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. 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 thought I could not speak 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”.

Truth in falsehood

Children who identify as trans should be allowed to transition. They should get puberty blockers if they need them. I write this post to create common ground with people who disagree with that statement. It is not working when people say, “But that’s a boy, not a girl”. Much of society supports the trans child, however conservatives and evangelicals object, however radical feminists analyse. It is difficult for the trans child, they will face mockery or violence, but official guidelines, at least, support them. Trans children are becoming more visible, and as people become aware of the possibility more will transition. It is the best way they see of dealing with their problems.

Even if you think the child is deluded and wrongheaded, would you agree that s/he is seeking to be well in the world, as best s/he knows how? The parent wants what is best for the child. The child explores what is possible and tries something which appears to increase health and freedom. The child might explore any type of fantasy in play, but before they identify as trans at school it is a fixed, settled clarity which has survived the parents’ shock, and perhaps objections.

A trans girl has some idea what girls are like, knowing many of them since nursery. At least, the “trans critical feminist” should admit that identifying as trans has some value for the child which outweighs the difficulty of persuading their parents and the bullying and mockery they face at school. Perhaps they feel they do not fit in, in their birth gender. Rather than simply insist that the child stop, why not find what value the idea has for them? What else would fill that void?

If gender is an oppressive Patriarchal concept, not all feminists accept that it oppresses men too. It certainly oppresses gay men. Homophobia is in part a dislike of the gay man not being “manly” in the right way. Perhaps some heterosexual men and boys can suffer similar oppression. The feminist might not have enough empathy for that, finding her strong personality demeaned and devalued and simply seeing men as beneficiaries. Could anyone want to be feminine? Surely not. And yet, apparently, we do.

Something which is obvious to me is impossible or ridiculous to them. “The World’s gone mad, and we should at least be able to challenge it when we think people are not speaking the truth” said Claire Fox of the Institute of Ideas. For her, the truth is that child is whatever gender their gonads indicate. She wants to claim that I am a man, and not a woman. Can I perform a similar exercise on her?

I agree that reality is objective, at least in part. There is a reality outside myself which I know in part. I can come to know it better, and my statements can be closer or further from it. Thus far I am with her, but if she believes “trans ideology” is as wrong as, say, global warming denial I disagree. I might come close to sympathising when I imagine my “Why is nobody listening to me!?” moments, but that does not mean there is common ground.

I could feel that not reacting angrily might reduce the heat and conflict in the situation. I would rather win her over than bludgeon her into silence. However accusing me of “not speaking the truth”- in context, she means the trans folk- merely blocks dialogue. She might say we started it.

Both

I am both a man and a woman, masculine and feminine, male and female.

Of course I understand the disgust- I feel it! The reason we do not associate with each other is that we remind us of ourselves! Like that woman at the showers- hair hanging straight down to the shoulders, as far forward as the edge of the eyes, fringe covering the eyebrows, some sort of 1960s hippie dress in Autumn colours, high neck mid calf long sleeves- the voice was well-practised, light, above the break, and instantly recognisable as trans.

She was as careful not to offend as a whipped dog, and no-one comfortable in their own skin would have been bothered. I felt disgust and pity, and it was because she reminded me of me.

Be fully and completely yourself. Of course you are not responsible for how people react to you! You should not alter yourself to avoid intoxicating others with lust or rage, disgust or pity. I do nothing else. It is an impossible trick to pull off- in a room of three people, there is no sweet spot which will make all of them love, or merely tolerate, me, and usually they do not care all that much. I cannot fit one Procrustean bed, leave alone several at once, and yet I still try. Without knowledge I try to predict others’ reactions, and get it wildly wrong, or forget myself and become embarrassed. Embarrassment is my constant state.

No woman would dress like that. We are not, really, like women, we are ourselves. I want to show extreme soft femininity, and there are other ways women show that. I show weakness. Creeping about in fear, shame and embarrassment increases those feelings. Self-consciousness disempowers.

Letting go of this burden means ceasing to judge my own actions as “manly”, “feminine”, “provocative”, even “weak”. There is the desire, and the judgment opposing it, as I tie myself in knots. The answer is to affirm my choices. Ah, that is my feminine side. This is joyous strong Manhood. I cannot be consistent, or sensible, or womanly, as my self-censorship is incapable of judging these things, either too restrictive or too permissive. That hippie dress is a trans woman’s dress, even if a cis woman might get away with it.

One way is to delight in the condemnations my inner critic throws at me. That is self-indulgent, or selfish, or ridiculous, or cowardly. Well- Yes! Hooray! It is what I want! How could I ever fail to be ridiculous?

I saw my friend dying in hospital, and before that I saw her in conversation, staring downwards, occasionally glancing up to meet my eyes then looking down again. “I’m tired of living and scared of dying,” she said. She had been an Elder then was driven out of her church. Of course it was better for her, expressing female rather than presenting male, or she would not have done it, and it had huge cost, to try to find a trans-woman’s way of being, experiencing the real and imagined dislike of others.

Or there was the educated woman with a less-educated partner who objected to the long words she used. By the time she escaped him she only used words of one syllable.

I cannot win their tolerance. They might not want me to try. I cannot find some rule, some pre-formed way of being that will keep me safe- not “being a man”, not mere transition, not something else. All I can do is be myself and trust in God. But then, I have been practising this, and getting better at it, for years, so encourage myself, and express it better.

Bullshit II

The sword of truth shall shatter against the shield of bullshit.
Then Mr Valiant for Truth shall be smothered by the blanket of bullshit’s warm, dank embrace
and all the congregation shall say, “Amen”.

My dear blogging buddy Violet, a friend since 2013 when we met commenting on an extremist Christian blog, is completely astonished that so many people can believe all this [the world, the universe] is here on the whim of an invisible being. Well, as with any action, I believe what is in my interests to believe. I have no particular need to understand how the Universe, or life, or my species came into existence, and no-one knows what caused the big bang or the first self-replicating molecule anyway. I like to believe that the institution of the University seeks the truth, that those academics who investigate the biologic column have useful theories about the history of Earth, and that their careers depend on approximating truth and eliminating error. So I believe that the planet is 4.6bn years old.

Others believe that the Bible is literally true and the Earth about six thousand years old. It bonds them in their communities, which can be extremely supportive to those who do not rock the boat. It gives them a shared morality and understanding, and a belief in a certain, explicable world, which is reassuring. For the worst, it shows they are the Saved, and everyone who does not agree is dead through [their] trespasses and sins following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. Believing that everyone who does not agree with you is deluded by Satan is reassuring.

I believe in truth. Some things are ascertainable. The planet is warming because of industrial CO2 emissions. Brexit will be a disaster. Donald Trump Jr. met a Russian government lawyer because she promised dirt on Hillary Clinton. If human beings can agree what our circumstances are, we can work together to improve them. This is the mainstream Labour/Labor/Democrat view.

Increasingly the Conservative/Liberal/Republican view is that people with power and wealth should do as they please, and the fittest will survive. They should not be taxed; instead the poor should work for the minimum the market will bear. Government spending should be minimal. That means the Right cannot speak the truth, as it would stop them doing what they want. So Republicans have a negative view of higher education- 58% -ve, 36% +ve, while Democrats are positive by 72 to 19%.

There has always been bullshit in politics, but it has been increasing. Climate change denial is bullshit, yet politicians persist with it- because the truth would require international government co-operation, and stop their paymasters from doing what they want. There was a sprinkling of bullshit, on the most important issues, such as Mr Reagan’s “Supply-side economics”, which GHW Bush called “Voodoo economics”- the idea that tax cuts on the rich increase economic growth, and even tax receipts. They wanted to reduce tax on the rich, so they said it would be a good thing for everyone, even though that was repeatedly proven untrue. Mr Trump, however, ignores the truth for a Bugsy Malone Splurge-gun of bullshit: claiming that Mr Putin would want a Hillary Clinton victory is only a part of it.

Are there vacancies at the top of the US Administration because Trump has not nominated people, or because the Democrats have blocked confirmation proceedings? I tend to believe the NYT, rather than Mr Trump’s twitter feed, that it is Trump’s fault, but one could dig down into the data, and compare with the performance of earlier administrations. However cynicism about politicians serves the Right and not the Left, because it decreases respect for a common shared truth. Instead, the Left needs to tell the truth, and point out the lies. If we never forgive the liars we may defeat them.

Should the British Government renege on treaty obligations to the EU? They involve paying a substantial sum. Mr Johnson, the foreign secretary, says the EU can “whistle” for it. Germany, which paid off the last money due under the Treaty of Versailles in 2010, may disagree, and how may we enter a new treaty if we have proved ourselves untrustworthy?

Only the Left can act in the interests of all the people. Therefore only the left is patriotic. Patriotism is not about military parades, leave alone invading other countries.

 

Misgendering and “Honesty”

Jordan Peterson, an academic, thinks he is a martyr because he insists on calling trans women “he”.

Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. -Eckhart Tolle

It’s almost impossible to provide people with enough protection so that they feel safe to speak. OK, so we’ll address that directly. It is not safe to speak. It never will be. But the thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that it’s even less safe not to speak.

It’s a balance of risks — do you want to pay the price for being who you are and stating your mode of being in the world, or do you want to pay the price for being a bloody serf — one that’s enslaved him or herself. Well that’s a major price. Man that thing unfolds over decades and you’ll just be a miserable worm at the end of about 20 years of that.

No self-respect, no power, no ability to voice your opinions. Nothing left but resentment because everyone is against you because of course you’ve never stood up for yourself. Say what you think. Carefully pay attention to your words. It’s a price you want to pay if you are willing to believe that truth is the cornerstone of society. -Jordan Peterson

There is an “I”. It may not be nameable, so there are cataphatic and apophatic traditions in theology- saying what God is, or God is not. I am not just my story, my struggle, all the things I have done and not done, always restricted by what I have not done before.

I know I can speak Truth, when I say something I am completely certain of. I Know it. Saying such things is different from simply giving an opinion. Peterson says, say what you believe, however much you suffer for it, and one thing he “suffered” for was saying I don’t recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them. I think they’re connected to an underground apparatus of radical left political motivations. I think uttering those words makes me a tool of those motivations. And I’m going to try and be a tool of my own motivations as clearly as I can articulate them and not the mouthpiece of some murderous ideology.

He gets to say who I am, in his view. I don’t know whether he actually misgenders people, but he seems to think that if I say my name is Clare and my pronouns she/her/hers, that is something he deigns to grant out of his own generosity not something I claim as of right.

In between us is reality, and the question whether I am a man or not. I say I am a woman, and if he calls me a man he takes from me my right to say who I am and be who I am. He says that whether he accepts another’s view of reality is his choice, and I oppress him by demanding my right to define even myself.

Of course, he has a lot of fans who want to call me “he” and feel self-righteous about it. They want to be nasty to me, even if he simply wants to resist being forced to be nice.

He does not accept concepts of privilege or oppression. The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.

Peterson and Brophy concluded that political correctness exists in two forms, which they call PC-Egalitarianism and PC-Authoritarianism. Simply put, PC-Egalitarians are classic liberals who advocate for more democratic governance and equality. PC-Authoritarians are, according to Brophy, “the ones now relabelled as social justice warriors.” Both share a high degree of compassion. Extreme compassion, they believe, can lead to difficulty assessing right from wrong. It also can mean the forgiveness of all failures and transgressions by people viewed as vulnerable. “Any personality trait to an extreme is pathological,” Brophy says.

According to Peterson, in Scandinavia there is an intense attempt to flatten out cultural differences between the sexes, and the biological personality differences are strongest there. For example, women are more agreeable. Gender is biological destiny, not social construct or performance.

If gender is biological destiny, and I map onto those feminine personality traits, then I am a woman, rather than a man more comfortable presenting as a woman. Or, I am a diseased male, failing to live up to my destiny.

The University of Toronto seems to try to wish it away. Sioban Nelson, the vice-provost of faculty and academic life, who seemed weary of the subject… argued that the university had no problem balancing its commitment to freedom of speech and its support for vulnerable groups or minority views. It was not an either-or situation, she said. Regarding Peterson specifically, she said, “The university has made it very, very clear, and has been quoted ad nauseam, that we do expect all members of our community, faculty or staff, to abide by the human rights code and to be respectful and supportive of each other.” I feel that misgendering is not supportive. Either he gets to define my gender, or I do.

He makes a virtue of being disagreeable. If you worry about hurting people’s feelings and disturbing the social structure, you’re not going to put your ideas forward. I disagree. There comes a moment when I, though I always seek to be agreeable, stick my head above the parapet and say

This is my truth.

This is the thing I will not back down on, though all society denies it. This is the thing I will assert though the Heavens fall. That is a matter of integrity, not agreeableness. A disagreeable person might think himself Innovative, when he was merely contrarian.

One thing about me that’s strange is that I will have impossibly difficult conversations with people. There are people who shy away from that. They let monsters grow under their rugs. Their marriages fall apart. They get detached from their children. They carry around resentments and unresolved conflicts. I’m not doing any of that. If there’s something to be discussed that’s difficult, we’re going to discuss that right down to the goddamned foundation. It is a good thing for me that when someone misgenders me I think he is a discourteous oaf, rather than that I am a pervert or whatever.

I found Jordan Peterson’s insistence on Truth here, and the account of the resulting stooshie here.

Truth and narrative

“True story” is an oxymoron.

I phoned the Tax Credits helpline for advisers, and got nowhere. “You’re being very condensating,” said the man I was referred to, and after half an hour my brain was so cabbaged that I knew he meant something else, but did not know the word for it. Thank you, you don’t need to say it now, I worked it out for myself later.

In the nineties I knew a man, still the most boring man I have ever met. I can’t remember his name, but it ended in an í sound, a contemptuous diminutive, Nicky or Ricky or Donny or something- anyway, he got very drunk on whisky, and ever thereafter could not drink it. He found a sip nauseating. Dismissively contemptuous, Neil said he probably had had no head for it anyway, he got drunk on a couple of glasses.

I associated those stories. “Condensating” was the moment I got nowhere with the benefits authorities, that I could not take any more. I cannot bear it. I could not bear another such conversation, it nauseates me.

Another myth. Margaret saw me as Clare for the first time, and said, “It’s as if you are acting when you’re Stephen, just you when you’re Clare”. Aha, I am a woman really, I am right to transition. The story becomes my conclusive evidence that I am right, the judgment of another person which I cling to, and take out for reassurance from time to time. It is my self-image: I know who I am, and “you’re just you when you’re Clare” is part of it.

Then about a year ago, I took off my wig and put on my cycle helmet, appearing androgynous, but continued talking, and H said “You have this lovely male energy”. Her beliefs, her politics, or her individual judgment of me need have no bearing on me, but have had. I could if I wanted call that comment on Wednesday 2 March 2016 the decisive moment

where my lies came apart
where my truth was undermined

Several times I have picked on particular dates where all changed, changed utterly for me. H has changed my view of the world. I am not sure if I have ever been entirely sure that I am a woman- I joked “I don’t know, and neither does my psychiatrist”, and said “I’m both and neither and in between”. Her word “lovely” just makes the blade sharper.

Either it is liberating- yes, I am a man, I need no longer assert a falsehood that I am a woman- or terrifying and destructuring, and I try to piece together the shards of my framework, world map, understanding which lets me navigate the world. “I am a man, but transition was the best I could do,” I say. “Bad things happen to good people.”

Or I create a new narrative. “I am a trans woman”. I have the right to be this way.

Brexit and Trump, and possibly this year Fillon and AfD, change my comforting narrative, one which is probably yours too. It is a debased Whig version of history: just as the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 was a decisive moment of progress, which changed the way of doing politics in England from battles to individual murders, a clear improvement, so Obergefell v Hodges was a step into the light, which could not be reversed. A Tory version of history, that there are random events with no broader significance, is reasserted, so that Trump’s Muslim ban is not a pathetic attempt by the failing forces of reaction, but a random event of quite as much significance as Obergefell.

We need to change our stories. Since 2016, our stories have not been the Truth, but a comforting lie to help us get through the day without collapsing on the floor, screaming. The words “male energy” are a stake through their heart, as is the Muslim ban. “Do your duty, Republicans,” says the New York Times. “Prosecute him!” Trump meanwhile promises a new Muslim ban which will be less vulnerable to judicial scrutiny.

I have been reading of stories. Here’s Rachel Cusk in the NYT:

In psychoanalysis, events are reconstructed in the knowledge of their outcome: The therapeutic properties of narrative lie in its capacity to ascribe meaning to sufferings that at the time seemed to have no purpose. The liberal elite are in shock; they fall upon the notion of the victors’ regret as a palliative for their mental distress, but because the referendum result is irreversible, this narrative must adopt the form of tragedy.

And, writing of her mother

She didn’t care what she said, or rather, she exacted from words the licentious pleasures of misuse; in so doing, she took my weapon and broke it before my eyes. She made fun of me for the words I used, and I couldn’t respond by threatening her with death. I couldn’t say “I could kill you” because it wasn’t true, and in language I had staked everything on telling the truth. I have had that experience debating Creationists: I try to persuade, using truth, they simply assert their Beliefs. “It cannot be so, because of Genesis.” It was bad enough debating a blogger on the other side of the world- how much more terrifying, to face your own mother’s assertions?

Thus saith the LORD.

There is no answer to that. Tim built an impenetrable wall of language to shield him from- the truth? Or just, my understanding of the World? The defeated liberal is abashed, so less confidently assertive.

Anna Blundy, in a completely different essay- a short column not a hefty work like Rachel Cusk’s- also addressed making sense of truth with words. Language distances us from our real thoughts and feelings in an almost defensive way (the fact that it makes us feel better to have named something, perhaps is even indicative of that)… we’re trying to repackage something into a digestible form that will make the symptom of the sufferer more bearable.

Surely it is better to face the unvarnished truth? This essay says that news broadcasts and advertising alike end up telling stories… the mastery of danger, the satisfaction of desires and the ultimate restoration of morality. But here, an effort is made to lead people to believe that the story accurately depicts people and events. As a result, all end up profoundly falsifying what they portray, once again mixing faithful and manipulated images, and fact and fiction in seamless ways so that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. The attack is mitigated by the fact that the essay itself has a similarly comforting structure, where the restoration of morality is us all becoming more sceptical about the media.

It is not at all reassuring to say that I can’t bear another phone conversation with the benefits authorities. I could say, well I had hundreds before, many of them successful, or simply that I should eschew predictions of the future, which may just be paranoia, and concentrate on the actual task. I know what the task involves. Fear of what bad things will happen and how I will respond when I fail just get in the way.

This is my two thousandth post, on a blog about me, truth, trans, the world, and everything that interests me. I do it to be read, and achieve less of that than I would like. Joanna wrote a short post recommending one of mine, and I am grateful for the recommendation, because my post got more than three times the views from it, than 75% of my posts get from all sources. This is my least worthwhile goal, to see that I have had more views. Writing of Donald Trump stretches my writing, but gets fewer views, as most of my readers come from a Trans site, so I restrict my choice of subjects to get more views. Posting daily gets more views. I get a tiny dopamine hit when I see my page-view numbers have increased- nearly 198,000 views in five and a half years.

I might be better to write longer essays. I could develop an ability to analyse an idea in greater depth. This is not that: I have quoted undigested screeds from three essays and some of my own thoughts on truth, rather than explained the essays, created a satisfying narrative argument in my own words, and polished it. Writing around 500 words a day is good practice, but I want to edit and structure something more satisfying than these short pieces. I have published just one 2000 word article. I love Rachel Cusk’s essay- how I would love to write something like that!

I blog to tease out my understanding, as well. It is psychoanalysis for me, repackaging reality into that digestible form. So I have written how transition or surgery was the best thing I could have done, and the worst, in separate pieces, and wonder how to unite them.

St Clare

Trans and Truth

I had my world-view blown apart. I knew what manliness was, how I should be, what was right and wrong, how the world worked or ought to work. A friend said in her teens she was looking at everything, trying to work out how it fitted, but I was quite sure. And there was this shameful thing which did not fit, so I rejected it. I cross-dressed, but that was not me, or involved in how I understood anything. But it would not go away. It was the loose thread, which I kept pulling, and it turned my world inside out.

The rejection of everything I valued was traumatic. I am lying on the floor weeping, repeating “I am not a man”. There is something I know to be true, even though it contradicts everything which makes me feel safe, even though it terrifies me. “I am not a man”. Then I devoted all my energies to making transition happen.

I find it hard to claim any good quality, but I am learning. I am intelligent. I am expressive. I am good with words. People tell me these things repeatedly, I find lots of supportive evidence, I have come to believe them. One person said, in delighted admiration, “You have fantastic emotional intelligence” and that has stuck with me, and also seems backed up with the evidence. I have emotional intelligence. I would not have believed it, when trying to make a man of myself.

I have difficulty asserting “I am a woman”. I would say, “I am not a man”, “I want to transition”, even “I am transsexual”. “I am Clare”. Possibly I don’t need to say that I am a woman, or believe it, just this is the way I express myself. I fear contradiction.

It was the thread I pulled, and expressing female seems like real me underneath the stifling convention, all that learned behaviour, learned understanding, useless concepts of manhood and virtue. But I have not created an alternative world view, just partial, contingent understandings. And especially while transitioning but also since I have sometimes had the feeling of being completely at sea, having no understanding-

the fact that I sense or believe something is no evidence for or against its truth or falsehood

of knowing nothing at all. It is disorienting, terrifying, nauseating.

In a world where Mr Trump is busy destroying the shared values and understanding of truth, this may be an advantage. These people believe the opposite of me- well, that has always been the case. I know how disorienting it can be to lose Truth as an anchor. Possibilities remain, and you have to be satisfied with that.

And Truth has mattered to me. It is true- transition is right for me. I am trans. I worried away at it- could it just be a fantasy or perversion, but it is not just that. Yet- it is important to me not to need anything to be true- I am a woman!- because it could be snatched from me at any time.

alice-pike-barney-medusa