Speaking my mind

I was so ready for this an hour ago. I am not sure I can recapture the mood- I’ve cooled off a bit. I was high, and ready to tell you what I really think, and not care if it was not understood. I want to say I understand and you don’t and so shut up, listen, and get your head round this because it matters.

But they’re not going to listen. And my friend warned me on no account to say that. She thinks I should enjoy the loveliness and on no account say anything that will irk anyone at all. Remember, you no longer have male privilege! I would just be proving my maleness, but my femininity would mean I was ignored. I could have been a Pentecostalist minister. Hear the Word of the Lord!

I took control then, and eventually got what I wanted. I have some wonderful gifts.

I want to mess things up. And my friend wants to lance the boil, have the vileness heard so it may be answered. Then the blindness (Oh me! Oh how masculine I am being! Listen to the voice!) the blindnesses would be kicked away, and if that’s painful for someone they should deal with it. I have to deal with it.

I am exploring my own blindnesses, and speaking from different aspects of myself, for each of these is a different aspect. What’s the worst that can happen? I collapse in a puddle on the floor. Not just one bodily fluid. Or,  I will express my love and creativity and however poor the clay I have to work with I shall mould it into the best way for them to be. I shall be circumspect, recognising I no longer have male privilege, and lead people into truth.

I want the most difficult person included: both me, and the person I most disagree with. I have value no matter how many people tell me they need me to go away. I am a human being, the glory, jest, and riddle of the world. Sometimes I can speak winsomely, and persuade people. Sometimes not being rational, saying things I am not sure of because they might be true, or might provoke useful thought, can be useful. I can’t be worse hurt than I have been.

“Part of me is concerned that you will hurt yourself even more,” she said.

I don’t think so. I hope not. Mostly I get away with it- see my highwire act without a safety net. I’ve only fallen the once! Isn’t the word triggered a wonderful word? It is my hurt that is speaking and therefore I have a right to say anything I like. Isn’t being triggered the most awful thing in the world, you are completely without control and you can make a complete and utter fool of yourself.

I feel as well as the risk of making a fool of myself and making my problems worse there is the possibility of learning and growth for everyone involved, human beings coming together in love and understanding, and I will exercise my strength, of persuasion. I want to be seen in my full glory, all parts of me acting together as one. I want agreement and new understanding for everyone, or incremental movement of a few.

-What do you want for you?

I want to learn, to be challenged, to reach new insights, I want to laugh, I want to connect. The risks make it worthwhile.

Helpful beliefs

What you believe may be helpful or harmful not so much as to whether it is true or not, but how it helps you to navigate the world. If natural selection is true, we form our beliefs in a way inherited from ancestors who formed beliefs which aided them to survive and reproduce. Possibly, false beliefs may profit those who believe them. For some jobs, objective assessment of truth matters in the job itself- doctor, forensic scientist, police officer- but they might be able to be truthful there, yet hold false beliefs which do not directly impact their work.

I place a high value on truth. Possibly, that inhibited my acting in my own interests. I wondered, “Am I transsexual?” I assessed that by my understanding of the concept of transsexual, what observers considered it entailed, but now believe it is in part socially constructed and the important matter is the desire to transition. How should I judge people who habitually deny the truth?

Yuval Noah Harari writes that fiction helps people. Peugeot as an entity, rather than as a group of people and physical assets, depends on belief. The “Good-will” of a company is based on belief in it as an entity. Religions help people trust strangers, and co-operate.

Traits come in a range of strengths. People are varied. So, just because your ancestors held their beliefs in a particular way, and had offspring, does not mean that you will. I have no children, and neither had my uncle, who only married late in life, or aunt, who never married, and died in her early forties. Some inherited trait may be holding us back. My sister has children.

People hold contradictory beliefs. A belief may be useful for some purposes, but not for others; so you might ignore it in contexts where it is harmful. For the creationist doctor, scientists are arrogant fools when they disprove Creationism, but believeable enough when they research medical treatment. Or at least his suspicions of scientists do not result in angry denunciation, when it relates to his job.

Creationism in Christians could draw the community together. The community values belief in this sibboleth, and because outsiders despise it they have an Out-group to define themselves against. They might collect arguments for their position, building community.

It affects their understanding of wider society. They observe that there is a large group of people whose profession is (they believe) to make illegitimate conclusions from sparse, contradictory evidence, but who assert those conclusions with a high degree of confidence and despise the Creationists. Believing that so many people would have a professional interest in asserting falsehood would decrease trust in wider society. But perhaps they would not work out the full implications, which would cause cognitive dissonance.

I have been wondering about this after a Creationist wrote, I have solar on my roof, and I drive an electric car. I take better care of the environment than most, and have a smaller carbon footprint than many… all it would take is one large volcano eruption to put us into a persistent Global winter. I can find no assertion of persistent global winter from volcanoes, though that was one result of the Chicxulub impact. The second largest eruption of the 20th century, in Mount Pinatubo, put gases and solids into the stratosphere only for three weeks, but sulfate aerosols persisted for 3-4 years. The troposphere generally cooled, but warmed in winter. So says NASA: I don’t know how trustworthy he finds them. They have to be careful of truth while engineering rockets, or the rockets would not work. In 1816 the Tambora eruption in Indonesia created a “Year without a Summer” in the US and Western Europe. That would have been observed, by Christians, so have a high degree of credibility, but the connection is made by scientists. That was the largest volcanic event for 1300 years.

His understanding of science is grievously affected by his creationism, which requires him to disbelieve scientific knowledge and distrust science as practised. He misunderstands about volcanoes. Yet he behaves morally, as if climate science were true.

It is clearly easier for a science denier in one field to be a denier in another. Creationists are more likely to be climate deniers.

Possibly I overvalue truth. Trust in climate science, and indeed the scientific account of the history of life on Earth and the development of the Universe, is part of my trust in wider society. It feels like seasickness when someone denies the clear truth, either a Creationist or a conspiracy theorist. I feel angry when someone I know asserts that Saggitarians have particular traits, Diana was assassinated, or the World Trade Center was demolished by explosives rather than planes. I feel I depend on being able to discern truth. I don’t, really. The world is a complex and confusing place, and weird things happen. Knowing the age of the Universe does not make it more controllable.

One truth, or many?

The reason we have had enough of experts is that they tell truths we don’t care about. That you can’t articulate a truth does not mean it is unimportant. That everyone else thinks you should have a particular priority does not mean you do.

I know the truth of Brexit. Governments working together can provide a social safety net, decent health care for all, education, legal aid where someone needs to navigate the courts, a legal framework of human rights and regulation to hold polluters and exploiters in check, and the rule of law to enable entrepreneurial activity: to enable people to work together by enforceable contracts. At the moment we do not have in Britain government organising the utilities of water, gas, electricity, public transport and internet, but that can work well too. We need a fair living wage enforceable by law, not the meagre minimum wage the Tories fail to enforce. Governments working internationally can combat climate change and other pollution, limiting the wealth of the exploiters. So the exploiters object, though unchecked they would eat the planet.

The aim of the exploiters, of the Tory Brexiters, was to weaken the power of democratic government to prevent their depredations. Many Tories voted for that. How did they get Labour voters to vote for it? By lies, about what the EU does, and about what it costs; and by hate, stoking hatred and fear of immigrants. That lie about 70m Turks coming here, when there is less prospect of Turkey joining than there was twenty years ago. The Tories had the plan for an unskilled one-year visa for people from anywhere in the world, without any rights, so the immigrants taking the worst jobs will continue.

Now there is the rise of the far Right, some nebulous myth of Britishness involving the Second World War and facing down the Germans. There is Lexit, but while the EU may be coloured by neoliberalism any Tory Brexit will make things much worse, inside the EU and out.

Remain is hope in what we have built together. Leave is hope in what we might achieve some other way. I don’t just have to give hope to the hopeless, but to restore hope in something where it has been lost, and people have found illusory hope elsewhere.

Possibly if I could put the Leave arguments without mocking and undermining them, I would understand them and then could work against them. If I were open to being persuaded, then I could engage. I know the Tory government has two priorities: to preserve Tory rule, and to destroy all we have created together, privatising the NHS and education, destroying the safety net.

It is not truth against lies, but one truth among many, what is and how we understand it, what is likely and what is possible, with exaggeration, illusion and denial but also clear seeing, and not all the clear seeing is on my side. The complexity is too much to grasp so what I can grasp seems contradictory, and trying to communicate it muddies it further like a photocopy of a photocopy exaggerates the distortions. There are reasons why someone might be wrong in particular ways, and people might be wrong in an interesting way, on a path to new understanding. And then there are competing interests. I sympathise with anyone who sees a part of the whole, and clings to it as the only part that matters. We are divided into bubbles when we need to come together.

Very occasionally, there might be some good I can do, but much of the roiling national argument is like the monkey mind, going over the same things repetitively without change or growth or openness. I have no control over this. All I can do is leaflet if there is another vote. All things are transitory: my ceasing to worry over Brexit is part of the endless task of letting go. Isaac Pennington: Give over thine own willing, give over thy own running, give over thine own desiring to know or be anything and sink down to the seed which God sows in the heart, and let that grow in thee and be in thee and breathe in thee and act in thee; and thou shalt find by sweet experience that the Lord knows that and loves and owns that, and will lead it to the inheritance of Life, which is its portion. “Seed”, or Real Self.

I want you to feel what I feel

I want you to feel what I feel
I want you to see the world as I see the world
This makes me vulnerable

-How are you?
-In Heaven and Hell, I said.
-Yes, it’s like that when you feel so deeply, he said.

Though I have not yet learned to play it
I am an exceptionally sensitive instrument
which will produce beautiful music
when I learn to play it well

I rambled a paragraph, clutching at wisdom, and my friend put it beautifully:
You need to be at one with yourself
before you can be at one with anyone else.

Indeed. I need to check in with my emotional being, my real self, and know where they are before the inner monologue can have great value. That monologue has some value, it is showing me some of what I feel, achieving a small amount towards expressing what I want to express, but a lot of it is repetitive. If I am with myself, the inner monologue is less intrusive and I can see what is around me.

We are made in the image of God
so we are Loving, Creative, Powerful, Beautiful.
I have said this before

Even if they are sources of hurt, they are still gifts

“Plain speech” is speaking without ego.
-I don’t know if that’s possible, he said.
No, and if you thought you were doing it all the time you wouldn’t be;
yet it might be a worthwhile goal, you might sometimes approach it

I need you to value, even authenticate, or justify, my feelings if I cannot accept them myself.
This makes me vulnerable.
I get better at accepting them.
I turned my face from my own pain, and now it is almost too much for me to face

I am still protecting you, though you no longer need my protection.
You twisted me so I could do nothing else- as you had been twisted.
Your fears live in me.

At least, it is easier if we all feel the same.
How pleasant it is to dwell together in unity!
But then, whose feelings would we be feeling?

With Brexit, the fundamental question is whether Governments can make things better or not. Do we need general laws about contracts being fulfilled, batches sold matching samples checked, or specific laws about “abnormally curved” bananas? Can governments work together to prevent climate change and protect human rights? Or does law and government action just get in the way? The Left, arguing that Government can improve things, needs people to hope, and that hope is vulnerable. Yet governmental action is the only hope for human rights or climate change mitigation.

The great lie is the slogan “self-ID”, and the idea that the Government proposes to introduce self-ID, which will mean a flood of men in women’s spaces. Transsexual diagnosis is based on self-ID, the conviction that I am a woman or the long-standing desire I have to be a woman. The Equality Act is based on self-ID, and the trans women are in women’s spaces already. The anti-trans campaigners need to pretend that there is some new threat, or they would be forced to explain why the sky has not already fallen.

There you go. The Truth!

Maybe I should go off line. Some of those places where the people who hate me get together and reassure each other that they’re right can be really horrible when I blunder in. I know it’s not personal, and possibly someone who says awful things there would chat pleasantly enough at the bus stop; I even know my own zingers might offend their targets, who may (apart from one particular completely wrong opinion) be decent enough. The anger on line is bleeding into real life, and I don’t know what to do about it.

And someone replied, It’s often the case that those who constantly seek attention are agents of their own misfortune. How is that relevant?

“Do you love her?” she asked. Not really, not any more, not since last Summer really… Only I can validate myself. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I get past the critical voices.

We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us
The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path
And where we had thought to find an abomination
we shall find a God
and where we had thought to slay another
we shall slay ourselves
and where we had thought to travel outward
we shall come to the centre of our own existence
and where we had thought to be alone
we shall be with all the world
. -Joseph Campbell.

Resurrection II

My friend did not think the new debt initiative was necessary. People get themselves into muddles. Why not talk to the CAB or the landlord if you can’t pay your rent? I found myself agreeing with him. When I was with the CAB we helped with bankruptcies and insolvency agreements, and with debt budgeting. One or two were on their third bankruptcy, and a trickle of people would come in with a document saying that bailiffs would evict them the following day.

I went into the meeting room and sat down, wondering why I had agreed. People don’t talk to landlords because of denial, powerlessness and shame. If I didn’t go out again and say that to him it would get to me all Meeting. So I went out and said that, and he agreed; and he talked of a good landlord he knew of, helping people through their Universal Credit difficulties.

My landlord is a cheery chap, and he comes round to prune the bushes in the back yard, or poison the tarmac. And just before he moved my neighbour had lost the key to open the windows, so his windows could not be opened. He told me the landlord had said, oh, that’s alright, they could replace the windows and take it out of his deposit. He borrowed my key.

My friend agreed. We are not on opposite sides of this. We both have a nuanced understanding; but he names the possibility of talking to the landlord.

In meeting, I thought that is where I am, a sense of denial- not dealing with the problem- powerlessness- unsure how I can- and shame- it is My Fault! I have a crushing loss of confidence. I don’t have faith I can sort myself out, and Know that if I attempt things the other people I need to work with will block me, even though intellectually I know that is ridiculous. Last year, something happened to extricate me, which I could not have expected: this is not Micawber’s “Something will turn up” but something may turn up.

And I had an image, shadowy to me now, of Resurrection.

I am still at war, opposed extremities battling within me- “denial, powerlessness and shame” v Resurrection. I am simultaneously in Hell and Heaven, both part truth part fantasy, together a wider view of Truth than I can compass altogether so I divide it. Hope and Love, rage and terror. Meditation may help. Spoken ministry, not mine, was of being in community, bringing our entire selves, emotions, even tears, to Meeting.

More Burne-Jones. This object, of silver and bronze leaf overpainted with gold, is fabulously beautiful. I sat looking up at it, seeing the light reflecting on metal which the picture cannot reproduce. The “grey ladies” are young and beautiful, apart from their eyelessness, which is clearer, and more disturbing, on the original.

The Latin is a synopsis of the Perseus myth. That greave is impossible- showing the beauty of the leg’s shape, in shining silver.

The “post-truth” society

Is this a “post-truth” society? I read that “people in this country have had enough of experts” and that people believe what they find emotionally satisfying rather than the facts. There are organised campaigns of lying: the most damaging is climate change denial, which accrues wealth to the powerful at a terrible cost to everyone else.

In that paragraph I am putting a case. In answer I could say that the lies of the powerful have been worse before, and the temptations to exaggerate the truth a little, or pretend things are as you might wish, are as strong as they ever were. I am tempted to pedantry and nit-picking in my attempts to be truthful. There is academic research and informed speculation about why people might believe falsehoods, but not having that expertise I learn of it through journalists. It becomes part of my world-view, and I might mention it in conversation, affecting the world-view of others. There are discrete facts, too complex for me to comprehend, and a narrative about them from opinion-formers.

I read we are in “bubbles” of people who agree with us. On Twitter, people make clever points to encourage their own side, shouting “You’re bad” at people who aren’t listening so becoming part of the problem. My neighbour complained of widespread benefit fraud, of all the people without jobs on the estate where we live. I consider the benefit system is failing disabled people, finding even those incapable of independent living not entitled to sickness benefits. Do we decide based on imaginative sympathy, or our interests real or perceived, rather than brute fact?

How may Friends serve the Truth, living with integrity? I am aware of temptations to fall below a standard of strict truthfulness, and seek to avoid them, and notice that when I speak I am communicating feeling, often, wanting others to feel as I do. Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit. My biggest temptation to assume or make things up is my intense discomfort with unknowing, but unknowing is unavoidable, and the very word “post-truth” produces a fear reaction in me.

Is there anything we might do collectively, with another committee of volunteers or with funded central work? Are there public statements we should make, or lobbying we should do? Can local and area meetings do new work together for Truth? This came to Meeting for Sufferings on 7 April. Depending on the amount of energy you have for this, you might want to consider the beautiful minute from Southern Marches AM on p43 of the pdf MfS papers. Part of it concerns polarisation in public life, and part a felt lack of honesty. We hope that our Yearly Meeting might be a public champion of truth. It mentions the programme on Truth and Integrity in Public Affairs, TIPA, which is explained on the following pages.

Helen Drewery writes, It is possible that this is a re-emerging concern for local meetings or for the Society as a whole, but if so, it has not yet found a focus. Is the Spirit leading us? Meeting for Sufferings minuted MfS has heard a clear call to test this concern more widely and will send this minute and the briefing papers to Area Meetings. We ask Friends to consider this concern, to send any relevant minutes for our further discernment and to share news of any work they are already doing. We expect to return to this matter in November. My local Sufferings rep did not include this in her printed report of the meeting, which instead considered disputes within meetings, inclusivity and equality.

I became aware that I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person, and set myself to puzzle out the blind-spots preventing me from seeing truth. I find truth fleeting, hard to grasp and paradoxical, particularly truth about my own motives: sometimes I know what I want when I see what I do. The vocabulary I have to express it affects the way I see things. Nuance and complexity has fractal endlessness. And sometimes truth is pure and simple. We speculate about causes and results. I find unknowing difficult, and wish to practise being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason or even reassuring ideas that I cannot justify. My neighbour’s observation of the people around us, and my own, are affected by interests and desires. The different views are contradictory yet justifiable. Simply because I have an argument to justify my belief does not mean I perceive truth. It is always at best as good as I can make it.

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.

Blind spots

Why would I not know who I was, what I felt or what I wanted? Because it was too threatening to know.

In my thirties I decided I needed to rebel against my parents, and started teenage. It is a stage of development people have to go through. I wanted to know who I was, and realised that there were blind spots, where I could not see myself properly. One problem with a blind spot is that you don’t know it’s there: you imagine you have a complete picture. I cared. Truth was important to me. I needed to know myself, because otherwise I was at war with myself.

You act according to your own character whether you understand it or not. I had been reading Carl Rogers, so knew of the organismic self and the self-concept: who you really are, and who you imagine you are. The imaginary self was who I thought I ought to be, quite different from the real self. I wrote,

It hurt so much and it’s stopped.
Who I am is who I ought to be.
I can be me. I can be free.

I was not there yet, but I was no longer so invested in the imaginary self, the self-concept. I knew it was untrue, and I wanted to unearth the real me. I worked out the lies I told myself, and the first was I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. That might help me see behind the lie. But I carried on lying to myself, because I did not realise I was doing it.

I lie to myself because I am afraid. I fear my own anger and fear, so suppress them until they will be suppressed no more.

I lie to myself because I make no sense, and want to believe that I do.

I know what I want when I see what I do: this is “Shadow motivation”. The shadow, the part of yourself which is not wicked or bad but which you cannot admit to yourself and see as a monster, works to achieve its unconscious desires.

I have to talk about truth, for around six minutes. This is an attempt to work out what I might say.

Truth at transition

I lay on the floor weeping, “I am not a man”. So I transitioned.

Raymond Chandler said there were two kinds of truth, in science and in art. We know the Earth goes round the Sun, though the Earth’s gravity makes the Sun wobble, an effect used to detect exoplanets, and our spiral galaxy is spinning and falling towards the Great Attractor. How you express a scientific truth affects how truthful it is. Do we have the concepts to express it properly? “The Earth goes round the Sun” is truthful as far as it goes, but needs qualified.

Art, by contrast, tells us about being human, and how humans can relate to the world and each other. Music and pictures can speak to us emotionally, and stories can place us in otherwise unimaginable situations.

Others say religious truth is different from scientific truth. The two need not contradict each other. Christianity is polluted by having been aligned with State power since the Emperor Constantine, and since the Enlightenment is far too concerned with beliefs as bald statements of fact rather than as poetry or story, but at its heart is about human beings relating to each other in community and to the external world, the relationship between me and all that is external to me.

Before I saw my doctor about transitioning, in November 2000, I phoned the Beaumont Trust helpline. Later I worked on it, when it operated just on Thursday evenings: now it runs 24 hours, on 07000 287878. I wanted a way to persuade my doctor that objectively, scientifically, I was transsexual, and the helpline volunteer said, “Just tell her how you feel”. I had the idea that there was an objective concept, “transsexual”, which could be diagnosed by doctors, and if I fitted it I would be right to transition, and if I did not I would not; and while I decided not to lie I passionately desired to persuade the doctors that I should transition.

While I was preparing to transition, I realised that there were two questions:

Am I transsexual?
Will I be happier if I transition?

The first purports to be an objective, scientific question, but human beings are too complex for that one. Yes, if your definition of transsexual includes me. If it is too squeamish about the possibility of someone regretting and reverting then it won’t, but then it will exclude many people who transition happily, or at least a lot of people will be excluded. Of course I am transsexual. I transitioned.

Why did I want to transition? Now, too late, I think it was because I had too restrictive an idea of how a “man” should be- it can be hard to be an effeminate male, but people manage it, and lots of men would not fit my ideal and seem happy enough with that- and at the same time had female embodiment fantasies. The fantasies would not have been enough, by themselves, if I was not trapped and revolted by this concept of Manliness. Margaret was my friend before I transitioned, and visited weekly to talk and play backgammon. She said “It’s as if you’re acting when you’re Stephen, and just you when you’re Clare”. She was right. Expressing myself female enabled me to be me in a way I could not when I was presenting male- but that was because I believed it, rather than because men really can’t be like me.

That belief about how men should be, and the siren song of the fantasies, were too strong. I could not have understood myself as I have without transitioning. If I hadn’t, I would just have been stuck, wanting to.

There is no objective, scientific truth about who is right to transition. There is only the feeling of desire. Some would claim brain studies show who is trans. I understand one programme uses MRI scans and has seen enough to predict whether a particular scan is of a trans person. “Brains are plastic” say others, and I don’t know if it could predict whether someone would transition. Oh, alright- I withdraw that- if it is knowable whether anyone is right to transition, I cannot know, or formulate a particular definition or test; but I feel it is art, or stories, that best encourage people to transition, and reassure them afterwards. “I am a woman” is a story, not scientific fact.

In deciding to transition, I wanted the doctors to affirm my desire, and so after the NHS psychiatrist appeared ambivalent went to private psychiatrists who did. I could not rely on scientific fact, only my own feelings.

Years after, H told me “You have a lovely male energy” and slowly it dawned on me a man could be like this. I no longer have female embodiment sexual fantasies, apart from in my rare erotic dreams. Those two remarks by female friends who knew me well: drafting this in my head, I thought of calling one the Good Fairy, one the Bad Fairy, but could not decide which is which. Both said what they saw, and both were truthful.

Hold the tension

Jung to the rescue, perhaps. It is better to know my feelings, but ideally to know them without manifesting them physically, or at least the physical reaction might be a lump in the throat rather than bowing my head, pulling my shoulders forward and expressing deep distress on my face. Someone denying my feelings is the old threat, and I will not subject myself to that again.

I feared my feelings, so suppressed them, then they fought for attention. Do you react to a situation, or respond to it? Taking a moment to be aware of your conflicting feelings may be the answer. I am angry with someone, yet frightened of displeasing them. Listen to the feelings, to be aware of their conflicting voices. Jung called this holding the tension.

I took this from this article, which I have read several times and am now considering with suspicion. Andrea Mathews writes, if we can stand in the middle of all these emotions and just listen and listen until we can clarify one genuine message, then we are learning to hear the voice of the authentic self… responding from authenticity gives us peace. The authentic bit pulls all the voices together into one single genuine effort. Many needs are clamouring, hurts from days or years before, and if we can hear them without judging them as bad or stupid,

(what might be the “I” hearing but not judging other parts? The frontal lobe?)

we will find what need they would assuage.

Mathews gives a feminine perspective. How the other receives our authenticity is not up to us. The masculine perspective is that my feelings are the right feelings, and you should respond just the way I do. So I express my feelings with face, voice and body language, so that we are all pulling in the direction I decide. This can be a problem if the other is free from such influences. Mathews would free me. I might go along, because of external threat, but at least I would know that.

In the same way, Mathews says boundaries are for me, and not for other people: not to prevent others encroaching, but to know what I can and cannot do. I can’t stop another encroaching on my space, only see what I can do in response to that. I find my authentic feeling, make a decision, and decide (boundary) I will not be guilt-tripped out of it. I can fail to co-operate with someone, but not bend them to my will.

Actually, sometimes people bend to others’ wills. At least they might be persuaded. And, there are things worth trying which have no certainty of success. But we cannot change other people, and perhaps we just have to get out of their way, as Mathews recommends.

Stop being good, she says. As children we were taught socially acceptable behaviour, contrary to our own feelings, was good- expressing love or contrition when we felt the opposite, say. That was enforced by withdrawal of affection, which set up a need in us to be worthy of affection. That was one of my first lies I saw-

I lie to myself because I need to see myself as a good person.

I imagine myself to be good, so that I can imagine I am worthy, so I can imagine I will survive. It is all imaginary, concerned with managing my internal sense of safety rather than anything in the real world. I am weaning myself off that, though it takes time. Rather, she enjoins, be authentic: notice how what you perceive makes you feel, and make choices accordingly.

Here is a list of Andrea Mathews’ blog posts on “The search for the authentic self”.