If you were not unemployed, would you have a car? Would you maintain the simple lifestyle?
“A simple lifestyle freely chosen is a source of strength.” We value living simply. “Oh, no, no, no, not at all,” I said. I would have a car, I would spend my income. I do not like claiming virtues. Would I hit anyone? No, but not for restraint or pacifism- for cowardice or confusion.
And yet now I am having more meat-free days, even three a week, as I experiment with various combinations of mushrooms, peppers, onion, tinned or fresh tomatoes with rice or spaghetti. It matters to me that factory farming is cruel, and abattoirs are cruel to the animals and to the people, too, who are paid little and desensitised to their heavy, stinking work; and meat uses more acres per calorie than arable crops. Not enough to make me vegetarian, says the inner critic, and I say, well, I am working towards it, I have to relearn to cook and to balance a diet. And I am not even thinking of giving up dairy.
I have craved a bacon roll after a veggie lunch with the Quakers, but I find that if I use a lot of olive oil I don’t need meat. I will proceed cautiously, as always, not identifying as vegetarian, perhaps as aspiring to being vegetarian. We discussed this in the Labour party campaign office- we are nice people, so we want to be vegetarian. One tells me you can do lovely curries with lentils. Well, I will get on to lentils soon enough.
It is not a question, for me, of how I am seen, but how I am. I do not like to be part of this system of cruelty to animals, so I am reducing my impact on them. I am doing it slowly and carefully, for that is my way.
Sometimes people say to trans women, “Oh, you’re so brave!” And we tend to deny it. It was what I had to do to survive. I would still say that, no matter how much I feel it would be better to live as a soft man, a pansy, than bother with all the effort of transition. It was the best course I could see at the time to be myself in the world, when my play-acting was becoming insupportable. Faced with two unbearable choices, I choose the less unbearable, and then work hard to make it work.
It would not have been brave to kill myself. It would have been a matter of icy self-control, against disgust and the survival instinct. And transition was brave.
I have tenacity. I keep thinking of getting that doctor sacked. It is one of the things I am most proud of. It took months. It took a lot of effort, and continuing through setbacks. Then the second one I did not proceed with, and I wonder about that, but what with transition and other stuff I was broken by the pressure. I kept on until everything was too much for me. I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope. In Cardinal, Canadian police drama, the sergeant observes that when told to stop investigating a missing girl, one officer will go home, kiss his wife, have a beer, come in the next day and work on something else; but Cardinal will chew on it and obsess over it for months. And, repeatedly, people say the conventional consoling thing, and the other dismisses it contemptuously- how can it be consoling if it is not True? In the end the woman sits with her son in hospital, and she is not full of gratitude to the police officer who saved him, but resentment that he did not catch the killer after his previous victim. The world is an unforgiving place.
My courage, tenacity and commitment to doing the right thing may not be enough. My understanding is great, and not always enough. And I have these qualities. I have achieved a great deal, considering the obstacles I have had to overcome. I will celebrate my beauty, and my every achievement.
Have a good solstice. In London, the day is seven seconds longer than yesterday.