I was excluded, but that was a different place, three years ago. And now I walk in, wondering if there will be some confrontation. I asked various people who all said there would be no problem, some know trans women, but it only takes one. So I walk in, nervous, and perhaps people pick up on my nervousness. If I am claiming to be “genderqueer” here, going without the wig in the heat, I have less of an argument why I should be entitled to be here. Oh, stop anticipating problems!
Here, I start conversations easily over tea. One woman, Canadian, works at a Buddhist retreat centre, of which there are dozens in the UK, and would consider marrying to get indefinite leave to remain. Well, the government is so nasty about immigrants to gain votes, and as they cannot stop EU migration they have to pick on someone many of their voters would not object to. Why should she not marry a friend? Romance is overrated. Er, because marriage is usually intended at its inception to be until death.
I drift into the workshop on non-violent communication. Here is a striking criticism of it: you can learn that the use of an empathic statement can get what you want from another person, sadly it’s surface empathy, the sort of behaviour that is associated with narcissism. One could see it more positively.
The group leader talks of how from Christianity we have the ideas of Original Sin and Judgment, so everything is either good or bad, in or out, and we judge ourselves and others continually. I challenge this, in a way: I say that there are other strains in Christianity, of love and acceptance, but that is a strong strain.
Therefore, there is a great deal of anger and unmet need, and people act as if what they wanted were obviously right, but do not state the emotions behind. If you can frame the outburst differently, state the emotion behind it, they feel heard and a lot of the pain vanishes.
Also, if you can state your desire more precisely, it might be met. The other women talk of their partners: one’s does not take enough notice of her. If you say, “I want connection”, he might get frustrated: “I give you connection”. If you are specific: “I want your full attention for two minutes without you checking your texts and emails” he might give it.
I start to weep. I have managed to create a space where I do not have these problems with others, I say, retreating from contact. It is an achievement, actually, it is me getting what I have wanted first, though it is not the whole way. Part of me is frustrated and angry: I see what I should do, and I do not do it. Part of me is wounded and frightened. She sees that I feel I have not been heard- perhaps it is that early childhood experience that really matters, friends listen to me.
Perhaps I could create a non-violent dialogue within myself, between these warring parts. It has been so difficult to value both, get each to value the other, through the anger and fear.
Later, I see her at the ceilidh, and she says hello distantly. My empathic statement is that well, you have empathised as a task, so deeply, you do not want to give more, now. Or perhaps she had someone else to talk to.