Mental Health in our Meetings

When I told a friend of that road-rage incident, she commented that I had done well to hold myself together through the Meeting for worship I went to immediately afterwards. After a strongly emotional experience, I find a measure of calm, then find the feeling welling up in me again, as with my fantasy of that man attacking me, and me thumping him. I anticipated that so was not shocked by it. The fact that he was actually unable to harm me makes me feel safe, and that feeling came to me in Meeting too. It felt like the Ministry which was for me alone. In Meeting I had sat mostly still, though not unmoving, and almost entirely quiet.

I may lose my income on Monday, and if so I am not sure what I will do. I imagined myself standing in Meeting and saying “They want to take away my fucking money. I need my fucking money.” The fantasised meeting is not the real meeting, but I wondered if that would be seen as disruptive, assuming I did not resist an impulse to share my terror. Abigail has to be managed. The meeting must not be disrupted.

I am aware that it behoves us to be silent in Meeting, and test the spirit of a prompting to speak- be accepting of other’s ministry, and questioning our own. But it seems to me that I can endanger the Meeting- I would go into my head, into that small child who knows the rules and seeks safety in obeying them, and I would merely be silent for an hour, as in a waiting room. That could enervate a Meeting. Instead, I seek to be my whole self. Rather than suppressing feeling, I seek to permit it, to allow it to flow through me. This carries the risk that it may overwhelm me. My goal is to trust it completely, so that I do not block it, because I feel the blocks cause the problems; I learn to let go of the blocks, but a block might make me- quake, is the best word I can think of for it. I would show a physical sign of the emotion within. If Friends are distracted, I may distract them further.

I don’t want the Meeting to become the Abigail Maxwell Support Group, a sort of Circle of Support and more support, rather than accountability. I would be the cuckoo in the nest, diverting the energies of the Meeting from its service to God in the world. Most of the responsibility of managing my distress is my own. And I want to take the risk of being overcome, even of appearing disruptive, because otherwise I cannot take the risk of meeting God. If we need the meeting to be comfortable, then it cannot be alive.

Privilege is not an absolute. If it were, the epitome of white, male, straight cis privilege would be Donald J Trump, and he would not be the tiny, blustering man that he is without having been repeatedly traumatised. Yet it has some meaning. My friend showed courage in admitting one of his favourite psalms is 137, Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock! I love it because when I became conscious of my feelings, in my thirties, I found they were anger, frustration, resentment and fear. I have never wanted to take a baby by the ankle and smash its head open, but I am glad of that level of anger being in the Bible, because it has helped me realise I might be acceptable to God. Then again I understand that most women and the vast majority of men, like me, have fantasised about murder at some time in their lives. He and I may both like it because we are both LGBT. Not everyone understands our love for it. My lack of privilege includes an intimate acquaintance with impotent anger, and a default fear of people, even of Quakers.

I am glad that Wanstead Quakers want it to be known that our Local Meeting is a place where all are welcomed and nurtured, including people who are transgender and non-binary. It will not be true unless my high level of anger and emotional lability, arising from my trans nature and past circumstances, is welcomed. I bear most of the responsibility of looking after myself, but if I get no help from my meeting there is no point in going. Jesus take me as I am- I can come no other way. I give help, too, when I can. I dare to hope that the value of what I give exceeds that of what I take.

On the first full day of Yearly Meeting Gathering George Lakey spoke at length of his experience of the death of his son- hearing of it, travelling home, meeting family, the wake, the funeral, his feelings (though very little of his son, and only one positive fact about him). I am glad he did, as it cracked me open, but a friend commented that anywhere else there would be trigger warnings, and organised support offered “If you have been affected by the issues raised”. I blundered off, and proceeded to disrupt a discussion group by suppressed but still audible sarcastic laughter when the man leading the group shared deep, spiritual things. A woman left the group with me and spent two hours hearing my anguish.

“I am here to take,” I told her. “Sometimes I need to take.” And then when she fell on the stairs I stood and looked at her rather than going to help her up. I am not proud of this, but it is where I was at the time. I saw her later and expressed gratitude for her support and regret that I had disrupted the group. She could pass that on to the group leader, who was from her Meeting. I also feel her listening, when she held me while I plunged into my own darkness, freed to take a full, positive part in the Yearly Meeting. Many people thanked me for my ministry to the main session, which seemed to move them, from which I judge that it was worthwhile.

In fifteen years as a Quaker, I have found many shoulders offered to me to cry on, and have often taken full advantage. In a discussion group on Listening, a woman shared that sometimes she does this, and takes on pain from the other, but the other’s distress seems accentuated rather than relieved by the process. (I have also listened to others and sensed this in them, a bottomless pit of hurt which can never be dredged.) She compared such people to vampires, sucking her energy. I like to think I am not merely a vampire. Yet, from my side of the exchange, it can seem that people are very keen to provide shoulders to cry on. It makes them feel valued and valuable. It is an exchange, not a gift- we both know we will enjoy it, and sometimes we go at it for the good feeling rather than for any lasting good it will do. Don’t offer support in order to feel valued, because the outcome may make you feel insulted and wronged.

I put that too strongly when I first published this post. Being heard is unburdening for me, a huge relief. My inner critic bullies me as I unburden- I am being self-indulgent, this is not real, I should be tougher. The next day from publishing, I am not sure. Sometimes it can go wrong. I have listened, and felt I am earthing pain, like an electric charge passing through and out of me, but I have to let it go. I could do this, consciously, and move on. Once, after hearing a schizophrenic woman, the process of letting go took me two hours and involved seeking the help of a friend: that woman’s distress had evoked my own.

As this angry, labile, vulnerable, benefit-claiming, moderately depressed Quaker I want to be welcome all the time, not just when I pass as a quirky, middle-class, spiritual, highly educated and intelligent Normal-person. Please do not be self-sacrificial. Maintain your boundaries, and care for yourselves. So, tell me when you think I am pushing it, taking more support than I really need or that the meeting can offer, before Something Bad happens, and you exclude me in anger and blame me. People so often leave things unspoken, or assumed, but it might help to discuss the boundaries, to bring them into the open.

I have so much to offer you!

Spiritual moments

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/0a/Ki_obsolete.svg/500px-Ki_obsolete.svg.pngTwo moments this morning. Oh, the sweet clarity when I know the human body in front of me is my enemy, and I must incapacitate it: one body, mind and purpose. And- seeing the faun in the woods.

In the dojo, we are working on kicks. We repeat series of ten mawashigeri, taking turns to kick the pad, all full focus. I need to relax into presence to keep this up. So I do. Then side kick. In kumite, the kick has to be above the belt, but in self-defence that is harder to manage and vulnerable to the foot being grabbed- so we practise the kick to ankle level, which would break the foot. When Andy stands in front of me, suddenly this becomes real for me, and I kick that spot. A possibly incorrect translation of Seiunchin is “storm within the calm”- I love that. The calm of Presence and the storm of the attack.

I am groping towards it, and I would love to understand- this presence, or unity of purpose, or clarity of mind, which sees the task in hand and carries it out, whether the task is a physical confrontation or cleaning the house. In an interaction with another human being, what has this to do with the unconscious ways we establish our pecking order, or build relationships? In what sense is it something in me, and in what sense something in us? But, more than understanding it, I would like to do it. So, in my morning kata, sometimes I just fall prey to my tail-chasing thoughts, and sometimes I perform the kata; but it feels quite different, facing another person. It seems possible to me that I was enabled to reach that state through Andy’s generosity. The control we impose, to prevent hospitalising each other in kumite, comes after this and not before.

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/60/Character_N%C3%BC3_Trad.svg/500px-Character_N%C3%BC3_Trad.svg.pngThe other moment was kneeling in my ritual space, before class. I have been channelling Qi to my chakras again, it feels good so I do it, and this morning I felt not in the right place to do that. OK. Be where I am, in the moment, in the ritual.

I went back to the two ways of being, centre of the universe and worthless and the way between, I am a human being. Now, I am in my shadow self, which I have learned is unlovable. It is as if my Qi ritual is for the lovable bits, as if this part is unworthy. Therefore, this part is what I must love especially. A friend compared me to a deer poking my nose out of the woods, daring someone to come and play with me- possibly Paul felt the same, 1 Cor 12:22-23- those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty.

I felt so vulnerable, coming out of my ritual space before I ritually put on my gi for class. That ritual may also affect my spiritual state.

My poor enemy

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ef/Gerechtigkeit-1537.jpgSome blogs say homosexuality is against God’s will, and I go on them to inoculate myself. These things trigger me. I get angry, and my anger ties me up inside. I have withdrawn in fear and terror. I wish to be able to hold and accept my own anger within me. I want to be aware of where I am in the moment- how triggered, how angry, how fearful of my own fear- and hold my ground and function. I would like to do that face to face. Blogs are a practice-ground.

Paul, in his comment here, says gay people cannot have a loving relationship. It is not Love, any more than paedophilia is. Then he says Your side has won the culture war, that should make you happy. Christians are the only group in our society that it’s OK to hate. Mmm. Paranoia and self-pity.

I hear the pain and hurt in his words.

What is he defending? The right to feel disgust at another person, merely for who he is. The right to cling to disputed interpretations of the Bible, when in our lifetime Biblical arguments against the mixing of the races have finally been laid to rest: our understanding of the Bible improves, as our knowledge of God improves. The right to feel better than gay people, to despise some outsider in order to feel better about himself. A cat to kick. Mean, horrible things.

File:Lucas Cranach d.Ä. - Christus am Ölberg (Tokyo).jpgDefending- himself, or at least his self-concept. A shared understanding of the World. A community where he can feel at home, because people think and feel the same way he does. It is because they suppress their other thoughts and feelings, and it is supremely uncomfortable for those so different that they can not suppress, but it seems comfortable enough for most. Humankind cannot bear very much reality.

I can sympathise with that. I find reality, other people, my ain sel, difficult. Jesus challenges that comfort. Matthew 10: 34-39:

34 ‘Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

‘“a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law –
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.”[c]

37 ‘Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

A man is set against his father because the world moves on, our understanding grows and deepens, and all must separate from their parents and find their own person. This is painful and difficult for both.

If we know our separateness and difference, we can come together, worship together, work together. If we suppress it, our hands are tied behind our backs. Coming to this acceptance of the world as it is, and others as they are; shedding comfortable falsehoods, feels like losing our life- but it is for Jesus’ sake.

Support

File:Albert-von-Keller-La-Descente-aux-Enfers-1912.jpgI have a hot bra.
-The padding is too warm for anything but winter hiking!

Actually, it is unusual. I thought my padded bras would get waterlogged in washing, and go out of shape, but they usually dry quickly, keep their shape, and are comfortable, not too warm, to wear. They even manage to look almost pretty. And, I have a lace underwired creation which manages to pull me forward, display me to my best advantage, and is (apart from the well-concealed wire) pretty gossamer. I was abashed, wearing it: it is hard to accept that my breasts might look attractive.

Kaspar Juul, spin-doctor to the Statsminister in the Danish political drama Borgen, lies about his father. He pretends that he is the son of a wealthy industrialist. He ran away after his father sexually abused him, and told him not to tell his mother as she will not understand, and will be angry with him (Kaspar). His on-off girlfriend finds out about his father’s funeral, and goes. Only the two of them are there. She reaches for his hand, and holds it.

She points out https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/August_Macke_Drei_Akte.jpgthat is not the funeral of a wealthy industrialist, and he snaps that he has fantasised a wealthy father. He has seen a psychiatrist about it. She says she could love him if he told her the truth, and he cannot tell her that he was abused, cannot give the reason for his hatred, rejection and lies. Watching, I think that she would understand if he did; and he is ashamed of having been abused, ashamed of being angry, of being unable to deal with it. He so needs his pretence of not caring.

I lied again last night. I found something embarrassing, so I pretended it was other than it was- and held to my lie, though I was still embarrassed, and embarrassed more at my lie. And the lie cuts me off from sympathy, because I fear mockery. And yet I imagine I could not tell the alternative therapist’s lie, “I am fixing X by a little pressure and a little pulling” which if placebo has any meaning becomes true in the telling of it, and is a valuable part of that placebo. Part of the performance.

I imagine my lie last night was transparent, as my embarrassment would show. I do not want your sympathy, because it obliges me to you- yet I delight in giving sympathy. Two things so close, a society of equals all standing up for themselves and a society of equals, all supporting each other, and the fantasy of the first stops the second from coming to be.

And my breasts can look good, with the right support, in the right light, to the right eye.

Spiritual discipline

File:John Everett Millais - Isabella (Walter Deverell face).jpgI get up in the morning and kneel for ten minutes in my ritual space.  I get aware of my breath, practise metta meditation, or channel Qi to my chakras. Some say ten minutes is pointlessly short, but it is what I like. Before going to bed, I have a similar ten minutes.

Except I don’t. I lie in bed until I have got to get up and no longer have time for it, and I waste time with facebook and blog comments and telly until it is too late, and I just go to bed.

I know it is good for me. I know it makes me think more clearly and creatively and perceive better, and I remember feeling better after, and I still put it off, often until I just decide not to. There is something in me which finds it uncomfortable and difficult, as well as something in me which finds it beautiful. It might be useful to have a dialogue of those two parts.

I think human beings are created Good, and Romans 7-8 is therefore a difficult passage for me. Romans 7: 15, 21-25:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….21 So I find this law at work: William Holman Hunt: the Light of the WorldAlthough I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

A dialogue.

Inner being: Before we start, can we think of a different name for me? Kind of judgmental, “sinful nature”, v.18, don’t you think? Paul’s word is “sarx”, “flesh”. Remember “The Word was made sarx, and dwelt amongst us”.

-mmm. I love my ritual space. Why do you not?

Sarx: “Sarx” will do me.
-It is uncomfortable. How often have we knelt there and just started crying? I hate crying. It is uncomfortable. It looks silly, and people deride and despise me for it. Feeling feelings is really painful. Suppressing them stops the pain.

Inner being: Suppressing them is really difficult. They come out in other ways, and the whole process is destructive.

Me: OK. It is beautiful and constructive and creative and healing and all of that- but it is also painful and difficult, and sometimes even the delight is too much. And sometimes, afterwards, I feel so open and vulnerable, and that is difficult, and so going out or applying for jobs or seeing people is just too much for me- though it is too much for me when I suppress, too.

So it takes discipline to go into the ritual space. I cannot just imagine ooh, it’s lovely, of course I will do it. It takes courage. I go where I have been badly hurt. It is worthwhile.

Lovely blogs

I have been given the One Lovely Blog award, by Sugar-Coated Angel. She is 17, and shares valuable wisdom, self-knowledge, and jokes, well-written. I am fair pleased. I am supposed to praise my nominator then to write seven things about myself, but given that most of this blog is about me, it is all here. Let me tell you of some lovely blogs found recently. In no particular order:

Large Self– thoughts on energy and healing in the 21st century by Cathy Ulrich. I came across Cathy with her post on “Bumper-sticker philosophy, saying “Disrespect reality! It is just the outpicturing of your beliefs up to now.” Practically, I function like a naive realist, and these are the reminders I need, in a clear and humorous style. The photograph is hers.

I have just found Julie Hansen Intuitive, who writes on psychic phenomena, reading and perception of people and situations. Her word “Clairvoyant” disturbed me a little, but it simply means clear-seeing. These are skills I wish to develop. Part of the current spiritual revolution is the increasing recognition and valuing of such skills.

I found Mindy through a comment, and have posted on that. I find her blog beautifully expressed, wise, varied, and on interesting subjects.

Letting go takes a lot of work!

Or, maybe, it’s the holding on I’ve done till now that has taken so much energy.

Small Letters is full of good stuff like that.

Her comment was on Fairy Bear Confessions, which teaches me and stimulates my thought about God, from a Christian perspective.

Beth Zwecher is 57, and writes very movingly about caring for her mother at the end of life, in Middlescapes, “A blog about caregiving a frail elder, life in the middle years, the search for one’s inner athlete, and baking as a path to enlightenment”.

Novia Olam is Kenyan, still living with her parents. Her web address, Sapphiqueer, is bold, Out there, when gay lovemaking is illegal, so that gay people have little protection against violent bigots. Her coming out story is moving.

Also beautifully bold is Evelyn Ortiz. “Evelyn Ortiz has spoken”- I love that. If I say I love reading teenagers expressing how to get on in the world, that could seem frightfully condescending or sardonic, but I mean it literally and genuinely.

I value Tsena’s poetry, but it is this line that I love- “I used to shake my head at the people who would claim that major tragedy turned out to be a gift in their lives; I thought they were nuts. Now I join the ranks of those whom I called Nuts.” Such an about-face is a powerful move towards wisdom.

Fear no Weebles! Madame Weebles is a middle-aged Reiki master doing wisdom-stuff- all my kind of thing- with a lot more humour than I manage to cram in here.

All so far are women! Robert Moores writes on Basic Humanity from a rationalist perspective. He is currently reading and commenting on the Bible.

Duncan Aldridge, whom I met at the Field of Love, a 5Rhythms camp in East Anglia, is exploring masculinity. He says, “I only hope that the vulnerability is a channel through which we can come closer together relationally and emotionally as men and women.” Personally, I find my “vulnerability” my only source of strength.

That is eleven. Perhaps I can keep back four nominations for later.

Lace

I have not been meditating. Maybe you know how it is. I should be kneeling in my ritual space; and instead I watch TV until I think, no, I have got to go to bed now. Or, I lie in bed, perhaps playing on WordPress, until I only have time to shower and dress and have breakfast before the bus comes.

Well, actually, this morning I had five minutes before the bus was due. I might as well kneel for five minutes as not. So I knelt, and burst into tears.

File:Purple Rose6.jpg

Coffee with Quakers. Sue asked how my work search was going. No, I am sorting my spiritual and emotional being, I am not looking for work. Maybe later. I want to do energy healing, and I think it is mere placebo, with a bit of cold reading. K says she does not think “mere” is appropriate, placebo is powerful. And- I suppose cold reading is valuable, it will be reassuring for a person if I respond to her as she really is, now. “Cold reading” is a dismissive term. Perhaps- “clearly seeing” a person. I want to practise Seeing. 

Then onto the usual conversation, this time Ann on how dreadful the World is, environmental degradation, chronic dishonesty in business, growing inequality, against me on how it is improving, the new Transition Towns movement, equal marriage campaigns. I love these people.

Out into the sunshine. That busker has a lovely tone on the higher registers of his tenor sax, warm, sweet and smooth.

I have always slung breast forms round my front. I wore big heavy bras for big heavy breast forms, because I felt that I wanted to appear as if I had breasts. Then in March I fell and bruised my ribs, and the bra was uncomfortable, and I have gone braless since. In the sauna at camp we complimented each others’ breasts: I have felt mine were tiny- almost flat- and misshapen, too far round the side of the body, pointing outwards. But now, I begin to feel a little uncomfortable hurrying, I want some support.

To “Lace” in the high street. I had thought it a normal lingerie shop, but inside I see what they sell is play-wear, basques and fishnet bodystockings, etc. They sell it by dress size. I can try it on if I want. Sorry, that is really not what I was looking for. So, to Natasha’s.

The bra I had felt too big in the cup, and also too tight in the back, so I wondered if she stocked a 40AA. However, I come out with a 36B, a light lacy half-cup. Don’t wear it too low, or it will give no support, she tells me.

I feel transformed. Under my loose sweater I have a shape I find beautiful, so much lovelier than I had thought possible. This is an experience most women have aged about 13, one I did not think I could have.

File:Rose DSCF5359.jpg

I get the bus home. Oh, I do not want to feel this strongly! I want my feelings to be held down, strapped up, not bothering me! At war with the World at least I know where I am- but- to feel this Vulnerable-

I overhear someone on his mobile. “Is he with you now? Is he kicking off?… Are you driving?…
Just pull over and get him to get out…
No, just put the phone down and concentrate on driving. I’ll see you in a minute, yeah…” He explains to his friend that Lorna gave Laurie a lift, and because she could not go as far as he wanted he is kicking off, and she is crying while driving. I’ll kill him, the little shit.

File:Blue Parfum (Tantau 1978) 01.jpg

The song the busker was playing runs in my mind.

I can see clearly now, the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day

Life problem

I have hidden my light under a bushel. This is how I perceive it:

Now, I have not worked since March 2011, and have only applied for one job this year. I am living off my savings which will last the rest of this year. I spend much of my time in my living room, blogging. I am intensely lonely. Possibly because of hormonal imbalances, I weep daily.

I have raw, incohate, undeveloped talent in performing and in healing, and I am taking some action to develop these. I blame myself for not taking such action earlier- I am 46.

I am transsexual, and people who spend a little time with me notice this. I could do more work on my voice- it has far greater power below the break than above it. I am filled with resentment at being visibly queer, even though I meet little outright hostility- even, a great deal of acceptance. That is it- I resent myself, I want to be other than I am, I want to be normal and to blend in.

I am doing spiritual growth stuff, again not fast enough for my liking. I have been using the metaphor of pupating for thirteen years. I have an image of me working with ease and delight and earning a good income, and I resent the gap from reality. 

I view myself and the world with a paralysing mix of resentment, anger and self-pity. And disgust. I harangue myself- you want it to be easy, don’t you, you want all the work to be done. It seems to me that it should be easy. I should unite with healing groups, train in performance, get a job to earn money while doing this-

Or, possibly, I see the step to take, and do not take it because I know it will be too painful and difficult.

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Added: If I am a freak, that serves my interests and keeps me safe. That is, if I know I am a “freak”, I can withdraw from human contact, protect myself from it, and so avoid the possibility of hurt when it goes wrong. And of course prevent the possibility of it going right. I can avoid those painful distressing feelings.

It’s not the despair. I can stand the despair. It’s the hope.

Clockwise, Michael Frayn

Just like so many of the lies I tell myself, there is a certain amount of evidence that it is true- and it is just not. My wise friend emailed me,

I know you’re in a difficult place. But, I feel you have enormous, generous love and light in your heart and soul and like so many of us, fail to nurture yourself with it during hard times. Really hope you find your way to enable you to turn up your inner light: NOW. Right away! Don’t be defeated! You are a strong woman! You have worked hard at being authentic and true to yourself. Watch yourself develop and grow when you switch over “to the light”. I know you can.

Just keep going!!!!

I can listen to my friends.

Shrugging it off

Again back to that tolerance/ acceptance/ questioning thing.

Naive questions are a bit of a pain. “Being transsexual- what is it like?” “Have you always known you were a girl?” “Have you had the operation yet?” Tolerance- “I’m such a liberal sort of person that I can even tolerate people like you” is worse. Acceptance is alright, though I would prefer that it just happened, rather than needed to be a conscious process. My reaction depends upon my mood: yes I want people to understand my kind, for understanding promotes acceptance, but sometimes I am just too tired to engage.

I do not want you to work through your stuff with me. Round about transition, “Are you really sure you are doing the right thing?” was a bearable question, but not if repeated. Take yes for an answer. Yes, I have thought about this. For years. Yes, I know all sorts of ways in which it could go wrong. I have considered all the options, and this is the one I choose. And I choose how to work it out for myself- offers of a listening ear are welcome, but I have to choose when and whether to take that offer up.

My response to judgment may be short and rude. “I find you particularly masculine”. “Fuck off”. Actually, at the moment this is an aspiration. I have not got there yet. I get upset, or I withdraw. It is possible for me to improve my sense of self-worth and entitlement, to make it more appropriate. I am entitled that you keep your judgment to yourself, and use the correct name and pronouns. And, in one case when the woman later revealed her own vulnerability, I could open and relate.

That might be it. “I find you particularly masculine.” That is reaching out and touching my vulnerability, one I have perhaps not chosen to bring up, in a way which is not on my terms. I am still healing, this still gets to me, though not as much as before.

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In childhood it got to me completely. However feminine I am innately, I learned early that my feelings and my spontaneous reactions were wrong, and that if I did not pretend to be normal masculine I was in trouble. So I observed male, seeking to copy it.

When I started going out female, a chance insult in the street meant more to me than all the acceptance of my Quaker meeting and work colleagues. It could crush me for days.

Now, it still gets to me, though far less. I have the idea that I may in future shrug it off, that it genuinely will not matter, that I can see the other clearly and feel compassion for his struggles. Not quite yet.