded). So where there might be possibilities I see only horrible certainty. I see my wish for reassurance as the most disgusting neediness and my anger against myself increases. The cat may come out biting and scratching.

I am laying it on thick here. This is ridiculous- I am now smiling as I type. It is so difficult- only Godlike omniscience would satisfy me!

Living as a woman

To get gender recognition, you must swear that you intend to live in the acquired gender until death. How? The range of tolerated gender expression for cis women is wide. If I never wear makeup or skirts, is it enough? There are cis women who don’t. I am thinking about what I say rather than how I present, and my voice pitch drops- do I have always to mind my voice? Or if I always wear skirts, high heels and make-up I may be called “a ridiculous caricature of a woman”- “No-one is as feminine as that”. What a performance gender is, writes a cross-dresser in The Guardian, with pictures from the 1880s to the 1980s.

Do I have to wear my wig all the time? A friend wore one, even in bed, as she could not bear to look at herself in the mirror in the morning with her bald head. Either you lie very still while asleep, or that quickly ruins a wig.

I live as a woman. My clothes are from women’s clothes shops, I pay some attention to my voice, I use a woman’s name. And, I cycle in a helmet but no wig, and go into the small shop in Marsby in that helmet. It’s pink, with a floral pattern.

I never try to pass as a man, though I am seen as one. That must be part of it- I am in good faith. Certainly at the time I affirmed the statutory declaration I had that intention. Fair minded people who imagined the phrase was not impossibly constraining would probably give me a pass mark. That is, anyone might deny it if they wished.

Yet I use a woman’s name, a female gender-marker- the title “Miss”. I use women’s spaces. Requiring anything further means specifying what clothes, or even perhaps jobs, are sufficiently feminine, so the law cannot do it. However, to maintain sufficient public acceptance, I must appear sufficiently feminine in the eyes of enough beholders.

“A man,” she said. “A middle-aged man“. “A married man“. “He“. She looked at me for a reaction, but I am not going to object. I sold the pass the first time I tolerated this, I knew it was not a mistake then. And I sympathise with her, I feel she has been wronged by this trans woman. We are women because we are accepted as women, and we are never accepted as women by everyone. I can’t force anyone to use particular pronouns, and the best I can do is to not overreact or get too upset about it. It is not news to me that I am seen as a man.

Withdrawing acceptance because someone has done something you object to is an easy trick. Calling her a “man” is a way of showing contempt, but also a way of controlling us: good trans will be tolerated, bad trans, who do anything someone objects to, will not. Then almost everything I do can be unacceptable, calling down the threat of rejection implicit in “he”.

And tolerating me in women’s toilets because I have had the operation- that gives people the incentive to have the operation, hoping to be tolerated; yet arguing that trans is wrong because it involves mutilation and lifelong dependence on synthetic hormones-

together, those leave no space for us. You are a Man. A man. He. I am not going to let it get to me, I insist, but it is wearing.

What do you think it means, to “live as a woman”?

Ceasing to pretend

Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two banks the river of my life flows.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj

Helen wants me to fix goals, ideally to get a job. My goal is to stay on benefits, because it is a lifestyle I can cope with, I am in control, and there is only just enough money. I tried to make a difference once, and it was too hard.

I tell Tina of Mark, the playwright. Helen’s powerpoint slide said she got divorced, but actually she only split up from someone she was cohabiting with. She changed it to “divorced” in case a religious person judged her. “Hallelujah,” said Mark, bitterly, imagining himself humorous. I challenged it, saying that I am very religious, and do not judge others. Mark says all religions are like a cult, brainwashing people. Harlan tells of his cousin, who was “a bit slow”

-do you mean he had learning difficulties? challenges Helen-

who converted to Islam and ended up in a mental asylum. We do not stick to the subject. Today Harlan, instead of referring coyly to “relaxants”, named his crime as if daring anyone to make something of it. He smokes weed. He used to smoke £100 a week, now since having his kids it’s £30, and as far as he is concerned that’s money in his pocket.

We go off the subject easily. It is diverting enough.

Do you want to change yourself? asks Tina. You said Mark, just like you, is “walled up behind a mask or persona, disappointed and resentful”. That’s heavy shit.

I want to stay on benefits because the uncertain generosity of whoever is filling Ian Duncan-Smith’s tiny shoes- David Gauke, Google tells me- is pleasanter and more reliable than any chance of earning money. Helen challenged us on Monday to think of what we would like to do, at the end of her course, and I wrote to be myself without the mask. And now I think I am lots of different acts, but always acts.

On Sunday, with her, what happened? Possibilities:
-she used me as waste disposal, and I liked it.
-It was nothing under the surface beyond what happened.
-we were playing a game together which both enjoyed. I hope that. It would be intimate. She holds me at arms length.

-What parts of you are there, meeting her?

It might be easier to say what parts are not. My resentment is under the surface, always balanced with fascination. My care, appreciation and playfulness are there. I am articulate, except when she asks why I thought we might be embarrassed to meet, and I could not answer her. Because she could always withhold her acceptance of my answer, and question each answer in recursion.

-What’s that feel like?
-Sad and powerless.

For which part are you sad? The lawyer or the romantic? The older or younger self?
-Possibly all of me.
And at that my inner critic explodes in triumph and derision. But I am just a set of different acts, I said. I am proved inconsistent and incomprehending.

There is sadness in me, and there are other feelings. I am sad about her, wanting union, partnership. Fascinated, resentful, I love to see her. What I get is wonderful, and I am held at arms’ length.

-What do you get? Unrequited love?
-Her presence, charisma, sparkle. I will keep coming back for that.

-Have you ever been loved?

Yes. A woman loves me, and I did not know, and now we cannot be together. My father let me down. My mother was too scared. H called me “Cariad”, and now I think of her with pity, despair, irritation. She always responded the wrong way to everything, I burst out. We betrayed each other repeatedly is an old line I am not sure is true.

-And what about yourself?
I like myself and I wish myself well. I despise myself. I am very beautiful.

Those voices, you despise yourself; you are beautiful. How opposite are they?
-I am opposites.
-We all are. I see them both, but they don’t talk to each other. The different parts of you pull you apart sometimes. We’ve got to get those parts talking to one another.

So we arrange to skype again.

Joy and terror

If you are insane, you might as well roll with it. There is beauty in my insanity. I will love it, not fear it.

Something good happened to me on Wednesday. I have been thinking of my friends- if I become homeless, which of them might let me use a spare room? It would be unsatisfactory, and possibly only one might, possibly not him; no, I could not ask her, and certainly not her…

if I become homeless-

and there has been a reprieve. I am less likely to be made homeless, at least for the moment, I will continue to be able to pay rent, I may even find a job I could do and support myself. The benefits system is not uniformly hostile, sticks not carrots, withdraw money on a whim, but might be a little, inefficiently, more concerned with appearance than reality but a little- supportive. And the support might be enough to get me supporting myself again.

I sobbed without weeping. I read that this is contemptible and hypocritical, they pretend to cry, these horrible people, but really, they produce no tears so they are OBVIOUSLY TRYING IT ON. Well, that was a politician who had been caught out, clearly a bad person who the journalist reasonably despised, but still. Sobbing without weeping is Bad. Except I was doing it when alone, so no-one to fool but myself. The pressure and terror had been too ghastly to face head on, and now it was slightly less, a reprieve but not a release.

It is not quite as bad as I had thought.

I feel depressed, and I feel I lack energy. After doing a washing in the morning, often I want to do no more than just watch TV in the afternoon. Might the GP help? Well, having let me down badly twice from a combination of arrogance and ignorance, and in one exhibiting a lack of care which I felt indicated dislike, and possible contempt for me as a trans woman (nothing could ever be proved), my GP practice is the last place I would like to discuss depression and lack of energy. I feel all they could do is prescribe an antidepressant. I feel my depression arises from my difficult circumstances, and when I have been depressed before because of circumstances antidepressants have done no good. I feel my GP would be at best useless.

I sat in the Quaker meeting and felt my yielding softness. How hard it is to see it as a blessing, where Manliness and strength and decisiveness and leadership are praised, especially in men. It has felt that there is no room for my softness. I will give it space. This is what I need. I will give it to myself.

Three people ministered, well, I think, and at the end I had a sense of complete Joy and complete Terror, both at the same time. I have a strong will, high intelligence, and a heart full of Love, and the World I face is not as unremittingly hostile as it sometimes seems- it is beautiful, as well as implacable. Such strong, different emotions were hard to hold in, and I shook and gasped. And I had a strong sense of my loveableness and acceptableness- by God, by me- even possibly by the world. If I can accept myself, I can accept others.

I applied for a job, as usual screwing myself up to the sticking place to do it just before the closing date, and after feeling so het up I could not go to bed. It would be difficult. It might be possible, it might be the most wonderful thing in the World.

Celebrating femininity

Is there anything in femininity beyond oppression of women? Is there anything positive in it? Is there anything which might be real in an AMAB person, that she would use transition to express her true self, as we generally imagine we have done? I am still thinking of my sternest, least forgiving critic, whom I will never persuade, and her strong arguments, and trying to convince myself that there is, that I have gained something by transition to balance its costs.

I pick on a will to co-operate, and to support, and aversion from competition, which hurts feelings. People have observed women who are not feminine in this way: Eric Berne’s game “Let’s you and him fight” considered a woman provoking battle, as Helen did without counting the cost. And Jesus wanting to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings is feminine in this way. But I am talking of femininity, not how women are. I see it in me, as a thread throughout my life, and think it is beautiful. I have enjoyed court victories, but mainly when I felt I was fighting injustice, exercising an impulse to protect. And having blundered into litigation work twice in my life, I wanted to settle fairly rather than fight.

Arguably it comes from oppression. The NYT had a powerful argument for that: a man sexually assaulted Taylor Swift during a photo shoot, and after she thanked him for his participation. That automatic thank you, smoothing away conflict, at the cost of subservience, self-doubt, even self-flagellation, is instilled into girls and women. Her mother worried she had raised her to be too polite. Possibly it arose in me from caring for my mother’s feelings- yes, really, possibly my mother made me a pansy through wanting too much to make me a “proper boy”.

Also in NYT I read of Michel Foucault’s (or Theodor Adorno’s) term subjectivisation — a phenomenon in which individuals subject themselves to a set of behavioral regulations, and by doing so, acquire a sense of their own identities. My critic has studied and written on Foucault. This is the opposite of Richard Rohr, where today I read The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Surely Foucault would see subjectivisation as a bad thing, a way of creating some sort of false self. For my critic, my “femininity” is an act, a pretense, a thing apart, though for me my whole existence.

So for her, my discomfort in the masculine conversation yesterday, my pleasure in the feminine, would arise from this is not how I am supposed to be; for me, this is not how I am. If I admit the possibility of her understanding being true, that could be a feminine socialised self doubt, where women keep smiling, swallow their feelings, will not rock the boat, are not assertive, are subservient. Seen that way, from the point of view of a woman not naturally subservient who has asserted her right and been repeatedly attacked for it, I get that “femininity” would be revolting. She might note my occasional anger and competitiveness, and see them as my true, manly self. I can be very angry. “I want to control you,” I said to her, forcefully. I feel I was provoked-

and she could wipe the floor with me, then blame me, I deserved it

This is an increasingly competitive world. Twentieth century principles of the good society, caring for all its members and ensuring that all share the benefits of that society, have given way to neoliberal ideals of funnelling all wealth to a tiny minority of capitalists. Having to compete yet being forced into that subservient role against ones natural character would be revolting. Yet if society is not to implode, some people have to salve feelings, and to work for reconciliation and co-operation. I felt that was the real me, so far from how I perceived I ought to be, as a man, that I transitioned. To be who I really am, that is a price worth paying.

Whisky, newly distilled

I drew myself as the Sun, shining. The words in my mind were Strength, Beauty, Right: I am right, righteous, I have rights, I am rightly made. This is the world I evolved in, and I fit it. Now I cannot understand the notes I took, but it was something about being the cat which low status people choose to kick: I imagine that poor transphobe thinking, “I may be going to prison but at least I’m not a pervert like that.” His attack comes from his own need, because he cannot see me as I am, only as he has been taught to see me, as a way of controlling any effeminacy in him. Because it is not about me, his attack need not affect me. I can let it go.

All my emotions are Right, or Appropriate. They are not always comfortable (here I am moving from appreciation to judgment- comfortable only for the ego, not the real self).

I trust what comes up in myself.
I trust what comes up in the World.
I do not have all the answers, but I have the ability to find them.

It is whisky, newly distilled, the first fire of it. Seeing my God-self is wonderful, and I need to learn to be comfortable in my new skin. I will reach a mature appreciation, different from this amazed delight. And it is True. I am Right, and I need merely appreciate that. That was two weeks ago, and I am building on it.

It was at Yearly Meeting Gathering, the Experiment with Light. I saw myself as God made me, beautiful and Right, without the ego-self which one creates to try to survive. Now, since then, I am seeing that ego-self more clearly, clutching its filthy rags about itself, and how poorly it serves me.

Also at YMG was a Singalong showing of Frozen. “How can she be seen as some sort of Feminist icon, with those big eyes and hair and princess dress?” she asked, and I thought, meet us half way. Those are not ideal, but seeing her characteristic which everyone else has seen as a curse, accepting it and rejecting their judgment, is strong and beautiful.

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me,
I’m free!

“That perfect girl is gone”- how we are taught to idolise the ego-self, which is never “perfect”, but enslaving. She has some self-doubt, wanting to do the right thing, willing to self-sacrifice rather than hurt, so inhibited from fighting back. And (spoilers) the act of true love which saves the younger princess is not True Love’s Kiss by the Prince, who turns out to be a bad lot, but an act of bravely defending her sister.

I love Top of the Lake- China Girl. Episode 4 shows how Puss, the egocentric, psychotic parasite, has enslaved Mary. She loves him, completely. He has first charmed and flattered her, fooling her into seeing him as an intellectual with an understanding of her parents’ hypocrisies by mocking them; he has convinced her that the prostitutes are somehow in the “Real World” which her parents avoid, so appealing to her teenage idealism. With mature adults he can only be a disgusting jester, his pretensions seen through, so he preys on a teenager. He rewards her servility with kindness or kisses, a facsimile of Love, and as he has reeled her in he gives less and she, desperately, gives more.

I believe in his power to degrade her. She feels he is wise, teaching her about life, and so tolerates being more and more humiliated. He says “I am going to hit you in the face” and does so, and such is his power that she almost accepts even that. I hope with the failed blow job she has realised how poisonous he is; she needed to reach rock bottom before realising that, because she now thinks herself a fool for being reeled in by him, and few people could admit that to themselves easily.

How happy I felt when you said my song was “fantastic”! And after, when you dismissed my verses, I only recited more, desperate to be affirmed again. You are no psychopath. I love your bravery, intelligence, courage, fierceness, how you can feel such fear and do it anyway. Knowing you enriches me. I don’t think you reeled me in, or have wronged me in any way; it is my own response to you. I felt it when I first saw you, so I would have to control how you walk into a room if I thought you really had wronged me, and if I controlled you you would be nothing, rather than the glorious human being you are. You used me as a confidant, making me feel valued- it is an exchange, I like to feel my listening reduces pain. And you will never meet me half way. Trans men, “biological females,” are victims. How awful that she felt she had to cut off her breasts to escape the prison of femininity. Trans women, biological males, are perverted exhibitionists, getting a sexual thrill from fooling others into thinking we are women. So you say. I cannot be a victim, only a perpetrator, for you, as a biological male, even though you claim toxic masculinity oppresses all men. You loathe my performed femininity, that way I curve my hand, though none of this is conscious. To me, it seems it is just me. Still, I tried to please you.

I am continually surprised. How can you not appreciate me? Well, you don’t. The arrogance in me made me continually expect better, and my low self-esteem, the flip side of my arrogance, made me accept the taunts. Only seeing Mary weeping in her birth-mother’s arms, surely having finally realised how damaging Puss is for her and what a fool she has been, or what a human she has been, so different from her conception of herself-

She weeps and escapes. I must follow her example.

Not Cis; not a TERF

My friend loathes the word “cis”. She told me of going to University, where the young ladies had a curfew of 11pm imposed on them, and had to wear a dress for the evening meal on Sundays. Male guests were not permitted after 7pm. She rebelled.

She was amazed and repelled by how compliant the others were. This was in the ‘Seventies, not the ‘Forties. I love her strength and determination. She managed to get round some of the rules, and was part of the pressure for their relaxation. There was no curfew when I went to Uni in the ‘Eighties, though one lad asked when “Lights Out” was, and we got the impression he would have liked one.

Back in the Eighties, feminists talked of “Consciousness raising”. If you could explain to women how oppressed they were by patriarchy, they would become feminists, fighting it. No-one talks of that now. No amount of consciousness raising will drive the soft pink floral sweater from the nation’s wardrobes. Some women see the oppression and fight it, some women love femininity and work with it. I don’t know whether James Damore, formerly of Google, is right that women are generally more co-operative, interested in people rather than things, or whether that is from socialisation or predisposition, but some women are.

Why should she be called “cis”? She rejects the feminine gender stereotype, because she does not fit it. She is a radical feminist: women share reproductive organs, and femininity is merely cultural, merely oppressive. She is a woman, but that does not make her a particular gender, and her gendered expression sometimes fits and sometimes fights the gender stereotype.

I wish she would meet me half way. I would love co-operation between her gender non-conformity and my own, because the gender stereotype, the Patriarchy, oppresses both equally and because I am more interested in people than things, and in co-operation. She called Trans a conservative movement. Tell that to the conservatives, who hate us! I suppose her argument is that we go along with the idea that my co-operativeness, etc, makes me feminine so I should express myself as female. Feminine = Female is a conservative idea. However, I have sought out the way society permits me to be my extremely feminine self- it is transition, which allows me to escape the masculine expectations forced on me. I love floral blouses and dresses, so want women to wear men’s shirts, jackets and ties if they wish; and if they wear dresses I do not imagine that says anything about their levels of co-operativeness or interest in people.

So, she is not Cis, because she does not conform to gender. Not only trans people reject the gender enforced on them. I could argue that it makes a useful shorthand to distinguish those who call ourselves trans or non-binary from everyone else, but she is not having that. She even rejects the idea that we might be particularly distant from the stereotypes, thinking gender oppresses everyone, apart from a few “alpha” males.

I would not presume to state her argument against the word TERF, but she is not hostile she says to trans women, only supportive of the rights of- she would say “biological women”. Calling us “women” sticks in her craw, but it is our way in to freedom.

The lesson I draw from this is that it is a disaster for both trans folk and her kind of feminist that we should be ranged against each other; that the oppression we suffer from Patriarchy, or whatever, is very similar, as is our interest in attacking that oppression. I feel in some cases her side’s objection to us is rooted in revulsion from femininity, falsely enforced on them. Femininity freely chosen is beautiful.

Other people III

The argument that it is likely we are in a computer simulation is that they would be so useful. There is one real existence, and perhaps billions of life forms creating simulations to test how things would work out in particular situations. Our chance of being in reality is slim. We might be in a simulation, in a simulation, like the central Matryoshka doll.

How can I emerge into reality? asked H determinedly, delighting me. But the simulation might be better: imagine if the Big Crunch will be in less than a thousand years, bringing all to an end, but in our simulation time goes more quickly and this universe has billions of years to go. Our simulation feels real: why should living a life or affecting others’ lives be more meaningful, outside it?

Maybe it’s just that I forgot my pill last night and took it this morning, but feelings are heightened today. I wanted to go into the garden and read, but instead am arrested by the beauty of the leaves on that tree. I am in Presence, which I decided was not a “spiritual state”– but it is, you know. It is not Enlightenment, but it is Heavenly. I find the garden-bird, and the squirrel, entrancing. As I left the Meeting house, a woman arrived on an electric scooter. “Oh, hello” I said as I walked out. Now the scooter turns, and she scoots away. Someone chases after her: “Do you want me to open [the other door with the ramp]?” she asks. No, apparently. “But I would like to talk to you!” I feel a pang. Did I insult her by not attending to her need to enter by a ramp? How horrible that would be! Even though I am a visitor and did not consider I might be needed to let her in, I feel worried remorse.

Then I notice a plastic toy on the bench, a brightly-coloured rotor on a launcher with a spring. There is a loop to go round a tiny wrist. I try it. I try it again. It is delightful!

In the meeting I am in delight looking at the other people here. I love them for what I know of them, and their complexities and wonders I do not know. And I am abashed at how I do not know them. One ministers on “Post-truth”. I minister:

I was glad when they said unto me, let us go unto the house of the Lord. There is a streak of reckless generosity in our religion, heedless of the future or common sense: when the woman poured perfume on Jesus, someone said “it could have been sold, and the money given to the poor”. In the gospel those words are placed in the mouth of Judas, because he wanted to steal it. I am delighted being with these people, and Mr Trump tells people what they want to hear, reassuring them they are good, and the Outsiders are bad.

Another ministers all truth is provisional- scientific theories are the best explanation.

Over lunch, I want to show off the issue of Quaker Voices, with the photograph I took on its cover. I want to show off, and be petted, rather than to see others and know them better. And I showed it to Peter, then forgot that he wanted to show me how well he could park, such a small distance from the barrier! Oh well. It is how I am.

In Area Meeting, the Men’s Refuge comes up. The need for a Women’s refuge is far greater, she says. I wonder how we might make this not a zero sum game, men v women, two sides in the Meeting. The voices here are for a Men’s refuge. We will proceed with it. What if there is no call for a men’s refuge, and it falls through? Will those who have given money be happy to have a house for some undefined charitable purpose, and do they want a voice in deciding that purpose? If residents can claim housing benefit or Universal Credit, or if they can’t, do we want an income from Women’s Aid managing it? So much unresolved- yet we will go ahead with it.

This friendship delights me. After, in the sunshine, we hug; before, she touched my bare arm, making me shiver.

Being controlled

As we wander through the town centre to the café-pub, she notices a bright-yellow, “Spring-like” coat in a charity-shop window. She says it would look good on me. I go to investigate, and take it from the window display, undoing all its buttons, unwrapping the very long belt. A worker dashes over and pulls the mannequin from the display, then feels the need to explain and apologise- “We’re not allowed to have them in the window without something on them”. I apologise in turn- I am sorry for dismantling the display. “I like it, but it is up to you,” she says. Are the arms a little short- I was descended from gorillas- maybe a little, she thinks. She will not exert herself to persuade me at all.

I buy the coat, and wear it to the pub. I enjoy lunch with her, then cycle home, still wearing the coat.

I am not certain she would think of this, but I analyse obsessively, and decided- she told me what to wear, and I wore it. She took control, and I assented. I really really like that. I could give pathological explanations. My mother was extremely controlling, and it is because of that. I am not behaving like a fully mature adult. I don’t know if any cis woman would feel this way about a man.

I really really like that. And it is shaming, humiliating, NOT HOW A MAN SHOULD BE!!!! RIDICULOUS DISGUSTING SHAMEFUL VILE

The inner critic does not like it. I have such strong internal barriers against this, it is more an internal policeman, with a taser to paralyse me if I stray from the Right Path. It comes from my controlling mother and soft father, who were terrified of anyone finding out.

I called the Samaritans. “I want to talk about sex”, I said. “This is not the phone line for that,” she said, and rang off. With the second, I was more circumspect. I do not want to perv on her, but to sort out my feelings. I have been frightened of my feelings and suppressed them, and want to accept them and feel them fully, for then I feel I pass through them. I need her presence as I do this. Shame, humiliation, resentment, complex unnamed feelings well up within me and I can bear them if I sit in silence, eyes closed, and allow their conflagration, their cacophony. Then such regret!

I told her of leaving the office to kill myself. It was the only thing I could do. I could not bear it, and had to get out immediately without thought for the consequences. The internal policeman does not accept such an excuse, for any human being with the slightest resource or resilience would have had no problem at all. I feel the pain of being in that situation, and then the pain at lost opportunities from never being able to accept that pain, so wanting to hide away, and wonder if some sort of forward movement is possible.

My lunch companion is a friend, not a potential partner. However, after years of trying to make a man of myself and so being unable to let a potential partner in, and loathing my attempts at sex because I did what I thought I should do rather than what I might like, these experiences might help me seek out something which could satisfy me at last. An oddity- as I spoke to the Samaritan woman I was using my female voice. Often, I speak below the break, but not then.

-What will you do next? she asks.

I will watch Call the Midwife on tv. Apart from one token character the men are all stupid, sometimes bumblingly well-intentioned but usually selfish, even violent. And the women take control and sort things out. Just my sort of programme!

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