Loch Fyne

The boat was on a mooring. I rowed out to it, cast off, and pulled up the sails.

This was the first time I had done this by myself, and I nearly capsized. I scrambled over to the port side, and nearly capsized the other way. On an even keel, with the sails pulling, I found myself sailing towards the rocks- so I went about, turning just before I hit them, and felt the most glorious adrenalin surge.

With my father, I lay in the boat, in the sun, with almost no swell on the loch. Just after lunch, I looked over the side, and saw two jellyfish. Their crowns were separate, their tentacles intertwined, floating horizontally together, and they were beautiful. Then we drifted home mostly on the tide.

Loch Fyne

These photographs were taken just before Dad moved to Linlithgow, and two taken at the same time hang in my father’s bedroom. I resent all those photographs of his wife’s descendants, littering the living room, and not one of me. Then he has photographs of me presenting male- What?

And Loch Fyne 2

yet

it

is

a

beautiful

memory

Journey into Life II

I came to Quakers by accident. I met J, and knew she was Quaker, but that in itself would not have made me try them. Then Sue and Carol, separately, took me to their Quaker meetings, I went to that other one, and when I could not go to the Anglican church any more, I went to the Quaker meeting. Serendipity, a series of fortunate events. When I could no longer worship God disguised as a man, I went to Quakers and did not have to.

I don’t know whether “Journey into Life” is on to something, or is self-deluding. If the latter, the key is that before his revelation, Gerald Hewitson retired. I have seen men devastated by retirement- nothing to do, no role to define themselves with, no purpose in life, if still providing for their families they are coasting not motoring- but my father changed from being stressed out and angry to being relaxed.

Possibly Hewitson was, as a member of the Religious Society of Friends and a Liberal Christian in his 30s, stressed by work and ordinary life, and it was simply retirement, taking a great deal of pressure off him, that made him feel more “Spiritual”. It is all very well to relinquish the illusion of control, or the desperation for control of ones life, for a Quakerly “Assurance” that we are in God’s hands and all manner of things are Well, if his own life is comfortable enough and for him things really are.

He states a concern for the injustices of the World- and sometimes rationalisations about the Poor in other countries can be a channel for half-conscious anger about ones own life.

When I first came to Quakers I read George Fox’s journal, and came across the story of Mary Dyer, and later I read John Woolman’s journal: and now I am a “liberal Christian”. Mary Dyer was exiled from Massachusetts for being Quaker, as there was no tolerance for non-conforming worship. She returned to Boston, and when she refused to accept banishment she was hung. Legally enforced worship and belief is monstrous, and I respect her calling to protest it: I blame that legal system for her death, and not her; though I could argue that she was stupidly fanatical rather than heroic. And- I have more quotidian concerns, no call or opportunity to die for the Faith.

Meanwhile, I have certain experiences which I call spiritual. I read that these experiences may be life-changing: but if my life has not changed already, can there be any truth to such claims?

Sterbenfreude

File:Oliver Cromwell, Death mask (right).jpgHow much have you achieved, in your time on Earth?

It was quite a shock when I realised I am older than the Prime Minister- only four months, but still. I could blame his privileged upbringing and education at Eton and Cambridge, but by middle age one really should stop blaming ones childhood. Now I am older than the leaders of the three main parties, the only reason I could think of for supporting Scottish independence would be that Wee Eck is still older than I am. It is a changeable fashion: my father retired before he was older than the PM.

These things can reverse. I have been older than the last two Doctor Whos, but not the next one, so I can start looking up to him again.

There are other ways of dealing with the achievement of others. I may not have written about fifty symphonies, 27 piano concertos, 15 masses and 12 violin concertos, and I could not perform one of those piano concertos, but at least I have lived longer than Mozart- though not, yet, Bach or Beethoven, and my father has not outlived Copland. I am now older than George Orwell, Jane Austen, Jack London, F Scott Fitzgerald, Albert Camus and Oscar Wilde, Billie Holliday, John Lennon and Freddie Mercury, Alan Turing and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, so if my name is writ in water, at least I am still alive. I got these names from Celebrity Deaths sorted by age, on the Simon Fraser University website. The only Simon Fraser I recall gained notoriety by getting away with killing his son: he told the judges he had been asleep, dreaming of fighting a gorilla.File:Beethovendeathmask.jpg

Ha! I need not dwell on their death to belittle someone! Only a little imagination is required!

———————————————

Well. That was a bitter little abortion of a post. The germ was noticing that I am older than George Orwell was when he died. It has some comic potential: the little man getting one over on the powerful, or that particular little man being deluded, clinging to something small.

Schadenfreude literally translates as “harm joy”, and my coining sterbenfreude as “Death joy”. I express my own bitterness here, allowed free rein and without any admixture of qualities I find acceptable to the imaginary Other, or comfortable to myself. That gives it its bite, but frightens me: this is me speaking, and I don’t like it.

———————————————

This bitterness is not the whole of me. I genuinely do not know which of these is true:

If I let it out to play, it will be stronger as it will become habitual

If I let it out to play it will not draw strength from my fear of it

My desire is to be Positive. Which of these two theories do you think more likely?

Global Anglican Failure

The Global Anglican Future Conference- GAFCON- is about homosexuality, and nothing else.

GAFCON 2 in Nairobi finished on Saturday, and produced their Communique. It makes depressing reading. In 2008, the first GAFCON was convened in order to counter a false gospel which was spreading throughout the Communion. This false gospel questioned the uniqueness of Christ and his substitutionary death, despite the Bible’s clear revelation that he is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). It undermined the authority of God’s Word written. It sought to mask sinful behaviour with the language of human rights. It promoted homosexual practice as consistent with holiness, despite the fact that the Bible clearly identifies it as sinful. A crisis point was reached in 2003 when a man in an active same-sex relationship was consecrated bishop in the USA.

What do they object to? The denial that all Hindus go to Hell; and the denial that all sexually active gay people go to Hell. That is what GAFCON is for: to create an alternative Anglican communion which still proudly asserts these things. RULE ONE: NO POOFTAHS! They go on to say that human rights only apply to gay people if we are celibate.

They want to create alternative Anglican churches in the US and England: their objective is Authorising and affirming faithful Anglicans who have been excluded by their diocese or province. The main thrust of work here would be devoted to discerning the need for new provinces, dioceses and churches — and then authenticating their ministries and orders as Anglican. See Anglican Mission in England.

Provinces which unite on the Gospel against Gays should reconsider their support for those Anglican structures that are used to undermine biblical faithfulness. They should split away, and have set up the Primates’ Council, with a WordPress blog!

GAFCON also wants to send missionaries to Muslim lands. We recognize that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership– so some who would ordain women as bishops draw the line at ordaining gays. We, in all our different traditions– Evangelicals, Anglo-Catholics and Charismatics– people who in King Henry’s time would happily have burned each other, unite here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, could not attend because of the baptism of Prince George (which absolutely could not be on any other day than Wednesday 23 October) according to the Church Times. Here is the video message he sent, with transcript. It could be taken as code for a lot of things. The main thing is Proclaiming the Gospel. Different churches have different contexts: We are dealing with very rapid changes of culture in the Global North and the issue of sexuality is a very important one. How we respond rightly to that – in a way that is holy, truthful and gracious – is absolutely critical to our proclamation of the gospel. Other churches have other problems. We need unity, which doesn’t mean being unanimous, all saying exactly the same thing in exactly the same way. It means that, as Jesus prays in John 17, that we demonstrate by our love for one another that Jesus is the Son of God.

His call for unity has been spurned. The battle against the Homosexual Apocalypse is more important.

Journey into Life

Monet- The Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning LightI walked into the village to the bus stop, writing in my head. What words best express this idea? Then musing: I don’t know enough about this. Then general musing. Then, as I crossed the main road, it changed:

Everything is OK
The world is beautiful
I am Present

Sudden delight, along with some worries I feel chuntering in the background. A change which is indeed amazing, but does not necessarily hold all the baggage I might want to load on it.

People at the bus stop, looking- which feels threatening- then shuffling up, leaving room for me to sit down. On the bus I read “Journey into Life”, the 2013 Swarthmore Lecture, which we will discuss this evening. I read it in May, and I could not remember a thing about it. Now I read a paragraph, and I read it again, to get it clear in my mind.

Gerald Hewitson had a difficult early life. His deaf and dumb father died when he was five, his mother, with a speech impediment, some hearing loss and learning difficulties, caused a scandal by taking a man into her home. She then married him: he hated her children. Gerald failed the 11 plus, but was transferred to the grammar school after three years, and went to University. He retired, with a feeling of ambitions (Irritating how there is no search function on these codices: ebooks are so much more convenient) “unfulfilled”- “My life as I had constructed it was ending”. He had been Quaker since his thirties, but a liberal Christian living by secular values. His Convincement happened after his retirement from work, and his “Long dark night journey of the soul” began (p7).

For our discussion, I was to bring two paragraphs which spoke to me. I found these:

We do not need to fear our desert experiences- those times when we are lost, alone and stumbling, those times when we feel our lives are simply a barren emptiness.

We can trust that our lives are meant to shine. As the love of God streams across the desolate emptiness of the Universe for each and every one of us, so our lives are meant to shine forth his light. We are his hands, and our work is transforming this planet into his kingdom from the conflicted world of power and greed which we human beings create.

I felt bitter enough to say these, and how much I resented them.

Oh, I want to use this! OK, suppose I am that liberal Christian in need of Convincement or Awakening or something.  It is a road-map for my own spiritual growth and journey: I follow, and I will no longer need to feel any uncomfortable feelings. So I feel bitter- he airily writes of “barren emptiness” but immediately goes on to “trust that out lives are meant to shine”! What the Fuck? Transform this planet? Really?

It is not a road map. It is a human experience. Welcome the bitterness, for it is me.

The Christian path as understood by early Quakers is not about escaping the human condition, or having a simple road map through life which elides complexity, skates over difficulty or makes light of suffering- it is about living a human life in all its fullness, richness and glory.

Clerking matters

My first area meeting as clerk gives me a lot to consider about my second.

We received reports on the Visioning New Fire conference: here is its epistle, and the threshing group reports which I had not previously seen. However at the previous meeting, clerked by my predecessor, “The future of the Society” came up. I anticipated ending the meeting with ideas for further discernment, or questions, for a fuller discussion at the next meeting next month. Here are the questions, as I drafted them in my minute:

How may we renew and strengthen our spiritual fellowship?
How may we make our office bearers and actions fit the legal requirements, including of the Charities Commission?
Is there value in cooperating with other area meetings, for example in trusteeship of our meeting houses following the example of Six Weeks Meeting?
How could we organise our meetings as an Area Meeting to improve the spiritual side of the meeting?

No-one questioned this draft, but it could be that after 2½ hours they were nearly asleep.

The Presence in the MidstMy questions did not address Outreach. There is a lot of spiritual hunger, and a lot of people seeking to satisfy it- Buddhists, New-Agers, workshop-leaders of all kinds as well as us, but we Quakers feel we have a particularly good answer to it. There are many natural Quakers, we reassure ourselves. How may we let them know who we are, so that they might wish to join us?

I could also raise the efficient use of our members: we had some difficulty filling the role of assistant clerk, though it is not an onerous task. Could we streamline all the roles we give ourselves?

I said to myself, before the meeting, that I should not be attached to any particular outcome. The ideal of our meeting is that we discern together the leadings of the Spirit, or the highest Good for us now. For that, we need to put aside desire for any particular outcome. Sometimes a way emerges in the meeting, and “we unite behind it”- someone in the meeting proposes a new way of proceeding, and we all feel as if that is Right.

But in particular, I as clerk should not be attached, because it is my role to discern when we have reached unity, and to record in words our decision. I cannot do that if I want a particular outcome, even for entirely non-selfish reasons. I am plagued with thoughts of what could go wrong, and have to let those go, too,

hoping that if we do go wrong, eventually that will be obvious and unbearable, and we will improve.

Hate and fear

I don’t hate anyone.

(We’ll come back to that.)

I have been accused of hating. There is a blog purporting to be the diary of a person who transitioned male to female some time ago, and is now transitioning back. It is probably a TERF fantasy. It does not have any of the detail you would expect from a record of real life, but seems imagined, and it links to TERF blogs. I commented, and was referred to as  “full of hate”. I won’t link to it, it is too silly, but I notice I get a slow stream of views from there, and I got a huge number of views from a silly “Christian” homophobic site where I engaged briefly. Disagreement can be enticing.

I don’t hate trans women who revert. There are lots of reasons for reverting- social pressures, being read and insulted, demands from children- and, given that there are losses as well as the gain of Authenticity from transition, it is a choice some people make. Some, like Sam Hashimi, blame everyone but themselves for their transition, but they are people under pressure, and their letting their anger out is understandable, more to be pitied than hated.

I don’t even hate TERFs. They’re the haters! They seek to exclude us from changing rooms and loos, they seek to erase us, they try to infect all women with their paranoid, delusional hatred of us, they want us dead, they lie that we are oppressors while they oppress us-

-breathe-

My colleague Ann had a phobic reaction to me. She found the thought of me expressing myself female repellent. She made great efforts to retain a professional working relationship with me, but eventually we had to stay as far apart as possible. TERF accounts of us reek of such phobia, rationalised and celebrated rather than set-aside, as Ann’s was.

So, start again. I don’t even hate TERFs. I think they are wrong about trans women, wrong about privilege and have picked on the wrong enemy, particularly when they support “Christian” “Pro-Marriage” groups in attacking trans children, but I don’t-

What can I do with that initial emotional reaction? I can deny it and suppress it; or I can acknowledge it, and persuade it. There is my Fight-or-flight, eyes wide, breathing heavily, and another part of me (some call them angels) is talking calmly and reasonably to her. The anger is there– TERF propaganda is horrible- but I can persuade myself, and feel other feelings.

In face to face argument at university, Sylvia bested Iain by winding him up with tendentious rubbish and then saying, calmly, softly, sweetly,

there’s no need to shout.

Iain was flummoxed. On line- there is discussion in the comments here, where Matt and atoughpilltoswallow both accuse each other of Hate.

Like a lot of people, I can type with my blood up, expressing my anger and fear, or I can calm down, and say much the same things, more articulately. And- I can write polemic- This is why they are the Bad People– or irenic, seeking common ground and greater understanding.

However articulate polemic is, there is anger and fear underlying it. Love and peace must seek understanding.

Free will IV

File:George elgar hicks23.jpgCan I develop free will?

I am a determinist: following Richard Oerton, I say People act (and choose) as they do because they are who they are.
They have not made who they are. Yet, I am aware of the concept of free will. Can I develop it?

People develop and reject habits. If someone gives up smoking, that would seem to be a choice, but the determinist would say that they started smoking because of social pressure, and give up because of different social pressures.

I want to inculcate in myself the habit of morning meditation (Oops!)
-(That’s better)
and that looks like a choice, in the moment, but is more competing motivations within me: will Seeking Spiritual Nourishment or Cannabebothertness win out? I might observe that it is better to meditate earlier in the evening, as switching off the telly after ten I normally canna be bothert, and ascribe to that apparent observer not free will, exactly, but the power to influence what I do- but its motivation is also a deeper emotion.

This old story- Pavor Nocturnus says it is not Native American after all- “There are two wolves fighting in each man’s heart. One is love, the other is hate.”
“Which one wins?”
“The one you feed the most.”

File:George elgar hicks29.jpgIf I pull myself up- I am surrendering myself to my anger, and feeding it, I am acting on impulse and I should just stop- that is also a conflicting emotional system within me creating the restraint. If I take a breath, and consider, yes I should surrender to the Fight impulse, and do so, subconscious impulses within me are still making the decision, and however finely balanced it seems it is unconscious rather than conscious.

Yet- I can learn techniques like Situation-Thought-Emotion-Behaviour which gives the apparently more evolved, constructive, creative response more power over the basic Fight or Flight. I can develop the understanding which enables me to defer gratification, and control the impulse which may do me harm in the long term.

The voice in my head, which identifies itself as “me” despite knowing that “I” is all that is within my skin, mostly agrees with the part which defers gratification, and wishes to control four-F impulse, and might see that as making free choices. But the choice still comes from who I am, how I feel and react, and what I want.

People talk of being “free” in a different sense: free from reacting in the “base” impulsive manner, able to consider the future better.

Charing Cross

KlimtMy business in London was not The Solution, but it may do some good, eventually.

-It is rare for us to see someone at your stage in transition. Why are you here?

-About two years ago, my GP, knowing that one stays on HRT for a limited time, stopped my hormones, and my emotions went wild, I was shouting and weeping in the office and in the car. I went back on them within six weeks, and back on the full dose within six months, but my lability continued. At the time, I asked to see an endocrinologist here, to see if there was something to do with hormones- there are no double-blind studies, but you get to know your patients- and finding myself at last referred to a gender psychiatrist, I am here to see what good we can do together.

-OK.
He is concerned that I will think the way he uses the consultation a waste of time, but I am in his hands. Insisting on my own way of using the time cannot be better than merely co-operating. He takes a history.

-What is your earliest memory related to transgender?

This one confuses me, because it is not a five-year-old’s memory, but a 47 year-old’s. I know we reconstruct memories every time we consider them, and twist them for our own satisfaction, but- I envied my sister’s party dress. It was yellow velvet.

Apart from that, I did not fit The Script- know there is something wrong aged 2, know I am a girl by aged 5.
-If they are honest, a lot of people do not fit that, he says.
I self-identified as a fetishistic transvestite. And, here cutting my long story short, when I was 35 even though I was terrified of transitioning and thought I would be sacked and ostracised for it, I knew it was what I had to do.

-How did you feel about the changes of puberty?
-Growing body hair really pleased me. I wanted to fit in, then, I was ashamed at how slight my arms were.

Giving my history reminds me that I had several times off with depression while in Oldham, the longest six weeks. My emotional problems were before I came off the oestradiol.

He suggests it would be good for me to talk about these things, so suggests counselling, at his clinic in London as local counsellors can get hung up on the gender issue. OK. He sends me to the phlebotomist, and thinks it would be useful for me to see an endocrinologist there. He makes me another appointment with himself: May is the earliest possible.

There, I see a woman aged 19, who is diffident with the receptionist, one hour early, and who huddles in the corner staring down at her phone, the picture of our extreme meekness; and an older woman, with a male voice, helping a trans man with registering as the man cannot manage the forms. She explains to him, possibly inaccurately. Having nothing better to do in London, I take the train home, and phone Jayne to meet for coffee. She tells me all about the hassle of organising a lunch for a group of which she is now vice-chair. I would have told her of the GIC had she asked.

The next visit to Charing Cross GIC is here.

Defence

Klimt_-_Der_Hofschauspieler_josef_Lewinsky_als_Carlos_in_„Clavigo“ detailKlimt_-_Der_Hofschauspieler_josef_Lewinsky_als_Carlos_in_„Clavigo“ detailIt is a right pain, knowing that you’re queer, and that is a bad thing. It is worse, knowing that whatever distress you feel is because you are useless, that anyone with the slightest moral fibre would not be troubled for a moment. In this state, I kept that job in Oldham, despite recurrent worries of loss of funding. I left because local kids were repeatedly vandalising my car.

I went to Newport, where funding was removed within six months because my managers instructed me not to do what we were funded to do, but something else, and bullied me for trying to do what we were funded to do; then moved me to represent at employment tribunals, at which we were hopelessly incompetent: I worked for days on my first full hearing, worked late, and at the hearing the chairman frightened me so much that I forced the client to accept the barrister’s offer: he would not seek costs, if we withdrew now. Eventually I could not bear it any more, and walked out, the demands of my job and the demands of my fallacious self-respect- I needed to preserve my self-image- being too much for me.

Then I got another job, where I had little to do, and that bothered me- can’t get funding renewed if I am not working, and a woman I needed to refer clients to me took an extreme dislike to me. I did all I could for it, which was not enough. At the time I was appealing the Minute of Disunity from Quakers in South Wales. Again unemployed, I kept applying, travelling all over to many interviews, and never getting the offer. When my GP stopped my hormones suddenly, I went wildly emotional, and remained so despite starting taking them again. This year I have numbed my emotions, rather than achieving equilibrium, with television and solitaire and staring at my stats page as well as blogging. Last year I learned my father had lost ÂŁ60,000 to fake investment scams. I thought he would learn from this, and my sister and his wife would protect him, but this year I found he had lost at least another ÂŁ50,000, wiping his capital out.

So here I am, spending most of the time indoors. I am frightened of other people, never wanting to ask for something- amazed when my landlord told me his address- and frightened of the future.

This is not because I am bad. I just, well, am. The world, well, is. It is as it is, as the Facebook wisdom says,

and I am -Not- wrong.

B asked why the double negative. Because my sense of my own wrongness is so deep and pervasive and so able to appropriate circumstances as new evidence of its truth- such as the fact that it still exists, and I have not even been able to learn the obvious moral lesson that it is not true, yet.

Oh, this is hard work.