Jan Morris: Conundrum

This started life as two twitter threads, one on Jan and one on his wife. Since Jan’s daughter has recently spoken out (in an article in The Times) I thought I would take the time to turn it into a blog post, or three.

Jan Morris considered himself a “transsexual” and was treated as a national treasure until his death, earlier this year. Because his name kept cropping up in “trans” world I decided to read his memoir “Conundrum”. It was quite a revelation. I had seen quite a lot of praise for Morris, from feminists, and assumed they had not read his book. On this I was wrong. My thread drew a series of outraged replies from a blue tick feminist / journalist who found my thread “patronising”. It turned out the journalist in question had interviewed Morris. A fact I was not aware of, at the time. I have never found the interview. She ended with the (not at all patronising) suggestion that I simply was unable to recognise good writing and clearly had not read as much on the topic as she, ouch! 😂. In fairness to her, many of us did not know how to spot the signs of autogynephilia and many of came out of the #BeKind stable until we realised the cost, to women’s rights.

The book begins with the usual, ret-conned narrative, that he always knew he had been “born in the wrong body”. If you have read as many of these narratives as I have this is a familiar strategy. I say “strategy” because it is an attempt to deflect from the real route to “transsexuality” for heterosexual men; by which I mean autogynephilia.

Later on Morris makes a bid to be regarded as a “true transsexual” distancing himself from the notion he was cut from the same cloth as transvestites or that his “gratification” takes the same form. He also distances himself from homosexuals, of which more later. j

Just for emphasis. Jan recognised no pruriency to their condition. An emphatic denial of a sexual motive is not uncommon. Even when that sexual desire is turned inward and you, yourself, are the object of your erotic fantasies it is still sexually motivated. Autogynephilia seems a reasonable assumption to make about Morris.

We travel with Jan through the male world he inhabits. He describes his attraction to the “feminine principle” and assigns women the traits of gentleness, forgiveness, giving and, of course, helpmate status rather than leadership. Our Jan is quite the sexist.
But #BeKind

He shares a rather weird anecdote about the school matron who undressed in front of him for reasons that were unclear, perhaps to check a lump on her breast. Completely inappropriate behaviour but Jan sees this as evidence she saw his feminine essence. Of course it could be fantasy, there is now no way of verifying it at this stage.

In his confusion he wondered if every boy wished to be a girl and it is clear he has put women on a pedestal. He has clearly missed large swathes of biblical, historical and literary pronouncements that see women as the source of all sin. He shows a paucity of understanding, or interest in, women’s lives and history; we exist only as the male fantasy he cherishes.

We learn that Jan’s earlier sexual encounters were with males. I would suggest it is significant that he mentions being “flogged” by one the week before and that he preferred to “play the role of girl”. A pre-internet version of “Sissy Porn” ?

This is also a revealing excerpt about those early homosexual encounters. He revels in his beauty and playing the “girl” role whatever that means to Morris. A passive recipient of his fellow male advances seems likely.

Jan then talks about his envy of the female role in procreation which he sees as more fundamental and closer to the life cycle. Recognising he could never be a mother he describes Fatherhood as the next best thing. He also craves the company of girls yet craved for a “man’s love”. Indeed he writes with great sensuousness about a love affair with Otto, only to be crushed, he claims, by Otto wishing Morris was a woman.

More than once Jan reflects on what it means to claim womanhood and to claim to think like a woman. His later pronouncements show he thinks like a man, who “others” women to create a refuge for himself. He creates a prison for women to satisfy his own needs.

Jan was able to find much to celebrate about his maleness. Like a lot of late transitioners he had a degree of prowess in pursuits he only associates with males. Women, he states, cannot claim to feeling this way about our bodies. A man telling women about our bodies. Shocker! {At the risk of feeding the lie we are all biological essentialists, I will just add, that I have never been as aware of the power of a woman’s body while giving birth}.

The context for this immense self satisfaction is a successful assault on Mt. Everest. Jan takes a rather paternal tone he as he condescends to describe this feeling to his “women readers”.
Women! Climbing MOUNTAINS! Heaven Forfend.
We might break a nail.

Quite a paean to masculinity, for a man who has always known he is really a woman. Is mastering womanhood just another tempting summit! once you have assaulted the worlds greatest peak maybe the next one is #PeakTrans?

Apparently women are not team players so it takes males to mount a successful expedition. Odd isn’t it that a man who think women don’t have any solidarity aspires to join the “sisterhood”. He has no idea about the strength of women, when we work together, because he never experienced it.

Next is a revealing lament for the disappearing stiff upper lip and the trend for men showing weakness. He is also not keen the breaking down of barriers between the “genders” . He is not keen on mixed sex expeditions and slyly notes no mission will ever be as successful as his. The All Male one.

There follows a lot about meeting his wife who deserves her own thread. I will return to him age 35. Married with children and preparing to embark on “transition”. Here’s Elizabeth, his wife, eventual a kind of Trans Widow but, he tells us, a “loyal” companion after divorce.

Following the death of a daughter he begins to experiment with hormones. This is a common narrative from these men who centre themselves when there is any danger of attention being focussed elsewhere. His wife would also have been dealing with this bereavement but Jan is focused on himself. He’s “despairing” , he tells us, this was the worse period of his life. Something tells me it wasn’t a barrel of laughs for Elizabeth either.

Interestingly what seems to trigger a lot of resentment about his situation is his exclusion from women only spaces. Notice that when we hear about women it is always how they gratify his need to be recognised as “feminine”. “Cisters” are there to serve our new “sisters”. He began to hate his connection to the male sex and dreaded the absence of women but was gratified when female associates validated his “femininity”.

This theme is fascinating. Men are associated with the public sphere and women with the private sphere. (Sound familiar?) The Ministers & The Ambassadors office bore Jan. He yearns for access to the inner world of females of which more later.

Jan, I think, recognised he has reached the summit of his ambitions as a man. He is by now quite successful. He turns his back on worldly success, which he equated with maleness. He is going to retreat to impotence, which he associated with being a woman. Thanks Jan.

Woman as a de-sexualised, passive member of society is what he aspires to…more of this in the post I will do about Elizabeth.

He would father three (surviving) children with Elizabeth and is living, en famille, in bliss in Venice. He relays an encounter with a blind, destitute, beggar woman to whom he was in the habit of dispensing charity. She has a walk on part in Jan’s fantasy and her only role is to sense the woman in him.

Elizabeth, rather magnanimously, we are told, is Jan’s supporter as he begins to embark on what he thinks of as “change of sex”. I wonder if anyone asked her? Or interviewed her?

Jan then turns to his own assessment of what makes a woman. He lists body parts, chromosomes and hormones and psychological sex. You can guess which he prioritises in order to force his way in to the category to which he does not belong.

“Sex is merely the tool of gender” . Jan wants an identity so “brace yourself I’m coming in” …like a crap version of foreplay, in he comes.

No more sexual favours for Elizabeth as he blithely informs us. On the bright side (for Jan). Life looks brand new. He is getting closer nature & talking to flowers. Women as the quivering sex but also simpler, closer to nature.

Jan reflects that living in female role results in being patronised / ignored and no longer being presented with the bill. I find it noteworthy that he makes a point of saying waitresses frequently gave the bill to Elizabeth which suggests an element of competition about being “more womanly” than she. (A similar competition was noted in a prominent AGP male who makes a cloaked difference at his menopausal wife and how he now boasts more “female” hormones than his wife). Also notice he comments how the “motherly” waitresses have lower expections in terms of tips. Would any other men get away with this rank sexism?

At other times Jan seems not to have understood the #MeToo movement. It’s not supposed to be “me too” can I have some of that! On more than one occasion he welcomes attentions women fight, sometimes a losing battle, against.

Clearly Jan had no intention of joining the militant feminist wing of womanhood. More comfortable in the Surrendered Wives branch of the Barbara Cartland Party.

Here he rather offensively claims his post surgery self was akin to a woman post hysterectomy. Oh the irony. So many TRAs claim GC/Radfems are reducing women to their reproductive parts..Seems this may have originated in the Granddaddy of TS In the UK. 👇#WombEnvy. None of these men seem to understand basic biology and realise that the last thing the surgery grants them is a vagina.

Along with a load of sexist claptrap about how much more womanly he is post transition there’s this corker. Actually talking about women with penis envy and why we are right to be so!!!!
Sexism on Steroids. And maddeningly so call feminist orgs. are yielding!

Honestly I think this book is being used as a training manual for TRAs about what to claim to feel as a woman. 👇. Woman as incompetent, weak, gossipy, focussed on the domestic sphere etc. Women aren’t Stepford Wives. FFS.


Women as children!

He throws transvestites under a bus by talking about the quiet thing outloud. Transvestic Fetishism. This now comes under the Trans Umbrella. Our politicians have no fucking idea what they are unleashing on women. Men who get off on hiding a penis in women’s clothes/spaces. 😡

I will return to Jan Morris’s book to cover what we can glean about the life of Elizabeth and his daughter.

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2 thoughts on “Jan Morris: Conundrum

  1. Thanks for this review. I am old enough to remember reading about Jan Morris’s ‘sex-change’ (as I’m sure it was called at the time) in a Sunday newspaper. It must have been around the time of Conundrum, which was published 1974, and I was a curious teenager.
    I agree with Tish that Jan’s case was, and is, far better known – in the UK at least – than the other transwomen who have become part of the retconned narrative lately: the Danish Girl and Christine Jorgensen, for example. (Thanks, Tish, btw, for introducing me to the term ‘retcon’.)
    The detail that sticks in my mind to this day is the one about drinking mare’s urine. If I remember right, the newspaper reported that Jan had to drink copious amounts of this in order to get oestrogen into her system. That in itself seemed gross to my teenage sensibility – and I’m sure I admired her commitment to doing this to achieve her ‘sex-change’.
    The other aspect to this was the exploitation of the mares. I realised that you can’t just expect mares to come and wee into a bottle on demand, which meant that they had to be penned in with catheters or whatever all the time, which struck me as cruel.
    The thing that still puzzles me about this – in the context of the narrative that there is no clash between trans rights and women’s rights – is where does the naturally occurring oestrogen come from? Is there enough to cater for the transwomen who want it as well as the women who want it for HRT? Or is the synthetic stuff so good now that nobody needs to run after mares with a bucket anymore to catch their piss?

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