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Back to this now

I hate to have to ask, especially as my problems are so trivial compared to those of others among my friends, but I'm back in the broke-till-Monday trap. I've held it off for quite a while, but I have nothing left in the kitty and will need to buy food and other provisions tomorrow.

If you can spare anything to send via Paypal, every little will help.

Thank you.

EDIT: Thank you so much to those who helped. The crisis is resolved now. I'm sorry I had to ask.

Was I oppressed?

Binge-reading Assigned Male is very good for focusing on transy stuff...

Was I oppressed by cisnormativity when I was a kid? No, I don't think so. Neither my parents nor I had the slightest idea that anything was amiss. I had good days and bad days. I didn't even have the vocabulary to frame the concepts I would have needed to recognise oppression. I didn't have unquenchable longings to wear my mum's dresses (well, our colour senses were totally different...). When my height got me the lead role in "Santa Claus Gets Busy" at primary school, I don't remember an overwhelming sadness at not being able to play a fairy instead (though I do remember liking their costumes).

I do know that you don't have to be aware of oppression to be oppressed...but I also feel that for there to be active oppression there must be an active oppressor. Passive oppression is just like this weather; nobody is doing it, nobody is willing it, quite possibly nobody is even aware it's happening. There were no villains in my young life, no sneering patriarchs wielding the whip. The kyriarchy was there, as it had been for thousands of years, and it was actively oppressing people outside my awareness, in other places, but me, no. Which, of course, is also a measure of my privilege.

I think there's been a sea-change since then. I think that now it's no longer easy for anyone to pretend that the kyriarchy doesn't exist. I think that now there is a lot more active oppression than there was back in the fifties, because a, people everywhere are more aware of their own marginalisation and that they have a choice as to how they deal with it, and b, people who have not suffered under the kyriarchy, or have even benefited from it, are feeling defensive and threatened as awareness spreads, and a natural human response in that situation is to double down and defend the unfairness on whatever grounds suggest themselves. I escape active oppression now because I'm only out online and only my friends know or care, but sooner or later, I think, that restriction's going to start to chafe just the way my boy name did, and then I'll have some choices to make. But that's down the line.

So...what about the parents I know, all of whom as far as I'm aware have allowed their children to be assigned genders at birth? No, they're not oppressing either. It's not oppression to make a best guess at or before the moment of birth, while the brain is still booting up and finding out what all the levers and buttons do. "WAAAAAAA" is not helpful as a guide to orientation. A new child needs something to hang an identity on; there have to be certainties at that point, solid facts, even if later on they turn out to be less than solid. I know that if any of their children starts to find their assigned gender problematic, the parents I know will be understanding, gentle, and absolutely open to whatever path the child wishes to follow. Because I have the very best friends, that's how I know.

Not coping

There now follows a self-pitying whinge on behalf of me.

A kind friend sent me money so I could sign up to support Jeremy Corbyn, but we need food and electricity more, so the deadline passed and I didn't sign up. And now I hear he's let us down on an important vote, and I'm just waiting to be told he's been working for Murdoch all this time. Even if he isn't, it's entirely possible, as someone was kind enough to explain to me, that the 120,000 people who joined Labour after he was elected leader were only joining to throw him out, because people really want an opposition that agrees with the ruling party ninety per cent of the time, and the idea of a government that supports and represents the ordinary people, the desperately in need, the marginalised and the oppressed, really revolts them. So he'll lose the vote, and we'll be back to a one-party, all Tory all the time state, and May will start another stupid war because Saint Tony said wars make prime ministers popular and let's face it nothing else she does is ever going to do that. And now we've agreed to spend all that money on Trident it'd be a shame not to use it, wouldn't it?

And over in America, the Hillary supporters will all relax and not bother because she's got it in the bag, and the millions of people who don't like her will all stay home or vote for Ernie Dinkelfwat or Bugs Bunny or someone, and everyone will be SO FUCKING SURPRISED when Trump gets elected and the whole fucking world goes to hell. One of the strongest, brightest, most determined people I know is finding it hard not to despair, so how the fuck am I supposed to do it? I'm not strong. I've been being a stupid weak man for sixty years. I never got to develop the strength I should have had if I'd been able to be my proper gender all this time. My growth got stunted. I can't make up for decades of spiritual malformation in a few weeks.

And--tiny, trivial, perfectly innocent and harmless--I just got through explaining how important it is to me that I be able to express my gender through the conventions we have now, and someone explains to me that they were different in the seventeenth century. Um, yes, know that actually. And right now I'm trying hard not to cry because I can't even explain MYSELF properly, and there's so much that needs saying and either I'm talking Martian or nobody's listening, and the world's going to hell and I can't stop it and I do not want to live in the world we're going to have and I don't know if I even can.

I've got to go to bed. I hope I'll sleep. I hope I'll feel stronger in the morning. I hope there will be better news.

This has been a self-pitying whinge on behalf of me. Sorry, and if you read it, thank you for your patience.

Jul. 15th, 2016

Copied and pasted from FB, where it got two reactions and two comments...

I'm sorry, this is another political post, but I cannot be silent. (Edited for clarification. Never write angry.)

If anyone is in any doubt that Theresa May means this country, or this planet, nothing but harm...if anyone was for one second taken in by the pack of blatant and unrepentant lies she offered in her speech...let that doubt be laid to rest, let the truth drive out deceit. Among the very first decisions she has made is this, the decision to stifle and destroy all the work we had just begun to do to heal our desperately wounded biosphere.

She is not an evil person. There are no evil people. There are evil ideologies, and the ideology that she serves is evil from the rotten core out to the suppurating rind. There are evil actions, and this is the first of many.

THIS. MUST. BE. STOPPED.

We cannot afford to despair. We cannot afford to shrug our shoulders and say "that's just the way it is." We cannot afford not to do whatever we can. They will tell us that we are just a few people, liking and sharing and clicking buttons on the internet, that that never achieves anything. Are they right?

We have global reach here, theoretically. Our words can travel across the country, across the planet. We, those of you reading this and I, we have skills, we have talents, that could be put to use. We have what has long been touted as the ultimate means of communication here. They call us the "twitterati," a demeaning term for permanently outraged middle-class uselessness. Are they right?

We have real cause for outrage here. For decades our political system has been hijacked by a new kind of bourgeoisie, a political class in the pockets of the super-rich and working for them against us. We have known all this time that successive Conservative and "New" Labour governments have accepted donations from the owners of global megacorporations and directed government policy according to their wishes and to our detriment. They openly admit it. Rupert Murdoch made a joke about it. "When I go to Downing Street they do what I say." They think we are powerless against them. Are they right?

I could go out and walk the streets of my home town passing out leaflets and yelling at people in the High Street and achieve nothing. This town will never forsake the Tories. Here, at my keyboard, I can be useful. I can talk to people who are in doubt, whose minds are open. I only need to be aimed in the right direction. I am not alone. *We* are not alone.

I have little to offer, but I have words at my command. Let me do something. If you know of any place where my words can be effective, where they can reach people who need to be reached, tell me where to look.

Can we achieve anything? I don't know. Are we merely twitterati? I don't know. Are we powerless? I don't know. LET'S FIND OUT.

Rules

It is not the breaking of rules that causes damage.

It is the idea that when a rule is broken, it is gone.

Suppose there's a speed limit of 30mph on a certain road. One day, someone drives along it at 35mph. The next day, everyone is driving at 35mph, and the authorities put up a new sign saying the limit is 40mph. The next day, someone drives along it at 43mph...

It wouldn't happen, right? The rules are there for a good reason and are enforced by people employed for the purpose. If someone breaks them, that's bad for that person (and for anyone they hit) but the rule still applies to everyone else.

In 1917, Marcel Duchamp took an ordinary urinal, signed it, called it "Fountain" and submitted it to an art gallery. This was a Dadaist joke. By calling it art, he said, the artist made it into art. He broke the rules; the rule that says art has to be something you create, something you work at, something into which you put your soul; the rule that says art has to convey something, an emotion, an image, a story, an atmosphere.

And from that point on, those rules were gone. It didn't matter if the art was incomprehensible to anyone but the artist, or required two closely typed pages of explanation which rendered the art itself superfluous; it didn't matter that the art piece itself involved little or no creativity or craftsmanship. Jokes could be art. Anything could be art. A pile of bricks could be art, an unmade bed could be art, a dismembered corpse could be art. The rules were gone.

And that's what does the damage. Because when the rules are gone, you have to find other rules to break if you want to be known as a rules-breaker...and when you've broken them, they're gone too. You end up running out of rules. And in art, rules help.

The country of gender

This is where I live now.

It's an island, or maybe more of a continent, roughly square but quite big, with some lovely scenery. I spent most of my life in one of the two major cities, the one in the south-west corner, but I was never happy there. I never knew why, though. It was a shame really, because the people were quite diverse and there was always a lot going on, but so much of it seemed rough and abrasive and loud. I felt I wanted to live somewhere quieter, somewhere with a more interesting cultural life, somewhere I could feel more comfortable. But nobody was allowed to leave. Or so I thought. Actually, for a long time I thought the city was all there was...for me at least.

There was the pen pal scheme, of course. When you grew up, you could have a pen pal in another city, way over across the country on the north-east coast, and you could write letters to each other. You were only allowed one, for all your life--at least that was the theory--but you were allowed to choose from a big thick directory. It was sort of expected of you. Writing letters to other people in the city was strictly forbidden.

As time went on, I learned that there were other large towns. I didn't know much about them, but there was a road leading straight north out of the city, and from what I heard it went to a town up in the north-west where you could write letters to people in the same town as you, who all came from the city. That seemed like a nice idea, but I never had any urge to write letters to anyone from my city. Besides, I heard that the north road was dangerous. You could get beaten up, robbed, even killed. People from the city did not like anyone taking that road.

When I got older, I heard about the underground railway. If you knew where to go, and you knew the right people, you could apply to go on it. There were lots of tests, and some of them sounded really awful, and even sort of arbitrary, but if you managed to pass them all, you'd be called for one night, and hustled into a doorway, and down some steps, and then you'd be on the train hurtling through the dark tunnel for a while, and then you'd be let out in the other city, and you'd have to spend the rest of your life there. That seemed a bit absolute to me, a bit final, you know? And you had to spend, ooh, I think it was two years, still living in this city but pretending you were living in the other one, and didn't know what living in this city was all about. That just sounded silly.

But I wasn't happy. I had a pen pal by now, and she was lovely, but something was pulling at me all the time, making life in my city uncomfortable. I really didn't want to stay there, but I had nowhere else to go. I'd learned that in the other city, the one my pen pal lived in, there was a road that went south. It was just as mischancy as the north road, but it led to a town where people from that city could live and write letters to each other. That seemed like the place I was born to live in, but how could I? Even if I took the underground railway, there were rigid rules against anyone who did that ever leaving the other city again. The one option that felt right was barred to me. So I just made the best of it. I moved to a new house, high up on a hill where people weren't so brash and noisy, and I wrote to my pen pal, and I just got on with living.

And then--this is the important part--I began to hear about people who didn't live in any of the towns or cities. They lived where they wanted. They. Lived. Where. They. Wanted. Some of them lived on high hills right in the middle of the country and didn't wear the colours of either city or have pen pals at all. Some of them lived in the towns and wrote to people all over the place. Some of them just struck out from their home cities and went north, or south, or west, or east, as far as they wanted to do and then built themselves houses. Some people even had caravans and wandered. Outside the cities, you see, there were no rules. You could live where you wanted, write to whomever you wanted, be whoever you wanted. There was a whole land out there, hardly inhabited at all.

I had to find out what it was like. I had to find somewhere I could truly live.

So, one dark night, I packed a suitcase, crept out of my house on the high hill, walked quietly down through the noise and the crowds and the smells to the city wall, which really wasn't that high or well guarded, and climbed over. I walked till I was tired, always heading east, and slept under a hedge, and when I woke up next morning, I was free.

Well, not entirely free. My house is still in the city, and I have to sneak back in and spend time there so nobody notices I've gone, but it's not where I live any more. I haven't found my place yet. I don't think I'd be welcomed in the southeastern town, not now. I've spent too much time in that city; the colours are worn into my skin, and besides there's no road between those two places, hardly even a track, though I've seen some footprints. My pen pal knows I wasn't happy, living in that city, but she expects me to keep writing to her from there and I can do that. But oh, oh, it's such a relief to get away from those frowning walls and that incessant noise and lose myself in the country. Or find myself, rather. Because I think in a way I've been out here all the time, just waiting for myself.

And I'm so very, very happy to be here now.

A flight of fancy

From the Protocols of the Grocer of Grantham, chapter 7 (a paranoid conspiracy theory with absolutely no foundation in reality):

"By now, with your people safely entrenched in both the other major parties (and I do hope you have not neglected the Liberal Democrats; they may seem like a spent force, but could still cause trouble unless properly domesticated), you should be in a position to pursue our agenda without further disruption. However, it is important to be vigilant. At any point, such are the vagaries of politics, Labour may throw up a leader who refuses to toe the line. This will be a man of principle, determined, unwavering, and possibly possessed of sufficient charisma to inspire the plebs with hope. IT IS VITAL THAT THIS MAN BE GOT RID OF WITHOUT DELAY. I have listed some possible candidates from among the young firebrands of the Left in Appendix VI (and remember my advice in chapter 3 about the importance of keeping these lists updated. It will be no good consulting them in 2050 or 2100 if you have not added to them regularly. Go and do it now!).

"There are a number of possible methods of achieving the erasure of this threat. If you still have a list of useful contacts in the intelligence community, they will be able to suggest ways in which he can be discredited, brought under control, or in the last resort eliminated; however, this is a dangerous course and should only be undertaken if no other means presents itself. If you were to take my advice, and if the political climate is conducive to such a thing, I should suggest what I call the "SDP strategy."

1. Get one of your people in Labour to declare that he can no longer serve under this leader. Have him resign from the party and form a new one, which all your people will promptly join (though I suggest leaving one or two behind for purposes of intelligence gathering). A few of the genuine parliamentary Labour types will also join, so it is important that the pretence is maintained at all times. The point must always seem to be "to provide a credible opposition to the Conservatives."

2. Call a general election as soon as your breakaway party is established.

3. Watch half the enemy plebs vote for your breakaway party, half for the remnant of Labour. Collect a comfortable majority from the rest.

4. In the unlikely event that you still do not manage to achieve an overall majority, form a coalition with the breakaway party and continue the agenda as planned. The plebs will soon forget that the other party were supposed to be opposing you, especially if you stress the "good of the country" angle and make a few cosmetic compromises.

5. When the post-election fuss has died down (and the troublemaking leader has been ejected) let the members of your breakaway party quietly merge back into Labour, or perhaps join the Liberal Democrats and make them change their name again.

Follow this simple strategy and you may expect no more trouble from Labour.

In Chapter 8 I will outline some suggestions as to what to do when Europe starts to become objectionable..."

A question I have.

And I'm going to ask it here, in the tranquil glades and sun-dappled pastures of LiveJournal. Have some lemonade and follow me closely.

Suppose it happened. Suppose millions of p.o.'d Democrats got their way, the FBI changed their mind, and Hillary Rodham Clinton was arrested and hauled away to the federable pokey to await trial on charges of Forgetting To Switch Off Her Computer While Being Upsettingly Rich, or whatever. I know it won't happen, don't bother telling me why it won't happen, just work with me here and suppose it did.

What would happen next?

The US political process isn't, I gather, super keen on do-overs. Otherwise we might never have had to put up with Bush 2 at all. But say the duly nominated Democratic candidate has just been escorted into a police car with a coat over her head and is even now being fitted for a fetching orange jumpsuit. Is there an understudy waiting in the wings? Do the Dems have a duly nominated stand-in? Or does the whole business of primaries and delegates and Super Tuesday have to clunk into motion again, and really, is there time? Would it not be quicker to hand the keys to Trump right now and save everyone bother?

Of one thing I am fairly sure, though open to correction as always; it would not be a case of Bernie Sanders stepping smoothly into the breach to save the day. He wasn't running as a Democrat. Presumably the party would have to find an alternative candidate, one for whom all those millions of disenchanted voters would consider voting. I don't know how difficult that would be; condemnation of the party for being insufficiently progressive has been a bit on the general side.

What I'm trying to understand, you see, is the motivation of people who, even now, continue to go ON and ON and ON about how evil she is and how she should be indicted and arrested and probably executed, when it's practically certain that she is the only candidate who can possibly--and even that may be in doubt--get enough votes to prevent the civilised world falling into the hands of Trump. As an occupant of the civilised world, I'm against that last, and while I would not say "whatever it takes"--I would not kill babies to prevent it, or eat dog poo, or watch every episode of Coronation Street from start to finish even with loo breaks--I would gladly vote for Hillary to prevent it, on the basis even of what I've heard that she may have done. I've heard that Obama's done far worse, after all, and yet I know he has also done genuine good. So may Hillary. So will not Trump.

I don't doubt the sincerity of the anti-Hillarians, nor their intelligence, nor their sanity, nor their genuineness, nor their good intentions. I don't think they want Trump in any more than I do. But I honestly don't know what they're trying to achieve, which is why I want to know what their best possible outcome from this could be.

Well, that was quick.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...

I was finding the Nyrond identity didn't really fit me any more, so I made some adjustments. The last name is pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, and the final E is silent. It's still a bit jingly and drag-queen-like, but I wanted something as close to the original as possible. Zander is still in here, in several incarnations, and I'm not faffing about changing email addresses at this point, so not that much has really changed.

Except that for me, pretty much everything has.

Love to all,
Zanda

Odd transy bits

Drat. My earring holes have healed up. Just when I could start using them again...

And it turns out I am after all thinking about adopting a different name, because I've spent years laying it down that Nyronds are male, there's been one exception who isn't me, and I don't feel comfortable calling myself Nyrond any more. I'm definitely not mucking about with my birth name, any more than with my birth body, but I think I have to think about something else to call myself, so I can let Zander be Zander.

So, thinking about that. Which is at least a change from thinking about politics. :)

Lost connections

The trouble with the prevailing myth that we can have "progress" without a clearly defined goal, and that it has to keep going faster and faster and that this is a good thing, is what we lose on the way. The water rushes into the bath at one end and rushes out at the other while we keep frantically trying to swim against the current, and it takes all sorts of things down the drain with it, and the only thing that comes in at the front is more water.

When I was a kid, watching Doctor Who and other adventure stories, we knew nobody important was going to die. We were, on the whole, quite happy about that. Did it destroy the tension for us? No, it did not, because we were engaged with the story. The tension was not about "are they going to die?" but "how will they get out of it this time?" We could tell that they thought they might die, and that was good enough for us, just as the excessively-mentioned wobbly cardboard sets were good enough to represent a spaceship and the actors in the wrinkly stockings were good enough to represent giant insects. We weren't stupid, we were no more naïve than we needed to be, we just knew what you were supposed to do with stories.

That seems to be one of the things that has gone down the plughole; not only our ability to engage with stories while remaining rational, but creators' faith in our ability to do so. Nowadays everyone who writes an ongoing story of any sort feels they have to deal out major character death on a regular basis just to convince us that they're not kidding....and judging by some comments I've seen lately, they're not wrong. We've become so damn sophisticated that we can't bring ourselves to believe in a story unless someone we care about snuffs it, and this leads to abominations like that which occurred all too often in nuWho, where someone dies and we go through this Whole Big Melodrama Thing with the single tear down the cheek and the rising music and the rising...gorge, and then the character comes back to life because the writers can't manage without them, and we are presumably supposed to be overjoyed. And it leads to stories like Game of Thrones, where everybody dies for no reason other than to prove the writer really Means Business.

And the other side of the coin is of course what happened with Captain America. Back when I was reading comics, if something like that had happened, yes, we would have been upset. I remember Thor getting hit on the back of the head with his own hammer and becoming evil. (I went around hitting myself on the back of the head for days, to no discernible effect, so obviously I'm as evil as I can possibly be already.) Nobody (as far as I remember) wrote aggrieved letters to the writers, nobody threatened to boycott the comics. We all just wondered excitedly "how is this going to be resolved?" We engaged with the story while we were reading it, and returned to reality when it was done. And the creators, on the other hand, felt no need to issue press releases saying that no, this was absolutely seriously for real, Thor was now a bad guy until further notice, no comebacks and no do-overs. They would have boggled at the suggestion that they should. Because we knew what to do with stories, and they knew we knew.

Progress brings good things...but it brings nothing that can replace what it has taken away.

Democracy 2

Ah ha ha, you thought I'd forgotten, didn't you? "Tch, typical Zander, another flash in the pan, why can't she get her act together..." Well, that's a tough one, so instead I'm going to ramble about the question "what is government and what is it for?"

Now I know there are some libertarians and anarchists out there who don't think there should be any government at all (except when you need it for something--that's not being snarky, honestly, that's me acknowledging that the libertarian position is not necessarily as absolutist as it's sometimes portrayed as being). And you know I don't agree, so we don't need to take our trolley round that particular aisle today. We're going to assume that government is sometimes a good thing and has a good purpose, and talk about what that is.

Government is there for a number of reasons. One is to do things for people that they can't efficiently do themselves, like build roads. Imagine if you will a world where everyone is solely responsible for building the twenty feet of road in front of their house. You'd end up with a bit of a patchwork, I think. And when you get to drains and sewerage, the mind revolts. So these things need to be done on a community level at very least, so that people using the roads have a consistent and convenient travel experience, and the drains work at least some of the time. Plumbing, as Joyce Grenfell said, is essential to the Better Life. So right away you need a body of some kind to organise and co-ordinate these essential community services, and since they involve buying labour and materials, that body has to be funded in some way. There are various solutions for this, which we'll move on to later.

Another good purpose for government is to speak for a community to other communities, to represent them in some way. Another is to make sure that the community's members have a measure of freedom (not being exploited, imprisoned without cause or otherwise oppressed) and a measure of safety (being protected from both crime and foreign aggression). To a degree these are mutually exclusive, but a balance is possible. Another is to ensure fair trade, both within the community and between it and other communities. There are other priorities, like education, healthcare, provision for the poor, that can be done by individuals but can, if done properly, be done much better at a community level. If a government can be found that will do all these things, then the members of the community don't have to do it all themselves, which means they have time and energy to live their lives and maybe even read a book now and then.

So, there are good reasons to have a government. Which is why, almost always in stories, the first thing a group of stranded humans in a desolate place will ask is "who's going to be in charge?" Or someone will take charge, and the others will either go along with that or raise objections. I seem to remember that about seventy per cent of Heinlein's Number of the Beast consisted of arguments between four occupants of a spaceship about who was going to be captain. So, what sort of government should it be?

The simplest way, of course, is to find the strongest person in the community, who can beat up any of the others all together or one at a time, and make them sole leader. They then go around beating everyone up and taking their money, and spend it--hopefully--on doing the things that government does. When they get old and tired of beating people up, their child becomes leader, and lasts as long as it takes for someone to work out that the kid is a weed and beat them up. There are a few minor drawbacks to this system, but with certain refinements it's lasted a good long while in various places. This is of course monarchy. If there's more than one strong person in the community, you get oligarchy, and so on.

The problem with all these sorts of government is that the government cannot be relied upon to act in the interests of the people. Once the community gets big enough, in fact, it becomes logically impossible to act in the interests of all the people, which is a good argument for smaller communities. Sooner or later, though, people get the urge to try for a system of government that at least has a bash, and the search for democracy is on.

And that's enough for now. More in our next.
When I was technically a boy, I was vastly privileged. I didn't have to witness much racism, because in the town where I was born there were very few non-white people. (I also missed out on a lot of fascinating non-British cultural experience, but hey, that's what privilege does for you.)

It was there, of course. If you were careful with money you were being a Jew. There was the boy who thought it amusing to call me "Yid," presumably because of my colouring and the shape of my proboscis. And there was the young Nigerian maths teacher, whose accent, hilariously guyed by some of my classmates, became the basis of a private language which endured long after Mr Pinto had moved on. But these were mild instances, and I was still living mostly inside my head, so they didn't impact much on me.

What did, though, was a song (typical). It was by a group called Blue Mink, it was called "Melting Pot," and the chorus went:

What we need is a great big melting pot
Big enough to take the world and all it's got
Set it stirring for a hundred years or more
And turn out coffee-coloured people by the score.


I thought this was a terrible idea. Not (I think) because I didn't want to be a coffee-coloured person, but because I thought it was great that the male singer was white and the female singer was black. I liked the differences, and hated the thought of them all being ironed out and made into sameness, and because I hadn't encountered real racism, I didn't understand on a gut level why anyone would want to do that.

Fast forward many years. I now do understand why people want to eradicate "race" as a concept. Indeed, I understand that it has to some extent been eradicated, perhaps to be replaced by "ethnicity" and "cultural heritage," which is at least more accurate. For racists, of course, all this is so much hot air; they won't be rebranding themselves as "ethnicitists" or "culturists" any time soon. It's a minefield, this, and I'm not going to be spending too much time in it, because (as you'll maybe have guessed) I want to move on to another set of diversities that hits closer to my home...but our plurality of cultures, with all its differences, including admittedly some that cause us severe moral difficulties, is nonetheless a priceless treasure, and to lose it would be a tragedy. It is wrong, for instance, to beat and mutilate women and young girls, and cultural diversity is no excuse for that, but the solution is not to iron out all the differences and make us all (probably) American.

Anyway. The other set of differences that people want to iron out is of course gender. I've seen people advocating the abolition of gender binaries and all the "social constructs" that have resulted in oppression and exploitation of women, persecution of gay and trans people, and people who identify as non-binary or asexual being forced to pick one out of two or be ostracised because, you know, it's just too hard to know what pronoun to use. All these results are wrong and must be wiped out, but to get rid of the whole spectrum of "male/female/everything in between or outside" and make us all the same seems to me like blowing up the house because you don't like the wallpaper. Besides, as Oona said, if we did have to be all the same we'd probably all end up being closer to what used to be "male", simply because it's so much easier, and I would hate that.

I've had lots and lots of good wishes since I came out, and that's incredible and lovely, but I have to say this. Some people have said "I don't care what gender you are, I like you" or "it's what's inside that matters, not what's outside," or something similar. I'm glad to be liked, don't get me wrong, and I agree with the sentiment, except that...

I care what gender I am. That's why I did this. What's inside me is a definite gender, it's female, and that's becoming daily more and more important to me. I'll never swan about in a flowered dress and high heels (you're welcome) or do the other stereotypical girly things, probably (though I do think I cook rather well on my good days), but I feel inside me that there is more to being a woman than just that, more than cooing over babies or wearing make-up (again, a doomed endeavour for me, unless you start with dynamite). So when you say "I don't care if you're male or female, I like you anyway" it feels a bit like someone making the best of a less than ideal situation, as if I'd become a Satanist or joined the Army. I don't know if I'm making myself clear at all, and I really don't want anyone to feel slighted by this. I love each and every one of you, and I'm happy and grateful that you've accepted me for what I am. It's more than I had any right to expect, I know that. I hope that you won't mind my sharing my feelings like this.

No two trans people are alike, any more than any other two people are. The old days, when you lived your whole life in one of two rooms, or if you were very lucky were blindfolded, drugged, rushed down a dark corridor into the other room and locked in there, are, if not gone, at least on the way out. Gender is more than just a binary, as is ethnicity, as is culture; "us and them" is wrong in all these contexts. Gender is, maybe, more like a landscape; but it's not a flat featureless plain. There are landmarks, hills, valleys, rivers, bridges, and places where groups of people have chosen to settle, and I believe with all my heart that even when that landscape has been fully opened up to everyone, most people will still prefer to find a place where they are comfortable, call it home, and spend most of their lives in that place. Few will want to be gypsies (though some will) and nobody, I think, will want to be a displaced person with nowhere to call their own, to whom all places are the same and nowhere is special. I'm still standing here with my suitcase, looking out over the land, wondering where I'll settle; but wherever I do, it will be important to me that that is where I belong, and nowhere else.

Democracy 1

I hope, energy levels and enthusiasm permitting, to be doing some thinking aloud in this and succeeding posts, about four questions under the above heading (Democracy):

1. What should it be, ideally?
2. What can it be, practically?
3. What do we actually want from it?
4. What can it realistically deliver?

I shall probably be tromping, in my uninformed, amateurish way, over some much-trodden ground, and it's very possible that nothing new will emerge. On the other hand, there is only one me, as Neil Gaiman said, and maybe my size thirteens will uncover something that may lead a bolder and more competent venturer to a path nobody has noticed.

This has been prompted by a number of things, including recent events. Apart from those, I've noticed that people wax very eloquent on how they shouldn't always have to vote for the lesser of evils, while cheerfully acknowledging that democracy itself as we know it is the lesser of evils--"the worst system of government, apart from all the others," as Churchill is supposed to have said. It seems to me if we change the latter--if we make democracy work the way it should--then the former will resolve itself. I've also got quite excessively fed up with people who indulge themselves in endless studenty blue-sky waffle about new paradigms and new forms of politics and new systems to fit the future, when the political realities that we have to deal with, wealth, poverty, trade, war, diplomacy, have not qualitatively or essentially changed in thousands of years. We don't need politics to fit to our iPads, we need politics that will feed people and keep them relatively both free and safe, keep the water coming out of the taps as long as possible and make people proud of their governments, not ashamed of them.

This is just a statement of intent, because it's one o'clock and I'm going to bed; but when I start on this properly, I'll be thinking about what the fundamental purposes of government are, how to fulfil them in the most responsive and responsible way, and how to devise a democratic system that will be more proof against corruption than our current one. Feel free to chime in with ideas if you wish; if you wish to tell me that it can't be done, that there's no point because whoever you vote for the government always gets in ET BLOODY CETERA, or anything else pointlessly negative, please feel free to go rain on somebody else's parade. What I would like to end up with is a practical, short- to medium-term, and above all bloodless way to get from here to there, wherever there is; I doubt I'll achieve that, but a girl can try.

And so, goodnight, my lovelies. See you tomorrow.
Not something I expected to happen, given how the day started, not to mention my usual relationship with FB.

I finished my coming-out. I felt I needed to stand up and be counted, because trans people are going to be under threat now as much as any other marginalised group in post-Brexit England, so I said it out loud (well, you know what I mean)--"I am a trans woman." And the outpouring of love and support from my friends was way, way, way beyond anything I could have dreamed of, let alone expected. I cried over and over again--happy-crying, I mean--and I felt alive and strong and like me for the first time since I can't remember when.

Nothing physical has changed--I'm still the same unmistakably male physical shape I always have been--but that's okay, because I know who I am now, and I've told the world. I'm not going to be pernickety about names or pronouns, because nobody looking at this face could ever think "woman" without laughing, but that's okay too. Anyway, Jan married me-as-a-man and, while she does know and understand, prefers me that way, and that matters to me. It's a role I've got comfortable playing.

But who I am, now and till I die, is a woman. And I stand with women, and with LGBTQ people of all kinds, and whatever I can do to fight the rising tide of darkness, I will do.

It's scary as hell, but I'm glad and proud to nail my colours to this mast. And I am very humbled by the love that has been given to me. I'll strive to deserve it.

I get a bit fed up sometimes

Let's formulate a brand-new paradigm, one that's cutting-edge, inclusive, proactive--in the broadest possible sense--and informed by the endless possibilities of Third Stage thinking. We need to transcend all the old linear, hierarchical, Old Head structures that have held sway for so long and evolve a totally different vision to navigate the multi-dimensional landscape of the future...

Uh-huh. And while you're all doing that, I'll be making the tea, feeding the cats, mucking out the litter trays and hanging up the laundry. And then I'll go and talk to some people about stopping them closing the post office (or stopping them fracking under our homes, or whatever actually needs doing to make a difference).

Being a student is wonderful in so many ways. But sooner or later, it ends.

Further thoughts on previous posts

Well, we fumbled the ball yet again.

I'm going to reiterate something I said a little while back, only with a little more emphasis:

IF WE WANT TO WIN ANY FIGHT IN A DEMOCRACY, WE CAN ABSOLUTELY NOT AFFORD TO GO ON ACTING AND TALKING AS IF WE THINK WE'RE THE SMARTEST PEOPLE IN THE ROOM AND EVERYBODY ELSE IS STUPID.

Democracy is about numbers of people. In order to win, you must persuade people to agree with you. And as my friend Shiv pointed out on FB, "If you want to change people's minds, patronising is not the way to go about it."

I'm as guilty as anyone else. It's easy to think "oh well, we're right, it's so obvious, everyone will see that." I posted a Bonzoes video on FB last night to show how silly I thought Brexit was. This serves me right. It serves all of us right.

If liberals want ever to win anything again, we HAVE TO STOP THIS. We have to burn the arrogance and complacency out of ourselves. We have to stop swanking about our brains, which have really not helped, this time or ever.

In fact, we have to do two things:

1. Stop underestimating the other side. They are as intelligent as we are and they know what they are doing. We cannot afford jokes and derision at their expense. That attitude has cost us too much already.

2. Stop relying on reason and facts to sway people, because they don't. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT PEOPLE ARE STUPID. STOP THINKING THAT RIGHT NOW. It means that people (including us) make decisions based on emotion, not reason, and that is the approach we MUST take. We must be Antony, not Brutus, if we want to change people's minds.

We have seen the power of emotion over reason, again and again, and we have yet to learn from it. This does not make us the smartest people in the room. It makes us the dummies.

We must change that, if we are ever to change anything.

Song

Everybody's mind has a door that's rusted shut
That we closed long ago, to keep something in or keep something out
Couldn't open it if we tried
Can't remember what's on the other side
And we always meant to put up a sign, maybe we just forgot.

Everybody's mind has a place we never go
Where the shadows are deep and creepy, and the lights turned way down low
We surrounded it with barbed wire
And if anything moves, we kill it with fire
And there may be something else beyond, but we'd rather not know.

Mind closed
That's the sign up ahead,
You'd better turn round and go back.
Mind closed
Put the train in reverse
'Cause this is the end of the track.
I don't want to think about it
I've reached my conclusion, I'm never gonna doubt it
So it doesn't matter what you say
Mind closed.

Everybody's mind has a deep dark oubliette
Full of things that we used to know, but would rather just try to forget.
It's secured with a padlock and chain
And once you're in, you don't get out again,
And we say we'll clean it out some day, but it hasn't happened yet.

Mind closed
That's the sign up ahead,
You'd better turn round and go back.
Mind closed
Put the train in reverse
'Cause this is the end of the track.
I'm not open to persuasion
And I ain't got time for no new information
So it doesn't matter what you say
Mind closed.

Now you're gonna tell me that it's not true
That you're open-minded
That there's a way to change your point of view
If I could only find it
Well, I've been trying now for years
But you close your eyes and you stop your ears
So I think I'll give it up for dead
And do something I enjoy instead....

Mind closed
That's the sign up ahead,
So I'm gonna turn round and go back.
Mind closed
Put the train in reverse
'Cause this is the end of the track.
You won't listen to my suggestion
'Cause you've made up your mind and settled the question
So it doesn't matter what I say
Or that things might be changing today
You'll never see it any other way--
Mind closed.

Alan Parsons-style songs always come far too easily...

(Full disclosure: my mind is closed on at least one thing, or rather one person: Margaret Thatcher. I accept the remote possibility that she believed she was doing the right thing, in which case she was deluded, but I will never accept that in practice she was anything other than the worst thing to come out of my country in the last hundred years. She poisoned the entire social and political landscape, turned both other major parties into pathetic echoes of her own, and even in the dissension and grief of these last few weeks we see her noxious legacy. Whether this nation will ever fully recover I do not know, and I am absolutely not at home to any suggestion that she wasn't all that bad, so please read the song again, do us both a favour and don't try. And I'll try to give the same respect to your closed sections.)

Vision

A big SUV, red, white and blue, full of passengers and luggage, zooming along one of those long, straight, flat American desert roads. The sun is blazing down, and the landscape shimmers, but storm clouds are gathering on the horizon.

--Are you sure about this?
--Keep going. There's another exit, I know there is.

A turn-off comes up, signposted HILLARY.

--This one?
--No. We are not going through Hillary. Keep driving.

The road starts to climb as the landscape becomes hilly.

--Only that last exit to Sandersville was way too narrow, we'd never have made it--
--I know what I'm doing. There'll be another.

Another exit appears. The sign reads HILLARY.

--Maybe if we stopped in Hillary we could check the map and head back to Sandersville tomor--
--We. Are. Not. Going. Through. Hillary.

The road now winds left and right, between steep-sided cliffs.

--I don't recognise any of this.
--Go faster. I know we can make it.

Another exit. LAST CHANCE FOR HILLARY. The storm is now overhead. Lightning flashes beneath lowering black cloud.

--Are you sure--
--Stop talking and keep going. We do not need to go through Hillary.

The road crests the hill and the cliffs drop away. Rain lashes the windscreen, but the road seems clear ahead.

--Okay. Now look out for a turn-off to San--

But suddenly there is no more road, and the SUV is falling through rain and empty air, to crash in ruin on the desert rocks. Behind it, carved into the cliffside, a monstrous face, complete with wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command, glares down at them out of tiny eyes surmounted by a bouffant mass of carved fake hair. Smoke rises from the wrecked SUV as ROD SERLING strolls into view and picks up the twisted remains of the donkey hood ornament.

--We each get to choose our path in life...but it's often the case that we can't get exactly what we want. These people here held out for their heart's desire with laudable determination, but found out too late that sometimes a poor second best is the only viable option. A grim moral, dearly bought...in the Twilight Zone.

Music up. Fade to black. Roll credits.
Why yes, I have just watched The Danish Girl.

I'm glad I've seen it, but cherylmmorgan is right about it. It is an anti-trans horror story. I was half expecting a voice-over at the end: "Wives! Don't let your husbands try on your stockings, or this could happen to YOU!"

Fortunately, being so heavily fictionalised, it doesn't close the door on someone some day filming the actual story of Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener, which while still not a Hollywood fantasy seems to have been a lot happier than this film suggests. And it has lots of pretty scenery, and the cast aren't bad to look at, and Alexandre Desplat's music is fairly inoffensive though nothing to write home about. So purely as a film, it works...but as a source of inspiration for the transgender community, it works about as well as, say, The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe viewed as a history of World War II.

Once was enough. I think. Goodnight all.

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