Gender and sexuality

I read a gay man conflating his gender and his sexuality. He said that all his interactions with other people were influenced by his sexuality. It made him a good nurse, non-threatening to vulnerable people and unobtrusively efficient in caring. His sexuality suffused his whole character. This was several years ago, when homophobia was normal in large sections of society. His was a winsome way of appearing non-threatening, as well as a courageous coming out. He also made his sexuality acceptable, part of everyday life rather than some weird exotic perversion. It is a tactic that could win over a thoughtful conservative, brought up to see “homosexuality” as disgusting.

We would say gender and sexuality are completely different. Gender is not sexuality, because lesbians can be femme. Trans women’s idiosyncrasy is a matter of gender, not sexuality, so the word “Transsexual” is no longer acceptable, and it is nothing to do with sexual desire (because female embodiment fantasies are so shameful). Gender and sexuality are different aspects of being human.

I want to conflate them again. I relate to a partner as my whole self. My sexuality is not some abstruse, separate part of me which I get out only with partners or potential partners but part of my way of relating to anyone. Some people may preserve professional detachment, I never managed it, but if in the office I sought to put people at ease I would reveal my humanity, which means my personality.

Transition is not a sex thing, we say. I do not transition because I have a particular sexuality, but because I have a female gender identity. I am female rather than male. This does not mean I can bear children, and transition means I cease to be able to father them. What does it mean? There is no gift, talent or virtue which one sex has and the other does not. Feminists observe that their gift of leadership may be rejected by men, and even by other women, and call that an aspect of Patriarchy, a system of oppression. I observe that gifts are more valued in one sex than the other, and different ways of being or expression are welcomed, tolerated or deprecated in each, and therefore I am culturally a woman, seen by my culture as a woman because I fit the ways of being and expression welcomed in women by my culture.

Though it is normal, and normative, for a woman to be attracted to men, and I am not.

But for that man, his gayness was part of his essence, which also made him a good nurse. Being a nurse is good. Therefore being him, which includes being gay, is good. Being a nurse is good for a woman and bad for a man is a social norm he does not recognise or value.

Being like me is right for a woman and wrong for a man is disputed, and why should I assent to it? Because it relieves social pressure, but now I say the cost is too great. I always wanted to fit in, so I transitioned, because I thought I could accept myself and yet fit in. It did not work.

It is my sexuality. It is the way I relate to others and express myself. My gender is feminine, not “woman”.

Transgender medical care

I am on several trans facebook groups. One is for activists, and discusses trans in the media. Another is a support group, and there are two strong themes there- how long the poster has to wait for my psychiatric referral, and how wonderful it is to have their operation at last. Often people give daily updates when they are in hospital: they are so happy! You would see your GP and say “I am trans.” You want NHS psychiatric referrals to confirm this, because that is the way to get hormones and surgery; anyone can change their name and clothes. You see a psychiatrist locally, who refers you to a specialist gender clinic. Before you see the gender clinic, you are certain of what you want. You are trans, and you need a medically supervised transition. Your friends online, and perhaps IRL too, tell you that is what they want and how wonderful it is finally to have it.

You have the idea transition is the answer to your problems, and then you join trans groups which confirm that. All you hear is confirmation, and the idea that true trans folk need Gender Confirmation Surgery is still strong even if we also hear that not all trans folk have it.

Problems with dilation come up now and again, but not enough to convince pre-op people that there are serious difficulties.

You see a psychiatrist and say you know you are trans, and have known this for years, or for all your life. Ideally that psychiatrist would explore with you- who are you, really? Why do you want this? What is it in you that you call “trans” or “female” or “feminine”? But you see them for an hour once every six months, and that is impossible in the time available. It needs a depth and direction of psychotherapy they are not equipped to offer, even if you were in a place to participate in it.

There are also psychiatrists who will see patients privately. Mine used hormones as a diagnostic tool: he would prescribe them to every patient who consulted him. He said fantasists would balk at taking them, and never come again. I feel desperate people would know that this was what they were supposed to do, and take the hormones.

I, being desperate, knew this was what I was supposed to want and took the hormones. If you transition, they help you pass.

I transitioned in April 2002 at work. I thought, even though I don’t know if in five years I will be trying to live as a man, I need to do this now. I did not want The Operation immediately. I found I wanted it more and more as time went on. I had it in February 2004. In Autumn 2003 I was depressed, and my GP gave me more and more Citalopram. In February I ceased being depressed, and remained not depressed though the GP steadily reduced the anti-depressant. I thought that was proof that the operation was right for me.

And now I say I was poisoned and mutilated, the operation is a sham, a con, we want it because of social pressure and minimal medical intervention confirms we can have it because we really want it. There is no place for a psychiatrist to probe beneath the desire for the operation, even if they wanted to. We resent the delay, and resent the “gatekeepers” who might stop us having the operation we want. I did.

This is the way to happiness and acceptance! I knew I was not a man, I repeatedly curled in a ball on the floor weeping “I am not a man, I am not a man, I am not a man, I am not….” At the Sibyls we talked of it. We knew transition was terribly difficult, and we might not make a go of it, but there was no question that it was the difficulty stopping me, not any doubt that “I am trans therefore transition including surgery is right for me”.

How could I refuse the way to happiness and acceptance? I knew I wanted it, at a time when I was unclear about wanting anything else.

The social pressure is still there. There are a variety of messages- here I read Gender non-conforming kids – such as boys who like dolls or girls who hate dresses – aren’t trans. Trans people feel a disconnect between the person they’re seen as and expected to be and the person they actually are. What neat boxes! Why should anyone imagine they really knew which box fitted them?

I was poisoned and mutilated. Transgender medical care did not protect me from that. It could not.

Self-discovery while presenting male would have been difficult. Transition without hormones would too. I would not have passed as well. The operation removed my depression, and meant I could swim and wear trousers comfortably. It was good for me, and so this second-best, good enough is so enduring. We know what we want, and are desperate to get it.

Memories and reflections

Two memories from my employment tribunal practice stand out. In one, the Respondent forged three letters which, if believed, were a defence to our claim. We sought a notice payment, and he forged the contractual statement of terms and conditions, to show the notice should be less. But the Claimant had retained her T&Cs, showing the date she started work there.

He would rather go to a hearing, spending considerably more on solicitors, than pay her her due under the law. He lied and cheated. And through her responsible action, I wrote a delicious letter to his representatives- we will settle now for payment of the claim in full, but if you go to hearing we will seek costs and press for perjury to be investigated. He paid up.

She had angina, and he had sacked her after six weeks’ sickness absence. Had he left her to cope with the changes, and learn how a GTN spray affected her, she could have gone back to work shortly after. The stress of the tribunal application stopped her recovery.

And the other: usually a defence to a claim would be accepted late, as it is in the interests of justice: the Claimant’s loss is only a few weeks’ delay, but if the defence were refused the Respondent loses their right to be heard. The motion to accept the defence late is usually a routine, with a pretty apology for lateness enough. I found the arguments why it should not be accepted late. I wiped the floor with them.

As I typed that paragraph I spoke two of the arguments I had used aloud into the empty room, with passion in my voice, controlled contempt suitable for the tribunal room. I remember them in detail. Eight years later these things still matter to me.

I am occupied, in my retreat, in my reclusive existence, with the nature of humanity. How do I see myself in my world? Those stories form a huge part of it. The wicked will fight like rats in a sack, without humanity, quarter, or thought of justice, for their own wrongful interest; but sometimes through luck and brilliance Right can win. A recent story I heard of a court action confirms that: a man resisting to the last moment, only caving when he saw the right must win.

I retreated from the monsters. I could create the brilliance and have the luck only intermittently, and the losses that I saw as My Failures, My Inadequacy, My Wrongness crushed me.

I am concerned above all with safety. There are monsters out there, which can hurt me. I sought safe spaces. Quakers seem nice enough, and I formed an ideal of what a Quaker meeting should be, a false view less and more than what it is really, of people conforming to an ideal humanity rather than being their whole humanity. Quakers were my safe space, then I found during the election campaign that Labour party members, campaigning, were good people too.

I am safe, day to day, retreated to my living room, but not month to month. All I have to do today is buy food, and if I do not I can do it tomorrow. And I am not providing for myself, so I am not safe. My income could be stopped any day now. And I find the safe spaces I sought are more complex than I knew, inhabited not by people following rules I thought I understood but human beings behaving in complex human ways.

I cannot predict what is going on. I can only see it. Or not see it, blinded by my understanding of what should happen.

So I look back on my experiences, and my perceptions, and try to force them into another framework of understanding. I face repeated set-backs. It could be recovering from my childhood, if I cease to see set-backs as I saw them then, as proof of my worthlessness, as the failure which kills me. The monster will get me and I shall die. Instead, I might see what I have lost, if I have lost anything. I have to see what is rather than react to what I imagine out of my complex internal illusions.

I have lost nothing. I have time, and my human gifts. Try again, fail again, fail better is the fashionable Beckett quote, now Keep calm and carry on, parodied from the beginning, is forgotten. Once more into the Breach! I am terrified, because it was so ghastly. I am depressed, which for me means seeing what I clearly must do, and having no motivation for it. Come on! I admonish myself. Action! Get on with it! I am crushed by my experiences. That was a source of judgment for me, proof of my worthlessness, though I assert- it really does not matter whether I underwent experiences which the most courageous, gifted and resilient person would find unbearable, or experiences a worthless, useless weakling should find unexceptionable- I am crushed by them. Can I create a new world?

I put the bin out this morning. It is sunny, and sunlight glistened through a long string of raindrops on the washing line. There is so much beauty outside my living room!

Condemn violence

I read attempts to justify violence at Speakers’ Corner. I condemn it.

First, the victim was videoing trans protesters. Maria MacLachlan has claimed she got out her camera to video Julia Long, but this twitter thread shows her videoing protesters, even approaching them to intimidate them. This is a threat. We can be outed. The threat could be exaggerated: the opposition are not the police, with access to facial recognition software, but some coincidence might lead to a person being identified. A video shot in that way could be edited to pretend non-violent trans protesters are in some way threatening, but what they did was worse.

The violence starts with an attempt to snatch the camera. Filming is provocation but not itself violence.

Second, as the camera was attached by a strap to MacLachlan’s wrist, there was a scuffle. MacLachlan has a woman in a head lock. Defenders say the punch was an attempt to defend that woman. But, the violence started with the attempt to snatch the camera. So it’s the headlock that is self-defence.

Third, the punch was thrown by a provocateur, with TERF sympathies. This is highly unlikely, difficult to organise, and will not be believed. Someone wanted not to condemn before she was convinced to her own satisfaction that the punch was definitely thrown by a trans woman. Ordinary people, without much understanding of the issues or sympathy for either side, will see that as condoning the violence.

The provocation mitigates, but does not justify, the violence against MacLachlan.

There is a practical reason for condemning the violence. It makes us look bad. There are TERFs saying that this shows that trans women are men, even “men’s rights activists”, violent against women as all men are violent, and all trans women are men who are that violent. I hope reasonable people will not judge me by that punch. Trans woman condemns violence is not news, but just possibly trans woman justifies violence is.

Then it is ineffective. Even systematic State violence does not prevent committed individuals who feel they are right from resisting. Our violence can only encourage our opponents.

Violence makes reconciliation even more unlikely, brutalises aggressor and victim, turns disagreement into conflict, makes us physically more unsafe.

I understand in theory that non-violence is possible: an ideal, where from a position of self-knowledge, understanding and acceptance of the whole situation, and developed Love for the world in all its messy complexity, one might stand up for Truth without violence. And knowing that ideal, it might be worth attempting it, even while knowing I will fall short. I am afraid this is in theory.

There was to be a talk by two anti-trans speakers. Perhaps there was no point in demonstrating against that. There is a small group of people who are passionately TERF, and they are not convincing people generally. Showing up in a non-violent way might show our humanity. We are more difficult to hate, as individuals. The TERFs are not persuadable, though, seeing themselves as victims and us as persecutors. Finding a way to talk to them just might work, one person at a time, but even shouting, leave alone a punch, just convinces them that they are right.

Symbols and reality

Hadley Freeman wrote in the Guardian that gender neutrality in children’s clothes should be about the expansion of choice. And Anything that reaches out to transgender teenagers is to be applauded. Hooray. Yet she says Eddie Izzard should not say he likes having a manicure “Because I’m trans” because men should be free to like that too.

There were 108 upvotes for a comment calling the article “drivel”-  I think from a conservative perspective. Another comment said that clothes and interests should not define your sex. Women can be scientists. A reply said if teens create labels, and change them, they refuse to be pinned down on interests or clothes. They have to play with symbols as a way of finding themselves. It is a way of widening their possibilities.

There are the symbols, the interests, and the human interactions. Flowers and butterflies for girls symbolise their yielding softness. Toy cars and toolkits for boys show their practicality and strength. Strong, rational men become coal miners and scientists, but also listen to other men rather than to women because women should not bother their pretty heads about what they do not understand. (Irony alert!) The strength gives them the capacity for decisive leadership and mean that women should be attracted to them and satisfy their needs. Men get the work done, and women look after the men.

What really matters to me is the human interaction. I am gentle. I want reconciliation not conflict. I seek to understand not to condemn. However, for me as for all of us the symbols, strengths, and interactions are conflated. Someone like that must necessarily also be like that. My softness means floral dresses in bright colours, and a caring role.

The fact that we conflate them means I can communicate with symbols, to an extent. I dispense with masculine symbols, and ideally produce a first impression opening someone to value my pansy nature. Unfortunately it does not work by itself. I am not self-confident, and that is the stronger first impression. People judge me as not fitting the symbols- finding me masculine, or imagining I might be violent because they see me as a man- and are uncomfortable with my failure to fit symbols for either sex. I feel more uncomfortable.

It seems to me that when women take control they do so in less challenging, arrogant, flashy or domineering ways. It is that we have a common purpose being articulated by the woman, rather than we have a Leader. That is a style I would love. Men can, sometimes, take charge in an undemonstrative way. I would rather anyone used persuasion rather than force, winning my co-operation by showing the more excellent way.

Are penises and breasts symbols of masculinity and femininity? They have been for me, and for others. I was depressed. I had my operation, losing the prime symbol of my maleness, and my depression was cured. I was free to accept and explore myself as I had not been before. It saved my life. Yet I agree that while behaviour is gendered- domineering or winsome, rational or emotional- people of both sexes exhibit all genders. Most people exhibit all genders to an extent, though we favour different ones, as we show different personalities.

A toddler’s t-shirt, with a princess or a dinosaur on it, affects how adults respond to the child so moulds the child’s behaviour. A child may choose either t-shirt by seeing how the adults around her respond. That in turn produces responses from her.

Reconciling trans and terfs

We could start to reconcile trans folk and gender-critical feminists by asking- what do we have in common? We are gender diverse, and this means we are oppressed. We have a common oppressor, the conservatives seeking to enforce gender norms and the ordinary people unthinkingly reinforcing gender norms.

We are hurting, and angry. We have a lively sympathy for those hurt in the same way, and a desire to support them, stop the hurt and condemn the causes of the hurt. There are similarities in the way we are hurt, even though there are differences both sides feel are important.

Each side hurts the other. There is the tragedy. How to move forward? By recognising that the other group is not the main enemy or main source of oppression, and that the other side is hurt too. We are all gender-diverse, because we do not fit into, and we oppose, restrictive gender conventions. That is what feminism is. Both sides do what we do and are what we are, and get slapped down for it. Then it becomes the most important thing in the world for us.

I want you not to be hurt is the moment of reconciliation. There are apparent zero-sum games in this- can trans women come into women’s space?- which are difficult, and need to be set to one side while we see how we hurt each other, and how to protect each other.

Non-conforming men and women are those who least fit the gender stereotype. We should recognise that the other exemplifies those human characteristics we feel least fitting and most oppressive, which we resist as strongly as we can. That is, we revolt each other. The gender-critical feminist looks at me and thinks, that is not what a woman is, or should be, but a grotesque caricature of the worst aspects of cliché femininity. The answer is to see why I do as I do: because I am gender diverse. I would not present as this femme stereotype if it were not the best approximation I can find for who I really am. The imaginative leap I ask of them is to concentrate on what we have in common, not what divides us.

The gender-critical feminist is revolted by the idea of mutilating women’s bodies, but needs to see that it works. If T breaks the trans man’s voice and gives him facial hair, then he has chest masculinisation surgery, people really do see him and treat him differently. Ideally that would not be necessary: we would value everyone’s gifts and strengths, and support everyone’s weaknesses; but with the world as it is, the trans man pays a price he is willing to pay, and is freed from gendered oppression.

Trans folk need to recognise the basic idea of radical feminism, that it is not reproductive roles that determine gender differences, but culture. There is no masculine or feminine virtue or vice which the other sex does not share. Men often have greater strength, but in post-industrial economies strength is less and less relevant.

Gender-critical feminists need to recognise how difficult that is for us. I want to express my feminine side. That is condemned. I am hurt, and I hide it, seeking to please others- a personality trait which in other circumstances would be positive, but here is poisonous. The doctors give us a way out: I suffer from “gender dysphoria”, and they name the appropriate treatment, of hormones and surgery. When I am not able to express my soft, yielding feminine self, “I am a woman” becomes my means of defence.

Society has dictated a narrow path for us. An AMAB child can wear a dress to school, if they call themself a girl and wear girl’s clothes all the time. The answer is to cease segregating children’s clothes between girls’ and boys’, as John Lewis wants to, and to recognise that the clothes are a symbol for the personality or nature of the child which the child wishes to express, rather than the true gender itself. All boys should wear dresses sometimes, to see what it feels like and whether they like it.

I sought to be poisoned and mutilated because that was the way I could justify and realise expressing my real self. It comes at a cost, but it works.

I don’t think I am getting far with these ideas of reconciling gender-critical feminists and trans folk because I am asking more of them than of us. But- let us devote our energies to our common enemy!

I started this post because of a squalid little scuffle between TERF and trans, described here. Why was the alleged victim filming, and why did she have someone in a headlock? Why were there no charges? The New Statesman makes her out to be a victim, and this blog post just about calls her a Nazi. There must be a better way.

To Hull

I got the train to Hull on Monday. Philip Larkin was at the station. I love the expression on his face.

Also there is this sculpture, “The Journey”. It is far more affecting from behind than from in front.

I found Sam at the station, there to meet Lucy. We walked back to his house, which he explained is an intentional community. He is Christian anarchist. In the evening we went to an artists’ collective, with their works on the walls, and saw the placards they had been making that afternoon for Mad Pride. The walls upstairs were covered with murals.

They gave us a thick vegetable stew.

On to the Adelphi club, where Lucy was to perform. Sam also performed his poetry about his bipolar experiences.

There are several murals round the town. One commemorates the sinking of three trawlers.

I asked if I could do “The story of my breast”. Sam was fine with that, and the audience were very friendly. I had several laughs. I am pleased with my delivery. I must write more to perform. Em joined us. She had visited Lucy at Yearly Meeting Gathering, where I met them, and been amazed by the electric atmosphere of Quakers together. Paula performed too, a sketch where the negative voices in her head- telling her she is ugly, reminding her to mourn past hurts, telling her she is not good enough and not capable- were symbolised by puppets worked and voiced by four other women. She decided to walk to the other side of the stage, they attempted to stop her, the drama was set up in the simplest way. It worked. She won my sympathy, attention, and will for her to succeed. Then Lucy performed, in the way I aspire to. We had a curry, and went back to Sam’s place.

I love the stained glass in the Minster transept, and particularly the grief on Mary’s face

and Mary Magdalen reaching up- but what is that spare hand doing?

Ranting and Rebellion

How could you ever know yourself? “I am not the kind of person who” becomes “So far I have generally not”. I looked at those texts, and saw what they meant. I had not realised when I was texting. Self-conscious, I would not have done it nearly so well. Morality changes as I tell different stories: “I want to be a good person” becomes “I always wanted to find the rules and follow them, so that I would be safe”.

I have not so far ever seen myself as a rebel. Rebellion is as powerless as conformity, I would have said. You are not making free choices. It is mature to seek goals. That remains true, and now I am in rebellion. It is part of teenage, and I have to complete teenage eventually, I owe that to myself.

What do you do? she asked. I challenge authority and convention, I declared. Ha! I am rebelling! I am doing that teenage thing! In that moment I crafted a new story about myself. Well, the story seems to fit, and is good enough for the moment. I don’t like shadow motivation, not really, it is scary when I do things and don’t know why, or maybe work it out later. I do what I do to achieve my desires, even if I am not conscious of it. Often I don’t do something because I am scared of it and because I can’t imagine it working. I don’t want to do a job application as it will probably lead to interview, but no further.

On Tuesday it seemed to me that I had made a connection, that had helped me accept the world, myself and my history, better, that healed some of my resentment and frustration, or at least to see these things are possible and necessary. The Maintenance of Order in society, which enables us to develop beyond hunter-gathering, also restricts me, produces a Masculine Way of being which I could not approach and which broke me. What supports me, feeds and clothes me, is the same thing that poisoned and mutilated me. That poisoning was the best humanity could do at the time, the best I could see.

Lucy said she cannot put her experience into her performance while she is still angry. That makes sense to me. I don’t see the truth, because I rail against it. It should be otherwise. If I make that connection, perhaps I can accept my hurt and move on.

I transitioned to try to fit in and welcomed the poison and mutilation, which were a necessary part of transition. It was the best I could do at the time. So now I challenge authority and convention, I say portentously: or, I am in rebellion, in my delayed teenage.

I am threatened with expulsion from the Quaker meeting for expressing my distress in a theatrical way. If we are to know each other in the things which are eternal, it is not enough to discuss Cole Porter musicals. We must delve more deeply into ourselves, lift the covers off our feelings and expose our insecurities. My friend, though he needs the support of community, while he is bravely resisting the Arms fair and getting arrested for it, does not go to his Quaker meeting because, while they are nice enough people, they do not give him what he needs.

I do what I want to do whether I realise it or not, because of shadow motivation, the desires I cannot admit to myself, and because of my past trauma, all that pain and hurt. It controls me whether I admit it or not. The adult part of me, which has been civilised into conformity with rules and common sense, would do a better job of ensuring my behaviour was civilised if it could see that shadow which moves me.

I want to bring my whole self to the Quaker meeting, the theatrical expression of distress and disagreement, all my joy and incomprehension, all my creativity, so that I can get to know myself and that shadow. I brought all of me to the Yearly Meeting Gathering. There I made a powerful and beautiful declaration of Love to someone, which I almost wish I hadn’t, now, actually, though I don’t think it has done lasting harm. And I disrupted a session and took two hours of someone’s time while I expressed my distress, but the session proceeded and I think she is happy enough to have given me that service. It did me good. It freed me for the rest of the week.

YMG was utterly vibrant. Em came to see her friend one evening, and was bowled over by the electric atmosphere of Quakers being ourselves with ourselves.

-Are you going to form Noisy Quakers?
-It’s been done. The Ranters saw God in their inmost motivation, though as antinomians that led to disorder. They could feel moved by God to fornication or adultery. Though perhaps this was a Conservative myth, and no-one was as unrestrained a Ranter as all that; and my Poly friend has learned polyamory. She lives with her husband, and had several flings with women before starting a long term relationship with a woman. So they explored and tested boundaries and emotions in a mature, ethical and responsible way. There is the conventional rule, that we are celibate until marriage then chaste and faithful, and there are ethical ways to be outside that rule.

It’s not rebellion, it is not a breach of the way of our Civilisation, it is living in an alternative way and showing those who might see new possibilities and paths.

And I am in rebellion. Talking after Meeting is like a cocktail party. On the train home from Hull, I started talking to two archaeologists returning from an academic conference. I told them Sam had been arrested for blocking the road to DSEI, and they said how wonderful. We can be the Guardian, Greenbelt, left-liberal side of civilisation, but not anarchist or radical. The tension will get resolved one way or another. Maybe I will wind my horns in. I don’t want to just yet.

So I feel powerless to avoid being expelled from the Quaker meeting. Possibly I will cross the line again, and after mature discernment elders will sadly expel me for the good of the Meeting, because there are other people there besides me and their needs matter. If my inner adult decides I must only say what normal people would say at a cocktail party, to someone they knew only distantly, at the start of the party before their first tentative sips of wine, then my passionate inner self will rebel and take over.

I would like to speak to those who object to me, and reassure them as much as I can. I will not be physically violent. I do not want anyone to relieve my distress.

I want Quakers to hold all of me. Perhaps if I matured better from teenage I would have other communities which could meet different needs, but I have not at the moment. Perhaps I would not need this if I knew myself already, what I feel and desire, and could bear that.

Perhaps Quakers cannot cope with that. Perhaps the butterfly needs to be broken on the wheel.

Hull, city of culture

Here is “The Elephant in the Room” by Claire Morgan in the atrium of a shopping centre. I went to the top floor to see it, then descended escalators. At the bottom it was clear that the hundreds of bits of paper tied to long threads only mark the surface of the whale, not its innards- transporting and hanging it without fankling those threads was a precision job. So it is the ghost of a whale, diaphanous, not really there; the stench and value of a whole whale’s oil, blubber, meat and bone all gone, left with a sketch. I love the effort to create this thing, and the gentle motion of it in the air currents.

I like the way the fairly standard large shopping centre is built over the water:

When Lucy was doing her Kindful Eating seminar, after I had been photographed again at the Minster, I went to the Ferens art gaĺlery. It is provincial, and has much space cleared out for the Turner Prize which opens shortly, but I was moved by the picture of Stanley Spencer in a family group.

I walked back to Sam’s, glad to notice the chippy a short distance away. Clara asked if I would like to join Chris and Anna for the Tuesday meal: just round the corner ten of us including five students had baked potatoes. I am well looked after for a near stranger.

City of Culture 

We walked away from the city centre, through an underpass, and over waste ground to the River. This is still industrial rather than touristy, but there is a fenced-off path by the water. We go by Port Authority land, where huge stacks of pipes sit. Perhaps the docked ships are nothing special, but they are imposing. We can just see land the other side of the Humber. Up river, we see the Humber bridge. It is windy, sunny, bracing, beautiful.

I love the vigorous signs of my civilisation, working together. I am kept warm and well fed by it. I love the beauty of this industrial landscape, even the rust on the metal, showing it is rugged and well used.

There is a bridge over the canal, which is open to ships. We thought of walking back, but a man leant out of the office to say it would be passable in half an hour. So we sat and waited, and I worked out my idea of gender.

The binary only matters for reproduction. Some people have testicles, some people have wombs, but all gendered behaviour is natural for and should be permissible to both groups, and all who fit neither. I am poisoned and mutilated because I went along with the attempt to make me normal and explicable.  I should not have to bear the cost of being different. My gifts are valuable and I, following the desires of others, have wasted them in a pointless attempt to fit in.

So there.

We go past the marina to the old town. This is touristified former industrial. Here is the House of Kings and Queens exhibition, photos of gay people surviving persecution: we are at home!  From there we go to the Minster. The nave is closed off for extensive works. The sanctuary and choir are worth wandering through, and the stained glass on the South of the transept is worth paying attention to. Here we meet the artist Annabel McCourt.

After some halfwitted hate-preacher said he wanted to put all the queers behind an electric fence so we would die out, she has built one, and here it is. It is eight feet high and in a square about three yards across. It curves in at the top. She is making a film about it, and as I enthuse she offers to record me. I am delighted. I am on fire.

I say how I love this civilisation, its power and organisation, and I recognise order and deferred gratification is necessary; and I love the beauty of this church which preserves that order; yet the Church and her Fence are part of the same thing, and I am on the outside. I want to tear the fence down, I say angrily.

She’s smiling and nodding. I carry on repeating I want to tear the fence down,  decisively, matter-of-factly, plaintively, sexily.

Would I mind being filmed? I would be delighted. I curl into the foetal position in the centre of the Fence, trembling, then am pictured caressing the wire with my beautiful hands.

Lucy and I go off for lunch in a market hall. It’s cheap, £1 for a cup of tea, but beautiful. These people own their own businesses and care for the place. The we sit in the sun by the flowers and the fountains eating fruit.

In the evening I explain myself to Sam. Society seeking necessary order has mutilated and poisoned me, and I have seen the necessity of loving and forgiving it. At the time he protests society is wrong about so much and I exclaim, “I have forgiven the bastards!” Of course as with any spiritual lesson I have just seen the possibility, not taken it into my heart and made it real; but I will.

Sam says he exemplifies for anyone who can see it a better way. Even that might be possible.

I am amazed to think of the coincidences which have brought me this rich experience and life-changing lesson. Annabel is only filming for one day, and it was odd to meet Sam who offered to put me up in Hull. I would not have come otherwise. A day later, I feel that I have made a connection between the Order which enables our civilisation, and the Order which excludes queers. You can have one without the other, but people find that difficult sometimes. I am letting go of shoulds, and resentment. It is as it is.