Thirty years ago, O said to C., “You look like you would make a good lesbian. Have you tried it?” C had thought herself straight, but they are still together. I met them at the Sacred Arts Camp, where we did Dances of Universal Peace. It was 2010. I was very uptight, but seeking out the hippies.
The Women’s space was the Moon lodge, a teepee in the edge of the camp, and the whole camp took part in the Menarche ceremony, celebrating the onset of menstruation. Girls appeared first in white dresses then in red, whooping and running through the camp. As soon as I heard of the Women’s space I asked F if I could join in. I had thought this a mere courteous formality. The Quaker women’s group had, after my request to one of its members, agreed to admit anyone “who experienced themselves as a woman”. F, however, would need to discuss it with some people.
The next day, she came to me and asked me to meet her in the Moon Lodge the following morning at 9.30. There I found her with her friend W. They talked at me for half an hour, barely allowing me to speak. F explained that she was entirely accepting herself- she lived in Brighton- but some women might not be comfortable with me there. I said that excluding me denied that I am a woman, which offended me, but I would not attend because I did not want to make the women’s activities focus on me and whether I should be admitted. That was not enough for them. They wanted me to admit they were right to exclude me.
Other women got involved. A invited me to dinner in the Welsh circle, and told me it was F, and no other, who was uncomfortable with me in the Moon lodge. B asked me to help decorate the Big Top for the Menarche ceremony, and I went with her into the forest to get foliage. Then F came and got me to help her and a man take down the heavy canvas sides of the Big Top, as it was so hot. I was so hurt by this that I took no part in the Menarche ceremony, even to sit and watch.
Someone told me of D. There had been some difficulty in him attending a men’s group, though we were unsure whether he had been on T at the time, or whether he was binding. I went for a walk with D’s female former partner. The LGBT group was concerned that I had been excluded.
At the final celebration, as we sang
May the road rise with you
May the wind be always at your back
May the Sun shine warm upon your face
May the rain fall soft upon your fields
And till we meet again
May Love hold you
in the hollow of her hand
F came and hugged me. We had both learned from the experience.