Archives for posts with tag: empathy

Over the past year I’ve read a few trans* books. All excellent reads, for different reasons. There are of course many other wonderful and insightful books on being trans*. Others on my reading list include “Testosterone Rex” and “Delusions of Gender” by Cordelia Fine. Thanks to Georgia Williams for bringing these to my attention.

One great value for such reading material is enhancing and developing deeper empathy. Valuable not just for counsellors, but for society as a whole. Empathy and acceptance of each other go hand in hand. Looking beyond our own point of view is invaluable for a peaceful society and world. Thinking there is only one answer or way to be creates others. It leads to us and them thinking. It tends to generate “either / or” thinking. When the ideal is surely “and / plus” thinking. Whether you’re trans*, wonder if you are, know someone who is or wonders if they are, or think you don’t know anybody who’s trans* (because you probably do) these books will be invaluable resource for you.

Of particular importance is the acceptance of any name change, being willing to use it, plus the pronouns a trans* person may ask you to use. Most trans* people recognise this can initially be difficult and will be okay with genuine slip-ups in language. What is offensive is deliberate mis-gendering someone.

“Trans Teen Survival Guide”, cover below, I’d say is similar in approach to This Book is Gay, written, as the title says, for a younger audience. Included are the following chapters:

  1. So You’re Trans?
  2. Gender Roles Are Dead
  3. Telling the World (or not!)
  4. What Do I Call You?
  5. Being You (Whoever That Is)
  6. Dysphoria: The Monster
  7. Puberty and How to Cope
  8. Hormone Therapy
  9. Genitals, Parts, Junk – What Suits Best?
  10. Surgeries
  11. Dating as a Trans Person
  12. Awkward Trans Tales
  13. Dealing with the Media
  14. Documenting Your Journey
  15. Don’t Get Mad – Get Even!
  16. More Than Just Trans
  17. Self-Care and How to Help Others
  18. Hopes for the Future
  19. Resources and Cool People
  20. Appendix: Young Trans Kids and How to Support Them

Difficult to say which chapters are the best. Each individual will find certain chapters more relevant to their needs or desires. One thing that becomes apparent is there is no one way to be trans*. The mainstream media often give the impression it’s just about cutting bits (penis or breasts) from off one’s body. And sometimes it is. Owl and Fox Fisher outline many options available. Too many to detail here. Read their book. If you can’t afford it, see if you local library can get hold of a copy for you.

Another wonderful book is “trans like me” by cn lester. Written for an older audience, certainly not beyond a teenage readership. For me it felt slightly more personal, in that cn lester recounts their own experiences of growing up, discovering themselves. Again, recommended reading.


Many people struggle to understand what being trans* is about. Such books as these give brilliant insights into that. That it is nothing like what is often depicted in the mainstream media. Yet such media seems preferred by many, instead of going to what might be termed a source, someone’s lived experience.

A third amazing book is “Trans Britain” by Christine Burns. The chapters are written by trans people who have experienced life in Britain over the past 50 years or so. It shows the progress made. Though lately there does seem a tragic reversal of trans acceptance in some areas of society. Yet, again,read this book to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of what it is being trans*.

I love having a bath. Usually, once a week I take a bath. Generally I soak for at least an hour. During which I may read, meditate, ponder, dream, imagine, pray, visualise, compose poetry. Being secluded brings more ideas and feelings, than come at other times. Which is where a large part of this entry comes from. I first read “The Art of Asking” several years ago. It still resonates with me, that I recently reread it.

Being a person-centred counsellor I try to embrace all I am. Being more open about everything, is consistent with the concept of congruence, one of the three primary qualities of a person-centred counsellor – unconditional positive regard, empathy and congruence – ideals I aspire to each day. Aspire to, yet no doubt never completely reach. A line from Amanda Palmer’s book “The Art of Asking”, my bath reading, fits here, about the purpose of life being for:

Trying…..

A lot of thoughts have risen from the book. Recommend it.

image

Can the essence of the book be summed up in a word? Perhaps, connection is one word I’d choose. Another, vulnerability. Trust and faith are others. And of course, asking:

Some days it’s your turn to ask
“Some days it’s your turn to be asked

“Asking for help requires authenticity, and vulnerability. Those who ask without fear learn to say two things, with or without words, to those they are facing:

I deserve to ask
     and
You are welcome to say no. 

Because the ask that is conditional cannot be a gift.”

Some other words or phrases that stand out for me:

“Conditional love is:
     I will only love you if you love me. 

Unconditional love is:
     I will love you even if you do not love me. 

It’s really easy to love passing strangers unconditionally. They demand nothing of you. It is really hard to love people unconditionally when they can hurt you.”

“You can never give people what they want, Anthony said.
What do you mean?

We were lying by the side of Walden Pond in Concord, two towns from Lexington, where we’d crested a ritual of ambling around the circumference of the water, then lazing under the trees with a picnic for a nice long grok.

People always want something from you, he said. Your time. Your love. Your money. For you to agree with them and their politics, their point of view. And you can’t ever give them what they want. But you —–

That’s a dreary worldview. 

Let me finish clown. You can’t ever give people what they want. But you can give them something else. You can give them empathy. You can give them understanding. And that’s a lot, and enough to give.

On their own the words quoted above may not mean much. Read the book and hopefully they will. You will no doubt take different things from it than I did. And that is okay. And perhaps that’s another principle, idea, concept, of the book – difference is okay.

Not everyone will like Amanda’s writing style. If you have read and valued Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly”, then the ideas in “The Art of Asking” should resonate with you.