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Cause, fault, blame, responsibility: an uncomfortable family

  • Posted on April 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Some long while ago I wrote on this blog in response to the accusation many people born trans face: that they are being selfish. (Self, Self(ish), Selfish)

What do people see? They see a person whom they thought quite stable and happy, suddenly doing something quite bizarre. And that apparent behaviour intrudes on their lives, disrupts and challenges it, whilst insisting on acceptance. That is not always forthcoming; families are destroyed by lack of understanding and unreadiness to change. Is this still the same person? Even a clinical diagnosis is met with scepticism. This, surely is a derangement, a lifestyle choice. With all our shared social conditioning, this is weird.


A man does not become a woman in our world. They become some pretence, some male-looking actor mistakenly persuaded that their role belongs in real life. Somewhere between this perception and the reality, so often, destructive and divisive forces are at work. I haven’t even been able to have the conversation with my grown-up daughter, to find out why we cannot even have dialogue about her impressions, feelings and perceptions. But surely there must be a mixture of confusion, embarrassment, anger and blame.

As I work out what possible grounds for divorce are honest and truthful, I compare this birth condition with others. A congenital muscle disorder that might leave me in a wheelchair? How disruptive is that, how life-changing, how relationship-changing? And yes, it can lead to marital breakdown, as can mastectomy or impotence. But blame? ‘I married a fit, strong man, not this!’ Is this completely different from gender? Is the love of the other really so different in each case?


My wife and I do not use the word ‘blame’. I consistently use the word ‘cause’, because I fully accept that the way I was born, being hidden so long, has resulted in loss of my family, marriage and home. I could no longer be ‘her man’. The operative element that has to be examined is choice. Why could I not have continued as I was? Well, all my life there was a part of me that I hated. I feared it; it was morally wrong to me, a perversion even. Largely unexpressed, but incapable of eradication. And therefore not something I could ever disclose. My wife said to me this week: ‘No-one should hate themselves.’ What kind of choice is this: between hating yourself – and being authentic but unloved and unwanted?

This is the result, and gender dysphoria is the cause. There is no blame. Why? Because my wife reacted and responded as the overwhelming majority of wives would. It’s very ordinary and simple really. As in my last blog, marriage is a self-serving contract; it is not really about the other at all. A wife has a husband for a reason, and if that husband is no longer going to play that male role, it’s over. Tough. I’ll let you be different if you’ll let me be normal, but don’t expect me to live with you, let alone want you like that. So there is a cause in the other too: conditioned normality within strict boundaries.


So much for cause but no blame. What about fault? Fault has several meanings. It can mean defective. This is my fault because there is something defective about me. It can mean a fault line. Two masses (or people) rubbing up alongside each other in contrary directions causing division and friction. It can mean the result of a careless or deliberate act that causes damage. Well, I still maintain that when a person experiences gender dysphoria, their transition into gender congruence is not a deliberate chosen act, but rather inevitable and perfectly fair and reasonable. There is no fault in being authentic: we are not nasty or even unloving people. Nor is it defect: only variance. 1 in 1,000 of us are to some degree intersex, 1 in 4,500 (birth identified) men and 1 in 8,000 women experience gender dysphoria. This is no defect deserving of rejection or blame. This is not fault.

The fault-line analogy is better. Both sides are working in opposite directions. So if fault has any meaning it belongs equally with the socially-conditioned partner for whom what the previously-loved partner is, matters vastly more than who they are. So love dies, because that is what it was founded on. This was our fault-line.

And so the cause, the blame, and the fault, when a family or a relationship fails under gender conflict, are equal. Neither side should bear more than the other. In a few cases, love is of a different kind. Perhaps sexuality is more fluid, or love more unconditional, or compassion profoundly greater. But losing everything is almost normal for the transitioning person, however lovely, loving, kind, talented, generous and committed they are. Person-hood does not play a part. I am fortunate compared with friends facing vindictiveness in partners. And in those cases, I do tend to feel that there is blame, simply because such attitudes are unjustified, deliberate and sustained.


And so finally, to ‘responsibility’. This is the missing word so often. It means whether you are the rejecting one or the rejected, you accept responsibility for the outcomes. Each must recognise the cause of their response, whether becoming authentic, or choosing to keep their norms unchallenged. And as above, this should be equal. As in my last blog, my marriage failed because of both of us. My dysphoria was the cause of my necessary change, but my wife’s conditioned normality was the cause of her rejection: our degrees of choice were perhaps not dissimilar. I shall not argue whether either of us could have resisted each of those pressures.

I took my responsibility by dissolving the emotional torture through leaving. I bore that burden first not just because I was no longer wanted, but because I felt I could and should. I had a life to develop and clear aims in achieving peace with myself after forty years. No-one was going to help me with that and I no longer hoped or expected it. But now we come to part two.

Part two is dispersal of our shared house and assets, and that means a secure family home that still exists, with cats and a productive garden, energy efficiency, and all we worked for together over 30 years. So it’s where the real hit is for my wife (son and cats), my daughter having just moved out to start on her own. It’s the end of everything, and it will hurt. Not me, so much, because I went through all that six months ago. I have nothing left other than the financial asset to help me find a more permanent and sustainable home. But I know it will raise in the others the same old feelings of cause, blame, fault – and responsibility. That too is equal. But I know that a new reality is sinking in for those who used to be my family; it’s time for them to realise their responsibility, not least in failing to gather around me when I needed it, and in the rejection that has now lost them their home too. They don’t even talk together about what has happened.

And that, however it is said, is not me blaming them. There are causes on both sides, there is responsibility too. And that needs to be fully recognised. ‘I take full responsibility for rejecting you and ending my love for you.’ How does that sound? I think it is fair, and perhaps worth voicing.

About time

  • Posted on April 6, 2013 at 1:14 pm

It must be one of the most-repeated phrases offered me over this past six months. Give it time. It takes time. Time heals. Take your time. And here I am, with taking time enforced on me, and no idea of how quickly or slowly it will take to recover from pneumonia. The reason in part is that it is unpredictable and unseen. Had it been flu, symptomatic remedies, a few boxes of tissues, and I would bravely sit at my desk and recover as I worked. Fewer tissues means I would be getting better. But somewhere inside one of my…

Risk of shock: emotional charge

  • Posted on April 1, 2013 at 7:25 pm

This one is bit more of a thought-piece, so settle down and think with me. It isn’t about gender at all really, it isn’t especially about me or anyone in particular, but I hope one or two readers will find it useful to reflect on. The thought just came out of struggling to describe what I and others around me have been experiencing, and seemed to fill a space that made sense. I hope it doesn’t come across as didactic: I don’t intend more than to provoke thought.

Have you ever emerged from or been pushed out of a relationship, and felt locked out of a place where you left part of yourself or your life in trust, unable to regain access for retrieval? (See I counted on you.) Or maybe gone back and been hurt all over again? Time and again we do it, putting ourselves through it all over. What if you are seen as the one to withdraw, and the other really isn’t letting go …? Will you miss that vital chance to put things right and be glorious again?

When I was in my teens I was very keen on electronics. In those days it included valves, waxy capacitors, big resistors that could get hot so you could smell the dust toasting. So we aren’t talking about 12 V power supplies or less, we are talking ‘high tension’, including 90 V batteries (yes, really). No microcircuits then, and in audio systems, a quality without hiss or noise you didn’t get until digital came along. It was simpler to understand too, but I guess a tad more dangerous to mess about with. I did get electric shocks, sometimes from big smoothing capacitors quite some time after switching off the mains power. Curiosity, incaution, call it what you will, it was a hazard that I wasn’t always careful enough about. I learned about electricity and its effects on the human body and came to understand how to work with it without getting hurt. About switching on, respecting, switching off, using insulation, and assuming nothing about connections.

Nowadays most appliances are double-insulated and not even earthed, with ‘no user serviceable parts’, and screws you don’t always find screwdrivers for in B&Q. But we are familiar with a tangled drawer full of chargers and the need to plug in the phone, laptop, toothbrush, camera, epilator or whatever, in order to keep life going.

And so the analogy: we keep our lives going emotionally by investing energy in safe places where we can get that energy back. We charge up our friendships, our working positions and colleagues, our managers and superiors, our families, and our partners and lovers. Then, when we need that extra in return to keep us going when we feel in deficit, we can draw on it, in terms of goodwill, support, kindness, opportunities, favours, love, excitement or stimulation – or security.

Think about where you charge up with your energies, where you invest your little surpluses, where you regard as the safe places to draw on, for the emergency supplies, the ego-boosters, the reassurances, the need to feel loved or wanted. You know where they are don’t you? Are they safe places? Secure and promissory? Or like a squirrel with its nuts, are you just optimistic about finding some again? Few of these emotional energy repositories, these batteries, offer you more back than you put in. You have to keep charging, watching the indicator for low charge, and making sure you don’t end up in an awkward place with nowhere to plug in when the power fails.

Most of these emotional batteries that we charge up will naturally discharge when left alone. The friend you haven’t spoken to in a year, the wife you haven’t really thought about with flowers or a night out, or a pampered day, the partner you’ve assumed needed nothing more than your presence to be fulfilled and valued, the parent you haven’t thanked or the child you haven’t given time to really listen to. Haven’t we all been there too? We connect with the emotional battery – and it’s flat. No energy flows, or only a trickle.

And sometimes we charge up so much we do damage. This little netbook PC has a battery-saving option to only charge up 80 per cent so the battery will have a longer overall lifespan. Leave rechargeable batteries in the charger too long and they just get hot. More is going in than can be held, so it’s either resisted or turned into a different kind of energy. Some relationships are unwittingly overcharged like that too, over-invested in, so that instead of a balance of internal batteries and external, we become dependent on them, or our expectations of them.

The thing is, these external batteries are not part of us, but of other complex, independent and interconnected people. They do not exist for us. There are exchange deals and others invest in us, but we all know when an old promise feels now unrealistic, or we no longer have the influence they thought we had, and need. If we have conflicting loyalties, indecision and changing circumstances, so do they. So isn’t it just a bit dangerous too, to depend on these emotional investments too completely? The partner who cheats? The colleague with more ambition than loyalty? The child who needs to grow through an issue before they can be reasonable? Or you, and your changing perspective on life, and needs?

OK. So you have just lost a relationship on which you depended. Your love, your commitment is all charged up, and they have disconnected, or there is a loose connection and sparks. You know to avoid emotional electrocution you must let go. But all your emotional energy is still stored up there, in their battery. It’s sitting there with gleaming terminals where your wires belong. Go connect!

Yikes! One touch and what you thought was your invested energy instead is a shock that knocks you off your feet. What? My invested energy? I want some of that back, like it used to be. Why doesn’t this battery work? Suddenly the polarity isn’t what it was, the voltage (potential) seems changed, or the current unmatched. That battery is someone else. Why did you charge it? Was it for their benefit (I love you so, till the end of time), or was it for you (if I keep their love I’ll be safe, till the end of time)?

Unconditional love or regard isn’t like that. It’s the jump leads when your power is down, it’s your spontaneous, unthinking giving when another needs it. It’s always there, because the other has reserves by not over-investing and draining themselves. So what are you thinking now? Where and what do you want to invest outside yourself, and how much do you want to believe that you have enough love and emotional resources for yourself and to share? Like electricity, you can’t keep it long, but you can generate it.

Now look at those batteries. You don’t have to lose a single relationship just because you aren’t borrowing their batteries. But is there one you just feel you have to keep going back to, to see if it’s still charged up, there for you? Maybe it’s time just to let it discharge. Don’t touch it, save the shock and hurt. Do you need the emotional energy? Or do you need the person? Even if they hurt you? Don’t confuse the person and their effect on you, for love and true giving.

Friendships and love happen all the time, if you have the capacity to let them come and go, so watch where your insecurities are charging something up that isn’t for the other at all, but for you. An ex-lover with a battery all charged up with your energy may not want to hurt you, but can’t help it. You can. There is a time to refuse connection until complete discharge, during which you can review your whole policy of emotional energy investments. You are a net creator of continual love and of kindness, if only you can learn not to store too much in the wrong places.

It might leave you with a changed perception of what love is, of being loved, and of how others see you. No bad thing perhaps. I too have been someone’s battery, and my polarity meant everything. That was my value, that was their investment, and that was everything. I too had a lot of emotional energy invested in them, and that was my mistake too, when they simply unplugged and it all went dead. I could resort to a lot of insulation, or I could change my energy policy. I’m choosing the latter, and I’m ready to connect. As a generator.