Knowing my feelings

-How are you?
-I don’t know.

No, really, I don’t. This is the real question, not the form answered by “Fine, thanks,” and I don’t know the answer to it. I can only pay my gas bill by withdrawing from savings, which I can’t do indefinitely. And I was not even thinking of looking for work.

-How do you feel when you notice that?

Again I don’t know, but where I go is into puzzling things out. All these long blog posts about trans issues. I could stop blogging quite so much and decide that finding a way to support myself was the most important thing for me. I listen to my voice changing as I tell you that.

I get a lot of self-respect from writing, and little pings of dopamine from looking at my blog statistics- how many posts have had over sixty or over a hundred views, say- and yet there are variable rewards from considering stats quite so often, which makes them more addictive. I chase the pings of dopamine, which is well-dodgy.

Then on work- the jobcentre could take away all my income, probably not before October but possibly thereafter.

I don’t know. Which is worse? Writing job application forms and getting interviews and not getting the job or writing job application forms and not getting the interview.

-So the writing helps you to feel useful. Purposeful.
-It gives me an interest. Thinking things through, expressing things. As indeed do some Labour party activities.

Sometimes things become too problematic and I stop doing them. Like job applications. After this conversation, I have put in an application, as before finishing it about eleven pm before the closing date, not doing it well. That was how I psyched myself up to completing it. I hated it. Essential requirements- well, not really, possibly at a stretch… Probably, if I’d nerved myself to do it earlier, then read it over later to tighten it up, I would have sent in something better.

And it was a struggle to do it. I hated every moment of it, kept giving up on it and coming back to it, and this was after Yearly Meeting where I got lots and lots of affirmation. And before I did it I sought and got more affirmation.

So, how was I? So angry, despairing and terrified that I had managed to be unconscious of these feelings, but that required mindless distractions. This will do no good, I thought. This is pointless. And it is horrible, because I expend this effort pointlessly. And I hate saying I am this good, I have done this, and getting judged on it and found wanting. Yes, yes, they have someone else for the job and probably I could have been appointed if they did not have this better candidate. I still feel not good enough.

In other news, all that water trickling down the light fitting- we know where it’s coming from. At last, weeks after I reported the problem, the man came to repair the gutters. He did so badly, such that the point above the leak is lower than the joint to the down-pipe, but at least there is no gap in the gutter. And I was right- the hole in the gutter was why more water was coming in.

It’s coming in through the wall of the upper storey. The landlord was right that it was not coming in through the flat roof, which is properly sealed. Neither he nor I made the obvious deduction that it’s coming through the wall, nor did the agent, and I feel they have a lot more experience of property so have less excuse. Then another man went up on the flat roof and knocked on the wall, which sounded thin and hollow. There’s a crack above the hollow bit. Obvious really, once it’s pointed out to you.

So many irritations! Water ingress, landlord stupidity-

not enough money

and the only way out getting a job which I can’t see how I can get. So I seek out any distraction, and feel wretched.

I need not to care

“Am I a ‘woman’? Yes if your definition includes me; no if it doesn’t.” I might have to speak about trans in front of a partly hostile audience, and I thought of saying that. It is necessary for me not to care what people think, and saying that makes it clearer. I have said that people considering transition need to believe that they are women, in order to pluck up the courage to transition, but after transition I could be depressed for weeks by one fool abusing me in the street, and it was a huge release not to care. Jan Morris, challenged on the radio about asserting she was a woman, said she was probably something in between. Transition exists. People do it. Therefore it is acceptable.

Others try to argue we transition because we are perverts, or because we are really women. I want to be accepted because I am human, doing what humans do. I hate the arguments, even that we are really women- saying that means it needs to be said. I don’t want to be argued about.

“Are you a woman?”

Oh, god. I dunno. Or, why are you asking. Or, what do you think. Or, shut up and go away. Or, a blank stare, which is a mixture of depression, lack of motivation, and revulsion. I do not want to say “Yes”, because that confers some legitimacy on the question, on the questioner’s right to ask it. Saying yes means it is a question that can be asked.

Here we are. We are mostly harmless, and should be judged as individuals, not as a group threat because some of us are criminals. Harold Shipman was a serial murderer, but people still trust their doctors.

When I lay on my floor weeping, “I am not a man,” that was important to me. Then being able not to care when someone told me “I find you profoundly masculine” was important to me. So I constructed a narrative- people who transition need to assert that they are women. I don’t need anyone else to believe that, and so I am free.

I need not to care what other people think, or their doubts will depress me. My narrative said that recent transitioners with a fragile sense of their womanhood needed to assert it: their position came from their psychological need. Now it seems my own position comes from my psychological need.

Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still

To care- enough to stand up and speak the truth, to act where action is needed. Not to care- not to be worried by the opposition, even if they seem to be gaining ground, for what I must do is the same even if they are gaining ground. The ability to speak and act is affected by depression.

The truth of the argument does not change. My ability to put it does. I feel able to put different arguments to different groups.

To the gender critical, I want to put the specific argument that gender stereotypes will be reinforced if transition becomes impossible. I don’t want to simply exclude them as wrong for wanting to exclude me, I want to persuade them that excluding me is wrong so that they stop, and we can all be one inclusive accepting group. That argument is polarising, which depresses me.

The Spectator

Is The Spectator magazine feminist? You might conclude not, from their article on the Irish abortion referendum, quoting people saying things like “Is abortion the killing of a human being?” This they call “plain speaking”. “We are ahead of history… to be one day- if we hold our nerve and damp down the crazy false progressivism that assaults us- vindicated by history and medical science. Because one day- for certain- the world will arrive at a consensual consciousness about unborn boys and girls: that they are as human as 6’3″ rugby players.”

Stirring stuff. Unfortunately, on the issue of trans rights alone, James Kirkup in the Spectator is pretending to be feminist, and managing to fool some feminists. The mask slips sometimes, as he talks of “the loony lefty SJW Labour Party” (which is mostly centrist) but his flattery and playing up their martyrdom complex is enough to get them sharing his articles: “women who are struggling to make their voices heard…[are] at risk of abuse or accusations of transphobic bigotry. Or even being assaulted.” “The fear that persuades some people that they can’t say what they think about something, or even ask questions about it.” My emphasis- he has to be repetitive, churning out so much drivel.

He’s not very bright, Kirkup. He was writing about David Lewis, who was suspended from the Labour Party so that he would be unable to stand for the post of Women’s Officer, which is open only to women. He quoted the words which show that Lewis is not trans, from his own mouth. “My womanness is expressed by my saying ‘I self identify as a woman’ now and again on Wednesdays. I make no changes in my behaviour or my appearance… I enjoy the full womanness of my beard.” That would make him non-binary, and so ineligible for the post of women’s officer. But even if Lewis never admitted to being a man, what he says there is unbelievable. It is internally contradictory, one of the grounds for disbelieving a person. “My priority is to inform the CLP… about what happens when you say that someone’s gender depends only on what they say and nothing else.” That’s ironic. He is clearly masculine, from “only what he says and nothing else”.

He wants to argue that the policy is unworkable. It is easily summarised: trans women are women. Lewis is not a trans woman, he is not even claiming to be a trans woman, a claim which would be clearly false from the things he is quoted as saying. The policy says, The Labour Party’s All Women Shortlists are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women. Similarly, women’s officers and minimum quotas for women in the Labour Party are open to all women, including self-identifying trans women.

You are a trans woman before you transition. A trans woman who is unwilling to express herself feminine, in women’s clothes and hairstyle, is not going to have the confidence to stand as a women’s officer or even a delegate, and unlikely to be elected if she does, so there is no problem. And people standing for those roles with the intention of bringing the Labour Party and its policies into disrepute, like David Lewis, will be easily marked by what they say.

Kirkup is a transphobe. Consider his descriptions of trans women: an “angry mob” of “violent misogynists” “silencing lesbians”, and that’s just his headlines. He seeks to foment fear of us. “Would the safety of women’s spaces be compromised if anyone could gain the legal right to enter them simply by saying the words ‘I am a woman’?” No-one is proposing that but Kirkup himself, going beyond wilful misunderstanding to lies, intended to arouse anger.

Kirkup’s aim is to foment discord within the Labour Party. That’s what the Spectator does: encourage the extreme right by printing Breitbart writers, put ludicrous arguments for hard right positions- abortion is the killing of a human being, forsooth- and try to set lefties against each other. Normally it fails in the last aim, because people on the Left can see through it. Melanie Phillips wrote in the magazine, rather than the blog- you have to register to see this quote- “Gender is not a social construct but a biological fact. Gender derives from a complex relationship between biological sex and behaviour. And nature and nurture are not easily separable.” That’s their position on gender- it is immutable. “From divorce and lone parenthood to gay marriage what was once regarded as a source of disadvantage or category error has been transformed into a human right.”

Gender critical feminists are on the Left. So are trans women, mostly, if we are at all involved in activism. The Left has to sort this out. The authoritarian Right is not our friend.

For some sanity on abortion, today of all days, here’s the Irish Times.

Learning to minister

On 14 February 1999 I was born again- not in the Evangelical sense, into strict Evangelicalism, but with a shocking about-face to my understanding of the World, suddenly appreciating that God was on the side of all humanity, and that we were all in it together. I gained hope. Shortly after, I attended my first Quaker meeting, after staying over with my girlfriend, and blurted out “The holy spirit is here!” I don’t know what I was thinking, and when someone thanked me for my ministry after I was back in my masks and pretence, unable to be sincere with her or really hear her. I went back later for an Enquirers’ day at that monthly meeting, with Carol.

I started attending Manchester Mount St meeting, and spoke fairly often. I remember sitting after speaking, wondering if it had been Ministry. I could make no rational case that it had, and I still like to understand things rationally, but if I sat with what I felt about it, I was sure enough. And visiting Chester meeting, I decided to share an insight I had gained from the Gospel of Thomas, which I am quite sure was just me telling Friends something which interested me, even though it was about spiritual matters and might have given someone there new insight. And I was not moved to speak, and felt great shame about it for months afterwards.

We learn by making mistakes, and by seeing what works. I have been tempted to go on beyond my leading, to give a neat peroration to sum up, and found myself shut up by the Spirit, unable to say it. I have seen others speak, then an expression of shock goes across their face and they sit suddenly. I am not giving a speech, and leaving ministry open ended may be better- though that is a feeling in a particular situation, and not a rule.

In Becoming Friends, there is a flow chart designed to discourage speaking during worship. It starts Is the message from the Holy Spirit and not just from you? It ends, Is the message also truly “not from you” but from God’s Holy Spirit? Must you speak? I find this hectoring. It empowers my inner doubts: however clear I am that I should speak, or have given ministry, doubting voices arise in my head. One answer “Yes” to this question is enough. If the message is just from you, you should not share it. A man has moved on from my AM who visited the other LMs regularly and generally spoke, explaining that recent attenders benefited from having some speech during the hour. He would not be Eldered. I sometimes felt what he said was preachy, not true ministry.

A man I knew, a committed Christian feeling rejected by other churches for being gay, started attending, and had his name added to the attenders’ list, but after an Elder interrupted him during worship to say he had said enough never attended again. Possibly it was not good ministry, but I would rather he had been drawn aside after Meeting, and asked about his understanding of ministry rather than publicly told not to speak like that. But then I visited another meeting where four people spoke, and one, a trans woman, told a story which I thought to be unduly negative, sharing her pain rather than ministering. I thought she should be spoken to after, but other Friends after wanted to let her be. Let her grow in understanding. She is committed and will learn through experience in time. And trans women can be uncomfortable around each other, unduly alive to negative impressions others may be getting from us.

I went once to Glasgow meeting, and seven stood to speak, which I thought too many. The last just seemed to say she was glad to be back in Glasgow. I have heard of people always speaking, or of there always being lots of speech, and that causing tension in a meeting. I can see that could be a problem. I find meetings with no speech beautiful; and I wonder if more spoken ministry could benefit my meeting. Could it draw us together in love and greater understanding of each other?

That flow-chart has some good rules. Is the message intended for the whole meeting, not just for you or the previous speaker? (If not, I say share it with someone after, over coffee, or treasure it in your heart.) Is it meant to be shared right now? I have had Meetings where thoughts come together during the meeting, where I might have spoken at the start, did not, and could say something more- yes, more valuable is the word I choose- at the end, as well as the commonly attested experience of hearing another say what one might have been moved to say. But- Will others likely mistake the message for a political statement, lecture or personal announcement? Will they mistake it is not the test, but is it these things. And personal announcements can be ministry, drawing us together in greater understanding and love of Friends. One recent one is probably unforgettable.

People object to “daffodil ministry”, something trite you noticed on the way to meeting that morning. And it is good to be reminded of beauty, or possibly anything a Friend could share in a sentence, or their presence and being in worship with us.

If there is too much ministry it can be a problem. Receive the vocal ministry of others in a tender and creative spirit. Reach for the meaning deep within it, recognising that even if it is not God’s word for you, it may be so for others. It can still be a problem. And possibly a lack of spoken ministry could be a bad thing too, losing a chance to see how alike we are, to learn through one another, to grow in unity.

Liberal and conservative morality

Every community is exposed to two opposite dangers: ossification through too much discipline and reverence for tradition, on the one hand; on the other hand, dissolution, or subjection to foreign conquest, through the growth of an individualism and personal independence that makes co-operation impossible. –Bertrand Russell.

Jonathan Haidt argues in The Righteous Mind that morality has evolved so that people can work together in groups. He discerns six foundations of our morality, which conservatives value equally but progressives value differently.

He says progressives value Care/Harm, the emotional feeling we get from someone in need, or providing for them. Conservatives value fairness/cheating to a greater extent. I observe this depends to a great extent on trust, in individuals and in larger consequences. If a man has been claiming sickness benefits for ten years complaining of back pain, progressives trust that he is telling the truth, and conservatives do not; progressives trust that no great harm will come of believing him, because enough people think it better to work than claim on the sick, and conservatives do not. Progressives do not like cheats, but are less prone to see cheating. As neither group will always get it right, the question is which mistake do you want to make- only paying to the deserving poor, so failing to pay some who cannot prove their pain, or only refusing payment to clear malingerers, so that some malingerers get through.

Both value liberty/oppression, but differently. I consider this as a trans woman: my liberty to transition harms no-one and I count it as essential to my thriving. Moral codes should not constrain me. But the numbers in need of care are so great that government should tax and redistribute. Conservatives would be happy to support social cohesion through common understandings of what Manliness is, greatly increasing my suffering, but not want to pay the necessary taxes. Many well-off progressives are happy to pay higher taxes.

Haidt, a social psychologist, sees differences in personality: do you find new experience stimulating or threatening? How sensitive are you to possible threat? Montaigne wrote, The only things I find rewarding are… variety and the enjoyment of diversity. Conservatives would be happier in a more ordered society, with proper respect for authority. Progressives can find that stultifying, and seek to subvert the controlling ruler. Haidt’s Authority/Subversion foundation pits us against each other. How can we make things better, by finding what is wrong with the current ways and improving them? How is the leader wrong, and how may s/he be challenged?

Conservatives value sanctity far more, he says. I doubt this from my own experience. People value different things differently. I tend to feel what I value has value- the biosphere, the planet- and what they value has not- the Bible, traditional family structures, unwanted blastocysts. I can see that valuing particular things can promote societal cohesion, but I feel those things could be chosen rationally. Fracking, damaging the water table, is obscene. Early termination of pregnancy, disposing of an aggregation of cells which could spontaneously miscarry, is not. But I accept his moral foundation of sanctity/degradation: I may cut down a tree, but should not poison it, because that is dishonourable or unseemly.

I also feel that I, as a progressive, have loyalty/betrayal more attuned to reality than the conservative has. Whistleblowers show a higher loyalty, to the good of the group gained by acknowledging truth and making necessary change. Cover-ups stultify, and are a greater threat in the long term, though challenges to leadership can seem like a threat- we realise we do not understand the world, which is unsettling. However the book gives a way to see the opposition as arguing from different ideals, rather than necessarily blind or wicked.

I enjoyed the book, with its explanation of group selection over individual selection. Multicellular organisms are groups, the necessity as life becomes more complex is to ensure co-operation. A woman told him that groups gain success in the competition through breeding more children, rather than through war.

He also describes what he calls the “hive switch”, that moment when we feel part of something greater than ourselves, which we can attain at a rave or in a cathedral. One attained it through endless marching round a barrack-square: as the marching became more unified, he gained a sense of well-being. Collective ritual can achieve that. So religions can make groups cohere, refuting Prof. Dawkins’ idea of a meme, a set of ideas parasiting on groups of people.

People are selfish, he says, caring more about their reputations than their integrity, but also groupish, concerned for the interests of their group. We form groups easily, and create ways of identifying within them.

People are not rational. We make decisions on instinct, and then rationalise them. Hence confirmation bias. His image is an elephant, with a small rider, the rational mind: the rider is there for the elephant’s good.

Cross-dressing and trans women

I see that some people in the trans community as well as outside it try to put up a fixed boundary between crossdressers and “real” transgender people. That is unfortunate, writes Jack Molay.

I agree. Some people who later identify as trans women, or who transition, start off identifying as cross-dressers. I am one. I thought I was a “transvestite”- not an objectionable word, then- as I slowly grew towards wanting to transition, deciding to transition, transitioning. As he says, “cross-dressing is an act, not a condition”. However, people show who we are by what we do, and someone who cross-dresses occasionally but has never seen a doctor about it has not shown to anyone that socially she is a trans woman. What we are entitled to depends on what we show we are, rather than what we claim we are, and fear and prejudice distort this.

Everyone is entitled to respect. Someone who cross-dresses occasionally is not respected, and this is a shame. My neighbour refused to speak to me after he saw me leaving home during the week for work dressed male but in the evenings and weekends for fun dressed female. He began speaking to me again after I transitioned. The cross-dresser may be disrespected by the cis person who thinks that is a man, a pervert, and it is unseemly for a man to do that, or by the trans woman who thinks that is a man and his flaunting may decrease respect for trans women.

Loos have cubicles. A cross-dresser using a woman’s loo for masturbation is disgusting, but then I disapprove of men using any public places for masturbation. That includes watching porn on the train. A cross-dresser using a woman’s loo to urinate does no harm at all, whether or not s/he wants to transition. Someone who cross-dresses occasionally (me again, twenty years ago) might want to use a woman’s loo as part of checking out whether transition was possible for her, before seeing a doctor or confessing she was considering transition to anyone else.

Trans women might object to any cross-dresser using a woman’s loo because they fear the cross-dresser makes it difficult for them, such as by increasing the fear of cis people. Some androphile trans women try to delegitimise gynephile or late-transitioning trans women, sometimes by conflating the two groups, or calling them ugly. That comes from misplaced fear, of being excluded and disrespected in turn. “I’m not like them, I’m a real transsexual” they wail. If you’re doing your best to appear to be a woman I don’t object to you.

What about going to work? I feel anyone should be able to wear what they like to work, if it is sufficiently formal. There are non-binary people, who go to work sometimes presenting female, sometimes presenting male. The more that happens, the more normal it becomes, the more unnecessary taboos are worn away.

Prisons and hospitals, though, women’s spaces are for trans women but not cross-dressers. That means having commenced transition. In prisons, you should need a diagnosis, because prisoners are dishonest, and may pretend to be trans for wicked purposes.

Trans women are mostly harmless. Judge us for what we do as individuals, not as a group for all wrong done by all trans women ever. Fear of trans women comes from irrational prejudice. Trans women seeking to exclude cross-dressers can come from fear of being a victim of that prejudice.

Speaking in public

I hate the repetitive announcements: “Welcome to —— station. Please keep your luggage with you at all times. If you see anything suspicious, please report it to a member of station staff or to a police officer. Remember the three S’s- ‘See it say it sorted’.” The risk of terrorism is not sufficient- 126 people have been killed in the UK between 2000 and 2017, and many times more women murdered by partners or ex-partners. The purpose is to foment authoritarianism by creating a miasma of fear and promoting regimented thinking and behaviour. I loathe it.

So I thought, roll with it. Cringing when I heard it did me no good. Perhaps it could be an all-purpose greeting. To reassure someone as you leave them, you say “See it say it sorted,” encouragingly. Or a secular version of Allahu Akbar- you find a parking space when you are in a hurry, and give thanks with “See it say it sorted”.

I imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg in a stadium with his followers, at the end of his speech. “See it,” he whispers, and the multitudes repeat after him, like a great tide, quiet but inexorable. “Say it,” he says, conversationally, and their excitement builds as they repeat the words. Then he shouts, “SORTED!” They shout “SORTED SORTED SORTED SORTED” rhythmically, ecstatically, their joy uncontained.

The sunshine is beautiful. The announcement is disturbing. I go to Tate Britain, for “All too Human”, the exhibition of a hundred years of representative painting. It starts with two Stanley Spencer portraits of Patricia Preece, his second wife, with whom he never consummated his marriage but instead supported her and her female lover. She is naked, painted like an animal, with attention to the colours of her skin. I cannot read her expression and perhaps neither could he. At the end is a huge head by a younger artist. I love the moistness of the half-open mouth, and then up close see that the glistening light on the teeth is a single precise white brush stroke. Beautiful and disturbing at once.

Preparing to speak about worship, I have been thinking about it for weeks. Speaking at Quest helps me get my ideas clear in my mind. Worship is a part of my healing, improving my self-acceptance and understanding. We make decisions in worship. Speaking is a benefit to me. It also makes me feel useful, which makes me feel good. I share from the heart, and am so absorbed in my own sharing that I could not tell you much about what the other two said.

And when they appreciated me, people acknowledged that I spoke from the heart, as in worship-sharing. I contributed to a deeper, more profound evening.

I am bothered by Sandy asking what my pendant was, and picking it up between finger and thumb without asking. I stand there, she holds my pendant which is round my neck. I would have taken it off had she asked, and this is strange.

I am pleased by Graham talking of walking to work and being aware of surroundings, for the feeling. It’s spiritual, it’s animal, it might even be a symptom of a mental deficiency, but if you can turn it off you tend to like it when you do it.

People there were pleased at the idea of Quakers demonstrating, getting charged and found not guilty. Those who spoke from the floor are a radical lot.

“I’m going to —” said a trans woman. “Oh, good,” my mouth said, surprising me at its ease of fibbing. I am going there too. I think she is too negative and does not get Quakers. Others think she is OK and is getting there slowly, she just needs a bit of support. Well, I needed a bit of support in my time.

MP on self-ID

My MP is not interested in trans issues. I feel disrespected. He takes two weeks to even pass on my concerns. Then I asked to see him, he took eighteen days to respond, ignoring that request. He will pass on my concerns again.

On 5 March, I wrote,

The Scottish government has now completed its consultation, but the English consultation has not yet started. When will it start? Now, it is an issue, with the papers printing endless stories about trans people, many in a negative light. They bias the argument against us by picking inconsequential stories and giving them undue prominence. A small but vociferous group of feminists violently objects to trans women. When people say trans women like me as a threat, they may provoke violence against me: if they see me as a threat they feel justified in defending themselves against me.

There is a tiny number of GRCs issued, 4712 to September 2017. We are a tiny group of people, but we are a symbol in many people’s minds for many feminist or culture-war issues. I want not to be noticed, because I fear violence.

I feel that when the consultation is completed, the passions will subside slightly. People will go on to debate other things. Until it is completed, now self-ID has been proposed it is a live issue. The more people get radicalised around it, the more danger I am in.

Will you put my concerns to the relevant authorities?
Will you find out what is causing the delay, and when the consultation might commence?
Will you speak out for self-ID, and against the fear-mongering and rabble-rousing against trans people like me?

On 20 March Tom wrote to Baroness Williams of Trafford, who responded on 23 April. “I am sorry for the delay in my responses,” but not for the delay in the consultation. The Government remains committed to taking action to remove the barriers faced by transgender people. What action? Discussions are ongoing about the content and timing of the consultation… we are continuing to engage with a wide range of stakeholders… including transgender, LGBT and women’s groups, to understand better what they want from the consultation.

I quoted this to a civil servant who said it means “kick it into the long grass”. Tom himself ignored my questions, just sending the response to me on 25 April. So I wrote to him again:

That letter does not address my concerns. In particular, why is a consultation promised for Autumn 2017 in July 2017 still not launched? So, how long will this pre-consultation “engagement” last?

And you- have you familiarised yourself with what self-ID means? It is a minor administrative change which only affects trans people. Will you speak out against rabble-rousing against trans people?

Can I see you about this?

No. Well, he does not propose how I could see him. He is encouraged by the commitment to equality, and hard work is underway to build a society that celebrates and benefits from the talents of everyone. No, actually, hard work is underway to set us against each other by creating hostile environments for immigrants, benefit claimants, and now trans people. The consultation, to be published in due course Ha! will aim to relieve the bureaucratic and medical burdens for those who want to change their gender… and reduce the stigma faced by the trans community.

He has written to the Minister for Women and Equalities, not Justine Greening who announced the consultation in July last year, nor Amber Rudd her successor, but Penny Mordaunt.

The UK is a world leader for transgender rights, he says. No, actually, it is behind Malta and Colombia, which have self-ID.

The hostile environment is for immigrants and benefit claimants. Rather than paying fair benefits to people in need, the government spends more on sanctions, often unjust, arbitrary decisions taking benefits away and causing the rise in need for food banks. Sanctions cost more than they save. The government’s cruelty costs money. David Davies MP is a backbencher, a mediocre man who fails, usually, to stir up hatred, but this time is working hard with particular feminist groups. What are they doing for transgender equality? Nothing. Anyway, in March next year with Brexit our human rights will end.

Finedon meeting house

Should Quakers spend £50,000 on a Quaker meeting house built in 1690?

Quakers were active here during the Commonwealth. After the restoration of the king, one refused to pay tithes of forty shillings, and was distrained for fifty pounds. He later spent a year in prison. As soon as toleration was granted in 1689, they built their meeting house, but local people stoned them as they went to worship there. They refused to retaliate, but built a high wall around the meeting house to mitigate the attacks. The meeting lasted until 1912, when it was laid down and the building acquired by a local family.

The local history society keep it open, and developer bought it and sought planning permission to make it a house. It would be a small house- the meeting room is about fifteen by eighteen feet, and there is a narrow corridor at the back with a sink and an electric socket. There’s an old harmonium, which is still working. The lawn outside is a burial ground, reducing its potential uses.

The council refused permission. I don’t know how else the external structure may be preserved, how it could get an owner sufficiently interested to do the work on it. I needed it pointed out to me, but that pointing, of concrete rather than lime mortar, is ugly:

The history society has an exhibition there now. I think those mannequins are dressed as Quakers.

People now care more about preserving such structures than we did in 1912.

What would we use it for? Our meeting houses are big enough for the Friends who meet there. Mostly, we rent them out making an income. Possibly we could rent this out as offices. If we started worshipping there again, I am the nearest and could go there to keep the meeting: a Friend did that at Kettering for years, and now Kettering can have 18 on a Sunday morning. I don’t feel I particularly want to, though.

A Friend said we could have children here from local schools for an experience of the silence. We could offer it for artists, she suggested.

We could buy it. The asking price is £50,000, money the AM has. We held area meeting there this month, and I sat there hearing this, unconvinced. We are not a historical society for the preservation of old buildings, that’s the Church of England’s job. I don’t know what we could use it for. I feel an emotional pull from a meeting house built in 1690, and suddenly started taking hurried photographs, so I could ask you what you think.


-What are you afraid of?
-My vulnerability.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. That’s in Mark, and bears the imprint of an editor: some authorities miss out “for my sake”, but the words “for the sake of the gospel” damage the symmetry of the phrase, and the explanation damages its poetry.

I am losing my life. I fritter it. I hate sitting here watching television. I liked going into London to speak at Quaker Quest, taking in several interesting encounters and lots of Art. One told me, gratefully, that what I said was like ministry, at least worship-sharing. That had an air of holiday about it, but in a job I hope I would not merely be ground down, and even now I could go out to encounter people and beautiful things locally.

And, I sit here because I am afraid, of judgment which is so awful as to be as bad as death. I know this is an illusion, but the fear of it is still real. Of course I will die, and I could die in an accident at any time- though fearing death and planning suicide is a strange combination. There is something about the moment of death which is fearful and horrible, but death itself is not. After death, the horror disappears.

The moment of failure, the moment of getting caught out, terrifies me, whether it leads to death or mild embarrassment. I can see I am not being sensible, that I am losing my life, that my way of saving myself is an illusion, but being rational about this does not save me from the fear.

There’s nothing to fear. I know that. I still fear it.

-Why were you screaming?
-Because I felt seen and accepted.

More paradoxes. I rationalised it immediately- it is the delight which reminds me of past lack; but it could be deeper than that. It means I am wrong. If I am acceptable, all I know and believe about myself is untrue and my world falls apart. If I am seen, I will be despised- and judged. None of this is rational, so it could be both, as my madness can survive internal contradiction.

I will tell you here. I could not tell K face to face, but it might be worth working on.

I am beautiful.

Not- this thing, this process, all that is within my skin, whatever- I. People value and accept me. People even admire me, and sometimes express that.

This is all quite binary. All or nothing, Heaven or Hell, the marriage feast or gnashing of teeth, admiration or condemnation. It is also instant. I rarely judge other people like that. They’re mostly all right, I add little pieces of experience with them to a picture, and normally run away rather than cast another out. It’s not a perfect analogy for how others are, but it does tend to refute that all or nothing God-like power I ascribe to them, which only a mother has over a baby.

I am beautiful
beloved of God
highly gifted
facing my difficulties squarely.

Maybe I could tell other people this, and see how they react. I am judged, repeatedly, and cannot anticipate how others will judge me or what consequences that judgment will have for me. I am sometimes seen as wrong or bad, but not in the way I anticipate.

I fear making mistakes. If I can’t make mistakes, then I can’t do anything.

I record my counselling sessions, and this recording was silent. I don’t know why it didn’t work. But these two moments were the core of it- I fear vulnerability, I was hurt when I felt accepted. I want an instant solution, I want things I can work at for self-improvement, but looking back I perceive I am improving (hard though that is to claim).