Nāgakuśala Dharmacharin: Full Interview

Duration 45:01


Nāgakuśala Dharmacharin
Interview by Ross Horsley
16th March 2020

RL: This is Ross Horsley recording for the West Yorkshire Queer Stories project on the 16th of March 2020. I’m here this morning with Nāgakuśala.

ND: Hi, I’m Nāgakuśala Dharmacharin. I’m 53. I was born in Kent, but I’ve lived in West Yorkshire since 1987, and in Leeds for two spells – the last one starting in about 2011 – so I’ve been in Leeds quite a bit. There’s an interesting question here about, do I identify as something or am I something, which we’ll maybe talk about later. So, I’m gonna leave that open and say… non-binary, trans, and pansexual, probably, without saying whether or not I identify them, or I am them. Maybe I should start there?

If I say I identify as something, then that suggests something to me that doesn’t feel quite right. I suspect that cis-het people don’t identify as cis-het, because it’s ‘normal’ (I’m doing the finger thing to show that it’s in inverted commas) [laughs]. So, I don’t feel like I identify as those things, really. But, at the same time, I don’t feel that I am those things either. To say that I am something suggests a fixity that I just don’t experience. So, anyway, yeah, that’s… whatever that is. I suppose I wanted to talk a lot about how language has evolved.

So, I could start off with a bit of personal history. So, I grew up in Kent. I was, here’s that word ‘normal’ again, yeah, so to speak. Normal enough, you might say, to fit in most of the time. So… from what became clear in my late teens was I wanted to be female-bodied, that would be the language I use now, probably I wouldn’t have expressed it as that then. I had therapy in my early 20s, had a year of psychotherapy around this, which I totally kind of bought into and paid for myself, and it was great, actually, but it took me pretty much the whole year to kind of say that [laughs], which is bizarre, looking back on it, cos it kinda just it feels really natural now that I’m – well I am gender-diverse – and there’s that ‘am’ word. Actually, that’s funny: I feel more comfortable saying that I am gender-diverse, because it, what does that mean, what does is gender-diverse? Who knows? It could be anything really I suppose.

So, I feel as though the last 30 years of my life have been unpacking that, and working out what that means [laughs]. And what seems to be important in that process is how language has evolved. So… I was lucky in a sense – I feel as though, I have friends who are ten years older than me, who are gay, and they had no obvious role models when they were growing up. There was nobody in public life, really, who made sense as a really positive gay man. Y’know, they were always represented as stereotypes, I guess. And then as I was growing up, there was Tom Robinson, who was this like amazing, it’s like fantastic, y’know… Cos I kind of knew, from my early teens I suppose, that in a sense I wasn’t straight, though it turned out I wasn’t gay either [laughs], which is kind of part of it, part of what this thing is, this being experiences that. [pause]

So yeah, it’s like, much more painful, 30 years ago, than it is now. It occasionally rises up as a, as a thing that becomes an experience for a week or a month or two months. The last time I had any prolonged gender dysphoria was 2016, but that led into a really exciting and fantastic year in my practice – I’m a Buddhist, and there’s a lot of self-exploration in that, which the gender dysphoria felt like a springboard for, actually. I had a very, very exciting and productive 2016 in my practice, yeah.

So, mostly it’s not exactly painful; in fact, it’s almost pleasurable. There’s – I could have a sense of, in the sense of having two bodies: there’s a corporeal body, which is male, and we can maybe talk a bit about that afterwards – then there’s this other ethereal body which kind of hovers or is kind of – not quite coordinate with the corporeal body, and that body seems to be female. And I distinctly remember the first time I experienced that: I was living at a retreat centre down in Norwich, in 2012, and a retreat was about to start. One of the things we did – some of us would sit around the lounge to just kind of get chatting with the people who turned up, to start the retreat. So, I’m sitting in the lounge, there’s nobody else there, nobody’s arrived yet – I get a pretty strong sense of that ethereal body, and it’s like ‘woah’. And then there’s some kind of exploration of what that feels like, and it’s actually pleasant [laughs]

I do feel as though those – what’s the… Hmm [pause]. Gender dysphoria has a psychological component, and that can be – it can be compelling, really strongly compelling, but it doesn’t have to be unpleasant [laughs] sometimes you can make it unpleasant, and I do actually, I kind of ‘grrr’ until I get frustrated, want something. Ah, which is something else as well, isn’t it? So – I’m gonna get lost… Ah, male-bodied! Yes, I’m male-bodied [laughs], which seems, it seems so controversial to say that, actually it's just true in some sense. I’m back to that identify as or am thing: do I identify as male-bodied? Not really. Am I male-bodied? Well, sort of, in a manner of speaking [laughs] The sense in which I’m not male-bodied is the sense in which it doesn’t matter that I am. That doesn’t sound quite right, I’m not sure – there’s something poetic in there that I can’t quite get to with words, yeah, and I’ve lost the other thread that I was pulling at…

Yeah, so part of my journey has been a coming into a relationship with maleness, in a sense. I’m quite happy to… in a sense, be male, actually [laughs]. I mean it’d be kind of a, bit of a… what? Yeah, it’d be difficult not to be [laughs] Y’know, in a sense I can’t imagine not being – I’ve kind of played around with those kinds of… sort of vision, meditation-type things, and I find, and I find it kind of impossible to fully imagine myself as female, but I can much, but I can very easily imagine myself as I am in this body… in a sense, being female, words don’t quite work – there’s a limited language, yeah.

So, let’s talk about language, okay. So, the first time I read – years and years ago I was reading something and this word genderqueer popped out of it, and I thought, ‘oh that’s interesting’. And then I was reading this other, and I was like, ‘ah that’s me!’ So I had a language to describe my experience. I kind of knew that I wasn’t transsexual; I wasn’t going to transition, I didn’t feel as though – no, that’s not true. Now I don’t feel, because I’ve considered myself to be non-binary (which I also think is part of the trans community, but that’s another issues, which we’ll talk about [laughs]). When – so back, what, 20 years ago, there was just binary language. There were some great kind of transsexual role models: Kate Bornstein, Leslie Fienberg – fantastic, Leslie Fienberg’s amazing – I love Leslie Fienberg. But they’re all clearly, they were all clearly something I wasn’t, although Leslie Fienberg has a lot of subtlety going on [laughs] around her experience, so I don’t wanna paint them in a particular way that’s not how they identified, but they were clearly further somewhere than I was, I think that’s fair to say, yeah.

And this word genderqueer popped up, and it’s like, ‘wow, yeah’. And it was almost as though… there didn’t need to be an accommodation anymore with that limited, what I experienced – well did I? I didn’t experience it as limited as I didn’t know anything else. The gender binary: there it was. I didn’t quite fit into it, I was uncomfortable, but I didn’t know – I didn’t know anything else [laughs] and then suddenly, there’s this other possibility. It’s like, ‘wow, yeah, so great’. So that was a really big change of – in my experience, cos suddenly: ‘ah!’ There’s a way – there’s a way of describing my experience, fantastic [pause]

So, I suppose what then happened was that I came more and more into – it’s slightly paradoxical actually – I came more and more into a relationship with my ‘female side’ (I’m doing the finger thing), so to speak. So, she becomes more – she becomes stronger, more apparent, more available, actually. And that becomes increasingly comfortable, yeah. And that’s been going on, probably for 20 years, actually – in some really quite fundamental sorts of ways actually.

Like, almost there’s something in there about almost learning how to have sex, actually [laughs] I learned quite a long time ago that I should stay away from straight women, cos I really confuse them [laughs] And I kind of knew that, but I didn’t really have a, I didn’t really have a language for kind of knowing why that was [laughs]. And once, once I started to kind of understand the, or have a sense of that queerness – yeah, let’s just call it queerness actually. Suddenly that became – that makes a lot more sense. And almost all of my relationships, almost all of my sexual relationships since then have been with bisexual women, because they get it [laughs]. It’s like, ‘ah yeah, great’. And one of my current partners in particular very much relates to that – shall we call it the female part of me? She really calls her out of me. In a way it’s very strong, actually it was quite painful at first, it was very exciting and also very painful cos it was like, ‘wow, y’know, can I really be this?’ There’s a kind of fear of falling short of my own dream about myself, almost. But it turns out, y’know, you just go into it, keep going and it’s fine, actually. So, that’s amazing. That relationship has been going on for five years. And it’s, yeah it’s phenomenal, actually, to be that seen… to be in… to be in a relationship that completely, actually. I suppose there was always a partiality before, there was a trying to figure it out. I was always trying to figure something out. And now I’m not; there’s nothing to figure out any more really, in that sense. There’s a working out of what it means, in a sense, what it means, so to speak – I don’t mean what it means in a conceptual sense; I’m not trying to work out an idea. But as a felt experience, so how do I live that? How do I live in line with my felt experience?

Like I say, I don’t know about the trans/non-binary question. Ah, what’s she called? Oh, there’s a famous trans writer who’s very good on this… her name’s gone.

RH: Don’t worry, we can come back to it.

ND: Julia… somebody. What was she called? Whipping Girl was the book… yeah, I can’t remember it [laughs] [Julia Serano]

RH: That’s fine, don’t worry, we can still talk about it.

ND: So, I mean, she’s brilliant, that’s a very, very good book. Another fantastic book by a trans person that I totally relate to, whilst I don’t think of myself as transsexual in that sense. She makes the point that I totally agree with, that it’s all too easy to get into a kind of oppositional thing, having, have that between trans people and non-binary people, or transsexual people and non-binary people. I mean, she characterises it quite bluntly, but I think there’s some truth in it, or as a danger that trans people can see non-binary people as kind of hedging and not really committing to anything. Non-binary people can see trans people as suckers, buying into the binary [laughs] yeah, and that’s kind of – both of those positions are daft, y’know, we’re much better off together. Much stronger together, I think.

So, if I’m asked, I’ll say I’m non-binary but I don’t see that outside of trans, I see trans as an umbrella term, for me, for transsexuals and non-binary people, and I suppose other categories as yet to arise, I mean there are problem even ones now that I haven’t mentioned. I’ve only experienced non-binaryphobia, if that’s a word, once from a trans person, which was kind of really surreal. So it was a trans man who said I was cis-gendered because I wasn’t transitioning. I went, ‘hang on a minute – cis-gender? You’re redefining your terms in a really weird way, so, rrr’. So, anyway, I guess it’s rare or I don’t come across it, I’ve only come across it once, but it’s out there, somewhere. And I’m sure it’s also true that non-binary people can characterise transsexuals as y’know dupes of the binary [laughs]. I don’t buy that at all, I think there’s a – it’s experience that’s important, and it’s so easy to drift into a kind of – you have your own metaphysics of gender and you think it has to apply to everybody. That’s nuts. It’s so complex and weird, it really is. Yeah.

RH: Can I ask a quick question: Have you ever been to a group for non-binary people?

ND: I’ve been to the non-binary group here a bit. I’m much older than most of the people in it. I mean, there are older non-binary people about… So, yes, but I haven’t done it a lot.

RH: What are your experiences of interacting with a group like that?

ND: Oh I find it difficult cos I’m a bit autistic anyway [laughs], so it’s kind of a – the unstructured social aspect I find hideously awful. Structured activity’s great, I love that [laughs]. I think I’ve been unlucky in that when I’ve come it’s been less structured; I do think they have structured evenings and I just miss them [laughs], so anyway, that’s, yeah I think that’s the story.

I think there’s a con- maybe there’s a concern more broadly about – I suppose about all older LGBT people, LGBTQ people, that they might be isolated, or find it difficult to form a community, but I’m really lucky in that I live in a community that’s not entirely queer, but it’s very LGBT-inclusive. Yeah, I live with several, several people who are really, they’re not trans or non-binary themselves and they’re very strong trans allies, which is amazing, really good.

RH: Can you tell me a little bit more about that community?

ND: Yes, so it’s a housing co-op called Cornerstone that owns two houses at the top end of Chapel Allerton, right on the border with Chapel Allerton. So, it’s 14 people in two houses. I live in a house which is currently entirely women and non-binary people, which I find sort of blissful actually [laughs]. There’s a whole interesting question about, around there about how each of us relates to gender. There’s one woman in that house who is definitely more comfortable relating to men. And we’ve talked a little bit about this, and there’s something simpler about them [laughs] or something like that [laughs], whereas the rest of us are all a bit more complex, or something, yeah. So, I feel really – mostly it’s like 95% bliss, and then 5% of the time I’ll feel, oh I’m not female-bodied, and that’s kind of, ‘ah’, and there’s a moment of ‘mm’. That’s difficult, that’s painful, but mostly it’s great.

There used to be other – I’m the only trans and non-binary person in the houses at the minute, there used to be three of us, who shared the top floor of one of the houses, but that’s kind of, they moved on. So, I remember a friend of mine asking when they moved out – cos they moved out quite close together in time – if I was okay being the only trans person in the house, and I went, ‘yeah it’s fine’, and then I thought, ‘hang on a minute, that’s interesting’, that’s a really good question. There is something, there’s something about communication: how do I, how can I communicate my experience to a cis-gendered person? And actually, I can’t, there’s some level on which that’s not possible to do, which is kind of fine. And it’s the same for any – in a sense it’s the same for any minority. Y’know, I live with somebody who’s a person of colour – I’m pretty sure they can’t fully explain – not explain – communicate their experience of that, definitely. I think it’s really important not to get hung up on that. And there’s something about… well that’s about how we relate to oppression, I think. I think I probably have a view about that, which might not always be helpful, but…

How can I personalise it? I’m more than my gender identity. So, I might experience difficulties in my life because of it. Mostly that’s internal, sometimes it’s external, but mostly it’s internal, actually. But that’s not the whole story, there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on, yeah. So, to focus, in a sense to focus on the oppression is – we need to, we need to do it, we need to be clear with each other about our experience, and if that’s an experience of oppression then we need to talk about that. But to focus on it excessively is not a good idea. I think, there’s something in their about agency I suppose. I’m gonna start sounding like Jordan Pearson, which is probably a bad idea [laughs]

RH: How important is it to you to challenge people who might make assumptions, about you, your gender, and things like that?

ND: It depends who they are, actually – I don’t care, out in the world. I – and then, when people are closer to me it becomes more important. I experience gender euphoria when people ‘correctly’ – in inverted commas, so to speak – ‘correctly’ gender me. Erm, I have a distinct first impression, first memory of that happening: so, I’m on the phone to the secretary of the housing co-op – I’m the treasurer, so we occasionally have a chat about this, that and the other. So, I’m on the phone to her… and there’s a question; I can’t even remember what the question was, but it’s a question and she asked the people in the room at the other end, and she genders me as ‘they’, and I just get this rush of euphoria out of that [laughs]. That feels much stronger to me than any displeasure I feel at being misgendered, erm, in a bad way.

It depends – y’know people misgender me at home; it’s fine, actually. Some people notice and apologise, and that’s great, and some people don’t misgender me and some people do. Nobody’s being… erm… callous, cruel, none of that’s going on. I suppose, and I mean this is a bit speculative, but I suppose there’s a massive difference between being male-bodied and non-binary and female-bodied and non-binary, and there’s swings and roundabouts in that. I’m really happy being read as a man out in the world [laughs], y’know, it doesn’t – I don’t experience that as a problem, actually. In fact, sometimes I experience it as something that’s quite pleasurable. I’m tall, quite big, y’know. I sweep down Briggate [a street in Leeds] and people get out of the way, and I’ve – y’know, I only just noticed that a couple of years ago, and I thought, ‘that’s weird innit?’ But it’s true, seems to be true that happens. I put a long black coat on and a hat, striding through town [laughs] – that’s quite enjoyable [laughs].

But it’s also – I think there’s something else going on, erm… I hope, in the way I communicate with people that suggests, erm, a softness and an availability, or something, y’know even if I’m talking to a shopping – a shop assistant, I want to, I want to connect. And that feels like – that feels like an expression of gender, actually, to see somebody else. Yeah… Now I feel like I’m categorising men as cold, shallow, crazies, which is [laughs].

RH: It’s just language isn’t it, it comes back to language.

ND: Yeah, sure.

RH: We touched very briefly, just earlier, on connecting with other non-binary people and a lot of them seemingly being younger. What can you say about that?

ND: I’d, well… I can speculate. I think it’s easier to… oh language is gonna be tricky here isn’t it? What I want to say is it’s easier to pick a label when you’re younger. Now that sounds like a hideous way of saying it; it’s awful. I can’t think of a better way of saying it. I mean, I’m saying that massively provisionally, and I’m not meaning like you choose to be something, I don’t mean it in that sense at all. But, here we are, we’ve got this amazing word – non-binary – to describe a particular experience that wasn’t available 30 years ago, 20 years ago. It seems that lots and lots, apparently lots of young people are kind of, ‘oh yeah, that’s me, great’, but there’s not so many 50 year olds who go, ‘oh yeah, that’s me’ because we’re more fixed, maybe, I’m guess. Whereas I was, I never could get fixed [laughs] Yeah.

RH: There seems to be a really strong connection with being your gender identity and your Buddhism. Can you tell us a little bit more about the connection there?

ND: Mm-hmm. So, the Buddha says that nothing is fixed, actually, everything’s in change – well, ah, hmm [laughs] To massively simplify, the Buddha says that everything is changing all the time. And I thought, well that seems to be true, okay [laughs] And… in a sense we are not what we think we are, actually. The idea that… well okay, here’s an illustration: I’ve come in here and I have a conversation with you, and then I go away again – the traditional view of that would be that I have had a conversation with you and that we might have got some new ideas or some connection or something. Or had an emotional response to that. That’s all great, but then I go out and I’m basically the same person, I’ve just had a different experience. That’s the common view. And I don’t think it’s like that. And I don’t think the Buddha – the Buddha said it’s not like that. The Buddha says that I walk into the room as one person, there’s an interaction of some sort and I walk out a different person. You remake me, by being here. And as far as I can see, that’s just true, that’s how it is.

So… [pause] okay, so there’s one other thing to say about that: there’s not much point speculating about causes [laughs] because it’s a whole really, a complicated mess of stuff going on all the time, so, I think I probably, back in the day, would interrogate why – ‘why am I transgender?’ And it’s nuts: it’s a complete waste of time. It’s just how it is. So, there’s a kind of an acceptance, I suppose Buddhism is about acceptance to quite a large degree. It just is what it is; it’s fine. In a sense, get on with it. But not in a callous way, but in a ‘it is what it is’. I suppose we’re back to oppression again aren’t we, in that sense.

RH: Would you say in your experience that most Buddhists would be on the same page about this issue?

ND: No, I think there’s a vast variety of interpretations of the Buddhist teachings probably, even within my own order. I mean, mostly, my order’s mostly kind of left-leaning, inclusive bunch of people, the vast majority, who would probably recognise something in what I’ve said would have resonated with them, I think. But there are some people for whom that wouldn’t be true. There are definitely some people who are transphobic in there, a small number, but they exist. I don’t quite understand how they arrive at that position, but I don’t really know any of them well enough to talk to. I mean, that’s one of the curses of the internet [laughs] you see somebody write something, and it’s like, ‘I don’t understand that, but I don’t know who you are, so how am I going to have a conversation about it?’ There’s no point getting into a slanging match [laughs] on Facebook, that’s [laughs] that’s just nuts, so let’s not do that.

Yeah, I have a view about what Buddhism says, really, that is informed by my previous experience. I mean, I think I’m probably a post-structuralist, philosophically, which seems to me says the same thing – it says well, y’know, what is… what is actually happening? It’s not valid to say that something, one thing is happening, and you can judge everything in terms of one category of enquiry. Y’know, we have to hold… we have to hold contradictory truths, actually, because contradictory truths and going all of the time. There’s that – Judith Butler said something about feminism, she said, well the category of woman’s socially constructed, it’s got no basis in reality, so to speak. I think that’s obvious. And then, on the other hand, she says, it’s vitally important that we recognise that people assigned to the category of woman in society are oppressed because of it, it’s vitally important that we recognise that. These two statements, they’re both true, as far as I can see. I mean, in a sense they’re completely contradictory, if you look at them from a narrow view of enquiring into, ‘is it this or that?’ There’s no answer, it doesn’t work. We have to be able to hold contradiction.

I think my whole life has been [laughs] a bit like that, of holding this contradiction, kind of, ‘oh well’. Y’know, who am I, what am I, in a sense. We’re back to the identify as or the identify as I am, aren’t we. And I think it’s neither, really, it’s something else, something in the middle, or above. Y’know, I feel like I have to transcend those kinds of, ‘I am or I am not something’, or I just identify as something or I don’t identify as something. It’s bigger, it’s more complex than that.

RH: Yeah, I have another question around that. I understand how difficult it is to put these things into words, cos even the question’s hard to ask, but: you were talking a little bit about becoming aware of a more female identity that you describe, I think, as part of yourself but also almost felt like a different or other part of yourself – can you tell me a little bit more about how that feels?

ND: Well – she’s increasingly integrated, so it’s… I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder to talk about, really. As a separate entity… [pause] I can only really do that in thought experiments, probably, so I can do that. So, one thought experiment, well it wasn’t a thought experiment, it didn’t start out as one, but I had an experience where I was in meditation, and it came to me that – so, here I am, living this life. Somewhere out there – or I’m living this life and it’s not my life, and somewhere out there is a woman who’s living my life, and it’s not her life, in that sense. So, we somehow got swapped.

And then I just kinda followed that idea, y’know, so that’s like, that’s an example of really strongly externalising it. So what would I do, if I could go and meet this person, what would I say to her? And it was really, it was really positive. Just like, well, great, I hope you’re doing okay; I hope you’re doing as well as I am, I suppose, in the circumstances. And I love you and it’s fine. It’s like, ‘wow, that’s okay isn’t it?’ [laughs] yeah, so that’s an example of really externalising it in thought. In terms of this body, what’s it like? [pause] I suppose dysphoria is about feeling that it’s impossible to be who I want to be, in a sense, in a manner of speaking [long pause]

Yeah, okay, so let’s go down that route, so what’s the experience of gender dysphoria? Well I suppose that gender dysphoria is intense sort of grief, longing, a sense of loss, a sense of… dismay, despair, yeah – that’s what it’s like. And that’s not… is that inside, or outside, I don’t know. It’s just – it doesn’t really have, it doesn’t really have words attached to it, it’s almost just this kind of mental and physical and emotional occurrence. Yeah, which is – it’s pretty tough when it happens, actually. I mean, it’s great when it’s like, ‘I’m having gender dysphoria, can I have a cuddle?’ [laughs] Then it’s like, ‘yeah, great’ [laughs] So, that’s kind of bringing it closer in, so when it’s – what’s it like… which I suppose is my experience of the last couple of years increasingly, actually, I’m such a work in progress – what’s it like to be both? It’s not both, both isn’t the right word… and even to flip, to feel boy or to feel girl… than to just completely, in a sense embody that actually; it becomes an embodied experience [laughs]

RH: Is it related to any sense of – now this might not be the right word either, but – control, like even self-control? Or is it something that kind of comes to you on its own?

ND: Oh, it just arises. I mean, I think it arises, that there’s something causing it to arise, for sure, but what that is, I don’t know. I mean, so I talked about 2016, I think I was on the verge of kind of making what we might call progress in my practice, and there was some stuff that needed to be integrated, so it really came out really strongly. I think that’s kind of what it’s like. It’s… yeah. I’m not sure this answers your question, but it does remind me of something which I think is a common experience with other trans people I’ve spoken to, in a sense there’s this ongoing exploration of what it is, what it means, in a manner of speaking, there’s an expression that comes with that, that expression becomes comfortable, and then once that expression’s comfortable, there comes at some point after that recognition that it still doesn’t make me a woman. And then there’s, ‘ah, so now what do I do?’ And then you’ve run out of steam somehow, and there’s a, ‘uh, hm, okay’ [laughs] I think that gets easier over time, in my experience, or has got easier over time. I suppose partly because I know it’s gonna come actually. I’m also, I guess I’m – well I’m just, I’m struggling much less, I’m not fighting it really.

RH: Is that something that your practice helps with?

ND: Definitely, yeah. Well, because there’s a… Mmm. There are two things in practice, which have to be held, two contradictions, again, I guess. One is that practice means I can – oh is this true? There can… there can be some dispassion in relation to one’s experience, yeah. And on the other hand, one’s experience is more immediate, cos it’s less mediated by ideas, yeah. So the one makes things easier, and the other makes things harder, but it also – the difficult one makes things realer, somehow. So, on balance, I think it’s a good thing. I’m not sure – I can’t even remember what your question was. So, that’s what occurs to me.

RH: I’m not sure I can!

ND: [laughs] Yeah… I wanted to say something else, about that… Hmm [long pause] Yeah, I just feel it – so – my habit over the last year or so has been to, in my community, dress in a completely tarty kinda way, actually.

RH: How do you mean?

ND: Short skirt, stockings, strappy tops, that kinda stuff. Y’know? And I think it just started off as an experiment, like I kinda didn’t want to – y’know, there’s fear in it, basically, nuts, given where I live it’s completely crazy to be fearful in a sense, but still it was there. So, so then what happens? Does it become a habit, or just ordinary? Does it matter? [laughs] So, that’s kind of an example of how it becomes easier to, in a sense, run out of fresh expression. Where a fresh expression is no longer fresh – that used to be problematic, and now I don’t think it is, really. It’s just like ‘fffff’, I don’t mind [laughs] it is what it is.

RH: Where did that come from? That wanting to dress like that, do you think?

ND: Oh I think I was just pushing my boundaries a bit. I mean, I think there’s an element of, yeah I think this is true, in my experience. Well, okay there’s two things going on, again. I tried to be straight in my early 20s and it didn’t really work, okay, which is kinda fine, I mean and I kind of was just not quite straight enough, so I kind of fell out of that life into this new life, which is fantastic, very good. So there’s an element of that just happening, yep. But since then, I think it’s been really clear that if I want to make progress in becoming happy, content, comfortable in this strange body, then I have to push myself sometimes. I have to sort of, if I notice fear, I have to do something with it. I mean, I can be kind of gentle around that; this is something I’ve talked about with my housemates, it’s like… y’know, I might, if I experience fear I might not do something because I experience fear, or I might do it because I experience fear, and it doesn’t really matter which it is in the moment, y’know it’s – but I think there is, I do sense that there has to be some movement, all the time. Moving into a closer relationship with who I identify, or who I am, or whatever that mysterious third position is. I think that’s true, I think there’s some, there’s a need to move, yep. And you can have breaks and not move sometimes, but you have to move some- you have to move eventually. Confucius, he says – what did he say – it doesn’t matter how slow you go as long as you keep moving. Something like that [laughs]

RH: I think that’s a really interesting perspective, actually. It sounds to me like a lot of people would benefit from that. Is that how you feel, that other people, if they gave themselves the space to sort of try things that might scare them?

ND: I think absolutely, yeah, totally. Fear’s really very, yeah, serious.

RH: In the counselling process that you had, was this something that you touched on in that, this idea of trying things, even if they’re scary?

ND: No, I don’t think so. It was much more – it was psychodynamic really, so it was all over the place. Whatever was happening in the moment was happening in the moment, it was a very experiment space between two people where stuff happened, that’s what it was. Yeah. I mean, I suppose in a sense, the fear – bare in mind I’m in my early 20s at this point – so that fear the was apparent was very often simply, I am actually really scared to talk about this in this therapy relationship, whatever it was. Y’know, I might have a dream about my therapist, so then I’ve gotta talk about that. There’s fear associated with that, actually. So, in that sense, I think the therapy was good in that other way in that it created a momentum for conversation, actually, that’s continued through time. I hadn’t thought of it like that, but I think that’s true though. Mmm, yeah… Yeah, I think fear – working, finding a way to creatively work with one’s fears is important, actually, yep.

RH: Okay, we’ve touched on quite a lot of huge issues, and how difficult it is to describe these in language – are there any other things you wanted to talk about? Or we can pause and come back if you like?

ND: I don’t think so – how long have we been going?

RH: 45 minutes.

ND: That’s not bad is it?

RH: Thank you so much for putting into words some of these concepts and experiences, thank you.

ND: Thank you. I enjoyed that.