Friday, 15 May 2015

Dreamscape. When Dream Lingers into the Waking. And Calls Unto Renewed Death.

An hour after waking:

I hate that dream.

I hate that house.

It's not happened for a while in any of its variations.

Tonight was the worst, not necessarily for the events but for the place.  Other dreams have far worse events.

Dream events are nothing compared to this place.

This place is entirely the essence wrongness.  I have no better word.

Every wall, passage, room, staircase is wrong.  Physically the walls look just as walls, ancient wood.  But psychically they exude the stench of something far beyond simple death.

The fabric far beyond darkness.

The wood, the walls, the house itself is hard to survive inside my own being.

And it has HIM in it.  Whoever he is or represents.  HIM.

There is no light in HIM, none.  None.  Just venom, hatred.

Somewhere in that house, he will be.  Always writing, whatever HIM writes.

Tonight he saw me and moved with more resolution and speed than I've seen before.

Urgency.  Urgency.  Desperate to come to me.  To steal all light from me.

He is fear.  That place is fear.

The whole place is twisted by Presence, vile presence, manifesting whatever it wants and able to exclude Spirit-Source from the house, able to transform calls to Spirit and fight back, increasing the wrongness and the manifestation.

But worst of all is HIM.

I feel HIM now.

I see him grasping for me because this dream takes too long to fade.

If I must go to a dream house, can't I go to the other one?  Yes, there's a door there that passes through to an Elsewhere that isn't right.  And I can't not go to it.  But that Elsewhere feels like Hell has passed away and the place just needs to be brought to life.  Tainted but not threat in any major way.

Tonight's house, ancient wood, is entire threat, entire psychic danger, sometimes physical danger.  And tonight's house remains into the waking and calls for me to return.  Return and have the hope of Spirit, of the creative, of Being, ripped from your being.  HE can do it.  There is no Spirit there to stop him.

And I see him now because whatever HE is, that is still within me.

Mother of being, protect me.
Father of light, protect me.

Because that place, that HIM, are within and they want to return me to my death.

Inside.  That place is real.  And it wants me to return. To stay.  In waking and sleeping.  To stay.

If dream is manifest psyche then inside me, that place is real, HIM is real.

And he must one day, in my waking, be addressed and fought.

Mother of being, guide me.
Father of light, guide me.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Different ... But Not Less: Autism, Temple Grandin, GPs, Ignorance and Celebratory Pride

"Different ... but not less."

Never less.  That goes for all autistic people no matter how supposedly "high" or "low" functioning we are.

And it goes for ALL disabled people.

No disabled person should be thought of as less, demeaned as a lesser human being.  No matter how severe the disability.

And it goes for all genders, sexes, sexualities, colours, nationalities as well.  It goes for all groups of people who have had to fight, and often still need to fight to be treated equally.

"Different ... but not less." 

This tiny quotation comes from the closing speech in a TV movie about Temple Grandin PhD, starring Clare Danes.  I haven't seen the movie - does anyone have a spare DVD?!  This three minute video contains that speech.  It would be nice to think that approaches to autism have come a long way since the 1981 conference where the impromptu speech was made.

If you want some extra entertainment try watching the clip while reading along with the English transcript youtube helpfully provides.  The software isn't quite perfect yet.  But as always, don't read the comments.  They include such things as "Can autistic women have sex?"  With the answer, "Dude, autistic people cannot have sex, they don't know anything."  All rather depressing that people think such things.

I happened to have a book by Temple Grandin in my bag when a GP said during a consultation, "How can you even think about autism when you can speak and are intelligent?"  That made it easy to respond with, "Hey, GP, look at this science book by an autistic lecturer with a doctorate.  GP, your views on autism are entirely wrong."  I find most people are amazed by that GP - surely everyone knows that there are plenty of very intelligent autistic people.  Everyone apart from that GP.

There is so much to know about the human condition that sometimes GPs don't know things.  The best GPs are the ones who admit that they don't know - and who find out what they don't know so that they can be of use.  The worst GPs are the ones who pretend they know everything.  Fortunately at least a couple of GPs here are open about it when there's gaps in their knowledge.

A GP my whole family likes fully admitted she didn't know about the referral process for adult assessment.  "But," she said, "I will find out and I will refer you and if there's any problem then I will contact you personally."

And the good GPs here are fully open that they don't know the ins and outs of the medical side of my gender transition.  But that's fine.  They are happy to follow instructions from the gender clinic.  And to a large extent they are happy just to follow my instructions, trusting me to know far more about it than they do.

Yes.  GPs do not know all there is to know about medicine.  That would be impossible.  But that's fine.  We cannot expect them to know all the answers.  Not knowing is acceptable, as long as they don't pretend to know everything and in doing so say ignorant things and mistreat their patients just as that GP said to us.

That's a lesson for us all.  We're all ignorant about things.  Let's accept that and be humble about our own lack of knowledge.  Let's all refuse to speak in ignorance as if we were the knowledgeable ones.  Let's accept that we really don't have all the answers, just lots of questions that we can't yet fully understand.

Regarding autism, I was ignorant.  Six months ago I knew really very little about it.  And although I keep reading, there is still a massive amount I don't know.  And although I have a few autistic friends, knowing them and learning of their lives doesn't by any means give me cause to say I know about the lives of all autistic people - because there is so much variation.  Six months ago I hadn't even come to the point of accepting that I too might be autistic - but I've covered that in another post.

I was ignorant.  Knowledge coming from the media, which often gets things wrong.  Knowledge coming from stereotypes.  Knowledge coming from seeing the sort of traits mentioned on Simon Baron-Cohen's autism spectrum test.  Basically - often dodgy knowledge and sometimes totally erroneous knowledge.

I was ignorant about autism.  I've been ignorant about many things.  Two years ago I knew virtually nothing about anything to do with transgender issues.  And yet I am transgender - so my ignorance really didn't serve me well!  There are many things I am still ignorant about and there always will be.  I am fine with that, as long as I am always prepared to own up to what I don't know and am always prepared to keep learning.  And I confess that on occasion I've slipped and haven't lived from a position of that humility.

I was ignorant about autism.  But that's fine.  Because, in the main, I was able to accept my ignorance about other people and not tell them about it and say all those things that well meaning ignorant people have said to me in the last few months. Unfortunately the same ignorance meant I could not accept myself.

And if I'm totally honest, I think my beliefs, somewhere deep down, ran contrary to that statement of Temple Grandin,  "Different ... but not less."  I was fearful.  "If I admit this, if I tackle the possibility head on, does that mean that I am admitting that I am not just different, but I am less?"  The answer, of course, is "No."  It's taken seeing myself plainly in the mirror of another person's life to get me to realise that I can accept the possibility and not have to fear myself.

Like Temple Grandin, like my still few openly (to me or the world) autistic friends, like all autistic people, I am different.

But not less.  Never less.  Never.

In fact, I am proud to be me.

I am proud to be autistic.

And actually in some ways I am glad to be autistic.

In all the difficult times I am still glad.

When breaking down from sensory overload I am still glad.

Beyond all that, there is so much good in this

And I am starting to recognise all these good aspects.

Get that?  I am GLAD to be autistic.

I could not imagine my being to be anything else.

I am glad.  I am autistic.  Good.  Celebrate.

Because it makes me who I am.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Autism and Sensory Processing: When Even the Quiet is Overwhelming

Something written about an experience of today.
Written as it flowed.
Unedited.  Not proof read.
It's honest.  It could be nothing else.
But it's by no means some polished jewel.
Right now, this is my life, or at least a part of it.
And it hurts.
And again, I do not know how to deal with it.
And again, I will begin to learn.
All will be well.
It's just not well now.


I never used to have this problem.

Not like this.

OK, I knew that it existed.

But I'd learned long ago to live with it, to work round it,

To cushion my head against the blows.

Now I cannot escape this problem.

I admitted my autism

And never expected any of this to happen.

I knew there was something.  I always knew.

But this whole thing has taken me by surprise.

Something within decided to show me a series of revelations:

"Here's what you are really like.

Underneath the forty year development of defences, strategies.

Underneath all your learning to focus.

Beyond the skills you learned in tunnel vision, tunnel hearing, tunnel senses.

Here, here, here is what you really are.

Here is the truth."

There was no escape today.

I have lost those skills.  All my learning wiped away.

Without those ways to cope, this is now my life:

The streets were paved with Hell.

So I sought out the sanctuary of a library.

The peace, the near silence of a library.

The only way I could see to cope with that Hell until I was called into life again.

Not so.  No.  Things were too bad for that.

The library.  Too noisy for me.

With quiet noises coming.

Many noises.  All around.  Unpredictable.

Music.  Two sets of music.  Driven to the heart of my head.

Voices, so many voices in so many places, in quiet conversation.

The clicking of computer keyboards.

The intense sound of a soft broom on the floor.

Sudden things being dropped.  Scaring.

Each suddenness a new instinctive threat to be considered.

Footsteps on the stairs.

The overpowering machinery of the lift.

The sound of the building, breathing in air conditioned cool.

So much noise.

So much more than that.

All of it quiet without.

But each sound appearing as an explosion within.

And so much movement.

And so much light.

So much pain.  So much heat inside.

The approach of a kindly man who asked if I was OK

Far kinder than the man who laughed in my transgender face this morning.

Or the two guys laughing and insulting me in the street.

Not that I cared about them.

I am too sure of myself right now to give a shit

When the idiots and ignorant try to rubbish me with abuse.

The kindly man wanted to stay, to chat

Because he heard me say I was artistic.

Until he walked away, with speed and determination

When he realised I was not artistic but autistic.

With all my old defences I would have hardly noticed it.

And that man would have hardly noticed me.

But now.  Undefended.  Naked.

The confusing quiet of library became unbearable.

Every sound, every suddenness a new scream within.

Back to the noise and movement of the more predictable streets.

And home.  Fast.  Weeping on the Metro.

Weeping.  Because I could not escape the feeling that I have failed today.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

The Guilt and Shame of Autism. The Needless, Regretted Guilt and Shame.

Yes.  Another post about autism.  Wasn't this meant to be a blog about gender? - a plan that went wrong from the very first post.

Last night I was online, starting with multiple entertaining viewings of S#!T Ignorant People Say To Autistics which everyone should watch and never, ever say any of those things. That turned to hopping between autism videos on Youtube.  There are so many good, educational videos - and some terrible ones too.  Really terrible.  Morally horrific.  But we won't get onto the less than savoury aspects of Autism Speaks, or onto bleach cures, anti-vaxxers, other autism cure and prevention videos or any of the other rubbish that makes most autistic people so angry and only increases their pride and willingness to make good videos.  No.  We won't get onto those horrific things.

I happened on one of the good ones.  Not perhaps a well made video but with excellent content.  It contained a list I hadn't encountered before, of traits that may be seen in females with Asperger's Syndrome.  And that video linked to the blog containing the list, yet another autism blog that I haven't seen before.  So much to read and study.  So little time and energy.

I found myself going through this list in some detail, not just a quick "Yes, yes, yes ... yes, no, yes ... ooh, nearly a perfect score there." - which was educational.  Possibly is was a bad move because I didn't find the list until gone midnight and it took rather a while.  By the time I finished, my drugs had long since kicked in and when I closed my eyes I could see and feel figures passing over my head and stopping to press my forehead in a most colourful manner.  Either I was completely shattered or the angels were being very active!  I really must learn to escape the internet earlier at night even when it is absorbing to the point of saturation.  I must learn to say "The page will still exist tomorrow, Clare, go to sleep."

As I read the list and discussed each point with myself out loud, I was amazed.

Not by the amount of things I tick "Yes, definitely" to.  I've got used to ticking "yes" on these checklists, and questions and tests.  Clare is autistic.  OK.  Moving on.  That's old news even if she hasn't worked out what that means for her life, her person, her past or her future.

But I was amazed by the way total honesty with myself last night led to the amount of things I tick "Yes, definitely, and I've always felt massively guilty or shameful for it and tried my best to stop this, get rid of it, not have it as part of my life."

So much shame.  So much guilt.  So much self eradication.  And some of that shame and guilt are over things that I look at and wonder how I could have ever felt that way.  The rest of it I know to be unfairly felt and applied, but can understand where it came from because those things are so often frowned upon in polite society.

You know when I said that accepting my gender makes a much bigger practical difference to my life than accepting my autism ever would or could?

I think I was wrong.

At this moment all the changes that have come through transitioning to live as "female" seem almost insignificant compared to the vast range of things that learning to be autistic includes.

Yes, gender is a big deal and dealing with it transformed so much.  Dealing with gender pretty much cured decades of depression and a large black shadow that hung over my life even on the best of days.  It meant I could smile more and better and learn what it meant to cry tears of joy.

While each facet of autism is small, they are beginning to add up to something bigger than gender, whether that's in the way I treat myself, the way I interact with the world, or the way the world treats me.

Gender tackled gender.  Learning to embrace my autistic self tackles everything.  Nothing in my mind, in my life history, in the way I think and behave is safe from the magnifying lens of the autism microscope.

Maybe if anything was safe then I wouldn't be autistic!  After all, that list includes such things as "Analyzes existence, the meaning of life, and everything continually." Yep. I don't just analyse.  I over-analyse.  Everything. Even the things that have no deep reason behind them. And get told about it frequently and told to stop it and just accept what is and get on with things.

So not only is dealing with this harder for me than gender transition, it's bigger too and, if I am faithful to this process, it will transform every part of my life.

Shame must fall away.  Guilt must fall away.  Into true self acceptance.

This is just who I am.  How I'm wired.  And how, at least in the broad strokes, countless thousands of other people are wired.

I have killed myself for too long.

Now is the time for resurrection.  For self knowledge.  For accepting without making value judgements about the so-called "good" and "bad" aspects of who I am.

Now is the time to learn to be autistic.  To learn to be me.  To learn to live.

Now is the time to love myself.  To be proud of who I am.  To be proud of what I am.

Now is the time to allow others to love me - and lovingly critique me - without rejecting that love.

And now is the time to learn better to love others.  To be proud of who they are.  To be proud of what they are.

Now is the time to build myself up.  To stop falling back on forty years of abusive self criticism based on needless shame.

Now is the time for forgive myself for all the abuse I have poured upon myself.

Now.  Now is the time.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

About My Breasts, Fucking Passing, And The Wisdom of Autism

Warning in advance:  This post contains completely honest, no-holds-barred, discussion of my breasts.  If that is going to offend you, stop reading.  Right now.

Not long after I had started wearing skirts publicly someone at church asked me an important question:  "Have you thought of chicken fillets? That's what I use."  The person who asked was cis-gender and was wanting to say that using them is OK, because plenty of women use them.  No.  I hadn't thought of that.  In the amazing rush of coming out to myself and going full time two months later, somehow I'd missed thinking of buying someone to give me the appearance of an obvious bust, the appearance of breasts that could have been there for years.

So.  I bought breast inserts.  I bought bras of the right size to hold the inserts in place and wore them with pride.  All of a sudden, the public Clare went from being flat chested to having C cup fake boobs that plenty of people told her looked good.

They really helped with confidence.  Because you know that when the idiots are staring at the shape of your fantastic chest they're not looking so much at your manly looking face so won't throw abuse at you as much.  Unless they look up and think they've just accidentally fancied a bloke and start worrying about their own sexuality.  At least that was the mental theory that boosted my confidence - whether it had any basis in truth is an entirely different matter.

But the time has come to change.

For the last couple of days I have ditched those inserts.  I've been walking with my chest being the shape it currently is naturally.  Yes.  This really is an entire blog post about my breasts.  There will be no photos included!

So.  Why?  Why have I taken the step of putting aside those confidence building, good looking, breast forms?  Am I mad?  Do I want to start getting more abuse again?  Why, Clare?  Why?  Isn't your life hard enough?

Three reasons.

One:  For the good of my own health.

I've now been taking oestrogen every day for seven months.  The dose is still low - in fact it's still lower than what the normal start dose would be in the USA.  And roughly two months ago I started to receive implants of goserelin, which is an anti-androgen.  Basically, it blocks the production of testosterone (and of oestrogen too but that doesn't affect me).

The hormone treatment is having an effect.  I am going through the soreness that any pubescent girl goes through when their breasts grow.  And the inserts affect this.  Yep, it all gets painful at times.  Not that I'm complaining, just laughing at the pain because it means the hormones are doing their job.

The inserts I have are designed to fit over breasts that aren't growing - either because someone wants to add to what they naturally have, or because someone has had a mastectomy and wants to appear to still have their previous appearance.

That's no good for me because my breasts are growing.  That process has begun, though just as in any other female puberty it will take years to complete.  (Too much information?!  If that's the case, why didn't you stop reading when warned at the start?!)  The inserts, because of what they're designed for have a concave back.  And that's no good.  To press growing breasts into them is to try to force them into a shape that they shouldn't have.  And now they're growing there is less room in that bra so the pressure is greater resulting in increased risk of growing misshapen breasts.

So for my own health - and my own comfort too because any woman can tell you that extra constant pressure on growing breasts isn't exactly a blissful physical experience - I have decided to ditch the inserts, regardless of how that changes my appearance or increases the perceived risks.  ("Perceived" is probably the right word, rather than "actual".)

Two:  Passing.  Passing.  Passing.

Readers of this blog will know that I recently have had to come to terms with being autistic, after so many years of denial.  This process has taught me so much and affected me in ways that I'll be working through for a long time.

I always knew that I had a tendency to rock, to stim, to do some of those typically stereotypical autistic things.  And I felt terrible about them and did everything I could to not do any of them.  Don't rock Clare.  Don't stim.  Stay still.  Stay very, very still in case the autism detecting T-Rex in your head sees you and devours you.  (Yes, autistic people CAN invent metaphor and play with words!  Even while often being over-literal about anyone else's metaphors!)

What I have noticed as I have begun to let go and let myself rock and pace and move and play with stim toys and so on - and I know that I have only begun, not finished - is that holding myself still was bloody knackering.  Letting go has been challenging but it's also being a source of freedom and I have a lot more energy through not fighting myself every moment of every day, consciously or subconsciously.

What I've realised is that for all this years I have been trying to pass as neurotypical.  And it's been such hard work even when denying my as yet unofficial diagnosis.  Passing.  Passing.  Passing.

And that realisation has come as something of a revelation and it's affected the way I can treat my gender presentation too.  Because I've been trying to pass there too - pass as reasonably cis-normative so I don't get abused, to look like what other people might think a woman should look like, so that I can claim the same privileges that any cisgender woman is automatically given.

With the autism I decided that, as much as I can manage it, I shouldn't try to pass anymore.  I should just be myself.  And that should be easy because I haven't got a lot to lose in my life and I know that the important parts of what I do have - my family, my church, my friends - are not going to be lost if I learn to be openly autistic, openly the person I am behind the masks.

With the autism I just haven't got the energy to pass.  I haven't got the energy to put on that act all day anymore.  To do so would be more crippling than it was when I didn't even realise how much I was doing it.  And I haven't got the desire to pass either.  I keep reading the writings of people who are proudly autistic and they have been influencing me so much.

So with the autism I came up with a catchphrase.  I penned it and proclaim it.  I used it in the last post on this blog.  I am massively thankful for the people who brought me to the point of proclaiming it.  And bear in mind that I never used to swear and would never have let such a phrase cross my lips in the past.  But ...


Easier said than done. 
"Fuck Passing"

Because not passing is not conforming.  It's a risk.

"Fuck Passing"

 It's a letting go of security, of respect, of automatic privilege.

"Fuck Passing"

Yes, that's easier said than done.

"F.U.C.K P.A.S.S.I.N.G"

Because I'm still on the path of discovering what I am and what not passing might mean.

Fuck Passing.
I'm done with it.
I choose the harder life of standing out.
I choose the easier life of being free.

And that's fed back into my gender.  It's easy for me to say because I generally pass pretty well anyway.  I look reasonably like what people think a "woman" looks like.  But for gender too.  Fuck Passing.  I'm not going to get into all the discussions that could be made but these days my use of make up is minimal - far less than a lot of women wear every day.  And I realised.  In order to stay true to my little obscene slogan, the breast inserts had to go.

3.  Women.  What are they anyway?

To be brief:  Breasts do not make a woman.

That's obvious of course.  But if it's so obvious, why should I wear fake breasts?  Doesn't that imply somewhere along the line a view that breasts DO make THIS woman?  Aren't I just falling into some completely bullshit view of what a proper woman should be?

Yes.  At least to some degree - beyond all my concerns of security and self-confidence - that's what I've been doing.

So those breast inserts have to go in order to not stand against the misogynist world that would define a woman by her cup size.

That might be a bit radical.  And I know full well that in some ways that leads to questions about hormones and eventual surgery.  But there are other issues involved there and it's far more complicated than any discussion of sticking bits of silicon in your bra in order to appear "normal" or "acceptable".

So.  There you are.  My chest is worn as it comes.  And I walk with pride because this is who I am and this is what I am and this is the healthy, risky way to be.

And thus I had to buy new bras.  Those C cup bras will have to be put away, at least for the moment.  Who knows what the future will bring and what the medical treatments will do?  And thus I join the moans of all other women:  "Why are bras so expensive?" and "Why doesn't anywhere cheap sell them in my size?"  Honestly, I tried Primark.  Would anything fit?  Not a chance in hell!

It's a new day for my boobs.  What you see now is far less than what you would have seen a week ago.  But what you see is mine.  All mine.  And they are what they are and will be what they will be.

Fuck Passing.  Because the only person I want to pass as is me.