Words of warning and welcome:

This is very much my blog, so don't be surprised if this doesn't follow accepted patterns and norms. Obviously it started out as a blog about my cross-dressing but it has developed a great deal since then. It is a place where I can be anonymous and honest, and I appreciate that.

It will deal with many things and new readers would do well to check out the New Readers' Page above this and the tag down there on the right. Although there's nothing too bad in here there will be adult language, so be careful. If you think this needs a greater control, please let me know. Thank you!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Black and White

Sorry, the last few weeks have been busy with a different sort of business and less stressful than when I started this blog.  This effectively means that I haven't really been musing on things like normal and so haven't had that much to post here.

Stunningly representative of my own
identity, right down to the female
holding the mirror.
However, we went to see some friends in a different part of the country over the last couple of days and the conversation raised some intriguing questions.  My friend, whose son I am godfather to, was talking about his job and how it had defined him to the point that when he was employed only on temporary contracts he had been subjected to a modicum of existential angst.  Now, I thought I agreed with him.  As a teacher myself I am often quick to start explaining myself in light of my job.  Indeed, Tilly has often said that I introduce myself first as my job and very rarely with anything else of my own - after that I tend to describe myself in relation to others (that is: Tilly's husband or my children's father).  Most of my energies are poured into describing my function and the ways in which I undertake it.  But...

Another thing my friend, let's call him Indy, said was similarly revealing.  He pointed out that his teaching persona, much like my own, was not him and an entirely constructed thing that allowed him to function more effectively in a classroom.  I have often said the same for my own teaching.  When in a classroom I am playing a part - but subtley.  Most of my students would dispute this, by the way, they would say that I share so much of myself that I am more myself in the classroom than I am, say, in the staffroom.  In part, they are correct.  I share more with my classes than I do with my peers in the school, always have, but mainly they are wrong.  Both are constructs and neither of them are really me.  Were they me then I would be addressing classes under-dressed in knickers at least, I would definitely present myself differently in clothing and I would probably choose not to have a beard.  I would use less hand movement than I do now.  I would laugh more.  There would be more conversation than didactic learning.  I would not do card sorts.  I would joke less.  I would be much more partial and arguably less fair - I would exploit my position of power a little more.

So it is that I don't agree with Indy any more.  Or, rather, I think he missed a point.  I cannot, really, define myself by a constructed personality or a function that is... well, teaching isn't really a function that makes a great deal of sense.  For the vast majority of recorded (notwithstanding the even greater amount of unrecorded) history people learned but there was no teaching as we understand it.  Even where there was teaching there was little to none of what we now consider to be 'academic' and no distinction of 'vocational'.  For most of history people learned by watching those who knew how to do what they wanted to learn (note that willing part there, that desire to know what others do) and asking questions when required.  Sometime post-Antiquity society codified this a little more to apprenticing and the social strata ensured that choice was definitely in the gift of those with social power.  I'm not suggesting that it mostly wasn't before just that we know very little about what constituted social power or lineage before Antiquity.  Indeed, what little we know about life in the years that followed suggests that much of the learning was by choice - real or imagined - so that learners wanted to know what they were being taught.  The idea that people might not want to learn that which they are taught is pretty new and even now restricted to 'westernised' societies (and within them restricted again to predominantly white, Anglo-Saxon communities).

So it is that 'teacher', as an identity, doesn't really make a lot of sense.  Strangely, cross-dresser has a much longer lineage than teacher does, for example, and that concept of gender variation seems much more fundamental.  Furthermore, the old idea (arguably still the main idea) of a 'teacher' beyond being defined as such by the learner (that is, being a 'teacher' independent of whether anyone wishes to learn what you are teaching) is more closely linked to that of 'story-teller'.  I am no 'story-teller' either.  I can play with words and things but I end up being almost entirely mechanical and technical.  My characters are suffocated by my prose rather than having life breathed into them.  Put another way: I speak and write without colour, in black and white.

This means that I am not a 'teacher', my friend might still be in some sense, but I cannot claim that for myself.

My recent issues with Tilly prove, convincingly, that I cannot define myself as 'husband' or as 'father' either.  In that my primary personality exists independently of these roles, rather than percieved levels of ability at either of them.  In the same way 'cross-dresser' doesn't really apply either as a definition.  Alright, all of these things apply, but this blog stands as pretty clear testament that none of them are my identity - they are facets of my identity instead that flicker about whatever the core is.  Indy, for example, is also a father (and a doting one at that) but it is clear that, to him at least, this is a facet, and out-growth, of being a 'teacher'.  Even his relationship to his wife (also a teacher) is defined by that function rather than as 'father' or 'husband' - both of which serve as different perceptions on his core identity.

Discussing this with Tilly yielded her thoughts that my primary identity was "a six year old boy who wants to talk a lot" and that her own identity was "a Mum", a declamation with which I am inclined to agree.  She also suggested that she was wondering if she was more a 'writer' than a 'Mum', but we came to the conclusion that she wrote more like she mothered than vice versa.  Tilly is firmly of the opinion that I am Aspergic now, secured in that by my behaviour at another child's birthday party today (we need both parents on hand usually if both children are involved) where I failed to engage with other parents, preferring instead to read the history of the place we were in (they were quite proud of it) and scrutinise the maps and photos of it.  Even when meeting Indy and his son I didn't engage well, to the point of not really knowing the names of Indy's in-laws, with whom we were staying, and not being terribly communicative at the pub meal we had.

I'm also aware of how long I struggled with cross-dressing, and of how long it was before I actually tried and how long then I tried to end it by not indulging and basically how long I fought even vague acceptance of any of the activities associated with it.  It can only, therefore, be a facet and cannot be a primary identity.  Were it the latter I would not have been able to successfully supress that part of myself (at least not between puberty and 2004!) for so long.  Nor would I now, after all this, still be semi-struggling with it and what it all means.  I'm not suggesting that I would have any answers, merely that I wouldn't turn it over in quite the same way.

A teacher I greatly respected, female of course, at primary school once gave a very good description of me: "There is only black and white with [Joanna], there is no grey".  She meant this more narrowly than it applies - for there is little colour in me: emotionally, verbally or in life generally.  Emotion like orchestral stabs - a lot going on in a very short space of time but gone in the blink of an eye - and mechanical reproduction of ideas and images that are second or third hand before they reach me.

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All comments are welcome, I have a thicker skin virtually than I do in real life!