Wednesday, 31 December 2014


I was going to blog about something else, and I'm worried about this blog entry in case it becomes self-indulgent, so instead of blogging about my stuff, I'm going to talk about what happened around me.

The year started very stressfully and positively with us moving and me having an assessment interview for counselling on the same day.  My brother helped us.  Theintrostealer was fantastic in clearing up the whole living room.  We'd lived on the other side of the city for twenty-one years by that time, but prior to that both Sarada and I had lived around here for several years, so although we miss Westcotes, it's also like coming home.  Being here is good but at first too many changes happened at once and I found it hard to deal with everything shifting.

I'm a bit hazy about what else happened and in what order.  There was hassle with housing benefit which was eventually resolved.  This caused a lot of stress early on.  It would be nice to get into a situation where we don't need to claim any benefits at all.  I don't know how we're going to get there but I don't want to say for sure that we never will.  The situation could arise where we're simply cut off, and I can't envisage what would follow from that, but even there I'm not committing myself to believing it would be disastrous.  We do know that our subjective impression is that we can fling any degree of effort we like at the poverty issue and it has never so far been resolved.

Then there was the house warming, which was good.

After that, Theintrostealer started to get physically ill, and got steadily worse, ending up in intensive care at the Infirmary.  We still don't really know how this happened and although I would like to talk about it, I wouldn't like to say anything he wouldn't want me to, so I won't.

In the middle of all that, another major highlight of my year happened:  I visited my home town and stayed with VanillaRose!  This involved doing something I never imagined I'd ever do, with her help.  I got my ears pierced.  It was strange going back to my home town as myself rather than under the cloud of furtive deception that was my home for the first eighteen years of my life, but it was weirdly both like and unlike going back.  I can't pass over this event without commenting on what an amazing, wonderful and fantastic person VanillaRose is, as are her friends, and meeting her face to face was brilliant.  The weekend was however tinged with guilt because it meant leaving Theintrostealer in hospital for a couple of days, although he was on the mend by then and other family members were around.  Another good thing about the weekend was that my oldest friend gave me a lift there and back.  I pondered what the three of us had in common when we were all together, and I think there is quite a lot, although one of the things we had in common would probably have prevented us from finding out what the others were.

So far, and so ridiculously, I have not succeeded in extricating the sleepers inserted on that day, but I will.

Theintrostealer emerged from hospital to everyone's great relief and Sleepoversweet left home to go to university.  This was a major event for various reasons, which she should probably comment on rather than me.  She's doing so much better than either Sarada or I did at that point that it bodes really well for the rest of her life.  We can soon graduate to being dried up husks.  I can hardly wait.

NaNoWriMo in November - a month in which to write a fifty thousand word first draft of a novella.  Although this had gone awry every time I'd tried before, this time it was a success, although it feels disturbingly abandoned.  It was good to do something like that in a group.  It is actually ludicrously easy to write that many words in a month.  The problem is making it good.

Sarada's had an eventful year too but she can tell you about that over here

So that was the year that was and I've managed to restrain myself from saying too much about myself.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Anything But That!

Amazingly, this is once again going to be about health, or "herbalism" as I might put it.  You'll know when this blog gets back on track when I stop announcing entries which are on-topic, but so far this doesn't happen much.

It's hard to know exactly how to put this without breaking patient confidentiality, but there is an interesting process which occurs in my mind as well as those of my patients which affects my behaviour, and it's this:  people will often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid taking the simple course which is most likely to improve their well-being.  There is very often one simple decision which they simply will not take which would solve their problems if they did.  I'm going to give two examples, one of which is interesting to me because of its source being close to the other explicit subject of this blog, but I must protect patient confidentiality.  You probably know what I'm referring to.

I once had a patient with whom I worked for quite some time who was suffering from a recurrent and fairly severe problem.  When I looked at her lifestyle and diet, it turned out that she was one of those annoying people who are doing everything right but still have a health problem.  Or so I thought.  On closer examination, it turned out that there was one tiny little detail of her diet which was less than perfect, but it was a doozy.  It was a seemingly trivial ingredient in one beverage she drank which one might imagine to be easy to change, and which correlated supremely well with suffering from the problem she had.  We spent the next few months tinkering with the rest of her almost perfect lifestyle, unsurprisingly to no avail, and her problems continued.  When I tried to get her to make the one tiny change, it was the one thing which she simply wouldn't.  However, the approaches she took to it were that it was trivial, a minor change which surely couldn't make any difference to her health, and she would take extraordinary measures to avoid changing it.  It was like her entire mind was devoted to not changing that one minor detail of her life.  Eventually our consultations came to an end and I was able to help her to improve things somewhat, but I never managed to get her to make the one most important change which would undoubtedly have not only solved her health problem but also meant that she could have taken pleasure from other things which, in order to make the smaller differences, she had been willing to change and which seemed less important.

The second set of cases I have in mind follows a pattern I saw during training.  This is someone who clearly has a major health problem of some kind which is a mixture of the mental and the physical.  We try various different prescriptions, all of which she gives up very quickly, long before they were likely to have any effect, and reports adverse reactions to all of them.  However, these prescriptions consist entirely of herbs which it is very rare to have an adverse reaction to or entirely of herbs which are actually present in the patient's diet without them causing problems for her there in similar doses.  Due to the fact that she gives up on them so quickly, a nocebo effect builds up where her scepticism and negative expectations perpetuate the problem because she fails to take seemingly straightforward action to escape.   It's hard to draw a conclusion about this.  It may be that this kind of negative expectation, learned helplessness and focus on the negative has driven her into this situation in the first place, or it may be that the condition she is currently in serves some kind of purpose for her which would have to be replaced by something else if she took the way out.  Also, just because I happen to be able to see the psychological aspects of how she paints herself into a corner, it doesn't mean I think the process is primarily psychogenic.  Firstly, it may be that the depression and the condition have a common cause, and secondly, she may realistically fear very serious and concrete consequences of "escaping" into the fire, so it's better the devil you know.

This happens to be in the context of herbalism, but that's not important really.  Looking at it from a quasisceptical point of view, the point is that we are working within a context where we believe this constitutes a method of improving health.  Replace it with drugs or other procedures if you want.  The point is really that the process concerned is ineffective not because of the inefficacy of the recommended course of action but because of psychological and behavioural processes, and these centre on what's called limited concordance.  The patient is not taking the recommended course of action for personal reasons which from the outside look perfectly simple.

This means that often the psychological side is overwhelmingly important compared to the physical disease process, and is in fact the most important part of the disease process, not because its psychogenic - it isn't - but because the way out is clear and simple to an outsider but won't be taken because of things like fear of the consequences or avoiding a bigger issue.

Turning this round to me, I can think of two areas where this might be true.  One of them is in the area of getting published.  It has sometimes been suggested that I get a literary agent and thereby get my stuff published and derive an income from it.  I don't do this and in my perception I can't.  The other area is obvious.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Interpretation of Dreams

This has come out of po's post of this article on dreams, and of course I'm trying to get away from the constant harping on about you know what, so let's do this instead.

Firstly, the meaning of dreams.  To me, a dream is the result of the unconscious random state of the human mind during REM sleep coming into contact with the waking mind.  It isn't something that happens at night when you're asleep, on the whole, so much as a series of false memories generated by the brain.  You do not live through your dreams or experience them unless you are dreaming lucidly.  The interpretation of dreams is like the interpretation of tea leaves or constellations.  It's a creative process whereby you project meaning onto them, but no less valid for that.  The problem with this view is that it doesn't seem to explain sleepwalking when the dreams concerned are relevant to the physical activity observed by others.  Also, this is the interpretation of a waking mind of the experience of dreaming.  The relationship between time and consciousness is different in waking and dreaming experience, so the mere idea that they do not occur in time for a waking consciousness may simply be the way they present themselves to that mode of consciousness rather than being somehow objectively true.  In a sense, you always have that dream but at some point you have a relationship with it which enables you to know that you have it, which to wakefulness presents itself as a point in the passage of time.

Having said that, dreams sometimes hint at processes which make sense while awake.  For instance, dream paralysis often manifests in dreams themselves, my dreams tend to be dimly lit rather than bright and there can be ideas like having turned into a statue which hint at incipient paralytic conditions.

Implicit in the way I think about dreaming is the idea that dreaming and wakefulness are two states of consciousness of equal status, among others such as meditation and daydreaming.  One does not have priority over others and they may not have the same relationship to time and perception.  This might just be silly of course.

Lewy Body Dementia is something I deal with in everyday waking life, in my work.  It involves a merging of dreaming and wakefulness so that the sufferer can't distinguish between the two and they occur together, so people will perceive their dreams superimposed on waking life and act accordingly owing to the suspension of disbelief which occurs in dreams.  This condition is associated with Parkinsonism, though it can occur without it, and it can be mixed with Alzheimer's Disease.  Lewy Body Dementia presents me with difficulties because it involves a mixed state of consciousness and therefore the person concerned, if dreams are not experiences, could be seen as a "zombie", i.e. they no longer experience, and in fact it wouldn't even make sense to say "no longer" as time is not like that in the person's experience or consciousness.  A second issue here is that there appears to be duality of experience with unity of subject.

There is also a rare form of dementia called Fatal Familial Insomnia, where the sufferer loses the ability to sleep.  I imagine this situation to be a little like Alzheimer's in that an impenetrable and ineliminable substance has furred up the "sleep" sensor, so the brain is no longer able to respond to fatigue in the usual way.  If you think of the sleep sensor as an eye, it's as if it has a cataract, so it cannot respond to the danger of staying awake too long and therefore avoid it.

Whenever I think about this kind of thing, I feel that I'm being horribly clinical and detached about life-devastating conditions.  FFI is a truly horrendous condition as it involves losing the ability to fall asleep and becoming psychotic as a result, which eventually kills you.  If I had that, I don't think I could stand to live to the end, to be honest.  I'm also aware that Lewy Body Dementia is very common indeed, and that whatever the horrors of FFI, Lewy Body is much more likely to affect someone reading this, directly or indirectly.

Moving on from those horrors, which not everyone can do, Daniel Dennett is considerably invested in the idea that dreams are not experiences because of his view of the nature of the mind-body problem.  Personal experience appears to demonstrate that lucid dreaming at least, if not other kinds of dreaming, is experienced.  Otherwise it looks like you have to posit the idea that lucid dreaming is not dreaming and that just looks like sophistry.  Therefore I'm just going to say Dennett is wrong without bothering to argue much for it, meaning that it looks as if dreams actually are experiences, which at least rescues Lewy Body Dementia sufferers from being the walking dead.

The next issue is that of sex dreams, as opposed to erotic dreams.  It seems that it's quite common for people to dream about sex.  The article linked to at the top of this entry claims that 8% of dreams have sexual content.  I have had erotic and sexual dreams, but not at the same time.  Sexual dreams are extremely rare for me.  I may have had three in my entire life, although the issue of whether one often forgets one's dreams arises in particular here because of my reaction to a sexual dream on awakening.  On the three occasions when I've dreamed I was having sex, I found it exceedingly distressing and woke up utterly horrified and disturbed.  This was one of the rare calamities which would reduce me to tears before I started taking the gloop.  They would definitely count as nightmares.  This suggests to me that I might have had sexual nightmares before but repressed the memory.  On the other hand, and this will make no sense to you unless you know about what "the Problem" is, I have more often had erotic dreams, in which of course I am always alone.  I could take them or leave them really.  I suppose I feel a sense of satisfaction that nobody else was in my dream.  However, the idea that as many as one dream in twelve has sexual content on average is pretty worrying.  I don't know how someone could deal with that much upset in their lives and if that were so with me, I think I would probably try to stay awake all the time.  Maybe it's because people have sex in bed or watch a lot of porn.

Getting back to the issue of lucid dreaming, this is something Sarada and I have differences about.  I have an issue with hypnotherapy, that if not done in the hands of a competent therapist it would lead to the expression of the cause of the problem, e.g. a food issue or smoking, in a different way which makes it futile.  Sarada feels the same about lucid dreaming.  She feels that a lucid dreamer is tinkering with their subconscious.  I don't generally agree although it does make me quite tired when I do it, suggesting the suspension of disbelief in dreaming refreshes more than the physical inactivity or the dreaming as such.  Having thought about Lewy Body being a mixture of wakefulness and dreaming, it might be that training oneself to dream lucidly could help one to deal with it if it comes, or, more worryingly, that lucid dreaming is mixing the two, which might encourage its onset without insight.

That's my take on the article.  How do you see it?

Monday, 22 December 2014

Sky Tales

It's almost a cliche of people's view of prehistory that we used to sit around campfires, look at the night sky and make up stories about what we saw.  Sometimes we made the patterns into creatures or other items, and the locations of the patterns are linked by the stories like songlines in the sky.  For example, Cassiopeia sits in her throne near Andromeda, being attacked by Cetus and so forth.  The Crow, the Cup and Hydra are all linked by a story.  The Crab is biting the toe of Hercules.  In a different mythology, Tir (after whom Tuesday is named) is a big arrow in the sky helping navigators across the North Atlantic towards Britain.
As I've said before, somewhere which would be easier to find if I ever bothered to add tags to this blog, I struggle to see Cynthia's face but find it relatively easy to see a rabbit there:

Well, the other night I managed to convince myself there was a face there somehow, and proceeded to get really freaked out by the idea of a massive great disembodied head the size of North America floating in space and staring at me, so thanks for letting me into your nightmare world you weirdoes.  I say that as a different kind of weirda.  It was not a pleasant experience and it makes me wonder how you can deal with life if you imagine that kind of thing all the time.

Cynthia's face is of course another projection into the sky of our lives down here, and it serves some kind of purpose, mainly entertainment for some reason.  It's like a fairy tale.  We no longer credit the skies with those kinds of stories, on the whole, so for example we can look at Scorpio:

and see claws on the left hand side of this picture and an a-stungen tail on the right, but just for fun.  We don't really think there's a scorpion in the sky.  Possibly nobody ever did.  Maybe it was only ever a bit of fun, or maybe the purpose of the stories was different, a bit like Scripture.  Which reminds me, I really must get round to doing that idea I had in the mid-'70s about writing a space opera version of the Bible.

Speaking of which, we still tell stories about the sky.  Namely, we talk about Captain Kirk, Zaphod Beeblebrox, the Doctor, Captain Kremmen, Obi Wan and the like, or more obscurely Ensign Flandry and Kip Russell.  However, rather than projecting them into the past, with exceptions there is a tendency to do the reverse and imagine them happening long after the death of our great-great grandchildren. We therefore build up a new kind of mythology about what's "up" there, bearing an often quite strong resemblance to the old stories.

It gets complicated when we try to think about what's really there, for instance the possibility of life elsewhere in the Universe.  My biggest fear is that there is no life anywhere else, and consequently I'm unable to think about the world without employing wishful thinking about what it contains.  Strangely, people tend to project the idea of malevolence and danger onto the sky.  Stephen Hawking does this when he says we should be afraid of what aliens might do to us.  I find this odd for the following reason.  This planet has had life on it for four billion years, and would've been by no means the first planet of this type in the Milky Way, so if anything malevolent or even careless had got here over that very long period of time, it could have done enough damage to the ecosystem here to have prevented humans from evolving at all.  Yet that didn't happen.  Therefore, either aliens are safe or they've never got here, possibly because they don't exist and we are alone in the Universe.

This leads me to the opinion that the Heavens are not only safe but utopian.  When I realise that's how I think of it, it makes me wonder how objective I'm being, because the idea of an ordered Heaven and a disordered Earth is common in Western natural philosophy and spirituality, so I then wonder if I'm just choosing arguments to believe what I want to believe for quasi-religious reasons.  Nonetheless it is what I believe.  Or, this could be turned round into the idea that we somehow intuit that Heaven, as in the rest of the Universe, really is more harmonious and peaceful than Earth and that this is just a tiny little bubble of evil in an otherwise utopian Universe, albeit one full of planet-bleaching gamma ray bursts and star-chomping black holes.

I don't know what to think.  Any ideas?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Diagonal Relationship

The Tiny House Movement is a project for people to build minute dwelling places, often on wheels.  Although I'm unlikely ever to do it, building a tiny house appeals to me because I like the idea of something which is achievable with my meagre skills and without reliance on others.  It's not that I don't want to rely on others as such, just that large groups of people tend to become gangs which are hard to trust, and if you have principles, they might not be the same as those of the people in the group, so you're thrown back on your own resources so you can hold yourself accountable for what you do and not step on anyone's toes.
However, if you do have a tiny house, you have to have somewhere to put it, and that involves renting and owning land, and then you get involved in the whole relying on others thing again.  Therefore, my thought was that it should be on wheels and put at the top of a valley like this:
You put it at the top of a hill and let it trundle down the side until it gets to the bottom, then it starts going up the other side before turning round and coming back again, and so on, and with correct positioning it moves between several different landowners, which makes it a bit more complicated for them to take legal action against you.

Or I could just put it here:

which believe it or not is actually mine officially.

Tiny houses are not as tiny as they might be.  They lead me to wonder how big the absolute smallest square room I could live in would be.  You might at first think that that would be around a thousandth of a nautical mile along each side, but you'd be wrong, although I am in fact close to a thousandth of a nautical mile in height, meaning that if you were to travel along me at one knot, it would take approximately 3.6 seconds.

In fact, a cube 1.852 metres on a side would have a volume of 6.35 cubic metres, roughly, which is about the volume of an adult African elephant so it's not really that small.  On the other hand, I could lie down in a cube which is 1.852 metres along the diagonal of one of its faces, which is around 1.31 metres on a side or 2.25 cubic metres, which I reckon is smaller than most rhinos.  Here we see the diagonal rear its head for the first time.

That's still too big though, because there is also the line between opposite corners of the cube is also a diagonal, such as top left and bottom right.  Suppose that's also 1.852 metres.  That then means that the diagonal of the face is itself only 1.3 metres, and the side of the face then becomes only 92.6 centimetres long.  This means I can just about live inside a box with a volume of a cubic metre.  To be comfortable inside that cube, it would need to have one corner facing straight up and another straight down, but that's fine.  It would be a bit cramped, but OK.

That would truly be a tiny house.  It could be made still smaller if I adopted a foetal position, but that's uncomfortably Freudian.

Now consider this route:

This is just over a kilometre, and to follow it you would have to walk through, for example, five houses on Black Griffin Lane, not to mention about twice as many back gardens.  Nor is it a straight line because it's on a curved surface.  Canterbury is located on a planet, so there is a shorter route between its train stations via a tunnel plunging through the archaeologically interesting depths of the Dane John.

Not practical then.  It shares this with the idea of living in a box with a volume of one cubic metre.  A more practical route looks like this:

This route is about 50% longer.

All these notions are based on Pythagoras's Theorem, that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two adjacent sides of a right angled triangle, like this:

These are of course referred to in trigonometry as the opposite, adjacent and hypotenuse sides.  I have jokingly sometimes imagined that not only is there an opposite gender, but that there are also adjacent  and hypotenuse ones.  The only drawback to this is that it doesn't seem to make any sense.  Except it does.

It's impractical to pursue a straight line between genders, and also undesirable because it involves walking straight through people's homes on Black Griffin Lane if one does.  A more practical route would involve following the curved route along Rheims Way and going along St Dunstan's Street.  This is in fact what most people do, because gender is not a scale with female and male at opposite ends, but a landscape with various landmarks on it.  Therefore, my gender might be the Dane John Mound and yours might be the Cathedral or Westgate.  There is not just one variable which can be tweaked between female and male, in any sense.  Nonetheless, there are definite addresses in the city of gender, and I occupy one right now, and you occupy another.  However, it's not like a street with houses from 1 to 100 on it because there is no one thing which makes you a woman or a man, or even places you somewhere on that single street.

That was just a whole random load of stuff dumped out of my head.  Worked out OK in the end though, didn't it?

Saturday, 20 December 2014


People often say I'm Aspie but I'm quite dubious about this.  In fact, I have done a couple of tests recently and have scored unusually low for that characteristic.  The trouble with that, of course, is that the person doing the test might not be the best judge.  One thing I do do is escape into what looks like Asperger-ish behaviour when I'm stressed, and since a lot of people have only ever seen me stressed, that might make it look as if I'm on the spectrum.

By the way, I don't think there's anything wrong with being on the spectrum.  It's not a lack or an absolute disability.  It just means that people might not get you some of the time, and in the end this can add up to a huge problem, but it's a problem they impose on you, not the other way round.

Don't worry, this isn't going to be about me this time.  Sort of.

As a Christian, I'm often tempted to believe in original sin, although the way I understand it is, everyone makes mistakes and those mistakes happen in parenting as much as anywhere else, and also in the damage to the environment in which pregnancy occurs, so that damage gets manifested in people whose circumstances and influences make it very hard to behave straightforwardly altruistically, and it's impossible to draw a line under that because a baby born into some sterile, mechanical capsule would just die, and also be the victim of sin.  I also think it's more important to see people as the victims of sin rather than its perpetrators.

I more or less equate sin with selfishness.  That is, it's a mistake concerning the nature of the division between oneself and the world, such that one inaccurately judges what's inside who one is and what's outside it, along the lines of nobody being an island.

It's often said that autism involves obliviousness to others, i.e. the absence of what psychologists rather awkwardly and simplistically refer to as Theory Of Mind, and which we philosophers call the Problem Of Other Minds.  That is, people on the spectrum are said to be sceptical about the existence of others, or unable to conceive of other people as fully as others can.  My view of this is constrained by my faith, because sin being selfishness, and believing that we're all sinners means that there can't be people who aren't aware of the existence of others as a fundamental starting point in their lives.  Such people would be incapable of sin and therefore wouldn't need saving from it.  I also recognise that this constraint is  very like the constraint some people feel which compels them to believe in Young Earth Creationism, and that bothers me more than a bit.  Nonetheless, the reason why I believe it doesn't stop it from necessarily being true, just as the fact that the Big Bang theory being thought up by a Catholic priest doesn't stop that being true, although of course the Big Bang never happened.

What do I think instead then?  Well, as I've said before, I think it's to do with finding it difficult to filter noise out from the Manifold.  By Manifold, I mean the sum total of all experience you get, so for me it currently includes Radio 4, this screen, the text, my fingers on the keyboard, a car driving past, the warmth from the radiator, my left breast brushing against my upper arm, a slight feeling of tremor in my right wrist, hair brushing against my right earlobe, the warmth and softness of my slippers, one of which is hanging off and slanted slightly to one side, an itch on the bridge of my nose, my right knee digging into my left popliteal fossa, a slight stinging sensation in my left ankle, a tingle in my left ring finger, the Buddleia swaying in the wind, the taste of coffee, the faint odour of burning dust and lipstick, I mean, I could go on, and somehow, through all of that, many people manage to pare all that down and focus on the relevant bits.  Even I do it sometimes.  If it's difficult to do that, it can also be difficult to realise which bits are people trying to relate to you and communicate with you and because you don't get the chance to exercise that, you don't get good at it.  Similar to differences of attention, commonly referred to as ADHD.

This is of course the noise of the title of this blog.  I used to have a problem.  Way back when I first qualified as a herbalist, I was asked to fill in a questionnaire assessing my strengths and weaknesses, and rather surprisingly, I realised for the first time that I had literally no idea what those were, and that this had been an ongoing problem.  It probably goes some way towards explaining my unemployability, although it's also claimed that the reason for that is that I don't "fit".  When I think about the kind of things I do, I might sit with a patient and listen to them, and I hope I listen effectively and empathetically but I don't know.  I might feel a pain in the same part of their body as they feel, but I don't know if that's a good guide to diagnosis.  I might come up with a list of herbs for the prescription, but maybe I could've come up with a better one.  I might measure someone's blood pressure and peak flow, but it might not be reliable or accurate.  How am I supposed to know any of this?  I just do what I do, and I'm so lost in the moment and self-doubt, and overthinking, that I have literally no idea if I'm a good herbalist or not.

Well, I think this may have changed.  I want to go back to the legendary and symbolic mirror we all stand in front of every morning of my life.  It needn't be a mirror actually.  It might be the awareness that I'm shouting at someone I love or that my arms are hairy, but let's talk about the mirror because it's simpler.  I have in the past seen a man standing looking at himself.  The incongruity and distress that carries with it was sufficient to shout louder than anything else about that person.  It was very noisy.  I needed to quieten down that particular stimulus, but it was too hard to filter out.  I needed to change it to something more neutral.  Well, I have now done that and as a result I now have a better idea of who the person in the mirror is.  I can tell you that she's left-handed!  No, but seriously, I now see someone who is kind of blue-stockingy, academic, intellectual, perhaps a writer or a doctor.  In other words, if I saw this person at a distance at a party or walking along the street, that's the kind of judgement I'd be making about her.  I can imagine her standing on a stage giving a lecture about philosophical aspects of grief, or giving a reading of her story about a family failing to visit a lighthouse while on holiday in the Outer Hebrides, or maybe looking at microscope slides of tissue samples in a path lab.  I can now see that person for who she is.  Unfortunately, she's now isolated from any academic community, has no reputation in that area and has gone off on a complete career tangent, plus she took two decades out to raise her children because she felt the need to compensate for not having a womb.

But never mind me, believe it or not.  When you look in a mirror, do you see someone too short, too tall, too skinny, too fat (I'm using insults deliberately here because of the paralysis of thought the hurt causes you - you can feel that if you believe you're in that list, can't you?), and does that noise blind you to the real signal of who you are apart from all those things?  Who are you really, when you filter out all that sometimes non-salient stuff?  What do you need to take away or add so that you're not distracted from who you are?

Thursday, 18 December 2014

You Think It's New Then?

I have a friend who thought last year that my trans thing had come totally out of the blue and that I was convincing myself that it was something which I'd always had when in fact it was just my latest fad.  I think this is because I hid it quite well for a long time, then rather less well for a longer time - in fact I stopped bothering to hide it altogether but I wasn't quite as open about it as I am now.  He still knew me over that second period, so it's a bit odd that he didn't notice or make a connection.  There may have been quite a lot of people in that position.

Simply because you have a secret which you expect people to kick the living daylights out of you if you tell, and you therefore don't tell anyone, doesn't mean you haven't always had that secret.  It just means you had a lot of practice at hiding it.  I can remember, for instance, waiting for everyone to be out, opening the wardrobe, taking extremely careful note of where the contents were, memorising that, removing the contents, putting them on, eventually taking them off again and putting them back in exactly the same place and position as they were in the first place.  I can remember doing that in dead of night, very, very quietly.  I can remember hiding things in drawers, under mattresses and so on.  I got really, really good at it, and people didn't notice, because it was more than my life was worth.  I got very good at looking blank in certain situations.  Basically, I got really good at hiding things.

The rest of this blog is only going to make sense to a couple of people at most and they probably won't read it, but I might direct them this way if they persist in thinking this hasn't always been here.  I'm sorry about this game playing but it's more a record of a game posted somewhere public than a game in itself.  It was the one I used to play back in the day.

I am going to mention a few things now because the game's up and I'm not even bothering to hide them any more, and I doubt whether anyone from that time will be reading this, but just in case you are...

Do you remember that the lock was missing on the door to my bedroom the last time I lived in this area?  Did you notice that there was a train ticket taped over it?  Going further back, you wouldn't have noticed this because it was before you knew me:  I always kept the key on the inside of my bedroom door in my Hall of Residence.  That was my response to the event which led to it, when two people looked through my keyhole and saw what I was doing, and I acquired a certain nickname.  Do you remember that nickname?  Did you ever wonder how on Earth I had come about such an unexpected nickname?  I know you overheard certain people talking to me about it and taking the mickey, and you heard what they said. They were only hints of course, but it's a pretty good piece of evidence dating back to 1985.

Another thing.  I was known for a lot of things as a student, such as being "from the planet Zanussi" and having long hair, which was of course the one obvious thing I permitted myself to feel more comfortable with my gender.  There were some other public things but you didn't seem to notice those.  There was something else I was known for, wasn't there?  Something quite unpleasant - not morally wrong of course, but quite distasteful.  Did you ever wonder why that was a problem?  Think about it.  Why might that happen? Put two and two together there too and you have another piece of evidence dating back, again, to the mid-'eighties, and you were only too well aware of it at the time.

This next thing came up a couple of times and you were curious about it.  The man who stopped me outside my place of work in summer 1992 knew something about me he "couldn't" have done.  He delayed me a long time and I met you and Steve in town a lot later than expected.  What do you think that piece of knowledge was?  It came up in the men's group as well, didn't it?  What do you think that was about?  Why do you think I chickened (get it?) out of mentioning it?  No, you don't get it.

Going back a bit further, I used to keep a diary.  I was sufficiently paranoid not to write down exactly what was going on, but if you looked at it carefully, you might have noticed certain sentences were oddly phrased, and that those odd phrasings occurred at regular intervals.  There were also certain symbols in it at less regular intervals.  I also used them in letters and lecture notes:
If I ever lent you lecture notes, and for some of you who received letters from me, you will have seen these symbols here and there.  Is this giving you a clue yet?  It's not, is it?

Other people:  do you remember knocking on my door that summer after the Greenpeace Festival and how it took me a long time to answer?  Did you wonder why I came to the window in my pants.  I hadn't just been doing what you probably thought I was doing.  To be honest, on that occasion I don't really know why I didn't just go to Machynlleth as I had been about thirty seconds previously, but I didn't.

Do you remember coming round to the house I shared with David just before I got kidnapped?  Do you recall the discussion about menstruation?  Did you wonder why I had to keep going to the toilet?

Now I'm going to go further back, to my school days.  Not many people I'm still in touch with will remember this, but anyone who is will definitely remember me doing this.  They'll remember I kept referring to my "Problem" (capital P).  I was doing this by the time I was thirteen, I know.  One of my friends said I'd feel a lot better if I just told him, and he was genuinely sympathetic.  However, he had already said he found homosexuality completely disgusting, so I wasn't about to do that and I never told him.  Someone else got me to admit it was sexual, which was pretty obvious, but I doubt he really understood how it was sexual.  People will remember this if they're still in touch with me who knew me then.

Well there you go.  Now you basically know what the Problem was and you who have known me since we were at secondary school together will definitely remember me mentioning it quite a lot.  Later on, I shut up - when I left home I kept very quiet about the whole thing because you know that supposedly radical, left-wing compassionate environment at university?  It wasn't really that way at all, was it?

Nick will remember a lot of this.  Gerard will also remember a bit.  Jon, Andy and Vicky will remember some of the other incidents.  The school stuff - well, you only have to ask.  I'm still in touch with the relevant people.

But it's not new, it's not a fad, I just didn't trust anyone and I'm good at hiding stuff for my own safety, and that's why you didn't know.  OK?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bothered About Angels Instead

As you've seen, I've been looking at a few paintings of angels recently and I'm not keen because they seem really stuffed with symbolism in a way which seems inappropriate.  However, I did find one I really liked, again on the subject of the Annunciation:

This is Henry Ossawa Tanner's version of the Annunciation.  Incidentally, this artist is a nineteenth century African American, and I don't know how many of those would have painted in this style, or at all, so I personally found that quite surprising.

This painting, though, I found the most convincing of the lot.  It has a realism to it which the others lack.  I can imagine Mary waking up in the middle of the night startled and overawed by this column of golden light in her room, and the bareness of her room, the utter non-humanity but also love of the warm but also terrible, almost uncreated light of the angel in front of her, which tells her the terrible but astonishing message, and - well, I talked about that last time.

I feel the allure of angels but at the same time I feel bothered by them because to me the idea of angels brings temptation with it.  To me there is at most one God and in that sense I agree with atheists except they believe there's one fewer God than I do.  The idea, incidentally, that I'm atheist about the likes of Zeus, Thoth and Odin is incorrect - those are names of the one God and are not separate deities, so in a sense I do in fact believe in all of them too, as faces of that single God, just as I believe in the morning and evening star as the single planet Venus.  This is partly what bothers me about angels.

You see, the thing is I am quite happy to focus on the idea of one God, and as I say that only places me one step away from being atheist as I believe in almost exactly the same number of supernatural beings as I used to when I was one of those that way, but as soon as I start to believe in angels I've started to believe in a lot of extra supernatural beings which are separate from God.

I also think the word translated as "angel" in the Bible, which also means "messenger", sometimes probably just refers to plain, ordinary human messengers and not supernatural beings.  Sometimes I think God might use people to send messages, and in that situation those people are of course in a sense angels, but that might happen to anyone.  I wouldn't be surprised if God's used this guy:

"Richard Dawkins Cooper Union Shankbone" by David Shankbone - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

 as an angel in that sense from time to time.  He'd certainly be in the right position to be used in that way since so many people hear him and he has so much exposure.   Nice tie by the way.

My problem is that when I start to think about the idea of all these little details about the non-physical Universe, it all starts to seem a bit like a flight of fancy, and that really makes me doubt everything.  Having said that, and this may not win me many friends because it's all going to sound a bit fire and brimstony, I do actually believe in the Devil, and here's why.

Lots of people believe in conspiracy theories, and I'm not going to say what I think about that.  One thing which definitely seems to happen is that events seem to conspire to bring about the worst possible outcome.  For instance, back in the early 1990s, John Major became Prime Minister and that meant the Tories stayed in power for a lot longer than they otherwise would, because he was too bland to be defeated.  In the meantime, a potentially very successful and quite charismatic Labour leader suddenly died.  I'm not claiming he was assassinated, unlike some people, but I do think this is the kind of thing which seems arranged.  As I don't want to think badly of people, I choose to assume that instead of the conspiracy occurring organised by human beings, it's organised by a supernatural being, namely the Devil.  This stops me from thinking badly of people and helps me to see everyone as a victim rather than a deliberate perpetrator of evil, so it serves a function.  To me, there seems to be a plan to make things turn out for the worst.

Of course, according to standard Christian theology, the Devil is an angel, so I suppose I do believe in at least one angel in the sense of a supernatural being.

The trouble with believing in the Devil is that the temptation is then there not to take responsibility for one's own wrongdoing because one can just blame it on him.

One of the distinctive things about Christianity is that it's very stark and austere, particularly Protestantism.  It doesn't have the elaborate cosmologies and cosmogonies of other faith traditions such as Hinduism or Jainism, or the pantheon of deities and so on.  Christianity is oddly grounded in the boring.  I don't know what to make of that.  However, it does mean that the idea of angels seems incongruous in it, and clearly some have succumbed to the temptation to elaborate it and ask how many of them can dance on the head of a pin or arrange them conceptually into choirs with strange names such as Thrones and Dominions.  Incidentally, that lot does work quite well as a subject of meditation, but otherwise it's a bit, well, disturbing.

In other words, I just don't know what I think.  Sorry.  Oh, I do like the idea that every angel is a separate species though, so they can't be saved because whereas all human beings are the same species, so they can have a representative as Christ, the Devil can't be because Christ would have to be the Devil to save him.

There you go, it just peters out as usual doesn't it?  Sigh.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


It's hard to bring this subject up without sounding preachy or peeing people off bigtime, or just meeting with scepticism, and I will probably be a bit rambly anyway, but someone said something to me on Sunday which was really helpful and I can't think of how to share this without coming over as all religious.  Also, just as I shouldn't skulk around being ashamed of being trans, nor should I skulk around being ashamed to profess the faith of Christ crucified, so that's what I'm gonna do now I'm afraid.

If you have an issue with it, and as someone who believed for a long time that Christianity was the worst thing to happen to this planet since the extinction of the dinosaurs I would've agreed with you wholeheartedly for many years, I suppose you could see the stories as myth or a form of literature.  Also, it is nearly Xmas, so pull up a chair and have a vegan version of a dead dinosaur to celebrate the start of the lengthening of days while I whitter on about this lass:

Right, so you're a young woman in zeroth century Judaea minding your own business and all of a sudden the Archangel Gabriel appears to you and tells you you're going to have God's baby.  The only trouble is, you're not married and if people think you've committed adultery, they will stone you to death.  On the other hand, having a baby is a good thing and having God's baby is even better.  In the meantime, along with all the other stuff you have to carry on doing, you're going to be tired all the time, have heartburn, haemorrhoids maybe, all that stuff, then eventually you're going to start showing and everyone will know when you go shopping or, I don't know - not particularly au fait with the life of Judaean women - fetching well water, pounding clothes against rocks or whatever, and they're going to make certain assumptions about you, but you know, deep down, that this is God's doing no matter what everyone else does or says.  Confident enough, in fact, in that that you actually  sing about it at length!

I realise that people are very sceptical about the idea of the virgin birth and often even about the idea that Jesus even ever existed, but can we just leave that aside for a second and accept it on whatever level you feel comfortable with it.  Just think of it as a story in a book if you like.  I don't believe Harry Potter or Dumbledore existed either, but that doesn't stop me getting emotionally involved in the story.  So, get involved emotionally in the story, OK?

Also, look at the other things in that book which God gets people to do:

Not a cloud in the sky probably, then God tells you that the whole world's about to drown in a massive deluge and you have to build an enormous boat and collect seven or two of every animal.  People will of course think you're deluded, right up to the point when their sandals get a bit soggy.


You're this really old guy married to a postmenopausal woman, and God comes along and tells you that not only are you going to have a child but that that child will have more descendants than there are stars in the sky, which actually is not that many but it's a metaphor. oh and you both have to put a letter H in your names by the way,  Not sure it happened in that order.

And so on.  However, Mary's situation is particularly difficult.  People would just doubt Noah's connection to the real world, and Abram's and Sarai's situation is quite private.  Mary, on the other hand, is going to have to walk around very obviously pregnant and very obviously unmarried and that state seems to invite the death penalty in her situation, or at the very least enormous disapproval and shunning.  Even in mid-twentieth century Kent it did, to my recollection, so nineteen hundred and something years earlier, although things are not just linear, it would surely have been a whole lot worse.

Or maybe it wasn't that bad.  Inside, she knew what she was doing was blessed by God and that nothing could stand against her for that reason, although I would certainly expect her to have her doubts myself.  In that situation, I think I would probably also think she had a phantom pregnancy.  In fact, if I were her I would probably think I had one, and of course I have myself sort of had one and oh, the wishful thinking involved, the yearning, I can't begin to describe it.  Yet she was somehow able to be clear in her mind that she really was pregnant (and I know the thing about it might have been a cover-up story for a one-night stand with a Roman soldier but we're talking about the actual story here - suspend your disbelief please), she really hadn't slept with anyone, and it was God's child, and all this in front of massive social disapproval.  Whatever else is true, that is one huge amount of faith.  So maybe that faith carried her through.  Not only was she perhaps angelically protected or something, but her very assurance and faith might have woven its own psychological spell on those around her which led to nobody daring to mess with the woman.

OK, you will gather that I have a lot of emotional investment in this, and this is where you can glean another piece of evidence that I have in fact become delusional.  I spent years and years praying for God to make me happy with being male, I mean decades, every night, I prayed for it, way back into before I was even Christian, and it never happened.  Then there was an Act Of God, as they say, because as you probably know, this really did sort of happen by accident.  My interpretation of that is that God said no.  In more detail, God said something like "OK Esther, I know you're praying for that but I also know what you really want, who you are and what you need me to do, so I'm going to say 'no' to your incessant and ridiculously repetitive prayer to make you happy with something that you just aren't, and instead of that I'm going to give you your heart's desire".  Nowadays therefore I look down and generally see something like this:

...and of course everyone who knows me sees the same scene from a different angle, and since a lot of my friends and acquaintances are Christians it would make perfect sense if they saw it as completely against God's will, and let's face it probably sexually motivated, particularly given the rather prominent mound in the foreground of that picture.  A lot of people probably thought the same thing about Mary when she was carrying the Son of God, in view of her point of view and the larger mound in the background of her field of view from the same angle.

Obviously I'm not pregnant with Jesus and I presumably never will be but this is two things.  Firstly, I'm pretty sure this is the will of God, and I'm aware that many devout and diligent prayerful regular readers of Scripture will say, completely understandably, that I must surely be wrong.  Secondly, this is honesty.  You think you see a bloke in a skirt and you only have my word that that's not what you're seeing, at which point you probably conclude that you're also seeing a very confused and delusional bloke in a skirt, which is incorrect, but even if it is, you have to recognise that I honestly believe I'm a woman and therefore recognise the dishonesty of presenting myself as a man.  It actually would be, and always was, dishonest to do that.

Those of you on the other side, the non-religious:  you may now think I'm delusional for entirely different reasons, and at this point I'm going to pull the carpet out from this account.  Note that many Christians I know would agree with you - they would see me as mentally ill.  Compare and contrast that with allegedly false religious belief, which you might also see as delusional but they don't.  I happen to believe Jesus was born of a virgin and that I'm female.  Many Christians happen to believe Jesus was born of a virgin and that I'm male.  Non-Christians probably either believe that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that I'm female or that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that I'm male.  At least two of those beliefs are false, but not all of them are delusional, and in particular the belief that I'm male is shared by Christians and non-Christians alike.

So to be blunt and ableist, am I mad or not?

In the meantime, I feel very safe but am aware of what people might be thinking, but it's just one of those things and it's not that hard really, partly because I believe it to be God's doing.  I wonder if Mary felt the same.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Home Ed Of All Things

Very occasionally I remember what this blog is supposed to be about, or more often coincidentally happen to write something on-topic.  I must apologise for this.
So today I was listening to the very annoying 'Woman's Hour'.  It irritates me mainly because it seems to be about "women in the workplace" so much, which means work for an employer most of the time, and it doesn't seem very liberating to me for someone to become a wage slave instead of a slave to housework, and whereas it's good to have an income and do something socially useful, it just seems to me that society needs to be completely differently structured and this is just window dressing.  It's not always like that but it often is.  I don't know why.

Anyway, 'Woman's Hour' has just started a serial on a transgirl which I haven't listened to, but I did listen to the interview with a mother at the start of the programme whose daughter was trans and went full time at the age of nine.  She told her mother at the age of four, and her mother describes the primary school she went to as "very understanding", although she still pretended to be a boy at school.  At the age of nine, she found the prospect of puberty so daunting that her mother decided something pharmaceutical had to be done or she wouldn't survive the next seven years.  My heart goes out to the girl but of course there's also a little voice in my head screaming "why her and not me?", to which the answer is that I didn't tell anyone and it was the '70s at the time anyway, so it wasn't really anyone's fault but mine.  I do occasionally daydream about it, but then I remind myself I HAVE CHILDREN!!

That all sounded quite good until her mother said that her daughter had started to grow her hair out at the age of nine and transitioned between primary and secondary school.  That made me wonder.  I suppose there might have been a few children who would've bullied her at that school for having long hair although younger children are often very accepting and just take things as they come, so it sounds more like a school rule to me or an expectation of the school.  I mean, this poor child was already being forced to wear the wrong clothes all day and I think I'd just assumed that she was also wearing her hair the way she wanted it, which doesn't necessarily mean long but in this case did.

This is where it becomes relevant to home ed of course.  Isn't the obvious thing to do in that situation to remove the school aspect of education from the child's life?  Why would it have to conform in that way just because of a school?  I always find it really weird how that doesn't occur to people to try home ed of all things, but often it doesn't happen.  Another example is of children with nut allergies whose schools refuse to use or let them use epipens and children with Type I diabetes in a similar situation.  I'm aware of a parent who used to sit around at school all day guarding the epipen just in case, and if she's going to do that, why not just home educate?  What is going on here?  Is it lack of confidence?  Is it not believing children would get the opportunity to socialise?  Or what?  What is it?

Of course there are plenty of children who don't go to school or conform to their perceived gender, probably for two reasons.  One is of course that some parents withdraw such children from school, which in a way is a pretty major indictment of the school system.  The other is that the pressure to conform is less powerful for those children.

Anyway, this is a headscratcher for me.  Why is it that this happens?  It just seems the obvious response to me but it happens so seldom.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Nostalgic Legwear and Depression

OK, look people, I do try not to go on about this but I also think I should just go with the flow and write what's on my mind, and you might even find it interesting.  Also, last week's thing made me think I shouldn't overthink, so I'm not, so you get this instead of analysis paralysis.

Back in about 1992, had you looked at my legs you would probably have seen something like this:

Before you say anything, just a quick comment on the one on the right:  I don't like it any more than you do, but since at the time I was in denial about having that but wasn't planning to do anything about it, yes, I'm afraid that is there.  The one on the left is of course a different matter.

It was because of this disconcerting appearance that in spite of possessing these:

or rather very similar predecessors in blue and purple (I've only just taken this photo), I rarely wore them, and when I did wear them they'd be under a pair of trousers, or, very rarely, maybe twice, with a pair of shorts.  Consequently, I didn't explore this and just gave up after a bit.

The odd thing about that is that I could very easily have done this instead:

which would've covered up the offending area, although nowadays it's no longer necessary, but for some reason I only did that on one single occasion in April 1991 and then just stopped.

Why did I just stop?  People, even Vicky, approved, of my image change, but I lost my nerve and resorted to just wearing leggings and crop tops, and a few floral things, op art things and slightly long things, for the next eight years, and of course went back to the usual boring stuff quite a lot.  It is in fact really obvious that if you're wearing leggings and you're of that section of the population which will have a possibly unsightly bulge as a result, it makes sense to wear either shorts or a skirt on top.  Yet I did neither, over that whole time.  Why?

The answer is a bit sad really.  On that legendary occasion when I wore a dress to a wedding reception, most people were fine, and some people were in fact very encouraging, but a couple weren't.  One of them was a woman who said, not to me personally but to someone else, that she thought I would've known better than to do that and that she was disappointed that I "of all people" would have done that.  She also asked if I was "coming out" as gay.  This is the kind of reaction I had expected all along.  The other person was my late lamented friend David, and just as an aside, I can't just let that pass - I still miss him, I still think about him and how much he has missed, and I wonder what would have become of him had that bastard of a virus not carried him off along with God knows how many millions of other people in the meantime, but it did, and here I am in a world without him.


David said, in his inimitable style, "...and it wasn't even a very nice dress!"  He was right, it wasn't.  I was struggling to find something which covered most of my body and I was freaked out by the buttons, because back then the button phobia was still in full swing and in fact I hadn't worn anything with them for many years at that time.

Therefore, those two people with their disapproving comments were enough to stop me from even thinking about doing that again for a couple of decades, whereas all the other positive comments, one of which was from Vicky herself for God's sake, weren't enough to persuade me that it was a good idea, that I should follow that intuition that it just felt normal and perhaps pursue that feeling of normality further and ask myself why that was.  Instead, I changed my mind about what I was doing and just sort of skulked in a gully of the uncanny gender valley for twenty years, in the meantime enduring the taunts of bigoted and damaged people in the street for no good reason.  In my early twenties.  Getting on for three decades of not being who I was because of that.

But you see, this is the thing.  Underneath it all, although I may not have been actively depressed in mood for all of that time, I still thought depressively.  Even an approving comment handed down from the pedestal of the great Vicky herself was not enough to get me to see the light.  Instead, I only noticed the disapproval, because that's what depression is like, and even if you are not down emotionally at a particular moment, you still have the habits of thought which are liable to pull you back into it if other things go wrong.  Moreover, another factor was probably negative expectations.  If I wore plain black leggings back then, on the whole I would be laughed at by the general populace.  If, however, I wore the psychedelic style as depicted above, people would kind of laugh with me, and that's the key.  Whereas ridiculing oneself is not necessarily a good way to go, although I still think it's important not to take oneself too seriously and have a sense of humour about these things - after all, given my turn ons I would've thrown myself off a bridge by now if I hadn't had a sense of humour about them - the fact that pushing it just a little further and getting a more positive result wasn't enough to encourage me to go all the way, so I just didn't.  In fact, a lot of the time I just stuck to the boring leggings, which is weird because I got more stick for that than when I wore the more interesting ones.  This is because, in the face of the evidence, I expected the flack I got when I dressed androgynously to get worse if I went the whole way into feminine territory, as I would've seen it in those days, and in fact to get my head kicked in on a regular basis.  In fact I thought this right up until last year when I actually finally did it.  Counter-intuitive though it was, it was also a rational conclusion given the experience of getting harassed less when I pushed it further, yet I never did it.

Really, this post is not about what some people might refer to as cross-dressing.  It's really about depression, and how that traps you in patterns which keep you down and in a well of misery even though the key out of them is right in front of you.  I paid no attention to what Vicky and her friend Tonia said but listened avidly to Sharon and David.  I didn't even pay attention to my own experience of getting kicked and spat and sworn at when I wore the black leggings but smiled engagingly at by all and sundry when I wore the multicoloured or op art ones.  And the basis, in my conscious mind, for those decisions which were a kind of psychological trap, was that I shouldn't do these things because I had to take it on faith that a small minority of women who disapproved spoke for the majority because I had no access to their experience.  This thought was being had by a mind generated by a brain which I now realise is clearly female, in spite of not necessarily being socialised in this way.  A woman's eyes were looking out at a world where she was being picked on and bullied not only by men, but also by her own gender under the guise of pretending to speak for all women, all because of her depression, caused largely by the very fact that her brain was in fact female and wasn't getting the right chemicals because she lacked the organs in her body which were supposed to provide them and therefore make her mentally healthy.

Now I'm not just going to swing back against that because I recognise that that victimisation was something which I did to myself.  I had the choice not to allow that to happen, and the restriction of this discussion to the area of gender politics shouldn't be permitted to cloud that issue either.  The trap was of my own making, and although it can be impossible for some people to get out of it without at least a helping hand, some of us are lucky enough to be able to see this for what it is and find our own way out.  Once we've done that though, we cannot justify picking on the people who are still in the trap and saying it's their fault.  I am lucky enough to have escaped, and I just want to point out how, and why I stayed there for so long.  I look back at that now and I want to kick myself, and I've wanted to do that ever since the day last year when I looked at myself in the mirror, saw that to myself, the person who counts here, the one who can lever herself out of her slough of despond, the hormones and the rest had just made her look normal, the way she should've looked all along, and thought about all the wasted years of unhappiness and guilt that had preceded that moment.  And then moved on and looked at the brighter future.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Probably everyone who reads this blog also knows about my struggles with my earlobes even off this blog.  I am about to take a couple of photos of the organs concerned.  They will be blurry and speckly and not very good.
 Well, maybe just one:

This picture has made me happy, incidentally, bearing in mind that it was taken at 9:27 pm and I got up at 7 am.  However, I want to focus on the earlobe for now, or rather, what's been done to it.

This has four aspects for me.  Actually it has a lot more, but never mind.

Firstly, it's a piercing, something I declared repeatedly that I would never, ever do.  Not ever, never in a million years, never ever.  It was in fact one of those things which I was blocked from doing by that massive tangle of neuroses I used to use to structure my life and cope with stuff.  I once made an observation to my time twin Kate that I couldn't stand the idea of having a piece of metal sticking through a body part and she said that was precisely the appeal.

Secondly, it's an easy way of feminising one's appearance - thank you Organisedpauper for the suggestion. Of course, the precise nature of the thing sticking through it is a factor here.

Thirdly, it's a dummy run.  The prospect of maintaining a rather larger and more intimate body modification is surely contingent on my ability to maintain this much minor and more public one.  If I can't even do this, there's probably no point in bothering with the other.

Fourthly, it's a dummy run.  The response of my skin to this minuscule insult might give some indication to what would happen with the rather major procedure alluded to above.  For instance, if there's any skin shrinkage with this, there will be with the other.  Another clue to this could be found here:

For some reason, these have only healed with scarring - I suspect lack of vascularisation.  There's also shrinkage.

Going back to the piercing=penetration equation, I should insert a trigger warning here for my erstwhile phobia.
OK with that?  Ready?

Right then.
Right, buttons!  A button is a small(ish) solid object penetrating a - well, I hesitate to say "hole" here, but penetrating material through an orifice whose function includes that.  There is of course something else which works that way, and that is possibly why I couldn't "go there".  In a way, and this would have made me climb the walls back in 2012, an earring is like having an earlobe button, and an earstud even more so.  I find it vertiginously weird that I can hold that thought in my mind without wanting to cut my earlobes off because of what Chloe did to them, but I don't.

A whole load of thoughts are swimming to the surface now which I really want to share.  I shared them elsewhere on Monday, but I can't do that here.  I just can't, sorry.  This thing is no respecter of what's considered taboo or totemic in any society, and it will plonk its monuments and clues where it will.  It doesn't care about embarrassment or inconvenience.  It just plonks its claims down arbitrarily and leaves the poor blighter to cope with them as she best sees possible.  In fact, not even that.  It makes its mysterious symbolic circumlocutions and leaves her to it to work out what the hell has happened.

You may think I play games, and I do of course, although I try not to, but believe me, the games my subconscious plays with me makes those games trivial by comparison, or some such cliche.

It's "out there" now, written in my NHS records, that thing I used to do, the Problem, and with luck it will be seen for what it is, a huge great pink flashing neon arrow pointing at my brain saying "THIS IS A WOMAN" to whom it may concern.  And I have to go back in March and talk about that, that deeply intimate, innermost circle thing about me, that cringe-making ultimate embarrassment which has made my life seem like a cruel divine joke sometimes, which meant I ended up learning about myself by reading something on a toilet wall in 1996 rather than in any kind of appropriate, caring or tender context, because guess what?  I am this person and this person is female, and one of the best ways of providing the evidence for that is to tell them about it, because the subconscious does not lie, not in that way.

But it doesn't suck to be me.  I have a sense of humour about it, the alternative being to jump off Beachy Head, and although it seems like a divine joke, it is actually quite a funny one when it comes down to it.

Sometimes a piercing is just a piercing.  Not on this occasion though.

Let me see if I can remember.  OK:  Debbie, Susie, Bettina, Mike, Rachel, Liz, Lou, Jonathan, David, Wayne, Rebecca, Katharine - thanks for understanding and accepting me.  It's a bigger thing for me than it is for you I expect - no pun intended.  I have to live with it, so I just hope it serves a purpose now.  I think I've mentioned you all.

Emigrating To Fairyland

In yesterday's post I compared and contrasted Neverland and Fairyland.  Neverland is, as J M Barrie says,  "second to the right, and straight on till morning", and it exists in the minds of children.  I always think of it as a fairly dodgy place.  When I was a child myself, the expectation that I would just get to adulthood and have a perfect quickie sex change was what was in my mind, among other things like how wheels were evil and hovercraft good, and a vague desire to be a flatworm, because that's what I'm like.  So in Neverland, I'm obviously female.

Fairyland is different.  Fairyland is not somewhere you can get directions to from here.  "You can't get there from here".  Nonetheless, many small children do adopt the costumery of the Queendom in question.  Some of these children are later discouraged from continuing in this wise at an earlier stage than others.  Were it not for my extreme caution, I would in all likelihood have been such a child.

Fairyland and Albion, along with the appendix to Albion referred to as "the Universe" are not commensurable places.  I live in Albion, a place once described by a Greek traveller as a place where the elements of earth, air, fire and water are not separate, so in other words it's quite muddy and drizzly here, and the sun is watery.  It's quite easy to get muddy here and muddy and pink don't go well together.  Nor do mud and glitter.  But where there's muck there's brass, so there are a lot of rich people here, many of whom are at relative peace with the contents of their trousers, a fact which, unlike Fairyland and Albion, are quite closely connected.

I of course was not at peace with the contents of my trousers.  This can no longer be said to be so for several reasons.  In fact, the contents of my trousers made it hard to acquire much of that glittery shiny blinging stuff often found in the pockets of the aforementioned garments, and whereas it is filthy as well as shiny, it probably is an accurate measure of how much society values me, in other words not at all.  However, that's OK because how much society values people correlates rather poorly to how much they're worth, which considering that we're all of infinite value, is hardly surprising.

In any case, I can't use filthy lucre to buy a ticket to Fairyland because there are no scheduled flights there, so why would I want any in the first place?  I can't buy my way out of Albion with it.  So instead, I went to Cloud Cuckoo Land, which to me is more local than it is to many other people anyway, so it was quite convenient.  Unfortunately, while I was away in Cloud Cuckoo Land, things did not go well in Albion and my estates fell into disarray.

Nobody can really know what it's like to be someone else, not really.  I couldn't know what it was like to be a subject of the Fairy Queen, for example, not unless I actually was one.

However, it so happened that as time went by, I became a mage, and as that mage, Lady Luck slipped me a magic potion which awoke me from the spell which had been cast upon me by Albion, and I slowly began to realise I didn't live in Albion at all, but Fairyland.  Therefore, the mere fact that there were no bridges, roads, railways, flights or boats, or even hovercraft, to Fairyland and there never could be didn't matter at all, because in fact I'd always lived in Fairyland anyway, I just didn't realise it.  I went from Snow Queen to Fairy Queen.

Welcome to Fairyland.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Special Places, Special Times

Yes, I went to the Gender Clinic yesterday.  As I'm endeavouring not to overthink it, I won't be talking about it specifically, but I will say this.

There was a waiting room and there were consultation rooms, and you had to go through an electronically locked door to get from one to the other.  There were of course good practical reasons for this to do with safety and security, but what the minds of the patient and the staff do to these places is another matter.  Also, this was a special time, marking a significant step.

I'm going to try to illustrate what I mean by talking about everything.  Here is a bit of everything:

There's a temptation to think of everything as "up there" compared to this thing:

However, as you can see from this picture, this thing ^^^ is something in the middle of everything, just like everything else is, sort of.

This is nicely illustrated, I think, by this kind of video.

It's obvious of course, but we are in space now.  As I'm sitting here typing this in a room somewhere on an island in the Atlantic, I'm also on a blue dot in the depths of outer space, as are all of you.  Yet somehow I often don't think of it that way at all, or at least I used not to.  I used to think of outer space as something which was radically discontinuous with the space that I lived in.

Another example:  most of us don't go into operating rooms that often.  When Sleepoversweet was born, I did that for the first time, and I went from thinking of it as a place apart to a place which was continuous with the rest of the hospital, city and my life.  You can walk from the corridors of the hospital, through the various doors into the special room, and of course that special room is nothing special, although it is, but it's nothing special in the sense that it's part of the world as much as the kitchen or a zebra crossing is.

It also makes me think of the biblical Tabernacle.  Like many other places of worship, this contains a Holy of Holies (note the English inheritance of a Hebrew construction there incidentally), which again is a place apart.  There are other such "places apart", such as stages and even things as trivial as the space behind a shop counter.  However, of course all of these are part of normal space too, and we are thinking of them as somehow magically separated.

I think I've said this before on this blog, and I'm trying to get at something with it which is hard to describe.  Space is of course not a container for objects but a combination of the ideas of direction and distance, which is why it makes no sense to ask something like "what is the Universe expanding into?" unless the Universe is a brane of course, but let's not go there.  Direction and distance are relationships, like "hotter" or "greater", and if there really were such a thing as a special space, it would be characterised by incommensurable relationships such as distance and direction.  Thus Fairyland for example is not in the same place as Neverland, because Neverland is second to the right and straight on til morning, but Fairyland needn't be in a particular direction or distance from here.  It's as if there's a completely different kind of relationships which are like distance and direction and they operate independently of the distance and direction "here".

"TARDIS1" by Original uploader was Zir at en.wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:Cargoking using CommonsHelper.. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons -

"Original TARDIS control room" by This is a screenshot taken from an optical disc, television broadcast, web page, computer software or streaming media broadcast. Copyright holder: believed to be owned by the BBC.. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of TARDIS via Wikipedia -

A really good example of this is the inside of the TARDIS.  This is not in the Universe as we know it and distances within it bear no relation to distances which are not within it.

The TARDIS "also travels in time".  This means that the time passes in the TARDIS in a forwardly direction as it's passing in a backwardly direction not within it, which makes it like Narnia although not in the same way.  Just as there are special places and spaces, there are special times, and these times seem not to be continuous with normal time.  Examples of that include the Golden Age and the Kingdom Of God, and in fact Star Wars come to think of it.  Once again, they are not really in relation to history at all.  Dreams are also like this - they don't really occur at night on the whole within the dream narrative.

Coming back to the waiting room and afterwards, it's an occasion on a Monday morning followed by me leaving and going to Loughborough to do typical Wednesday things, and it's simply a step on the way to somewhere, or at least it might be.

You may have heard the phrase "accidents always happen to other people until they happen to you".  There is a nebulous realm out there somewhere including things like death, becoming a parent or being kidnapped, and they often seem to be happening to anonymous, faceless people or strangers.  Then they come closer to home.  A schoolfriend becomes a mother.  A sibling dies (they asked me about that by the way - why I say "sibling" - and of course for me a dead sibling is a given and death is right here for me, always, but for most people it isn't).  Then some guy in Highfields throws a key at you and it's you being kidnapped, not just someone on the news.  When such a radically discontinuous event inserts itself into your life, it can be greeted with disbelief.  Cancer happens to other people, doesn't it?  Not the person you've sat next to on the pew for fifteen years, surely?  Aren't they just pretending to have cancer?  Well, no they're not, of course.

Unsurprisingly, when I started to do what I'm doing, and in a way it doesn't matter what it is, certain people were incredulous.  To them, it was just some new thing "he" was doing, perhaps misled, dishonest or a mere role, which has sprung out of nowhere, and "he" has convinced "himself" that it's true of "him".  This is because all this stuff was being kept in all this time, and now it's come out, so people just assumed, on the whole, that I was just this bloke, and it seemed like a radical discontinuity when I "suddenly" (and it wasn't that sudden in fact) started to show my true self.  It's always been there, I just didn't trust some people enough to show it, and to be honest if someone is just going to see it as a pose or a fad and not take it seriously, it's probably just as well.  However, ask some of my childhood friends what I used to do when I was six and you would see that the answer is not that it's a passing phase.

But this really isn't about me.  This is about how life is smooth and continuous, as is the world.  There are in a sense jagged edges, walls and borders, but a lot of them are in the mind.  There are in a sense no special spaces and no special times, and the walls between what we think they are are leaky and stuff trickles, and even sometimes gushes, between them.

Having said that, we can make things special, and that specialness matters.  To me, the idea of being lesbian, gay, heterosexual or whatever is meaningless, but that's thoroughly my stuff, the way I happen to divide up the world, or not.  I happen to have shared that thought with you with some trepidation.  In fact, for many people the idea of being lesbian, gay, heterosexual or whatever is absolutely vital to who they are and it's robbery to take that away from them.  It's as bad as pretending someone hasn't got a birthday.  This planet takes a year to go round the Sun and we mark that in our culture in various ways, or we don't and that also needs to be respected.  Or, we could mark a saint's day, if our name works that way, or a hundred days, or 33554432 seconds, which would be about the same.  What we choose to do, however, is important to us and it shouldn't be taken away without good reason.

Therefore, there are special times, places and categories.  We make them, but the fact that we make them is important.  The Equator is "real", the Prime Meridian is "artificial", but in fact that's not so.  Both are equally real and standing on the Prime Meridian is just as real as standing on the Equator.