A revolution?


How revolutionary was Sargent‘s portrait of Virginie? With only Wikimedia for my research I find him starting a fashion few followed. Before, nudes were of course fair game, but ladies were a different matter. Here is a typical portrait from 1882:

File:Varvara Miatleva by Albert Edelfelt.jpg

And then here is a portrait from the “Naughty Nineties”. Yvette looks liable to a wardrobe malfunction, even though her straps are decorously raised.


And another. Katharina Schratt is portrayed in a sort of Mediaeval look.


Not everyone went the full Boldini, though here we are, off the shoulder again:


What of 1906? Evelyn Farquhar is as demure as ever:

John Lavery, Evelyn Farquhar

A thinking, feeling Christian

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Jacob_de_Gheyn_-_Vanitas.JPGIs Christianity incompatible with an open heart or a thinking mind?

When Tyndale translated the Bible into English, he wanted every Englishman to read it and understand it for himself, and so be freed from a monolithic Magisterial interpretation. Reformation and Enlightenment led to the Bible being interpreted like a statute-book and science textbook. Predestination is eminently logical:

God is omniscient and eternal
God is the Primal Cause
Therefore God knows everything which is going to happen
Therefore God has intended it
Therefore God knows who is going to Hell
Therefore God has created “ane for Heaven and ten for Hell”.

Since “no-one comes to the Father but through Jesus” (John 14:6), all Muslims will go to Hell.

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (I have only seen its Amazon review and Rachel’s post) argues that this¬† has made Evangelicals unable to contribute to intellectual life, instead viewing Middle-Eastern politics through the alleged prophecies of Revelation- the Rapture is coming- and believing in Flood geology, claiming that strata were not laid down over billions of years, but in forty days. They reason with beautiful logic but their conclusions are worthless, because of their original, vitiating error that the Bible is inerrant, and applicable in this way.

Rachel Held Evans argues this way of thinking is alexithymic: without words for emotion, or understanding of it. How else could anyone contemplate a majority of people going to Hell, or the genocide of Canaan, with equanimity or even satisfaction?

File:Carl Heinrich Bloch - Gethsemane.jpgThis way of thinking makes Christianity monstrous and ridiculous: the atheist has great ease, and a moral obligation, to refute it. I escaped it, through Love- horror at the thought of people being damned.

Part of my answer is that the Deuteronomic history- slavery in Egypt, liberation, passover, wandering in the desert, and genocidal conquest of Israel- is all a myth created after the exile in Babylon; and the creation and flood stories are myths or parables rather than history. Part is that the interpretations are wrong, so I argue about the meaning of malakoi.

All that is refutation and escape. The atheist has natural feeling, empathy, rational thinking and moral reasoning without all this Biblical falsehood. If I use my own, but value the Bible and Relationship with God, is my Christianity just holding me back, or can it actually give me anything?

The Bible, freed from the impossible demands of infallibility, is the great classic, showing human responses in ecstasy and despair- and so it makes my own responses in extremity acceptable. It shows a growth in the understanding of God, from ceremonial purity to God with us and in us, from wrath to love. It is a great koan: being internally inconsistent, it shocks us out of the desire to be consistent, for consistency is only compatible with perfection.

And I have relationship with something greater than the thoughts I am conscious of in my ego-self. Whether it is the creator of the universe or particular brain-states and impulses within me, strands of Christian thought help me come to terms with it.


Does all opposition to equal marriage come from homophobia? Yes.

Comments are welcome on other possible grounds, but the will to protect children from a system which stops them having a relationship with a mother and a father by preventing gay couples from marrying is, yes, homophobic.

Homophobes have a right to pick which child protection measure they support: just because they could campaign for greater protection for children in high risk families, does not mean they should campaign for my child protection issue of choice, rather than their own. But if they wish to prevent someone from having a child or raising his/her own child with the partner of his/her choice, a significant invasion of human rights, they should give clear proof that this gay parent can only produce worse outcomes than other parents permitted to raise children, when free of societal homophobia. Regnerus is not that. Or, they can ban divorce, and other things which separate people from both parents- and find how children flourish brought up by parents who co-exist in cold dislike. I have met awful married parents who damage their children- should mothers be psychologically evaluated before being allowed to conceive?

Religion should fit us to accept reality (a difficult thing for human beings, wishful thinking is so tempting) not to reject it. And so in Bible interpretation, we have a choice. We can believe with certain bible verses that the sun can literally go backwards in the sky over Palestine, and that slavery is God’s will, and (with a disputed interpretation of only six bible verses) that gay sex is always wrong, or we can believe that the Earth goes round the Sun, slavery is wrong, and gay sex is no more objectionable than straight sex. Some found the gap between their literal interpretation of the Bible, and scientific knowledge of the universe, so great that they retreated from reality, to their immense harm. Fortunately, Christianity does not require that, or it would die out.

So why don’t people see this? Because they have irrational prejudice against, disgust for, or yes fear of gay people.

Another short, definite post. Do say other reasons for campaigning against equal marriage or the right to bring up ones children, if you can, but I am at Buddhafield, camping, until the end of the month. Thanks to Askme for the challenge.

Using the Bible

You can use the Bible to argue for anything.

Here is yet another man who hates gay people. He says that Leviticus 18 is moral laws that everyone who inhabits the earth is to live by. Verse 27 is key: all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled.

A commenter says that just before the gay men verse comes v19, Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period. But Mark has a get-out clause: he notes the word “uncleanness”, which is part of the ceremonial law which only applied to Israel.

However, Lev 20:18 says something similar: If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.

Note that there is no word “uncleanness” here. And there is the application of the verse to everyone, at v23:¬† You must not live according to the customs of the nations I am going to drive out before you. Because they did all these things, I abhorred them.

For me as a Christian, Leviticus poses no problem. It contains laws for the Israelites at a particular stage of their history- the final form of the pentateuch was compiled after Persia conquered Babylon, in the middle 6th century BCE, though much of the source material would be earlier. I make my own judgment, with my church, of what is moral or immoral. Our understanding of God improves.

Mark makes a superficially similar argument. Cleanness enabled a man to approach the Temple of God, but when the Nations were reconciled to God, they would approach the temple: Many peoples will come and say, ‚ÄėCome, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.’¬†Would they not need to be clean? No, because Jesus established a new covenant. But for him, the prohibitions on incest and gay sex are retained as moral law.
The trouble with Mark’s view is that he has to retain v23, too. “I abhorred them”. God hates entire nations, and commands war against them. I say we understand God better. Mark’s God still might kill apparently random swathes of humanity, because he hates them.

Mark shows signs of having a particular end in view, when he argues. Menstrual sex is OK. Gay sex isn’t. He finds the word which allows him to imagine this is consistent with his view of the Bible. He claims that God no longer requires ceremonial cleanness, but also that God curses and abhors and murders entire populations. I say that was a myth created by the Jews at the time of their greatest weakness: a positive way of seeing it is God’s support for the Jews, which they believed in despite their shame; and parts of the Bible indicate henotheism, which is the state of one worshipping One God, but accepting that others exist as well.

So, I can say God is Love. When Mark says God is love, he has to rationalise this- a Love which permits genocide, God with his fingers crossed behind his back.

Today’s portrait of the gorgeous Virginie Am√©lie Avegno Gautreau is by Antonio de La Gandara. The study, with that deliciously dangerous strap, is by Sargent.

Today, I leave for Buddhafield. I will have no computer or smart phone, and will answer any comments when I get back. Daily posting shall continue, through the magic of scheduling.

John Singer Sargent


It is one thing to paint nudes, quite another to paint society ladies. Madame X might have opened the floodgates. Exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1884, the painting caused a scandal. Sargent had to paint over the dress: the strap falling down had been immodest.

It is all to do with timing. Gustave Courtois’s work of 1891 is less subtle, as well as less accomplished:


Boldini in 1885 was comparatively demure:

Ella Brooks Carter

Later, Boldini made a career of painting women in dresses they wore to society dos, but Sargent did not remain a portraitist. A gust of wind, 1886, is quite different, though I love her lips.


A street in Venice. It has been the mistake of some very great artists, from a quite natural reaction against the artificial Venice of bad painters, to concentrate exclusively on the Venice of the more humble campi, the little deserted r√ľ, which they found more real,¬†wrote Proust, but look at the man’s gaze:


A pity he did not paint more portraits. Here is Lady Agnew of Lochnaw:



File:He1523a.jpgSpace is very big.

There are of the order of a hundred billion galaxies, each with a hundred billion stars. It is 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang- the consensus was 13.7 billion years until recently.

InFile:HR2667ESODSS.png the beginning all matter was hydrogen. Hydrogen atoms are bonded together into helium in stars, and this fusion produces their energy. In smaller stars when the hydrogen is exhausted, they go out, but in larger stars the helium fuses, and then the products fuse to produce heavier elements. Even uranium, with an atomic weight of 238, was produced in this way. Then the stars explode, and the atoms are scattered through the universe: some elements are created in the supernova explosion. Other atoms are produced by cosmic rays interacting with atoms, or by radioactive decay. Some helium and lithium were produced in the Big Bang.

File:Hubble image of LRLL 54361 and its surroundings.jpgVY Canis Majoris has a radius about 1420 times greater than the Sun’s radius, or 6.6 astronomical units: by comparison, Jupiter is 5.2 AU from the Sun. The Scattered disc, comprised of objects orbiting at the greatest distance from the sun, stretches out beyond a hundred astronomical units.

One light year is 63,239 AU,File:RhoGem2MASS.png and our galaxy is about 100,000 light years in diameter. Andromeda, the nearest other galaxy, is estimated at 2.57 million light years away, and will collide with the Milky Way in about 4.5 billion years. The sun will begin to die in five billion years.

File:(KappaLyrae) (kLyr) (HIP89826).pngBy the most popular theory, the Universe will continue to expand, and suffer heat death in about a google years. Then, there will be no thermodynamic free energy left, no energy to perform any work or support life. In this state, it may subsist eternally.

One religious response to this is denial: the Earth is only about six thousand years old, and marsupials walked from the Ark on Mount Ararat to Australia before God broke up Pangaea. Mine is awe: I really do believe in impossible things, and God is scarcely more impossible. Why God should take such a particular interest in this planet- well, we are here, and God does. What God thinks about all the rest of it is known to God.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/31/Jean_Jouvenet_The_Triumph_of_Justice.jpgWhat did the US Supreme Court decide?

In US v Windsor the federal government sought to recover inheritance tax from a woman who had inherited from her wife within a legally recognised marriage in her home state. DOMA s3 required the federal government and its agencies to not recognise any marriage except opposite sex marriages. The court ruled this unconstitutional “as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment”, specifically its due process clause: s3 “identif[ies] a subset of state-sanctioned marriages and make[s] them unequal”.

In Hollingsworth v Perry, the federal district court had ruled that the California constitutional ban on same sex marriages had no rational basis. California state officials refused to challenge this decision, and when Hollingsworth, leader of a gang of


called “protectmarriage” sought to appeal the district court decision, the Supreme Court decided that they had no “standing”- “the litigant must seek a remedy for a personal and tangible harm”.

So we are denied a Loving v Virginia type of case, where all state constitutional bans on equal marriage are overturned, as Loving overturned bans on mixed race marriages. DOMA s2, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/af/Aachen_Allegory.jpgallowing each State “or Indian tribe” to make its own decision on equal marriage for gay couples, still stands.

It cannot stand for long. When a gay couple seeks to marry in a State which bans it, and challenges the ban in court, s2 will be overturned. There are such challenges in Nevada, Hawaii and Michigan- see USA Today, my main source along with Wikipedia.

That is what people want. Polls show increasing support for equal marriage. Increasingly, people realise that treating queers differently because we are queer is disgusting and wrong, and unchristian.

Of course I want equality now- and looking back on the progress, with discrimination on goods and services and in employment only made unlawful in Great Britain in 2006, and equal marriage now being enacted, I am satisfied.

Things get better, and the emancipation of queers is one of my main pieces of evidence for that. With all the “wars and rumours of wars”, economic turbulence, and causes for disquiet, I look at the public acceptance of discrimination legislation as evidence that things get better. The fall of the Iron Curtain- Croatia, part of an enemy state when I was a student, is now in the EU- is File:Le triomphe de la Justice - Durameau.jpganother. I look back to 1485, the Battle of Bosworth, when Henry VII became King of England- before then, politics was conducted by means of civil war, and after, internal English politics was mostly conducted by judicial murder, which is an improvement. A hundred years later, we had learned to do politics mostly by talking!

Seek out reasons to be cheerful and causes of Hope. Pat Robertson, a soi-disant “pastor”, said he vomited on seeing gay couples. It is a good thing that he will be unable to keep anything down, as he could do with losing weight. He is a figure of fun. More


will carry on making such arguments, quoting Leviticus 20, saying that God sends hurricanes because of equal marriage, etc, even saying how loving they are trying to get everyone to follow God’s Will. They will come to regret it, and realise eventually that an increase in freedom for some is an increase in freedom for all.


God’s in His Heaven- what?

-seeing all the out and proud gay people, and tearing his hair out in misery, till Jesus tells him, never mind, Hollingsworth and Robertson are protecting us

-Or laughing behind his hand- they may be “Proud” now, but I’m sending them STRAIGHT to HELL! But first, I ‘ll send a hurricane, or maybe an earthquake. That’ll show them!

Nice God you’ve got there, guys.

The monster won’t get me

As a self-confidence exercise, I went round the supermarket this morning without my wig. Terry, who remained in the car, was more embarrassed than I was: people mostly looked at me so we could avoid our trolleys colliding. If people look at me quizzically, to be abashed by that is responding like a prey animal- and my response is my choice.

What irritated me was the way the check-out assistant started chatting to the woman behind me, while still serving me, and ignored me when I responded.

I give, or can choose not to give, permission to others to dictate my appearance; even if in some cases a particular appearance might help me achieve a particular result. This is an improvement. She irritated, rather than distressed, me. There was no overt insult, and if there had been I could have handled it.

I ended a course of counselling in 2009 with:
-What are you afraid of?
-The monster will get me.

As Yvonne pointed out, this is small child’s language, and it was the only way I could express it. I could not go further: in fact, so non-rational is this that my barriers against the realisation were great. I wanted to rationalise the fear, and find a proper cause for it. I saw later that the monster is my mother, and if it gets me I die. It seems I have moved on from then. The monster won’t get me.

In the park, families have paid to be taught and supervised building shelters for the night- a “Survive” event. They had a gorgeous warm weekend for it. I went into the woods following the path the 4x4s had made (AmE- “SUVs”) and chatted until told to leave by the “ranger”. He escorted me away, which irritated me again- why not just trust me to walk away, it is not as if I will scratch that motorcaravan (for use, perhaps, if a family could not bear it).

This is an improvement. I am not so crippled by self-consciousness that I cannot go out. I still have difficulty articulating anything I Want, which I feel I could achieve, or a way to achieve something, but a barrier within my own mind has melted away.

My distress is not as dangerous as it was. If my anger terrifies me, I freeze and can do nothing but suppress it. If I can notice and permit it, it can energise me.


Some transsexual people never get “read” as transsexual. This is known as “Stealth”.

Stealth is a particularly poisonous version of the Beauty Myth, that beautiful people are better, and we should all strive to be beautiful- and our beauty is never enough. If “she looks like a man” is a particularly hurtful insult, how much more hurtful when I actually do. A bit. Not everyone reads me, but most people do, fairly quickly. Few comment on it: just as on meeting someone you do not comment on the purple birthmark half-covering her face, so people don’t usually say, “So you’re a tranny, then?”

Some people do not get read. One friend achieved stealth by changing job, city and friends when she transitioned. She retained one friend from Before, apart from her contacts in the “trans community”. She has a perfect right to get on with her life, and no obligation to campaign for other trans people, or to come out, and suffer bad consequences for doing so.

“My value as a human being does not depend on my physical appearance,” I declaim, portentously, and people who are pretty have life easier. Looking weird sucks. And- one gets on, as best one can, I suppose.

It is of more than academic interest to me that in April, Chris Wilson, a trans man, was convicted in Scotland of obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud, because he failed to disclose his trans history. He had casual sex. He had lied about his age, claiming that he was 16 rather than 22- with female bone structure, he looks younger- but the charge was that he had failed to disclose his trans status.

Why should I ask permission to be me? Pick someone up in a pub, go to a nice quiet place- hotel room, her house, the lavs- and then I have to say, by the way I am Trans. Is that OK with you? Some jurisdictions specify that recklessly infecting someone with an STD is a criminal offence, and Wilson’s case makes me equivalent. Someone might be happy to have casual sex with me, who would not be happy to have it with a trans woman.

It means that I am female by consent- not just of the Gender Recognition Panel, but of everyone, and anyone can withdraw that consent. I say I decide what sex I am, I decide how I should express myself, and while I want to be presentable, no-one gets a veto.

Trans women have objected to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on the grounds that a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate has to disclose gender history to a prospective spouse, or that spouse can have the marriage declared void, later. However, the Bill will also reveal the person without a GRC. As same sex and opposite sex marriages are slightly different legal institutions, when the trans woman without a GRC marries she must be registered as the “husband”.