I don't regret transition.
I just regret how stupid I was to think it would be possible for me.
At this point I've exhausted every option I can think of.
I can't work enough to access insurance because my body can't handle it. Every time I try to work the number of hours required to qualify, I crash after three or four days and lose like a week and a half of my life.
I can't move to another state where state insurance would cover procedures I need because it would be six months before I could manage to obtain HRT again. I could have about three months ahead of time, but because I'm phsyically dependent on it to function those three months in the middle would be impossible. And also I have no way of obtaining the money I need to get established.
Even SW won't work because my fucking body can't handle it. I tried. Did a session with someone I trust. I don't want to go into detail but its clear it's extremely dangerous for me because my energy levels don't hold up long enough for that kind of exertion. I thought maybe doing more BDSM stuff might work. I went to a party for two hours, dommed a cute guy for like half an hour and the consequences are just too intense. Its two days later and I'm still having issues. Pain.
There's nowhere else to go. Nothing else to try. I'm well enough that sometimes I can go do stuff and pretend to be normal. Or I can never do anything worth doing and then pretend to be normal. But I can't ever really live. Just struggle to survive.
I'm sick of surviving. It's all I've ever done, just survive. I have tried so hard to make something of it, to change all of it into something valuable, something I could give away. I've tried so hard to help myself so I could help others. I really tried. That's still what I want. But I've run out of energy. I can't help myself. I can't help others, either. So what is my purpose, even?
It comes back in waves. Some days i feel normalish. But more and more I'm sinking into that swamp from Neverending Story and there's never going to be a flying dragon coming to save me.
I'm trying so hard to find a reason to cling to. But hope is trauma. Everything is ephemeral. Nothing has any substance. Nothing really matters.
I wish sometimes that I was universally hated, because then if I died it would make the world a better place for everyone who knew me. But I can't even die without hurting people who love me.
How. How do I do anything.
I think the answer is that I don't. I do nothing. Or maybe I just give up on transition altogether. Maybe do a few videos, one for each of my songs so that at least they'll exist in the world and people could learn them from the vids if they want. Or maybe not. It wouldn't matter. No one would see them. No one would care.
I don't want to die.
I just don't see how I can live.
I really don't know how to parse transition with music.
Nothing helps when I'm down like singing, but really expressing myself means using my whole range, which is unequivocally masculine. So the thing that was so helpful before has now just become depressing, and I hardly ever write music any more. I can't express myself, physically I can't because my range sucks, in the way I need to be able to really strike the feelings i'm needing to vocalize. It feels crippling.
It has felt like it's a choice between music or transition, and it's one of the most depressing aspects of my life right now, because I feel like music has been my saviour for so many years.
I've mentioned this to people before. And usually they either lie to me about how they hear my voice (which doesn't help, people), or they just say something like "so what if you have a dude voice, you're still a woman", which strikes me as complete bullshit. That isn't how reality works.
So then, maybe I detransition. Except I can't go back to how life was, how my body was, before hormones. The idea is untenable, like jumping into a vat of acid. And if I do something like get my tits cut off, then it'll be difficult to keep getting hormones, which I literally need in order to physically function.
So that leaves me with essentially one option:
Stuck in the middle with you, or something.
Forever trapped in this realm of random pronouns, weird sneers, and an absolute shit time finding a partner. I haven't been this single this long since I started dating. Everyone is all like "oh you're so amazing you HAVE to find someone" and yeah, that's not how the world works either.
I could give up music but its not like doing that has helped. I'm still disabled. I'm still perpetually unable to make any progress in life whatever. I will never afford to finish transition and insurance won't pay for the stuff that actually matters. So I'm stuck. Really, seriously, painfully stuck.
Someone (@damnkillerloop) made this Inktober for day four, "freeze", and it's the feeling exactly. Like EXACTLY. And anyhow, FML.
Here it is:
Also, you should follow them.
I think if I could actually manage to be successful at transition I'd be a lot happier. But I doubt I'll ever know.
This is a poem I've been working on for several days, about the process of confronting and working through the emotions left from childhood trauma. Writing this and working through it were a single process, so this is raw, really raw.
The Red Memory
At that moment
A passing thought,
Flapping in the air above me:
I wish that would happen to me,
So that I would not be responsible.
Reaching out, I snatched the thought
From the air,
Examined it, studied it:
A flake of darkness, dripping ink;
A torn and floating page wafting
Through the air, all sin of sloth
A pungent page from my book of sins.
Meanwhile, in a
World recessed into the
A rectangle outline,
I watched as, the
Bride of a demon freely raged:
And here: a part of me:
Envying the innocence of
I could have let it fly;
Let the black snowflake settle into
The tightly packed filth;
The neutron star material that
Composes the gravity of my soul.
I could have let it slip:
Through my fingers, like trying to
Catch a falling feather, the air
Pushed away by my skin
As I clutch at nothing.
But I snatch it from the ether and
Hold it with cold fingertips.
Afraid of what I might see written,
I push away the dripping tarmac ink,
With a shaking thumb, and
Wipe it on my skirt, and
Dare to read a sentence
Scrawled in rage:
I wish I could cause harm and not be held responsible.
The words are burning now
As if written in cold fire
Fire that neither dies nor consumes,
Is it true?
Reaching into my satchel, I
Pluck out the book of my mind, and
Fan the pages, back
It opens to:
A Red Memory:
When I was four,
I swore it from somewhere
While a thin-lipped false angel above both of me
Wailed on the bare skin of a tiny body,
While a child's reflection in pumice toilet water
Rippled with tears, and
Rippled with the pulsing rythyms of
My own wailing, as
I fell in hate;
And I fell in love:
With a demon.
I buried the Red Memory
At a crossroads
And marked it with a burned and
So that I would visit often, and
Drop new Red Memories
On the sinking grave of my childhood
Like coins for the boatman, and:
Rage is the name of the
Devil at my crossroad
Who sold me the blues
At the cost of a ceaseless scream.
I am bound by an oath to be never fulfilled
Like a suicide note
Three times daily, with meals
And I've dreamt,
Oh I've dreamt:
That city of darkness
Where the deep darkness dwells
A place where the black hole within me
And remain hidden.
A place I can wait
In bitter anticipation
With a rake in one hand
And an Ankh in the other;
For the soul of one man
To unleash agitation
In a pLaCe He CaN't DiE
OH LET ME BE THE EAGLE
THAT SHREDS HIS INSIDES
LET ME BE THE DRAGON
Forever and ever and ever to flay
In place with his consequence always unpaid
Do I dare venture further, into
My mind, what if
I find something, even
More evil within a
Always Arrogantly Assumed
I glance down at the thought,
Pinched between my fingers,
Where the fiery writing, is
Fading into fog, and now
In it's receding light, I notice:
Indentations as if the mark of a sharp
Pencil pressed from paper above, and
I rub the ashes of the
Cooling words over them.
And there, spiraling from
The edge to the center
It is written:
It's abundantly clear that the ultimate truth
Is you can't hate another
Without hating you, too.
I drop the thought like a rock
Because it falls on my toe,
Becomes a wasp and stings slow,
With the venom of Truth.
I have forgiven him
So many ways
But have I forgiven
My own endless rage?
A moment of darkness, shock
As I realize how simple this
Has always been and yet, so
I reach into the past and snatch it up
Like the moon between two dark fingers
And tell that sad, scared, angry child:
I love you.
I love you so much.
I forgive you, I do.
You've been through enough.
I love you, and it's time
To let go of the coal
You so long have feared
Is the truth of your soul
I love you
I forgive you
Without a condition
And with that, the dam breaks
I'm finished with TransRational.
I've deactivated both my Twitter accounts. I have made the videos private.
I'd like to take down the site, to completely erase my online presence, but I don't feel right about it, seeing as how so many people have been so supportive. It's the least I can do. It will stay up until May, when the subscription runs out.
Obviously, I will follow through with the donations to JY's victims as soon as I am paid and have done all the math.
Quitting wrenches me in ways I cannot fully express, but I have lost my neutrality. I wake up every morning and the first thing I do is check Twitter. Sometimes it's good, but most of the time it starts my day with some kind of drama, and that drama is bleeding into and controlling my days. I'm losing hours a day to an addiction. Some people can control it, but I can't.
The drama leads to a nearly constant sense of depression, frustration, and loneliness. Since transition, I'm more physically and financially stable than I've been in years. But emotionally, if I want to ever achieve any kind of balance I have to stop. Some days the emotional pain is so intense that it blots out physical. I don't know if you've ever stubbed am infected ingrown toenail, but it fucking hurts, and the other day the emotional pain from all the bullshit was so bad I hardly felt it. I need to see a doctor, and a therapist, but I'm so frequently depressed that I keep forgetting to call. At work, I'm noticing more close calls. I miss turns. I find myself in the wrong place and don't know how I got there. I feel like my mind is dissolving.
This is killing me, or putting me into a position where being killed from stupidity is imminent.
And this lack of balance, this emotional maelstrom, is causing me to overreact. Where I once had space and patience for nearly anything, now I seem to have none at all. I say things I don't mean. Or I speak without thinking of how what I'm saying will be seen or felt by another. I'm becoming brash, oblivious, unthinking, unfit. Part of me is just constantly bracing for the next attack. I'm changing, turning into someone I desperately don't like.
I have invested so, so much into this project. I've pushed myself mentally and physically for this in a way I never have for anything else. I care more deeply than I can say. But I have to do more than take a break: I need to move on.
I'm sorry TransRational, it's not you: it's me.
You find yourself cramped into a window seat, staring out the dark portal as you scream nightward over gargantuan snow-covered spiders lying collapsed over the land:
“How did I get here?” You wonder. “How is this happening?” The past month has been a clench of anxiety and uncertainty. Important commitments made on a gamble that magically panned out. But now you’re here, flying over a frozen world sliced by a tiny line that leads to three bacterial lights flickering so far below and it finally, finally hits you.
It’s happening. For reals.
Gratitude suddenly fills you in a way it hasn’t filled you for as long as you can remember. For a little while now, you’re free of history everywhere you step. It’s a selfish thought, but it passes through you anyway: funny, what wonderfully beautiful things have blossomed from Bee Jones.
“So tell me a little more about Bee,” you ask Hannah. It’s more disconcerting than you expected, sitting in the passenger seat of an English vehicle. Normally, this would be the driver’s seat, but it’s not the lack of a steering wheel that’s bugging you: it’s the angle of the rear-view mirror. It’s taking rather a lot of willpower to resist fixing it.
Hannah glances over at you sideways, pinches her cigarette, and pokes it back into the box. English cigarettes are especially violent, as cigarette companies are required by law to freak people out as much as possible and therefore all packaging is just scenes lifted from medical horror plastered to the sides of the carton and the brand tattooed on the top of the box in small, white font. The tobacco companies seem fine with this.
“How do you mean?” She asks.
“Well, I mean, what is she like? How would you describe her?”
Hannah looks thoughtful for a moment, an expression that sits comfortably on the strong cheekbones poking just above a pile of scarves. She’s wearing three of them: a flat black one, a navy blue with lime green squares in a grid, and a beige one with colored blobs. All of them are sort of squashed into her black pleather jacket, which perfectly balances the way her dark wavy hair is sort of squashed up behind her head. It’s not that she’s messy, it’s that she’s the sort of gardener that can go anywhere in the world without ever quite leaving the earth. She dresses like a dryad would, if you tried to force it into clothing.
“Bee is magic,” she says, “she has this amazing ability to tell you off without you ever quite noticing she’s doing it and making you feel better about yourself afterwards.”
It’s true. Now that you think of it, she’s done it to you and you hadn’t realized it until Hannah pointed it out. This is Bee to a tee- if you’re wrong about something she’ll make sure you know it, and she’ll phrase it in a way that makes you happy to have been wrong. It’s a sneaky, valuable talent.
It’s difficult to find the hotel. You and Hannah both are starting to stress- only an hour to prep for the wedding, and the building the SatNav brought you to doesn’t look like a hotel. More like a museum, or a restaurant. It takes arriving, leaving, and re-arriving before you notice the tiny metal letters scrolled across the top of a gery building that manages to look squat even though it has an obvious second story. Hannah has an AirBnB elsewhere, so she drops everything but your guitar and heads out in a hurry. You’ll retrieve the guitar between the ceremony and the reception, so that you can play a song for the couple.
Lugging your unreasonably heavy suitcase into the lobby (boy, do you ever have things to learn about travel), you check in to your room and flop on the bed for a moment before forcing yourself up and into the shower. Another difference between the UK and US: in the US, the shower curtains slide quite sensibly all the way across the tub. In the UK, someone must have actually measured just how far the shower was actually likely to splash and cut the width of the curtain at the exact minimum. It’s functional and very efficient. It also leaves you with the feeling that there is going to be a puddle when you finish. There never is.
By the time the shower is over you’re starting to feel a bit tired, but you locate a hair dryer in a bottom drawer somewhere in the room, blow your hair in lots of satisfying directions, drape yourself in the green dress you brought for the occasion, and fix your face. Then you stuff your alternates in a bag, don your coat, steel your nerve, and step out of the room.
A wave of panic lazily cycles through you as you wonder how the receptionists will handle you being in a dress. You wrap your gaudy coat around tight and hope they don’t notice you. A worse problem- how on earth are you going to locate the wedding?
“Are you here for the wedding?” asks one of them before you’ve managed to reach the ground floor.
“Yeah”, you say, relieved that someone knows things. England is magical in lots of ways, apparently. “Do you know how to get there?”
“No, but someone else just left. If you hurry you can catch her!”
You hurry. Out the doors and across the parking lot, you spy a path that cuts through the grass and heads towards Crosby central. Stepping onto that path is a woman with short-cropped red hair and a flower-print dress. Feeling a bit awkward and stalkerish, you hurry after her. At first, you are too shy to make contact. But just as you’re about to reach the end of the path, you call out to her.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry, are you by any chance going to Bee’s wedding?”
“Yes!” She says, and happily waits for you to catch up. “I’m Sara”.
“Hi Sara! I’m Asha. Do you know where it is?”
“It’s right there, just straight ahead. Do you see that man standing on the steps of the Town Hall? That’s Lee. And the man standing next to him is his oldest son, Harley.”
You hadn’t seen them until she pointed them out, but sure enough, there they are, sexy, straight-backed, and smiling as they shake hands with someone walking up the steps of the Town Hall. Something about Lee seems different than you expected- maybe he’s shorter than you thought, revealing an expectation you weren’t aware of. On further examination, you realized that he's not actually short, and the problem is that some part of you expected him to be wearing a literal suit of armor, and perhaps be perched atop a gallant steed who would only accept people into the wedding if they brought him a nice carrot. That explains a lot.
You should have brought your coconuts.
You and Sara are among the first ones to arrive, so you take a strategic seat, sitting far off to the side where things are easy to see and where you won’t stick out too far over other people, and ideally, won’t be noticed too often. You are soon joined by a woman who says her name is Emma, who might be the first person you’ve ever met who is capable of dressing in shades of pink from head to toe and still seeming as though she’s the one in charge of her outfit. Most people you’ve met wearing that much pink look as though their clothes are wearing them. Not so for Emma. Clearly, she must be a witch- no one else could have that kind of power over pink.
English town halls are designed to be exceptionally comfortable for people whose dispositions are more wooden than the pews. Calling them pews is perhaps inaccurate, however, since each sitting space has its own faded navy blue upholstery riveted to the wood and a small fitted slice of carved wood between. This is clearly to make certain that the wooden people who normally sit here do not accidentally sit too close to each other, or too far apart, lest they bump each other or become lonely. All in all, a quite modern and zesty design if you were born a century or two ago. You deeply approve, though your lower back does not.
The Town Hall itself is a place so crammed with history that the echoes of the past displace imagination. Everywhere you look you seem to see whatever the opposite of hustle and bustle is, as if the place is crammed with the ghosts of stuffy men with recessive chins and fanciful wigs to match. All of them there to determine how best to stuff their notions down everyone else’s ego. It’s quite a charming place for a wedding of this sort, because it fits the rebellious theme of the event perfectly.
And truly, this wedding is nothing if not rebellious on every level.
When Bee and Lee decided to get married about a month ago, it was going to be a very small event with only a few local witnesses.
You met Bee on Twitter sometime near the end of 2018. At first she seemed nothing more than a beautifully painted avatar in a sea of anime avatars, tiny photos of bearded wokebros, random symbols, animal faces, and dramatically-posed gender critical feminists. Probably, you met her before you noticed her, but what made you notice her was her attitude towards death.
Namely, that she obviously thought her own impending courtship with the credits was a good subject to laugh about.
Most people are afraid of dying, but whether Bee was or not, she most certainly wasn’t afraid to talk or make jokes about it. She was kind, funny, courageous, and genuinely inspiring. At some point, the two of you began talking in Twitter DMs and making jokes that would probably turn a lot of people sheet-white if they didn’t outright turn them into ghosts. And it was clear from the start that thing she was worried about most wasn’t her own pain, or even of dying itself. What worried her was whether or not the people she loved and cherished would be okay once she was gone.
With only six months to live, she didn’t have long. The doctors gave her an option: chemo. It would extend her lifespan to about a year, they said.
“I want to come” you say to Bee, after she tells you about the wedding. It’s only a month out; she lives in England and you live in the US; also you’re chronically broke, but you still want to go. There’s something special about this wedding.
You’re not the only person who feels it, either. The news of Bee and Lee’s wedding spreads like pollen in an allergens-anonymous meeting (It was the Bee’s Lee’s, after all). What was originally intended to be a tiny affair evolves into a tiny affair, but now with a band. Then it has food, and people start booking AirBnBs from all over England.
Later, you'll discover that the event has drawn people from all over the world. Aside from yourself, a friend of Bees who lives in Indonesia will fly in as a surprise; another from Ireland, and a third from Belgium. Her cousin's wife will fly in from Australia to personally represent that side of her family. Lee's son Harvey will fly in from Dubai to be his best man. Including you and the attending people that live in the United Kingdom already, this "tiny" event involves representatives from seven countries. Usually, seven is seen as a lucky number, but in the case of this international event: you can't help but feel there's a bit more than luck involved. This is a family whose existing has meant something profoundly positive to people all over the world.
“I wish you could come too!” Says Bee, “it’s too bad you’re over in America”.
“I guess I could try and crowdfund it”, you point out. The moment you say it, your stomach lurches. Would this even be moral? Wouldn’t it be prohibitively expensive? “Would you... would it be okay if I try?”
“OMG I would LOVE it if you could really come!” She gushes back.
“Should I use your name? Do you think it would be kind of weird for people?”
“Yeah, I’d rather you didn’t use my name. But go for it. You might as well try it and see what happens.”
So you look up plane tickets, scope out food costs and domestic maintenance. And then you realize that if you’re going over there anyhow, you might as well make a trip of it. Assuming you’ll be able to find places to stay among your Twitter friends, you estimate a minimum of about $2500, all told. You set that as the base, spend a couple of days making the fund, run the text by Bee for her seal of approval, and launch just before bed in a fit of anxiety. It probably won’t work. You have one month to make more money than you make in three at your job. No way it’ll happen.
When you wake up the next morning, there’s $490. By the end of the first week, you have just enough to buy your plane tickets and you do, terrified of what happens if the campaign stalls. But it doesn’t stall.
And thus, one cold twelfth of March, you find yourself forty thousand feet above the sea, awakened during the flight just in time to see the Aurora Borealis whipping colored ribbons through the sky in Bee’s honor.
People begin to trickle into the Town Hall and soon the ghosts of old men are replaced by breathing human beings. The room begins to warm with anticipation, and if the chandelier isn’t swinging with excitement, well, that’s because its just a glorified lamppost and doesn’t know any better. This isn’t Narnia, after all, though for you it may as well be. Soon the not-pews are almost filled, and two women stride in with purpose and a large book each.
The raised platforms that indicate the person who sits there is allowed to make decisions that affect everyone else’s reality are situated in front of the South wall. The thrones are taken up by the two women, both of whom flop open their tomes with a puff of dust and blow on them in unison. The front row sufficiently dusted, the judge is ready and the music begins to play.
Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen quite like that. But it may as well have, and anyway this is how you’ll always remember it and who’s counting, anyway? Lee stands to attention, with Harvey next to him as his best man.
Lee Jones is a devilishly handsome man with a subtle presence. He smiles often and speaks little, and yet it is hard to look at anyone else in the room. He simultaneously reminds you of a Count and an artisan. He looks as if he’d be quite natural striding to the bank with a cloak and a cane. And then, when he returns home, he would cast off those silly, overly lavish garments and transform into an artist with a loose, color-splotched frock as he attacks a canvas. One thing you know about Lee: his artwork is phenomenal. And also, his portraits of Bee capture something more than just a pretty face: streaks of ocher and violets and blues and reds slip in and out of each other and weave love letters in dripping paint.
The only thing more lovely than Lee’s portraits of Bee is Bee herself.
Later, as you go to set down this story, you won’t be able to recall what her dress looked like. You'll remember the cut, and the fact that it didn’t touch the ground, but you had to refer to photos to recall the dress itself. You'll remember that it is Bee's oldest daughter, Abby, who gives her away, and that this is because Bee's father had died only three days prior, and that she would later tell you she'd wrapped his lucky tie around the bouquet. But you won't remember the dress. For a memory of a wedding, the dress seems an odd detail to omit. Yet, today, the dress is the least important detail about the bride.
Sometimes when you look at people they phase out, and what you see instead is something ethereal, something deeper. It doesn’t happen with everyone, but when it does happen, you can see things about the person. This is what happens with Bee as she walks down the aisle and takes her stand next to the man whose time as her fiancé is nearly complete.
This is the first moment you’ve seen her in person.
The first thing you see is her face, which is kindly and wise, with a tinge of exhaustion. She looks like the sort of person you’d wish to see if you were waking up from a coma.
Beneath this, there are layers and layers of swirling emotions and vague, reaching curiosities. She’s pushing her concerns, worries, and pain to the back of her mind. This is her wedding day, and she is clearly refusing to bothered about it. There’s time enough for pain and anxiety in the future. But not now. Lesser women might allow them to be creeping through, but Bee is not, and the sheer power of her will to exist completely in the moment seems to drape her in an ornate gown of sheer tenacity. Bee is a proper Liverpool lass. Also:
Bee is a queen.
It's especially interesting how different Bee and Hannah are to each other. Hannah is so real and raw she's unforgettable, while Bee is so ethereal that it has the same effect. They make a good pair of friends, you feel: they balance each other quite well.
The ceremony continues in true wedding fashion, though it's also somehow a bit unusually tame. Something about the way the judge is reading the script just seems... well, she's happy, and clearly enjoying herself, but you can tell she's not presided over tons of weddings.
Still, things proceed, rings are exchanged, and the kiss is timeless. Interspersed between sections of the ceremony, two different women read two selected passages that are really incredibly beautiful. Your favorite is from the "The Amber Spyglass" by Phillip Pullman. Aspects of it might seem a bit dry to an American like you, but exactly zero people seem bored or fidgety. Exactly everyone is glowing. Bottom jaws all over the room are threatening to come unhinged from the ear-to-ear grins.
And then it's over, and Bee and Lee are married.
Everyone gathers outside for the photography, and someone throws red and white heart-shaped confetti. All in all, it's been a beautiful event.
Now for the PARTY.
You get into a car with Hannah and her friend Cassie, and Cassie's mother Jenny, and head to their AirBnB where your guitar is kept and where changes of clothing are located. Once there, someone makes tea and then everyone changes and Hannah does her makeup. The fact that she is doing her makeup after the wedding, rather than before, is because the two of you had arrived so late she hadn't had time beforehand. Even so, it just seems very Hannah and somehow amplifies your growing fondness for her person. Eventually everyone is changed and ready, a taxi is called, goodbyes are said to Jenny, who is heading to a concert, and off you go to the reception in your horseless carriage.
The reception is being held in a pub, and it's already quite lively by the time the three of you arrive. The pub itself is shaped like a squarish boot lying on it's side, with the door located in the sole, right near the toe. It's crowded and already quite lively inside, the party in full swing. You find an out of the way corner where you can stash your guitar, give it a nice lecture about staying safe and refusing to hop into cars with strangers offering it new strings, and then slide away to mingle.
It is loud, painfully so, and what this means for you is that you won't have as much time as you'd like before your ability to process it gives out and it's too much. Therefore, you'd better make it count. Remembering the image of Bee refusing to give into pain, you adopt a similar attitude and decide to go for the gold.
You head towards the heel of the boot, and then turn the corner to discover Hannah on your right, buying a drink. She offers you one, and you politely decline, instead heading off towards the top of the boot, where the band has been stashed. The band is a four-piece that sometimes plays music and sometimes covers songs, and they're surprisingly good. There's a singer/guitarist, a trumpet player, a drummer, and a keyboardist. You recall then that Bee and Lee and had not booked a band, and that their presence here, tonight, is Emma's wedding gift. Emma, it seems, is more powerful than anyone had imagined. Not only can she wear full body pink and pull it off, but she has the power to tell the difference between a good band and a bad one. And the result of this is that Bee, across the room, is dancing like she's sixteen. It looks magnetically fun, and your legs start heading over to join them while your brain is busy yelling some drivel about how you can't dance. Momentarily paralyzed at the edge of the dance floor, Bee grabs your arm and pulls you into the flitting patterns of colored dots, zipping jagged lines in the air like industrialized fireflies mating frantically in rhythm. This band, you realize, is an expression of Emma's love for Bee just as Bee's dancing is an expression of love for her life, her friends, and for this moment. This moment, in which she has painted her heart in every shade of gratitude.
Of course, you are a nervous wreck of a dancer. Your tall, willowy figure feels floppulous, like a gumby, and memories of mocking laughter arise (you dance like a girl!) Time to risk some liquid courage.
As always, even the smallest amount of alcohol is a risk, and there will be consequences. But not enjoying this dance would be far worse. So you scan for Hannah, march up to her, and rudely ask her if you can please mooch a few sips from her drink. She offers to buy you your own again, but you decline knowing that it would be a waste. Giving you a look that seems to wonder at your uncouth barbarism, Hannah graciously allows you to sip from her drink. Three are more than enough: one of the positives of being you is that it takes almost nothing for you to experience being buzzed. Properly micro-schlocked, you rejoin the dance and do your best to lose yourself.
For a person who supposedly has terminal cancer, Bee has seemingly unlimited energy. You hit exhaustion quite rapidly and take your leave for a moment to sit down.
"Are you the one who came from America?" Asks a woman who is sitting next to another woman whose black, fur fringed coat you desperately envy. It's just the right level of artistic punk, and you're wondering what the chances are that she'd swap you jackets when the voice comes over. You glance over at the speaker, who is dressed like a person who went to a wedding, but whose attitude is decidedly punk. You decide that you like her immediately.
"Yeah, that's me" you answer.
"Nice," she says, "I'm Sam. I follow you on Twitter."
Suddenly you feel oddly exposed, and simultaneously relieved as the conversation turns to something you're familiar with. For a short while, you enjoy a new status as a part of a momentary clique. It isn't long before the group escapes the pub in order to ignore the horrific warnings on their cigarette boxes, and the fresh air is a relief. Jet lag and the sense of an impending crash are making themselves known within you. If it comes, it comes, you think. It's brilliant I've lasted as long as I have. Still, it does mean you will need to play the song soon if you want to be able to play it at all.
You split off from the group and re-enter the pub. Asking an employee where the banquet is to be held, you follow their pointed finger upstairs and around to your right.
The room is mostly empty, with a small witches-hut shaped bar against the East wall, and an opening where the right wall should have been that leads to what is clearly a fairy feast that is still covered over with plastic and tin foil and packaging as it waits patiently for it's time to shine. Rows of sushi slumber in lines, dreaming of happy guests with chopsticks. Snug wraps snuggle tightly for warmth, basking in happy anticipation. Vegetable skewers sleep in a vegatative state while mysteries covered in tin foil plan how best to foil everyone's hunger. It is, by all counts, a feast waiting to happen.
It's not over. There is also the dessert table, covered in rolly bonbons and soft elcaírs and of course, The Cake. The knowledge that this, too, was not planned by the couple, but is a gift of deeply held affection elevates the entire thing to a status of deserved pride: the sort of pride that arises naturally from a guiltless feat of love. False humility has no business in a place like this, and yet there is a touch of home, too, in the folding tables and in the history wafting around the room.
There are five people here: three women bustling about in preparation, a miniature human in a portable pram, and the baby's mother, who seems exhausted and glowy all at once.
You ask the women if you can help with anything, and because they have it mostly under control, you shift gears and set out to get to know them a bit. The three women turn out to be sisters, and the fairy feast, along with it's preparation, is their gift. Bev and Alex are twins, and their accent is so thick that at first you can't understand Bev's name- It sounds like she's saying "deaf", which is obviously only true of you in this moment. Dee is Lee's ex, which at first is hard to believe because it sounds like it ought to be the name of a sitcom: Bee, Dee, and Lee in a Tree.
This is surprising because you sensed nothing that felt negative between any of them. Usually, complex relationships like this are full of subtext. But here? Just a trio of fine Liverpool ladies and a proper gentleman coming together for a moment none of us will ever forget.
It's four months after the trip to England, and you lounge in your room, trying once again to remember the rest of the story. At some point during the unforgettable moment, your spoons ran out and the rest of the evening is difficult to recall. There are moments, some painful, others beautiful, but the rest of the evening is blurred into a kind of lovely, colorful dream. You remember desperately not wanting to leave, and staying as long as possible. You remember being unable to play the song for the couple. You remember dragging yourself back to the hotel, and then nothing until the next morning. Because of this, it's left you with the feeling that there was never an end to that evening at all. That part of you is still there, eyes still brimming at the sheer romance of the event.
Who needs an end, anyway? Life happens during the journey. And endings are never truly the end. All things that have ever been are what they are because they are built on what came before. It's true, you realize: the universe can only exist as it does because a simple English wedding took place one afternoon in Liverpool.
AK: So hey everyone, welcome to TransRational. I’m Asha (Kinesis) and this is the famous and brilliant – Jane Clare Jones.
JCJ: And now I am going to get all shy until we’ve been talking for about two seconds..
AK: Who’s now going to get shy... Right yeah so we are going to get past the first part where we know we are being filmed, and as soon as we totally forget that that is a camera and it is facing us, then the conversation will actually be interesting. But until then...
JCJ: We hope! That’s the plan!
AK: And if it’s not interesting, we will try and be charasmatic enough that even if we were making no sense at all, it you will think it’s interesting, and that’s really what counts
JCJ: Exactly, all smoke and mirrors.
AK: Ok, so. Most of these videos that we’ve done, I haven’t really done a topic or dicussed anything that we’ve planned ahead of time – most of them I’ve just started a conversation and saw how it went. Right now we want to do something a little bit different, we want to discuss an actual topic. So today we want to discuss male socialisation and how it’s different between ‘men’, like regular men, and transwomen or gay men. And how that is still not the same as female socialisation.
JCJ: This is TERF talk! All this socialisation business!
AK: This is TERF talk.
JCJ: Now we’re talking TERF topics. Socialisation – one of the basic tenets of second wave feminism is now a thought crime. So let’s talk about thought crimes.
AK: Alright. So I think the topic of socialisation is really fucking important –
AK: - Right.
JCJ: I think we both agree about that.
AK: We do.
JCJ: We might disagree about some of the details, but let’s flesh that out...
AK: Right, absolutely. See how we go. So you wanna start?
JCJ: No you start.
AK: I just fucking started! What the hell?
JCJ: This is your show! I’m the guest!
AK: At this point, everyone’s rapt in attention! They’re arguing! Yes!
JCJ: I’m pointing my pointy stick at you! My pointy chewy stick
AK: Don’t make me get my toothbrush out and ...
JCJ: Ok. Let’s stop being children. So – what – why do we want to have this conversation? We were talking about this issue earlier.
AK: We were discussing transwomen are not women, but they’re not men. Right, so we have this tautological concept, which is transrational’s opinion that transwomen are transwomen – they’re not men, but they are not women – we are our own thing, and that we need to push that idea because...
JCJ: Right. Because I think this is something – we’ve been together for a couple of days now, for a couple of days talking. And one of the things that we’ve been talking about is that one of the things that we think is a solution is to sketch out the area in the middle where we start to understand that transwomen are their own . So you’ve also talked about this in relation to passing and the various issues that that raises – and that actually it might be helpful to transpeople to set up a recognisable club of aiming to be a passing transwoman instead of aiming to be just passing...
AK: Right, and we should pause for a minute, and we should talk about what is the difference between passing as a transwoman and just like a person who looks like a man in a dress. And it’s really like – a really really important distinction that we need to make here. Because the way that I would put it is that there is – like I have met certain transwomen who... if you tried to make them dress like men... you can tell that they’re male - but if you tried to make them dress like men or act like men or have a dude haircut they would look fucking weird and you wouldn’t like it. Like they just look so natural in femininity, or whatever. They look so natural in that that they would actually look awkward trying to look like men. So you can tell that they’re male, but they don’t look like men.
JCJ: You can tell that they’re male, they don’t look like men, they look like males who have transitioned.
JCJ: Successfully... and not necessarily to the point where they are completely passing, right. I mean obviously we don’t know, because transpeople who are completely passing are invisible so... I mean there is a thing where in general people are like “we can always tell”. I don’t think that’s true. It’s like epistomologically impossible to make that statement, right, because in the cases in which you can’t tell, you wouldn’t be able to tell. So you wouldn’t be able to rule out the possibility that there are cases where you can’t tell. I think it is the case that there are many instances in which you can. But there are many instances in which it is clear that even though you can tell that someone is male, you can see very clearly that they have transitioned. Right. I think that is something that is perceptable. It is difficult because it’s a process, right? So there is going to be people in early transition and that is something that you need to talk about as well. But in terms of ...
AK: And also in early transition, at least in the past the gatekeeping for it meant that you couldn’t actually get on hormones or any of those things so you would cross-dress for a while, but you were required to use female facilities, you were required to live as a woman. Which was awkward for women, but it was the law requirement. With the lack of gatekeeping... I think that the rules need to change there – but that’s another conversation
JCJ: That’s another conversation. I don’t think we want – I don’t certainly, and I don’t think you do either – I think that we both agree that we don’t want I think - I mean this is slightly off topic as well – but things that the trans-rights movement might have aimed itself towards that might have been helpful, right, as opposed to not helpful. So for example, things like asking or campaigning for rape facilities for transwomen, as opposed to just directing their attentions toward trying to gain access to things for female people. And another thing that would have been really helpful is like the GRA debate. There was no conversation. Gatekeeping is bad, therefore all gatekeeping must be abolished. And – ok, the gatekeeping is bad, and it is causing problems, and it is not working. Let’s have a conversation about why the gatekeeping is bad, and talk about how the gatekeeping could be made better. Rather than just saying ‘gatekeeping is bad therefore you must abolish the gatekeeping’.
AK:Right and if you’re talking about that the gatekeeping is bad you are taking an extreme point of view about something – like you can’t even come to the point of view that gatekeeping is a really bad idea unless you are not thinking through what gatekeeping is for. And if you want to take the time and sit down and discuss what it is, and it is really fucking important. And it’s really clear...
JCJ:Right, and this is one of the things that we did at one point, right. Yeah. I mean at some point in the debate, we started talking about safeguarding. And there was a whole conversation about whether you frame it as safeguarding or gatekeeping. They are two different ways of framing a similar set of mechanisms to some extent. And I think – this is an important point – there is an aspect which comes out of the part of the philosophical traditions which has gone into queer theory where all of these types of social practices are simply disciplinary. So the state only controls access to transition through disciplinary functions. And therefore it has to be removed. But it completely ignores the fact that there are care functions. Boundaries around things, boundaries around access to medication as well are about making sure that those are the right treatment protocols. And they are not just “we are trying to discipline and control you”.
AK:Yes, and on top of that, there is also – like I mentioned the other day – there is also the point where, the more effort we put into something, the more that we go through it, the more that we value the thing that we are gaining at the end. So retaining a couple of years to do it – and it is hard, but we do it – at that time, when we finally reach that point we are going to value it and we are going to really care about the way that we integrate into society afterward. It’s super important. If you just get it easily, then there is nothing that requires you to question socialisation and etcetera. So this brings us back around to the topic.
JCJ:Yes, I mean also – yeah, exactly – I mean I’m not sure – I don’t know, because I don’t understand exactly what is involved. I mean I am sure that it is not identical in all countries and in all places right. But my understanding, and from talking to Blue as well, but there used to be an understanding among transitioning transsexuals that one of the major parts of transitioning was learning to undo socialisation and the way in which it is expressed. And one of the things that has been a bigish parts of the thinking is that it is a process. Becoming a transwoman is a process. So when we talked about this – about what identity is – we talked about how identity is relational and also a process. There are certain features that individuals have by virtue of their birth, right, so height and the colour of your hair, the colour of your eyes, your skin, your build, various things. Most other things that we are are things that we become. Most other aspects of our identities are things that we become. Being a transwoman – and this is one of the differences between transwomen and being female – is that women are females by virtue of being born into a particular reality. Transwomen become transwomen through a process of becoming. Through a process of transition.
AK:Right, and if we take away that process, even on a government level, if we take away that process at a structural level, then what we are doing is we are saying – we are erasing the idea that there are differences between men and women, between males and females, in the ways that they are raised, we are saying that this is unimportant to being whatever it is to be male and female. And when we do that and we remove the names of things, we remove them altogether from the social consciousness. In a sense.
JCJ:It tends to, yes.
AK:Yes. We attempt to remove them from the social consciousness and for a lot of people they stop thinking about it and then – well, what is a woman, a woman is anyone who identifies as a woman and when you think that ‘woman’ is not an identity it doesn’t have a meaning at all, right. It’s like that movie ‘the incredibles’, right, and the bad guy in the incredibles – his goal in the world is to make it possible for everyone to have a super power so that everyone is special and no one is. And this is the same concept as like being able to identify into a gender at any point, because if there is no process.. Even if we could do this, even if we could say that a transwoman becomes a transwoman at the end of a process, right, the process is what creates the difference between a man and a transwoman. Or a woman and a transman. And without that process, that is just whatever a woman one day and when we do that, we make it that there is no distinction. And when there is no disctinction, we don’t change the fact that we still oppress people because of their biological functions. But we take away their language with which to describe and to discuss their...
JCJ:Well, if you are attempting to – because what the trans rights movement has done is it has tried to remove the recognition that being trans is process-based, and turned it into an ‘essence’. So I am trans because I have an inner essence of being trans. Or because I am a woman inside. So I have got a male body, but I am a woman inside, and so therefore I don’t have to do anything in order for that ‘essense’ to be realised, right, it is a state of my being. And it always has been. Then that produces the absurdity that Caitlyn Jenner was actually a woman when they won olympic medals, right, in all events.
AK:You could say that whatever essense there is or might be it’s really just another word for personality?
JCJ:Right, but ...
AK:Let’s just talk about personality though. You could make the argument...
JCJ:...You know I am going to argue with you
AK:...Sure. But. You have a kid that’s really really feminine. A male child that is very very feminine. And that is just a natural expression of personality. And they are going to be treated in a certain way – the males around them will attempt to create a male socialisation, they are going to male...
JCJ:They will be punished for their non-masculinity
AK:Right. And if I understand anything about male socialisation – I mean I was and a lot of times I was unable to do so. But I eventually learned, right, to some extent...
JCJ:Right, to some extent. I mean I attempt to conform to femininity at some points as well. And I just wasn’t very good at it. So I gave up and then I was much happier when I decided “fuck that shit”.
JCJ:Fuck it, that’s not me, I’m not doing that.
AK:I’m not even hyper-feminine really, I’m just a...
JCJ:Yeah and I’m not hyper masculine, I’m just masculine enough to not perform patriarchical femininity directly
AK:So in your view then, what do you think – I do want to draw a distinction. So what do you think – however you want to draw the distinction between men and transwomen, and it’s easy to draw a distinction between female socialisation and male socialisation, betweem men and women, and transwomen and women, so that’s an easy to make. But how do you make a distinction between men and transwomen? Because I think that’s a litte more subtle.
JCJ:Well hold on for a moment, because I think you’ve just run over – I think it’s not easy to make these distinctions between – I mean, we might think it’s easy, but in terms of the conversations that are going on in the political space – that distinction has been completely erased. The distinction between male and female socialisation.
AK:Ok, so which direction do you want to start with?
JCJ:So I think it is important that we make distinctions between – well I mean the reason that I don’t want to glossover it is because if we are going to make a distinction between men and transwomen we first of all need to clearly understand what is the distinction between male socialisation, and what male socialisation is, and what female socialisation is and how they fit together. Because, and the reason why this is important, because partly what we are talking about in terms of the undoing of that that transwomen need to go through, and the distinction between transwomen and – it’s not clear always to us, to women, what that distinction is you know our experience of dealing with a lot of transactivists is we’re are getting an awful lot of male socialisation coming at us. So it’s not immediately evident to us – or at least I can’t probably talk as much to what the difference is and that’s something that you can talk to more. About what your experience is of the difference between transwomen and the experience of male socialisation.
AK:I can try.
JCJ:And men’s experience of it.
AK:And you’re right actually because there is an enormous contingent of transwomen and actually transmen – there’s a lot of transmen that I know that are actually very very feminine in the way that their socialisation works, they act very feminine. And I know some transwomen that you would never know.. and they’re rare, those ones. That’s the same with some transmen.
JCJ:And the reason why transmen are not banging down the door or men’s spaces and demanding access, right, is because of female socialisation, they don’t have the socialisation for that kind of emotional behaviour.
AK:And not just that, I’ve had a transman personally break my car window with a rock before. Like I have seen them act very very masculine, and very violent. But that is like normal. So even if they were banging down the doors – that is what is expected for male socialisation.
JCJ:Yes, but what I am saying is that... people are always saying why is the fuss all about transwomen? Right, rather than about transmen. And we’re like – because transmen – where we’re standing, as a political force – transmen appear to be behaving as people that have been socialised as female. There is not a huge amount of transmen and political demanding going on. In terms of erasure of women, for example, cervix-havers, uterus-bearers...
JCJ:...Menstruators, and all that stuff, that stuff isn’t coming from transmen as far as I understand it. Transmen don’t actually want that, right. That isn’t ... I have seen several transmen saying “we don’t want to be included in this fight”
AK:Right, but I’ve also seen transmen saying “don’t call it ‘cervix’ or don’t call us – they can get dysphoric over words that have feminine ...
JCJ:Over body parts, right, so they don’t really want that language either. They don’t want to be called a cervix-haver, either. Like it would be much easier just to go “women and transmen” or “female people” but saying ‘cervix-havers’, we don’t like it, women don’t like it and as far as I can see transwomen don’t like it either because they are being reminded of it. No one likes it. So there is a question there about where the push for that language is coming from. And it’s not coming from transmen. It’s coming from transwomen. Because it is an attempt to break the relationship between female and women, that’s the agenda it’s coming from. Even though it’s ostensibly about inclusion. I don’t see the transmen advocating for it, right. Like... Because it is a socialisation issue. As you were saying. So what is it about...
AK:Yeah – and even when I have seen a transman be violent – like in that incident I explained before – once he calmed down, he was like “oh fuck that was really dumb”. And he took responsibility for it right away. And he wasn’t very entitled, he wasn’t entitled about it at all, he was just mad.
JCJ:But that’s an interesting point, right. Which is: one of the things we were talking about earlier, which is there are always these desires to excuse male violence as being the effects – just the effects – of testosterone. We’re like – we understand testosterone. We know you get mad and lose your tempersometimes. Like, occassionally. But that is not what causes the pattern of coercive domination, right, that’s entitlement. It’s one thing. And I am not going to excuse people losing their temper, right, because actually if you’re not so entitled, you learn how to control it as you grow older. As men do. It’s the entitlement that means that you don’t learn to control it and you excuse it. And that is what causes the structural – well one of them...
AK:You know, you had earlier actually defined it, and I thought that was important because they way you define entitlement when you are talking about this behaviour ...
JCJ:And it’s – in its most basic term – entitlement is that your needs matter more than other people’s needs and that the world – the way I always experience it, and/or describe it, is that – and this is why I thought it was important to talk about the structures of socialisation – is that the fundamental structure is whose needs matter, and whose are prioritised, and who assumes that their needs should be prioritised, and who assumes that if their needs are not met they have some right to... And conversely, women are socialised to place men’s needs above their own and to bend their world around men.
AK:Maybe this is kind of a , right. So let’s say that the experience of male entitlement – what it feels like to the man essentially – isn’t like “I place my need over yours”, it’s that “I have needs, and actually go get them”, right, because they have no concept at all of what the enaction of that perspective does to other people. So basically they are treating women in a certain way, but it never occurs to them that women don’t want to be treated that way, and that that can be traumatic for women. Does that make sense? Or if it does...
JCJ:Well, that’s what entitlement is.. I’m not saying they think “my needs matter more”, they just only think of their needs.
AK: Exactly. So..
JCJ:No, let me finish
AK:Yes – but you are exactly right, you are not saying that their needs matter more, you are saying that their needs matter and they don’t even think about it. So. I have noticed that some transwomen – like the more feminine ones, the ones that pass really well for trans or for whatever – they tend to be more like that. And I wonder if...
JCJ:Be more like what?
AK:Caring about other people’s needs and those things
AK:And the reason maybe – and so they come off as more feminine in that way – and so here’s a thought. You have a ‘normal male’ is taught to think about their needs or whatever. Like as we discussed before. Then you have a male who is at the bottom of the masculinity chain. Or unable to perform masculinity correctly. Because we would get our ass kicked. So because of this there is basically two ways – to become like a super traumatised victim, who’s needs are the only needs there are...
JCJ:And then you become and incel
AK:Right, and you become an incel. Or you gain compassion. And you think ‘oh wow I know what it is like to have been at the bottom of the pit’ and then you start looking around and you start thinking like, wow, why are people treating people in this way. Why are people treating other men in this way. And then you start to really pay attention to what is going on. So in a way, in that aspect....
JCJ:That is one aetiology.
AK:Right, sure, that is one aetiology, but it is a potential point where if you are - if that has happened to you, in a way, it’s kind of – not female socialisation, it’s a simile – it’s a different kind of socialisation, that results in an effect that mimics an aspect of female socialisation.
JCJ:Right – and I mean, this is another aetiology – I had – when I was at grad school – I was studying feminist philosophy, and as was the case in most philosophy departments, the only other male peoples studying feminist philosophies were gay. And then there was one straight man. And he was one of the best feminist thinkers I have ever met. He really got it. And I was good mates with him, for most of the time in grad school. And one day we were in a bar and I was basically like “you have to explain to me why you get it, what is it about you that means that you – that something permeated that kind of male socialisation. That you came to undertand that the world is bending around you in a certain kind of way, and you came to observe that the world doesn’t bend around other people in the same kind of way.” And he was like “my mum is deaf”. So he was brought up by a single woman who had a severe disability and he saw that limitation. I mean, this is what people always say about privilege – visible and invisible – you’re right in the reframing. You’re right that men don’t think they need to matter more, they just don’t think about it. Because they are not raised to do it. The world bends around them. Women are raised to bend the world around men and the world bends around – mothers do this to male children – bend the world around them. So they just think the world bends. They don’t see all the women running around doing it. Apart from when we get pissed off. And then we’re nagging.
AK:Right and that’s because it messes up their conception of the world bending, and they’re like ‘why isn’t the world bending? It’s your fault!’
JCJ:And then they get angry, right, because the world should be bending. And why isn’t it bending. And because he – like we say, these things are. I mean these things have been distorted now, but this is how the whole privilege of the invisibility thing – when the world bends you don’t notice it bending. You only notice when you bang into it. You only notice things when they become an irritation. So – otherwise – and you know this is the basic Maslo thing, right. You move onto the next thing. So you get to get to self-actualisation without having to get sex-suppression or poverty or rape or homophobia or transphobia or any of these other things that would have things attached to them, and then you get off, and you know – then you get self-actualisation. Ok, great. We would like everyone to get there. I mean I hate these concepts of privilege that then we end up resenting human flourishing. I mean, that’s not how we want the world. So that everyone gets human flourishing...
AK:And that is a really important point-
JCJ:-Yup, but anyway, he gets to understand it because he was raised by a woman who was dealing with being a single mother and having a lot of limitation because of her disability. And he noticed it.
AK: And can I just interrupt here? Because I think one of the important points is that when we are talking about things like privilege – especially male privilege – we are not saying that having male privilege makes you a bad person. We’re not saying that having male privilege makes you automatically an abuser. Or an oppressor. It’s how you use the privilege that you have and whether or not you are aware that you have the privilege. And being aware that you have the privilege means that you can then use that privilege to help people.
JCJ: I mean, I think there is a slight difference between privilege and entitlement. Having male privlege – any privilege that you have by virtue of being born to – by the very fact that you are born at a certain position in a structurally oppressive society – no one is guilty by virtue of being born into it, right. So what you are – what you can be held morally culpable for is refusing to understand how being positioned within a power structure has allowed the world to bend around you in certain ways. Refusing to try and understand that process. And particularly, deliberately, refusing to look because you want it to carry on bending. And the entitlement bit, which is slightly different from the privilege bit I think, is refusing to even see that the world is bending and persisting in thinking that you are specifically entitled to that.
AK:So for example, one example that I have personally experienced, is that when I got sick doctors took me relatively seriously. And so I was able to go to a doctor and say – and my doctor was a female doctor – and say “I want to take this test” and if they pushed back, I could push back on them and they would give me whatever test I wanted. And what that meant was that I was able to come up with my own diagnosis and did my own differential. I was able to work through them on my own thing because they weren’t going to do it. And now because I had that, I had access to the concepts which may be able to help others in future. And that is a good use of privilege I think. It’s something that needed to be done. And it meant that because I am no longer bedridden I am able to take care of myself which means people don’t need to take care of me. And I can help to take care of other people. So privilege can be really positive. As long as I am not sitting around thinking “well, I did it this way, how come you can’t do it this way” – that would be entitlement. If I made an assumption that someone else can just go in and ....
JCJ:I mean I think the thing is that the difference is – I mean in a case like that, you are talking about privilege, right, there isn’t an – I mean entitlement is something that functions specifically in the structural relationships between male people and female people. It’s to with the extent to which women are not granted the subjectivity – men who are fully implicated in traditional masculinity do not see women as equal entities with their own needs that they tend to negotiate. They just see them as ....
AK:And if they are accidentally forced to see a woman that way, by the woman being the servant, or really smart or whatever, then they see them as unattractive. So we were talking about how you have a hard time with men because you are really smart.
JCJ:Generally – men like to say that they are – and there are some men that really really like smart women. There are some men. But there are an awful lot more men that like to imagine that they like smart women. But they don’t really actually like them.
AK:They want women who are just smart enough to understand them without explaining, but not smart ...
JCJ:... Yup! And this is something that was so noticeable when I was in grad school. Almost all the men – I had two friends in grad school, two male friends, who were with other female philosophers, and they were – out of the straight males there, they were two straight males there – and they were great because they treated us all like people – and they were also apparently able to have relationships with people considered to be their intellectual equal. But there were several men in that department who were all married to women – or in long term relationships with women – who were... not stupid, but were bright enough to sit there, look interested, and follow, while the dude was expanding and doing his teaching things. And you know. They married them, they clearly wanted women who were going to bend the world around them. And you know, when you are dealing with women who are as clever as you, they are not going to bend the world around you. They want to have a partnership.
AK:Right. They are going to call you on your bullshit, because they are not just going to assume that just because you are really smart without questioning anything...
JCJ:Well they’re also going to question you but I think it’s a lot more to do with who – what you want from a partner – whether you want an equal partnership or whether you want one where one person is supporting.. have you got two people who are equally supporting the flourishing of the other person, or have you got one person who is flourishing and the other person whose job it is to support the flourishing of that. Which is what the traditional roles are..
AK:And I feel that both people should be supporting... Both people who are equally intelligent and equally smart but in different ways so that they are supporting each other. So I would like to be in a relationship where both of us are equally in awe of the other person.
JCJ:I don’t feel like ‘awe’ is necessary. I don’t want that. I just want someone who I can connect to. That’s all I want. Someone I can talk to. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask?
AK:Ha, yeah, I mean basically – that’s kind of like me too, but I’m talking about in my fantasies...
JCJ:Yeah I don’t need to be awed by the person I am with. I want to think that they are a great human being.
AK:Yeah, I think in some cases when you’re having a conversation with someone on a certain level that’s all I actually need.
JCJ:OK, that’s something that I understand. I mean I have dedicated my entire life to finding people that I can have conversations with, that’s basically like.. well you know, the first fifteen years of my life I couldn’t find anyone to talk to, so I have to make up for lost time it got a bit tedious! Yeah. No I mean I think this is true – women, by and large, clever women do not marry men who are less intelligent than they are. What women want is someone that they can have a meaningful connection with. So in this philosophy department, just to come back to it, the women who were in relationships with other men who were philosophers – and then there were some lesbians – and then there were most of us who were single. Because there were not that many – there were men that were married to women that they could mansplain to, and those of us there that were just talking to each other. And that is fine. And a lot of women end up in that position. And we come to be ok with it, right. It’s more important to have an equal relationship with people you can talk to. That is the most important thing. And for very intelligent women, that is more important than ... I mean I said this to Benjamin at some point, it’s like we don’t – we are not looking necessarily for people that are going to be helpers. Not that that is a thing that exists in this society because men don’t generally go looking for women for whose flourishing they can support! Even in the traditional wife role, even if that existed, that isn’t something that most women would want.
AK: Ok, so to paraphrase, what women want is to be with men who will treat them like equals, and see them as equals. Not just treat them ‘like equals’, because that’s kind of condescending if you think about it. Because if you’re treating someone ‘like an equal’ you’re assuming that they’re not an equal but you are treating them like one.
JCJ: It’s not even ‘equal’. What we want is men who are capable of having a sexual relationship with women that they also view as fully human. Like patriarchal masculinity does not prosper men who are capable of having sexual relationships with women who they also see as human ...
AK:Right and actually that’s because – if you have a woman – in patriarchal masculinity, if you have a woman who fits the bill of someone who that you would see as fully ‘human’ – they see them as human, but they see them as objectified – but they see them as an objectified human so in a way...
JCJ:But that’s not human. Objectifying is ....
AK: Yeah I guess I can just hear men out there going “but we don’t think they’re not human!” so it’s like no, we need to define this term
JCJ:It’s de-subjectification actually
AK:Right ok it’s objectification versus subjectification so what that means is – objectification is when you see this person as a thing to own, and subjectification is when you see them as a person to relate with, and to.
JCJ:Right, and the problem with objectification – I mean, I’ve said this repeatedly – it’s not a feminist heresy but I think it is an important distinction – the classic thing that feminism says is that the problem is objectifying women, right. It isn’t actually a ‘problem’- it’t not objectifying women that’s a problem, it’s de-subjectifying them. All sex involves a degree of objectification – the idea that women don’t objectify men isn’t true. It’s just that we don’t desubjectify them. So when we desire them physically, we don’t remove their subjectivity.
AK:Ok, so you want to be objectified a little bit.
JCJ:Objectifying people isn’t harmful. What is harmful is de-subjectifying people.
AK:Right, I see what you are saying.
JCJ:And the problem is not that men view women as objects, the problem is that when they view them sexually they remove our subjectivity.
AK:And they never bring it back?
JCJ:Well ideally – I mean, yes - no
AK:It’s an awareness of mutual need versus the self – which is where it comes back to entitlement
JCJ:Exactly, because there is no mutuality. This is why I say entitlement is the cause of . Because sexuality – or equality – let’s call it mutuality: requires understanding the subjectivity of someone else and it requires understanding that your needs and the other person’s needs are relational and interactive, right.
AK:Right. So the biggest difference then, in terms of male/female socialisation is that – bringing it back to the topic – we are talking about the topic but we are being very abstract about it...
JCJ:But this is important – because this is the fundamental structure of the patriarchy.
AK:This is the core of it, right – and this is the difference, it’s a kind of inclusion of attention. So men may think – ok, this is my need, this is how I create the need, but everything that they are creating – they are creating a structure, a power structure, and they are at the top of it. It’s like a pyramid power structure where it’s like me, then my wife, then my family. It’s the patriarchal power structure. And so then – from a feminine perspective, from a feminine socialisation it’s inclusive of everyone in the environment so you see everyone – correct me if I am wrong, but you see everyone as a...
JCJ:It’s the difference between hierarchy and horizontal.
AK:Right it’s like a horizontal – that’s one way of putting it – but it’s not a line, it’s a web, and you see everyone and all of their needs and you see them all at once, and everything, and you see everyone in it. So you have people in the room – everyone is part of the larger organsim which is the group. And you are aware of the group, and your position in the group is equal. And everyone has their own needs and so part of your position in the group is helping to – help any needs that you see in that group. Or – it’s a harmony that you see. And if one person in that group is trying to take over and control the group, and is ignoring everybody else’s needs except for their own, it’s kind of what that entitlement is – that’s where that masculine entitlement comes across as being.
JCJ:Yeah, and this happens a lot in families. I mean a lot of – it’s like – there are several things to be unpacked in this. And I had this conversation with Benjamin, right, and I said “when we talk about what the ideal feminist society would be, it would be like a flat web in which everybody inside it – so it wouldn’t just be the women – bending to everyone’s needs – but in which everyone inside that web was engaged in mutual awareness and attention to the needs of everyone else. And nobody was exercising undue entitlement and – similarly, nobody was more responsibile, necessarily, for executing care to all of the other people. So what we have at the moment is some people who are oblivious and entitled and some people who then take on all of the responsibility. So in a classic family, that’s what you would expect – in a classic patriarchal family, that is what you would see.
AK:Ok. So now, flip this – and so what a male might – what a dude would probably – let’s say a man starts a business company. In order to run that company he needs to have the power structure but also is being aware of all the moving parts of his company. Or a like, a mechanic will be completely aware of – the dude might be aware of the plumbing and the state of the car and the make and how it might need to be fixed, and he might see that as being the same thing as being aware of the people. And he might think – well ok, the male role is to be aware of the stuff, and the female role is to be aware of the people. And I think that’s a – that’s how men balance it in their minds. And that’s a – because you don’t really often see the women going around doing all of the mechanics and the whatnot and the so on. But you don’t really see men doing... I mean society is changing...
JCJ:I mean, there is some – I mean some people would argue that if there is any kind of gender-personality difference, it would be this. That men are more object-related and women are more people-orientated.
AK:Right. And I read a study that had to do with – they were studying babies that had not had any socialisation..
JCJ:Babies have already had socialisation.
JCJ:They get socialisation in the womb.
AK:Ok, sure. But between the ages of like five and forty days old.
JCJ:They have been socialised. They have.
AK:Let me finish my statement, ok, they still..
JCJ:I’m just pointing out that there are studies that show that socialisation begins with babies in the womb.
AK:Right. Sure ok. I haven’t heard that. But the point I
am trying to make is that what attracts the interests of infants – for boys it is usually moving objects, airplanes, things like that. And for girls – and actually for gay – boys that end up being gay... actually you know, I can’t back up that statement... So I am just going to back up there – but they get really interested in people. And so for me, I was always really interested in people. And faces, and things like that.
JCJ:Right. I mean I think this is true to some extent. I mean, I would need to go and have a look at the studies. I mean, there are certain – when I say that children are socialised immediately – they are socialised immediately. And also in the womb. And so there is studies about the type of music that will be played to babies when they are in the womb and how parents will talk to them and..
AK:What if they don’t know the sex?
JCJ:Right, but if they do. Where they do. And also from the moment that they are born. Now it’s – these are always the problems with socialisation studies. I am not a blank slatist, I’ve said this. My general, in all honesty, is that there are some very very loose bimodal distributions that apply to very high level abstract things. Like a slight orientation towards objects over a slight orientation towards people. Women are more linguistic, and men are more spacial. It more or less corresponds to a leftybrainy/righty brainy type thing to some extent right. Which we talked about a little bit with respect to mysticism(?) – when it comes that ontological differences – it isn’t surprising to me to some extent that when women come to criticise philosophy, the history of philosophy is male thinking – one of the things that we keep pointing at is that it’s missed the relationship between people. Or it’s missed the social network. And it’s a separated thing. And so I think you can make these very broad abstractions about women’s orientation towards people and men’s orientation towards objects, and men tendency to be more geometric and more spacialised in their thinking and females tendency to be more fluid and relational and social and tend to see the patterns in social interactions. But I think those are quite broad and general.
AK:Right but when we are thinking about high-level abstract statistics, we’re thinking - we are looking at socialisation wearing that hat, otherwise we can’t really talk about anything
JCJ:Right but I think ...
AK:There’s so much biological variation ... right so we are always balancing
JCJ:Right but there is definitely nothing in that, for example, that means that men are incapable of understanding that women have needs. Or that women actually don’t express their subjectivity. Those things – whether you are more people oriented or more object oriented, you still are a fully functional human subject. Women being trained to not express all subjectivity – that is cultural. Men experiencing women’s expression of subjectivity as like bitchiness or agression – that is simply... The fact that the line between being assertive and being aggressive is very blurry. I mean this comes up in the trans debate all the time. Where it’s like “you’re being mean, you’re being unkind” and we’re like “well no actually - we just have our own needs”. And we are not just going to completely cede all of our needs in order to be kind. Because that’s not kindness. You are asking for a lot more than kindness.
AK:Well in a way, on some levels, some of the trans debate – asking women to not just cede their needs but to cede the idea that – to say that all of our needs are the same as your needs.
JCJ:It’s more than that. It’s like you must agree that you don’t exist - our needs matter so much that you must agree that you don’t exist to validate our feelings. Like that is not a reasonable expectation.
AK:Not necessarily that you don’t exist – but that you don’t exist as you do.
JCJ:Well that’s saying you don’t exist.
AK:Alright. I am making the distinction specifically because of the trans debate, I hear a lot of transwomen saying that TERFs are trying to erase us. And what they are really trying to say is that - is basically the same thing. I mean, I see a lot of mirroring in this, because I tend to interact with both sides. So I see the perspective mirroring. I think the problem is that there is a certain amount of entitlement on this side that is taking it from the women’s side, and I think that there – I think it is not an equal right in terms of who is justified in feeling that way.
JCJ:Right, I mean I think there are some gender critical people who would say that transpeople don’t exist and - but...
AK:I feel like that is a little bit silly
JCJ:I think it’s silly. Because clearly you exist. As you do. ‘Hello, I am here’ I mean, I read a piece about this about five years ago – and I was like ‘this is rediculous’ like no one thinks transpeople don’t exist, what a rediculous idea! And I have subsequently come across some people
AK:Who genuinely don’t think that... I mean I am on twitter every day...
JCJ:Or – people who like actually may be actual TERFs. They may actually exist. Yes. But I still feel that by and large – because I wrote a whole piece on this, exactly on this, on this use of the whole genocidal... you know, ‘we will not debate our right to exist!’ I am - there is this whole conversation about “you are debating my right to exist!” “No! No! I am not debating your right to exist!”
END OF RECORDING
“Transwomen aren’t men,” I find myself insisting on Twitter for the umpteenth time, “we’re transwomen. We’re our own thing.”
“What does the word “man” mean to you?” Asks Fionne Orlander, quite reasonably. My answer, however, rapidly left the realm of reason and jumped right into fantasy. The word “man”, to me, has always had a deep history to it. It represents something powerful, dark, and impossible to achieve. In fact, I once wrote a free-association description of a Man:
There is a figure, beautifully muscled and broad shouldered, shirtless, his tattooed arms outstretched and fingers splayed like the wings of an eagle. He stands in front of the sun and protects you from it, becoming both silhouette and internal detail, so powerful that he is opaque. His musculature comes from activity, and breaks the light across his dark skin. There are eagle feathers in his hair. There is a feeling eminating from him that makes me want to bow to him, worship him. Lust for him. His power rides him like the blade of an untested Katana, dangerous yet pure.
The first thing that ought to be obvious here is that whatever my imagination thinks a man is, it clearly has very little to do with actual men.
“The problem,” says Fionne as the Twitter conversation continues, “is that you’ve got a romantic idea of what a man is, but a man is just an adult human male. It’s nothing more than that. It’s neutral.”
At first, I didn’t like this idea, because the thing about romance is that calling attention to it tends to spoil it. Moreover, the word “romance” in and of itself tends to be romanticized, which really doesn’t help. All my life, I’ve resisted seeing myself as a man, because it has always felt like a lofty goal I was barred from achieving.
In fact, the more I consider the notion of romantic attachment to words, the more it sheds light on my issues with identity. However, exploring these feelings and attachments wasn’t enough to change my perspective on a deeper level: I needed one thing more.
Right now, I am perched on a seat of the top deck of the X43 bus to Manchester, and absolutely brimming with introspective questions. The sun is slowly dripping through the sixteenth hour, and my body jerks back and forth with the rhythm of the bus as we make our way through the English countryside. At first, what struck me about England were the differences, but now it’s the similarities that keep jumping out- the way the bus stations are the same, or the way people walk. The same schizophrenic weather. It’s the same trees and flowers, though northern England is absolutely infested with daffodils. It’s a strange flower- it seems so happily at odds with the dreary weather. On that level, at least, I am beginning to identify with them.
Manchester high-rises pop up in the distance as if the island were simply a cardboard book, and as beautiful as it is, I decide to ignore it and focus instead on my work.
Before Fionne confronted me with the notion that trans people are usually very guilty of romanticizing the words “man” and “woman”, I had thought that we only romanticized the word for the kind of person we wished to become. Since my aim in transition was focused on not being seen as a man, rather than being seen as a woman, I had thought myself relatively unaffected by magical thinking.
Boy, was I wrong.
While the word “woman” did, in fact, mean “adult human female” to me, the word “man” was inorexiably bound up in all kinds of positive and negative romances. The more I considered this and understood it, the more I began to realize that I was also wrong about my definition of the word “woman”, because I did, in fact, romance that as well.
On some level, I imagined the feminine social role, with all it’s misogynistic challenges, as a kind of alternative environment away from the constant social pressures of masculine conformity. The thing I imagine when I picture life after a successful transition isn’t me with a female body, but me with social and physical freedom. I dream of the ability to wear colors and styles I like and to flirt with men without encountering constant resistance or homophobia. I dream of waking up in the morning and touching my face and not encountering my father’s, instead. And I dream of what it might be like to make love to someone and understand my role on a deeply physical level. I don’t picture the act itself so much as how it must feel to be with someone and instinctively know how to enjoy it. To have the way my body is instinctively set up to be the status quo, with no dangling bits of useless flesh blocking me from the ability to physically connect to another person.
In general, I try not to think of these things. They are not my reality. And thinking of what I do not have only brings me pain. Instead, I shut myself off as much as possible, put one foot in front of another, and keep on going. But clearly, I have quite a lot more romance wrapped up in these words than I had ever realized.
I have a lot of thinking to do, yet.
A few days later, I find myself lounging on a twin-size English bed. I love English bedding- it’s so sensible! In the US, making a bed is a complex process of putting all these different kinds of sheet together, and making it up in the morning is a pain. In England, they dispense with the silliness and simply put a duvet on a comforter and that’s it. It’s easy to get into, easy to remake. I love it. But I digress.
I’ve been considering the notion of romancing the words quite a bit over the past few days as I travel England from checkpoint to checkpoint, sometimes staring out the coach window for hours, sometimes while lugging around baggage I definitely packed too much of, and sometimes during the various conversations I’ve been blessed to take part in.
Sometimes these conversations wax difficult, sometimes less so. But I have been testing this new, less romantic perspective. As I continue to do so, I’m discovering something interesting: the combination of applying this perspective and having met Fionne and Hex has stabilized my sense of identity in a way I haven’t felt, perhaps ever.
For me, this is monumental.
The truth is that I have been wavering. My sense of identity has been continually cycling between three major points, each of which is quickly invalidated by something within me that refuses to accept myself as any of them. Having been freed of the chains of romance, I’m suddenly able to see this cycle differently, and it’s a good thing, too.
After my Orchiectomy, things began to spiral a bit out of control. While the surgery improved my health enough to make a trip to England possible for me, it posed a powerful challenge to my sense of identity. I was now totally comitted to being a transwoman.
This ought to have been fine. After all, I’d been doing quite well up to that point. But I hadn’t counted on the psychological effects of being past a point of no return. And I had severely underestimated my own internalized prejudices. This combination ejected me into a kind of identity spiral, and each time I rejected one mental picture of myself it would take me deeper into the abyss before latching on to the next. I have been more suicidal since my surgery than I have since my mid-twenties. Why?
When you’re trapped in a whirlpool, it can be very difficult to see how you ended up there. We have a tendency to blame whatever seems the most obvious, anything, especially, but our own prejudice. As I cycled through identities, my sense of blame constantly shifted from one group of people to another and then would flip back to myself. Each time it did, it felt real.
While I was able to hold on to just enough patience to realize that I wasn’t myself, and therefore should do my best to avoid posting much on social media, I was writing furiously. Each spiral took me further into despair until I began to believe that the only way I’d survive was to drink the koolaid, so to speak, embrace orthodox trans ideas, and drop out of the debate in shame. I knew on a deep level that this would be the wrong move, the cowardly one, but the despair I was feeling was rapidly becoming stronger than my mind.
Romance, it seems, is really quite dangerous.
“You know, hen” begins Seven Hex in her incredibly Scottish accent, “you can always just be a badass transwoman”.
It’s not as though this had never occurred to me before. In fact, the modt basic premise of the TransRational manifesto is based in this exact notion. But in the physical presence of Fionne and Seven Hex, the idea that this was a realistic possibility seemed in evidence as it never had before. Before I met them, it was just an idea. I wasn’t really sure how it would work. Both Fi and Hex were good examples of this principle, and what’s more, I felt a kinship with them I had never felt with other transwomen. Many of our experiences were the same, many were different, but I feel that there is something that links us: a desire to live authentically and without illusion. We are what we are. What we’ve chosen to be. We own it, but not with entitlement.
Early in transition, I attended a transwomen’s support group. Rather than feeling like a group of women, it vibed like twenty-odd men engaged in live-action roleplay. People spent an inordinate amount of time talking about their trans identities in exactly the same way I’ve seen men wax romantic about their wood elf wizard who is special because blah blah blah. Don’t get me wrong, I love fantasy, but I’ve never quite understood the excitement in LARPing. Go for it, have fun, but like, don’t try to convince the world you really are Killjam Jellydeath the Marmamancer. If you really want to be seen as something in the world, you have to actually become it. Behave like it. And if I look, behave, and move like a man, it’s both delusional and entitled for me to expect others to see a woman.
This isn’t a pleasant truth, and it’s something that a lot of trans people actively fight. The notion that we can’t ever achieve our romantic ideal paints a picture of pointlessness. If we can’t actually transition and become the thing we so desperately want to be, what’s the point of transition? Shouldn’t there be a reward at the end of all this pain? Don’t we deserve more than this?
Discarding all romance, speaking in the most alkaline truth possible, the process of transition can only take me from man to trans. If eliminating the physical and social dysphoria I’m experiencing isn’t enough of a goal on it’s own, then I have deeper issues that need to be resolved. Body modification isn’t magic, and identity is not a sole proprietorship. It’s fine to work to be percieved as something new, but if we, as trans people, genuinely expect the rest of the world to see us the way we see ourselves, we’re naïve at best and delusional at worst. It’s romance. And the thing about that is:
Romance always fades.
I want to leave you with a parting thought, and I feel this is important:
The root of despair is the presence of false hope.
It’s not the absence of hope- any Buddhist monk will tell you that total absence of hope actually reveals a kind of flow state of total acceptance. No hope means no longing, no desire.
False hope, on the other hand, is insidious. It roots itself in your soul, twisting you into knots of pulsing, aching desire for something that can’t ever be. False hope is impossible romance. It’s unrequitable love. It’s the desperate desire to reach up, pluck a star from the sky, and hang it around your neck like a pendant. It’s pining away because you’ve reached out a thousand times and it still isn’t working.
Romancing a desire for the impossible brings tremendous pain. Especially when we have felt that desire so often and so intensely that we begin to identify with it. Or as it. Thus, there is no state in which I can desire to become a woman in which I’ll end up finding peace.
The way forward, then, is to drop the romance in favor of a rational and defensible position:
Transmen are Transmen. Transwomen are Transwomen.
We become these things by virtue of having completed a rite of passage. It’s a state of becoming; a thing we’ve earned.
Instead of trying to become what we’re not, let’s set our focus on finding out what we actually are. There’s plenty of room for romance in the unknowns that compose our unique potential, and we don’t need to infringe on anyone’s rights to accomplish this. The simple, subversive act of embracing ourselves as what we are, rather than as something we’re not transforms enemies to allies.
This is the sustainable path forward.
This is how we thrive.
Hey everyone! It’s been ages since I’ve updated my blog. Lots has happened. I’ve spent most of the past several months working somewhat obsessively on an organization called TransRational. It began quite simply, and has already grown into the most effective group of its kind, which is pathetic, since we’ve hardly began. We’re facing a lot of resistance.
If I’m being honest, I both love it and hate it. I’ve never had to rely on myself this much about anything in my life. I’ve never felt relied on so much, either. I desperately want to get it right, and I’m scared that I won’t, that I’ll get it wrong, and that the results of my being wrong can hurt real people. I’ve got skin in the game now, and maybe it’s my imagination but it’s increasingly feeling like the stakes are real. It’s terrifying, but also...
...kind of fun. We’re working up to a place where there are real-world consequences for the choices we make. I am learning so much, so fast. It’s incredible. I want to do this all the time. I want to learn faster and deeper! (That’s what she said?)
Aside from TR, I’ve been doing better and better physically. I’ve probably slipped into “very mild” by now, and if it weren’t for how much energy I’ve been putting towards TR, I’d start working full time. I’m thinking that’s probably possible now. It would drain me, and I could do pretty much nothing else, but I could do it. Healing has been this slow, uphill climb, but bit by bit I’m feeling human.
You cannot know how amazing it is to have music again. To be able to turn the radio on loud and sing along while I drive. I used to think that was lost to me.
I’m feeling more and more comfortable in my body. It’s odd, because it doesn’t feel like anything is really changing. Still, the more *right* most of me feels, the more blatant and intense some of the issues that aren’t fixed by hormones become. It’s harder and harder not to fixate on my facial hair and other masculine body traits. They seem like barriers to finding love. Luckily, TR helps- it gives me something to focus on. And as far as trades go, this life is so, so much better than life with ME/CFS. I have agency. I’m not trapped in a bed, or a room, or a house. I’m capable of doing my own shopping and paying my own rent.
Still, the process is difficult. It’s put strain on old friendships and not many of them have survived transition. The ones that have mean so much more to me, though. But it’s been hard not to feel depressed anyway from sheer loneliness and dysphoria. l’m so terribly starved for touch. It’s so odd- I never used to like touch or want it and now I want it all the time. So I’m on OkCupid now. We shall see what happens.
Anyway, I’ve been looking through really old poems and thought I’d post a few of them here.
The Price of the Ocean
I dont want to be here anymore,
In this world where everyone knows everything about everything.
Id rather go back to the old days of wonder,
When seashells could capture the sound of the sea,
And flight was mystifying,
But now we've got no wonder anymore
So the only things left are apathy and greed.
And i cant hear the ocean in your wallet.
Its that part of the night
where the city is a ghost town.
Stop signs are optional,
going somewhere is navigating
between rows of parked cars,
pressed on the sides of the street
like moses would part the sea.
Lone shopping carts
stop for a rest on street corners,
fat with plastic sacks
and one man's treasure.
Somewhere out here,
a street light is blinking to
a rhythm its had stuck in its head for days.
I squint as I picture in my mind,
From point A to point B,
Flashing changing lines,
They remind me of lightning,
The way it snakes back-and-forth with all harsh angles
Not My Words
These aren't my words, you know.
I could never write until I learned that.
Not my words, no, but my arrangement.
Not your flowers, but your arrangement,
It's not what you make that expresses your soul,
But how you choose to break the pattern.
Love is Selfish
Love doesnt require talent or skill,
Like cooking, or drawing, or sports.
Its easy, really.
Its as simple as deciding to forgive someone
Instead of holding a grudge.
Its selfish, really.
Isnt it nicer to be light and free?
Its just one decision, right now.
There arent any high-interest loans, either;
Its dirt cheap and can't be bottled no matter what the corporations say.
Maybe they'll sell hot air one day,
but they'll never sell love.
Open note pad-
But of course it isn't blank anymore is it?
Here on the table we spread our optimism;
A multi-thousands piece puzzle,
Some sections small and irregular,
Others thick and carved into detail;
And all we need to do is make room.
I can’t bring myself to touch the worm;
Massive and blood-thirsty,
Slurping as it bunches and stretches it’s way,
Leaving a glistening acid trail,
Searching for blood.
I can feel it’s four-inch length and the give of it’s body;
Without even touching it I know how it feels,
Without looking at it it mars my eyes,
You squeeze it up for me and catapult it away,
See? It’s not so bad.
Just a Leech, you say;
Just a giant grubworm leechslug,
There are more stuck to the walls,
But don’t be afraid, they’re cute,
I think you’ve confused me for someone who likes leeches.
I drown my fear in the tactile sensations of the puzzle pieces;
The dry cardboard sections,
Irregular yet comforting,
Even if I don’t understand them I know they belong,
Each slice has it’s perfect place.
“I love puzzles”, whispers a kind angel;
In your ear as you waltz with shapes,
As you notice someone’s error and move it across the table to where it belongs,
In the dim light of the half-dead fly-corpsed ceiling sconce,
With the slugleech lazily inching across- don’t panic!
Focus on the puzzle, focus completely;
Ignore the walls because they aren’t there,
They’re not the puzzle,
But I am,
I am Jack’s piecemeal flurry of hands.
And then we’ve done it;
A seven-foot radius roundly finished,
The circle of potential completed,
And the cardboard sinks into the table,
Leaving only a matrix of sparkling proto-stars and smeared green dimestore lighter with a rusted tip.
There’s a dowel in the center;
And I know what this is,
All I need to do is spin the dowel and flick the lighter,
And each tiny star that touches flame will burst into brilliant radio effervescence,
The finest brilliance from the cheapest fire.
But first, can someone move the grubworm inching its way toward me across the wall;
And there’s another,
How many are there,
How did I not see them before?
I use both hands to spin the dowel and the tiny silver specks begin to rise;
Foot by foot into an ethereal sparking globe,
Inflated through the centrifugal tension of the wood in my hands,
I understand this shaft and it understands me,
We have an accord.
As leechworms slurp towards me inch by inch I lift my third arm and flick the cheapest flame;
The first bit of glitter passes through and sputters to light,
And then another,
And then the flames catch like a viral network,
Leaping in miniscule fiery tendrils across the ethereal globe.
And then it’s alive, it’s brilliant flashing twinkles;
It’s a billion billion pinprick stars,
Radiating around a thin wooden stick,
Now under it’s own power and not quite complete,
As the final shards of glitter come alive like the last few seconds of microwave popcorn.
I stand in the center of an incredible dance;
Fireflies fairies dragons,
And all of them ours,
We would dance with them,
But the light reveals what I hadn’t wanted to see.
The whole room infested;
Large and succulent,
Tiny and malevolent,
Crawling and contorting in all angles across the walls,
Coming for the maker of the light.
Panic sets in;
The heebie-jeebies multiplied by everywhere it’s possible to look,
And some places I can’t,
I can hear them flattened behind the stove,
Still oozing their way over with that horrible slippery scritch.
The others are laughing, they don’t understand;
They start plucking them up with their fingers,
Unaware of the danger,
Sticking them to each other,
And the terror overwhelms me until I swallow it like Neo’s awakening.
And wake up;
Cold and concerned,
Afraid to touch the walls for the light switch,
Afraid to touch your blanket,
I can still feel them all around.
But I ignore this feeling and flick the switch;
Waking up with the ghosts of nightmares,
Of sliming worms in various reincarnations,
These are as familiar,
As the acrid aftertaste of terror clinging to my morning breath.
Hey, normally I wouldn’t post these but I think they stan alone well enough as a poem.
Every now and then it’s said the sun remains in bed and/
Pulls his cloudy covers up to cover up his head/
And if he’s feeling chained by what the world expects each day/
Then baby I don’t blame him cause’ you know I can relate/
Born and raised to come of age and walk behind the damned/
Been living in a land of bottled gods and empty hands/
Bred to bow our heads and follow prophets in the sky/
With a million ways to tell us love is something we can buy/
With a million ways to tell us love is something that we can buy/
Oh won’t you tell me, tell me of a way that I can feel/
A direction so much cleaner and life that seems more real/
I know they all mean well when they say patience is the key/
But how to tell the difference between want and what we need/
How to tell the difference between want and what we need/
Sometimes I sketch my feelings out and fold them into boats/
So weighed down with anguish it’s a wonder they can float/
I send out little fleets of all my slowly sinking prayers/
On rivers of the blood my aching veins so long to share/
With rivers of the blood my aching veins so long to share/
Every now and then it’s said the moon remains in bed and
Pulls her cloudy covers up to cover up her head
And if she’s feeling chained by what the world expects each day
Then baby I don’t blame her cause’ you know I can relate