Easter Sunday

“Easter” comes from the pagan goddess Oestre, of Spring and therefore fertility and love. The French Pâques, from Latin Pascha, is in English as “paschal”, as in “Paschal candle” or “Paschal lamb”, making me think of sacrifice, but which in late Middle English referred to Passover or Easter. German for Easter is Ostern, close to our old English: Angles and Germans use our pagan roots, unlike the Romance languages closer to the core of the Roman Empire- though Swedish is påsk. Establishing freedom from Swedish rule in the 19th century, Norwegians consciously worked to differentiate their language from Swedish, but retain the word påske.

Can I do yoga as a Christian? Of course: just as we built churches on pagan holy sites, we “baptise” it: take its holiness and beauty for our use.

What is the Resurrection? If Jesus just comes to life again, does his sacrifice have any meaning?

Christ’s sacrifice is aimed at the wrath of man, not of God. Left to ourselves we seek to control, for all sorts of positive reasons, leading to fear, hostility to outsiders, and killing rebels. Jesus faces this with non-violent resistance. His sacrifice is our example, a practical rather than magical/spiritual event: by his non-resistance he draws the poison from the murder. As Isaiah foresaw:

I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
    from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
    and I know I will not be put to shame.

The shame is not in the treatment designed to shame, but in being broken by it.

And then- the Resurrection. Does that not nullify the sacrifice? It is almost bearable, if you know you will come to life again. No, it symbolises the transformative nature of the sacrifice. We can create a better world.

Quakers do not count any day holier than any other. This is a positive, not negative thing: it is not that Easter Sunday is no holier than any other day, but that no other day is any less holy. And yet it seems to me sometimes like a rebellion against the alternative view, rather than a transcending of it to something better. I see value in the rhythm of the Christian year: Advent then Christmas, Epiphany, Lent then Easter, Pentecost.

Changing rooms

I want there to be women’s spaces where men cannot go- and I want to go there. Especially I want admitted to women’s changing rooms in shops. Here is a woman who thinks I should not have that, discussing a case where a branch of Topshop refused access to a trans woman.

I go into women’s changing rooms regularly. Like any other woman, I try on the clothes, look at myself in the mirror and decide whether to buy. It would be inconvenient not to. However, unless there are rules to prevent me, she claims in a comment, What is to stop a man who is a sexual predator, upon hearing that men can now gain access to female changing areas etc purely for stating they are transgender, donning a dress and a wig and claiming to be transgender? My convenience does not matter, because I am a threat. She will not feel safe in a changing room if she sees me and reads me. If she sees me, she will fear that I am a violent pervert who may assault her. In fact, unless there is a definite rule that no trans woman may enter a changing room, and this is known and enforced by all staff and customers, she fears that a man may assault her.

The possibility that one pervert may enter a changing room and molest a woman is enough, for her to require that no trans woman ever enter a changing room. That is transphobia: we produce a grotesque overreaction of fear in her.

She writes movingly of her experience of mania. I do not think her opinion on changing rooms shows she is mentally ill- instead I compare hers to the mindset of someone who opposes gay marriage. Unless there is a framework of laws which make the only life-partnerships recognised in law heterosexual ones, the opposer does not feel he is safe- even though there is no threat to his marriage, to society, or to the children brought up by gay people.

Similarly in the lesbian bar. I might have poor dress sense and look a bit ridiculous- but does no-one else in the bar have poor dress sense, and would she not oppose patriarchally judging them on their appearance? She might not like me, but is there no cis lesbian you do not like?

It is a phobic reaction. Here am I entirely harmless, and just the imagined possibility that I might go into the bar starts her mind on thoughts of male violence against women.

Just as I advise with arachnophobes, start small. For example, read this blog before meeting us. We are harmless, really.

She was mobbed on Twitter, and whines about it. Rather than the some of my best friends are trans line, she discloses that she more or less rubbed along with two “transvestites” in a situation where she could not do anything else. Then she talks of what most folk already know: when people respect each other, when people treat each other how they would like to be treated themselves, the world is a much nicer place. Well, yes.

My question to these soi-disant “radical feminists” is, why are you so obsessed with trans women? This one is a case in point, four articles in her first three weeks on this blog.

Pearl of great worth

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Portrait_de_Caterina_Sagredo_Barbarigo_par_Rosalba_Carriera.jpgJanet was a pioneer of caring for dementia patients without sedation. Well, you would not want sedated, yourself.

Was it a carer I met, or on the telly? She told of a man who regularly wet himself, and given that he had been moved to a care home and been unable to learn where the toilets were, she could sympathise with him doing this, and his distress.

I met a woman who wept bitterly as she told me of her inability to care for her mother, her mother’s random and damaging acts, how her mother could get up in the night and wander off. Now I read of a man who talks to his wife in his love for her as she keeps up a wordless muttering, then, still holding her hand, talks to another as if she were not there. So relatives can mourn for a loved one even as the body survives; at the funeral they are not sad as they have done their mourning; yet they care for that living body as if it were still the loved one.

Janet believes in a “Pearl” at the centre of the human being, which is utterly Them. Peeling the onion, one peels off more and more layers but at the centre is a tiny part which can no longer be peeled. Julian Baggini, whose book The Ego Trick I got from Terry, says that modern theorists give no credence to this pearl idea- the self has no fixed essence, it is in part a construction and the autobiographical narratives we tell ourselves invent an order and cohesion that real lives lack, p.83. Though on meeting friends from undergraduate days he finds them fitting together as they had twenty years ago, the same mannerisms coming out; and writes of threads of memory connecting the child, the man, the old man.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/be/CdM%2C_intaglio_di_giulia%2C_figlia_di_tito%2C_seconda_met%C3%A0_del_I_secolo_dc.%2C_acquamarina_firmata_da_Evodos%2C_montatura_carolingia_%28IX_sec.%29_con_9_zaffiri_e_6_perle.JPG/470px-thumbnail.jpgI remember as an undergraduate arguing passionately that a gay man- with a partner, forsooth!- should not be serving at the altar of the Episcopal cathedral; and that it is not choice but responsibility to the child growing in her womb that the mother should think of. These arguments I find despicable now, but if you think no decent person could ever have thought that, well, walk a mile in my shoes. One is flat, the other high-heeled.

My morality may change from conservative to liberal (proving I have no heart and no head) but I see characteristics in my nephew as a baby, child and young adult which look consistent. And I think of my Femaleness as my core, which does not change. I add to that my feeling-intuitive nature. I was not conscious of them as an undergraduate but other people may have been, and I think of them as suppressed rather than as not there.

The Pearl would fit Carl Rogers’s “Organismic Self”, and perhaps I construct my understanding of my experience around that theory. Had I read Julian Baggini first, and loved it as I love Rogers, would I see myself as more changeable now? Some parents who seemed always peaceable in dementia become violently angry- “My mother never used to swear”- but then, if you do not know where you are and people you do not know want to tell you what to do in such a confusing manner, well-



Here is Laura K, who wants to tell the gay man that God loves him, rather than that God condemns his sexual activity as sin. He will then convert to Christianity, and she will be able to explain to him what God has to say about his sexuality.

Mmm. I think this is better than making the first message that God finds homosexuality sinful. While moral philosophers have evolved many reasons why something might be thought good or bad, people who believe the Bible is self-consistent, inerrant and inspired can only say something is good or bad because a capricious God says so; and gay marriage is a case in point. What on Earth reasons could there be for finding it immoral, apart from that The Bible, Koran or whatever, condemns it?

The trouble with this is that I have grown and matured in the Church all my life, always self-identifying as Christian, and I disagree about the content of morality and the effect of the Bible verses. I am uncomfortable with Laura K appointing herself my teacher about sexual morality.

I contacted her through facebook, and she asked me to email her. I would love to hear your faith story, and how you came to know Jesus. I appreciate it when others share their honest walk- including struggles and victories. I am not sure I want to. Certainly not by email, which may be misunderstood so easily.

What I want to do first is build animal trust between us. Holding off on the things we disagree about, which are important to both of us, I want us to take communion together. I remember the sentiment from the Church of England Eucharist, but it is 1 Cor 10:17: Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.

I would like us to take it very slowly, and explore our areas of agreement over months sharing a church. These will be many, even if our disagreements are very important. If we could do something together, perhaps serving the coffee after worship together one Sunday, that would be good too.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/fd/Jan_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._009.jpg/640px-Jan_Bruegel_d._%C3%84._009.jpgThen we might approach our areas of disagreement from a position of trust, respect and friendship. We might, after so long disagreeing, accept that we might continue to disagree after these discussions, but that there would be enough good each could perceive in the other to make continued fellowship worthwhile.

If we can make that leap of trust, and take on faith that there is that sufficient good in each other, then the dialogue on points of disagreement might start earlier.

One of the curses of Christians is that we hate disagreeing. It seems that if we disagree, at least one of us must be wrong, and we ascribe dreadful consequences to that wrong, perhaps even as dreadful as damnation. We used to burn each other at the stake so that the heretic could not pervert others to his evil falsehoods, imperilling their souls. If we become like little children we are less desperate for agreement on everything.

Sex and gender

File:Aachen, Hans von - Emperador Matthias (1612).jpgSex is physical, gender is cultural.

I presented male, and now express myself female. So I am “Transgender”, as this is to do with my way of presenting myself to the World, and expressing myself to myself. But- the word “transgender” implies that sex does not come into it. In previous usage, there was a distinction between “transsexuals” who had the operation, and “transgenderists” who did not.

I had male sex organs. Arguably my sex was male. Yet I revolt against that idea: it is so deep, so ingrained, so natural that I am female that I think of my sex as female, too, throughout my life. Something in my brain, something in my genes, something. So I do not like the word “transsexual”- crossing between the sexes- because I feel I have always been female.

One advantage of “Transsexual” as an identity is (Irony ALERT!!) that if the bigot looks at me, I can whine, “I’m not like those weirdos over there. I’m transsexual! I’ve had the operation and everything! Transvestites are perverts, but I have a medical condition!” However, justifying myself to a bigot is a mug’s game. It is impossible. And- I do not want to be accepted because I have gone down a certain path. I want to be accepted because I am human, and I want that extended to everyone.

So, we use the word “Trans”. It is inclusive.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Charles_Beaubrun_Mar%C3%ADa_Teresa_de_Austria_y_el_Gran_Delf%C3%ADn.jpg/558px-Charles_Beaubrun_Mar%C3%ADa_Teresa_de_Austria_y_el_Gran_Delf%C3%ADn.jpgOn culture: the kilt, though skirt-like, is a man’s garment, and trousers are a woman’s garment. But the cultural issue is deeper than that: the kilt, with deep pleats in a heavy fabric, swings in a masculine way. It is not feminine.

So, culturally, I can go so far. I can accept that men wear something which partially resembles a skirt, but I want it to be masculine. Men in something feminine is transgressive. Women’s trousers are cut differently, in different colours and fabrics. The Restoration gentleman, in bright-coloured velvet and lace with a long curly wig still wore trousers, while the ladies wore long skirts. I can accept the different cultural expression of masculinity as long as there is a distinction.

Oh, right. That is conservative. Not radical at all. I need the distinction. I am uncomfortable without it.

Then I can accept others if it is explained to me. The concept of Neutrois, for example, someone identifies as neither man nor woman. Oh, OK. This person is neutrois. I can probably restrain myself from policing the person’s apparent gender expression, but I will certainly notice it. This person is Genderqueer. I learn, slowly. Remember this is a trans woman writing- I have a reaction, then a moment’s thought while I apply my Diversity understanding, and I may need to consciously apply that Diversity understanding repeatedly.

And- not just as a matter of gender- I am not good with people new to me. I need to spend time with people before I am comfortable with them.

Part of my noticing, part of my staring, is considering- is this a possibility for me? If people stare at women hand in hand, it might be bigoted condemnation, or fearful admiration- But that’s not allowed –is it?

Who decides?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bc/B_Pierpont_252v.jpgWho then decides if I am a woman? I do. Scientists and policy-makers agree on that. This quiet revolution has taken place without many of us noticing, maybe because we thought it concerned only a small minority of the population. But it affects all of us, and the way we organise society. If we can accept that sex and gender are a personal choice, with a whole range of possibilities between the extremes of male and female, man and woman, the battle of the sexes as we know it will be over. What comes next? Perhaps a new model of society where we negotiate relationships with each other and the State on our own, individual terms.

I love Jo Fidgen’s conclusion to her Analysis programme. Despite my critique of one ridiculous, vile contribution, I find the whole programme positive and informative. At the moment it is not quite true. There is no recognition of a third gender in law: in law, one must be one or the other. And while in Australia some can have an X instead of M or F on their passport, I understand that is only people with particular intersex conditions.

The law says I am a woman, contrary to my original birth certificate; but the birth record in Forfar still states that I am male, it is only the extract copy that I can change; and I can only change that because a psychiatrist from a statutory list of specialists and one other doctor have certified that I had lived female, and am likely to do so life long, and I have formally promised to do so. Even with equal marriage there will be slightly different rules for opposite sex and same sex marriage. It is my choice in that no authority insists I am male against it, but there is great difficulty having the choice recognised; and it is a choice to act on my fundamental nature,http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9b/B_Pierpont_174v.jpg/557px-B_Pierpont_174v.jpg rather than a free choice of which sex is best to be generally.

And yet as I read on a blog months ago, the issue for the whole LGBT community is a gender identity issue, as we seek the freedom not to conform to gender stereotypes. That has to liberate everyone: no-one entirely fits the stereotype.

(Tranny claims trannies are at the cutting edge of the liberation of humanity. Ha!)

Am I a radical challenge to the very notion of gender, or a conservative reinforcement of stereotypes? The former. The radfem myth- person with stereotypical repulsive male behaviour, in ridiculous, clichéd and highly sexualised clothes- does not really fit reality. The argument that we reinforce Patriarchal ideas of femininity is the alternative radfem attack. Often we are ultragirly, but if we were not we might be able to make a go of life as men. And- there are ultragirly women, as well as more masculine women.

The point of feminism is that women should have choices, and fulfil ourselves. “Radical Feminism” is not that radical position, but a reaction to sexism. To a Chauvinist “women should stay at home and look after the children” the Radfem position is a reaction- “Not bloody likely”. The mainstream of feminism has gone beyond that: women should have a free choice. Feminists who falsely call themselves radical might meditate on “What you resist, persists”. The rest of us have moved on, to modelling and so creating the non-oppressive world. That is the radical challenge to patriarchy.

What would Jesus do?

File:Hobos.jpgA tramp and his gang wander the lanes, sometimes sleeping in barns, sometimes in fields. When decent townsfolk tell them to clear off, the leader goes into megalomaniac rants: Woe to you, Chorazin… I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. What would Jesus do? Drive a herd of pigs into the water so they all drowned, or make a whip of cords and drive ordinary decent people out of the temple; or curse a fig tree when it does not produce fruit at a time of year when no fig tree would- curse it so it withers overnight.

I know who the hero of the story is. It is Jesus, who is the Son of God and who redeems the World, after spending two or three years healing and teaching it. The teachings are absolutely Good, even if we can conveniently forget some which are difficult to explain. The New Testament authors all agree on who the hero is, but some of the evidence they gather is disturbing.

The members of the early Christian community gave all their property to be held in common. Ananias and Sapphira brought theirs too, but concealed the fact that they kept some back. When the Apostles by inspiration discovered their lies, and confronted them, God struck them down dead. It is all very well thinking Yahweh had grown out of his habit of, say, File:Ned "The Shiner" Slattery and his dog - edit.jpgcommanding the Israelites to slaughter all the Canaanites, but here he is in one of his Old Testament  moods.

Possibly the Gospel writers did not fully understand Jesus, and possibly they projected their own views onto him. Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar say which lines attributed to Jesus they believe he actually said. The problem with this is that it might just cut out the bits we don’t like, or tidy Jesus up, ignoring the difficult to explain bits. Garry Wills, in What Jesus Said, claims to accept the Gospel accounts, but in fact picks and chooses which parts of the Gospels to quote.

A blogger who does not publish my comments feared that school chaplains would be unable to tell children that homosexual sex is sinful, under modern Equalities legislation in Britain. Even the least churchy child is aware of Christian condemnation of queers. Is that really the first message you want a child with no understanding whatsoever of Christianity to hear about it? I don’t think Paul’s passages about the Sins of the people outside the Church are useful either- take note, Jehovah’s Witnesses- as most people are fairly decent, and see themselves as such. The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are good choices. The disciples were pulling grains of wheat, passers-by told them to stop, Jesus said “I do what I like, mate”. There’s a good one for dissing authority. Meanwhile there are these difficult to explain passages that Atheists can have great fun with, Christian-bating.


Law and Love

File:Moses at Sinai Mount-1.jpgLike most Christians, I eat shellfish. How can I simply ignore the Biblical prohibition? Here are two arguments from the Reformation- thanks to Neil Hart. For these thinkers, all of Scripture is the word of God.

The Westminster Confession of my beloved (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland divides the Law of Moses into Moral, Ceremonial and Judicial. The Moral law, for everyone and all time, is restricted to the ten commandments; the ceremonial law, on cleanness and sacrifice, is for the Jews alone, and the Judicial law is for the country as long as it exists as a temporal state. Their restriction of the moral law to the ten commandments surprised me, though going through the whole Torah and deciding which bits still apply would be a tough job. And- it includes “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”, which some Jews think means they cannot turn on a light switch, and we ignore, resting instead on the Eighth day of the week, the day of resurrection, when time meets Eternity.

Martin Luther says that Moses is not my Lawgiver, but my teacher. He counselled not creating a hierarchy of value of Scripture- the Words of Jesus at the top, the New Testament worth more than the Old- but the Law does not bind us. Paul said “Everything is permissible”- what an amazing, radical statement! Everything!- “but not everything is beneficial”, and if it upsets the pickier moral sense of others it may be better to avoid it. The New International Version, which I normally quote, makes “Everything is permissible” in 1 Cor 10:23 a quote: “Everything is permissible”, you say. Paul was writing a letter, answering another, and other things in his writings might be read to contradict that- but other translations do not do this.

Part of the Law which does not apply to us, is the greatest commandment: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.”All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’ – Matthew 22 37-40. Most Christians would consider themselves bound by this.

So we are not bound by Leviticus 20. Thank goodness: where would one get the stones? The gravel on front drives is too small to have the necessary effect, and stones the size of an orange might kill too early, and spoil the fun. There is no reliable supplier of sufficient stones the size of a plum, say. In a nomadic or subsistence agricultural society, stoning is actually the most humane punishment. If a person is imprisoned, and fed, that is a holiday for him, an incentive to crime. If he is imprisoned and not fed, that might be the burden on his family which is too much for them to bear, and they starve too. If he shows that he cannot be trusted, and damages the community, the community cannot tolerate him- and if the whole community stone him, then the whole community is responsible for his death, rather than any individuals.

But now, stoning is not a humane punishment. We are not in a subsistence society, and have moved on. And if you want your long term relationship recognised, love your gay neighbour as yourself and recognise hers/his. Simple.

Feeling virtuous

I posted the photo, saying Something I can do which is absolutely Good, creative, and caring, with absolutely no down-side, and D commented, And makes one feel virtuous. Words…

Bernard Crick, commenting on the lessons of Wells’s Mr Polly and Orwell’s George Bowling, writes: Life is all right, good even, if one looks at it with the simple wonder of a child exploring everything as new, or with the heightened delight in ordinary things of a stoical person who knows that he or she is soon to die. Does one call this the mysticism of common sense? Though both Bowling and Polly have run away from their tedious lives and jobs, which got all too much for them.

I certainly did want to feel virtuous: I look back at that time and it is quite clear from what I did and how I was. And- I was not conscious of it at the time. I knew that I wanted to be good, which is a different thing. I consciously wanted to be good, because unconsciously otherwise I did not have a right to exist. As my morality changed from that of the Daily Mail to that of the Quakers I still wanted to be Good.

Mark 10:18:  ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.’  I don’t think Jesus is denying being Good here, so much as challenging concepts of what Good is. Are we good enough? Perhaps it does not matter: analysing how Good a past act is, is- I was going to say, backward looking, ineffective, I am not sure of that. Circumstances alter cases. Sometimes useful. Something not to do “too much”.

Now, I want- I claim- that sensation of being in the Moment, mind and body integrated, carrying out a purpose. I would have called it a Spiritual Experience, an amazing wonder, and as I have it more it remains a delight, a heightened way of being. Like in my kata practice this morning. I want my Taigyoku Shodan to be beautiful: torso upright, head gliding at the same level not bobbing up and down, hips on or off properly, place the foot not fall onto it, turn with the legs after placing the foot rather than throwing onesself round- so much detail to master, the most important being full power at the moment of the block or strike, with relaxed movement to that point. The body just does the move, without effort, because conscious effort actually gets in the way.

It is perfectly beautiful and delightful, and I still make excuses and find myself not doing it, or stay in bed a bit longer. I have moments checking my watch in my meditation space, and also moments with delight- why on Earth would one avoid it? Do you avoid your meditation time? Can you imagine why?

Bisexuals? Ew!

Bisexual Pride FlagLet’s face it, bisexuality or bisexualism or whatever they call it, is disgusting. So Dan Savage is biphobic? I sympathise absolutely. Bisexuals? Ew!

I am generally more Ew’d against than Ew’ing. Weird and disgusting in my appearance and mannerisms (whether cliché male or female) and above all for mutilating myself, I have fellow-feeling for those who inspire disgust. There is my opening. My own disgust here is not a reliable guide to me. I would be better to reduce it. It would be better if my acts were not controlled by it.

The aversion is real. There is a greater sense of betrayal when the beloved goes with a man- how could she? If I studied and thought of Privilege, I could come up with some Privilege I have over bisexuals, but my immediate response without that effort is the other way. They can drift into the queer community, and at any time leave it, and among the straights their cheap notoriety is cachet not curse. Drafting problem- should I say “My aversion is real”? No, I generalise. Other people must feel that way too.

Dan Savage disbelieves in the phenomenon based on his own initial self-identification as Bi in order to appear, well, not quite as bad as being gay when he was a teenager. Well. There are people who during their lives have stable relationships with partners of both sexes. The phenomenon exists, even if some people who say they are bi really are gay. There is a similar disbelief for- are they “my lot”? Androphile trans women? I choose to say they are my lot. Hominem scias, and all that. The argument is that they fancy men, and think- “but homosexuality is vile and immoral! I can’t be attracted to men, unless I am a woman.” I know gender identity is more complex than that.

My disgust, which I choose not to act upon- is it a “heart-impulse”? It is a movement from deep inside me. Such movement is not always simply to be acted on.

“Ew” is a bit American, but it has the advantage of being utterly girlipink. Other possibilities I considered were “Yuck”, “Ugh” and “Eughh”.

Hat tip to The Quiet Voice, whom I found through Violetwisp, who displays posts she likes. If I did, I would have to be less promiscuous with the Like button.