Heaven in London

Trans women don’t like each other very much, certainly not in real life. If there was a group of us we would all be staring at our shoes periodically hissing “Stop it, you’re embarrassing us”. In the tube the day before there had been a poster advertising “Photography on the Edge” with a picture of a trans woman or drag queen, looking not very happy. Then there was one on the Underground platform, at least 6’6″ tall, in a light summer dress, with a manly tattoo on her arm- rather gorgeous, actually, that unapologetic “I am here,” with a slight hardness, I thought, as sometimes people would notice her. I scuttled away, frightened that they would read her then notice me.

I turned the corner by the east end of St Paul’s, and the scent of the blossom hit me with insistent beauty. I paused to enjoy it, but even though I stood still in the place where I had first smelled it, the smell was still lessened. It had overpowered me for a moment, and then the sensation was gone though I tried to make it last. Just the way the air currents were, or the blossom, or even my own nerve cells.

It was a beautiful sunny day and I sat in the dappled half-shade of a tree in front of Tate Modern, listening to the saxophonist in a wheelchair. He’s good. The tide was out and I could go down on a sandy beach. Then I saw you and stood for a long close hug. I took in your style- necklace and two pendants on separate chains, flowers embroidered on net over skirt over sloppy jeans and trainers. Unique. We went to the abstract art and photography exhibition, and admired a Kandinsky, excitedly. We stimulated each other, seeing each part of it together, how it was made and how it showed movement and stillness in balance. The alarm sounded, insistent, and people wandered, compliant but unconcerned, to the exits. Outside, the man in the wheelchair had a harmonica and was joined by another saxophonist in a tight twelve-bar blues, improvising in dialogue within the structure of the form. We waited until the crowd had dissipated, then walked back in.

In The Last Battle, Jill Pole and the dwarves all go into the stable, which Jill finds is the gate of Heaven. She sees it, beautiful countryside, the foot-hills of something more wonderful, but the dwarves think they are in a smelly old stable. So she picks flowers for them to smell, and they say, Why are you pushing mouldy old straw in our faces?

We sat in the shade, in the warm air on the fifth floor balcony, looking over Thames to the cathedral. These shapes, the bridge, the river, could be a Kandinsky: looking at art and making it has taught you to see. I told you my poem, you said I should be remembered for it, and I was abashed, saying there is such an abundance of talent about.

I am starving. I need this friendship. This- this process, this creature, is Beautiful. I affirm that. I know it and I can say it, because it is true, yet I cannot say “I am beautiful”- though I can say “I am trussed up”. I am trussed by my fears and illusions. I need this friendship, not to be a momentary scent of blossom but growing the flowers, the work to know and be known, talking of the weather and politics as well as of such high-flown, real things.

We agree we are in Heaven. Seeing that trans woman, unapologetic, unashamed, is heavenly. How strong she is! Yet it could also be mouldy straw, the fear I felt of discovery. And the scent of the flowers, a moment of delight comes and goes and my efforts at rediscovery cannot lure it back. If I know this is a world of abundance, and such delights are quotidian, never the same and endless in succession, I am happy enough to move from one to the other; and if I feel tantalised by the aroma, teased and not satiated, it is hell. Even in this lovely day of the best of company in the beautiful places I am tantalised, and the next day, freakishly colder as I cycle, cold, in strong wind to see Richard the contrast depresses me.

The knack, or trick, might be Fear and Love. If I love the Earth it becomes Heaven, if I fear it it is Hell, but that cycle ride was difficult in the wind. I starve for beauty and connection.

I walked to the centre of Swanston from the Station, and Umar came up beside me and started talking. His job is making model aeroplanes, then putting them in wind tunnels to test their aerodynamics. Wind tunnels and computer models complement each other. I was happy enough to talk. I said I was going to the supermarket, he to the bank, and as he got there he asked if we could meet again- “Just as friends,” he said, plaintively. I thought about it. I decided against, in fear and mistrust, and am not sure I decided correctly.

Meeting women

Women’s generosity is beautiful: I love it when they practise it on me. I didn’t, as it happens, want to spend ÂŁ2 on sandwiches right then and was planning to go without until dinner time. I feel cared for. And then she listened to me when I complained. Yes, Quaker disputes can be painful, and Quaker self-righteous bullying inexorable. I enjoy her company, am interested in what she has to say, and like to be heard and understood.

Then there was K, who is glad to see me here. She was on the appeal panel when I could have lost my membership, and always reminds me of it. She is glad to see me, but the way she says it reminds me of my past problems with South Wales Quakers. I feel uncomfortable even though she celebrates the fact that Quakers still have my gifts and service, and I their company. We talk for a bit. She tells me of her life. If I tell her, it seems in context of that- this is how it’s been since, moulded by that. A man wandered over and she introduced me to him, with a subtly pitying allusion to that.

Women are objectified. If you objectify L, you will see her having none of the qualities of female attractiveness, as being short fat and old. There. I have not damned her, but objectification. “You won’t remember me,” she said, self-effacingly. “Oh, I do,” I said. I am really not good at this, but I might even recognise her in the street, without this context. Her name badge reminds me of her name. I can’t remember where (amongst Quakers) we met, or what we discussed, but I have a strong recollection of a- bubbly– personality. A sweet person. This sweetness is constrained and funnelled through the objectification: she is not seen, so not known. If you see the whole person with the personality you see her beauty. We hugged. We are both starving.

Twenty of us out of 1200 went to the “Meeting for worship for movement”, expressing our inspiration through movement rather than through words. This is the bit why I have delayed writing this post. I can’t explain it. A woman- I know her, we have talked, I remember some of the conversation from last year- again the eye of pure objectification would see nothing in her, but she has charisma nonetheless. She smiled at me, touched my hands, and I was plunged into consciousness of that distress which is mostly unconscious in me, but constant. Perhaps it was a gift of something which I am starved of, which forced me to contemplate that starvation. No, it’s not alright most of the time, not really.

“Trans ideology” and transphobia

I knew there was a problem when I was two, and I knew what it was by the age of five- I was a girl. That was “The script”, the way to convince a psychiatrist that you should be allowed to transition. I don’t know if people still say it, if it is not true for them. It is true for some but not all of us.

There is a set of ideas about trans folk, mocked by transphobes as “Trans ideology”: trans women have women’s brains, or spirits, and are really women. What “real” means there is slippery- have we redefined “woman” to include those of us with a belief we are women or a desire to be women, or have we access to some objective idea of “woman” which naturally includes us?

Those who want to exclude us ramp up their expression of us as men- trans identified males, trans rights activists TRA to remind people of MRA, even “transsexual man”. They refuse to refer to us with female pronouns, and sometimes won’t even use ambiguous words which could mean either sex.

People who support us say “Trans women are women”, and that is a statement about what is morally right rather than about biology. We should be accepted in women’s spaces and women’s programmes, like the Jo Cox Leadership Programme which welcomes trans women. Trans women exist, whether this is something to do with differences in brains, levels of hormones in utero, or culture and Patriarchy.

Those who want us included do not need to believe that our brains are different. They don’t need an explanation of why someone might be trans. “Gender dysphoria” or “gender identity disorder” are names rather than explanations.

It is more important that a woman is willing to accept me in women’s spaces than that she has particular beliefs about what transgender means. Possibly, she could think that gender was the tool of the patriarchy to oppress women, and that in an ideal genderless society people could be valued for their characteristics without judging whether those characteristics were “masculine” or “feminine”. She could believe that we had different experiences and residual male privilege. As long as she thought we were entitled to be in women’s space, she is an ally. Refuges want to support victims of intimate partner violence whatever their sex or gender.

This means we do not alienate anyone by calling them transphobic. It also means that we can point out transphobia where it exists: if I am harmlessly using a loo, when another woman there sees me and feels fear and anger because she sees I am a trans woman and imagines I am a man, that is transphobia, an unreasoning fear of something harmless. “Don’t be so silly or self-righteous” becomes a reasonable response to the transphobe. It is not about belief but fear. There is nothing to fear.

The belief can be important for us. If I am really a woman, it begins to make sense that I should transition. I puzzled out what “really a woman” or “true transsexual” might mean. If it applied to me, I could transition. And I was sensitive about others’ beliefs, so avidly read the TNUK yahoo email group, which circulated endless stories about some nutcase Evangelical in the US preaching that Sodomy was Bad. Oh! They hate us! I’ll never manage it! These things hurt.

I would rather that even if someone thought transition was ridiculous or disgusting they would never say it because they knew everyone they loved or respected would despise them for the thought. That is not where we are now. For various reasons lots of people are saying we should not be in women’s spaces. Most people don’t care. We care intensely, have internalised transphobia and project it onto others, imagining they judge us when they are worried about their own concerns. If we keep the word transphobia for irrational, disproportionate fear, it will be accepted by most of those people.

Why should you accept me? Because I exist. Why should you treat me as a woman? Because we’ve been treating trans women as women since the 1960s. Simple, really. So much rhetoric, to such little effect!

Clarity and possibility

Clarity is not always a good thing. If you open Schrödinger’s box, the cat may be dead. But possibility may be an illusion: I hold onto hope for something which never materialises, until the hope dies by degrees. Too many such hopes, and hope becomes unbearable.

You will see I am not in my most positive mood.

I had many blessings at yearly meeting- hugs, gifts, encounters. New ideas increased my clarity. When I spoke in the auditorium there were many of the customary indications that it was ego-led, not spirit led. A Friend observed that she had not heard me speak at that YM, I heard an implication that I always had spoken at other YMs, and then I spoke at this one too. I was thinking of it the night before specifically as something I could speak on in Meeting. My heart was not beating loudly, it never does. And the synchronicities of it- my other experiences, my recent reading, seeing a man sitting alone, speaking to him later: I am clear what I said had value, and came to me as gift. It was worthwhile for others to hear it. It was ministry to the yearly meeting, and people came to me to express appreciation of it. It got into the minute. How positive I am can determine whether something is blessing or curse- I am clear enough this is ministry, and being given it is blessing.

My world is weird and inexplicable- everyone’s is, however clearly they realise that- and at yearly meeting I decided I had enough confirmation that the weirdness could delight me as well as

HURT ME

-that it might be worth taking some chances. For example that applying for a particular job might not be humiliation and judgment from beginning to end. I know the judgment is almost all mine, projected onto others and generally that does not make it bearable.

I am nearly or actually in tears as I write. Snap out of it, I command myself sternly. Become Positive!

As human relationships end, I can see there might be advantage in denying someone clarity- letting them have hope, without any intention of justifying it. Someone without hope might become a threat, and I can see that other ways of preventing me being a threat could also be unpleasant for me. Generally, my seething chaotic anger is directed inwardly at myself, and when it manifests to others it is never physical. Sometimes it is articulate passion, but more often it is conflicted: I fear what I want to say is ridiculous so the bits which escape me are inarticulate, confused and contradictory. Still the anger is perceptible, and might make someone feel a need to protect herself.

My negative mood convinces me that possibilities are illusion and certainties are of pain. It makes it harder for me to see others holding me in regard (admiring me is far too strong a word- any possible evidence of that at yearly meeting I must be misinterpreting, or at least the admirer is hopelessly deluded). So where there might be possibilities I see only horrible certainty. I see my wish for reassurance as the most disgusting neediness and my anger against myself increases. The cat may come out biting and scratching.

I am laying it on thick here. This is ridiculous- I am now smiling as I type. It is so difficult- only Godlike omniscience would satisfy me!

The Green Party and trans

I was a member of the Green Party. Now, I am committed to the success of the Labour Party, because with first past the post only Labour can defeat the poisonous Tory MP in my constituency. In considering what the party should do, from my almost powerless position as an active member I only want its electoral success. In Brighton, or in a proportional system, I would be an enthusiastic campaigner for the Greens.

The Green Party says welcoming things about trans people in their long, detailed policy statements. The Green Party recognises that there are many gender identities that are within, and outside of, the traditional gender binary of man and woman. The Green Party recognises that trans men are men, trans women are women, and that non-binary identities exist and are valid. We shall respect transgender and non-binary people’s identities as real. The Green Party shall include, and push for further acceptance of, transgender and non-binary people within all areas of society. They would increase NHS provision to “empower rather than demean” us. They would extend the protected characteristic beyond those who intend to transition, (probably that means to non-binary, but may mean to cross-dressers) and remove exemptions in the Equality Act, so women’s services could not exclude us. They have no power to carry out any of this, but it still shows we are welcome.

And, some Green Party members are gender critical feminists, including apparently two prospective parliamentary candidates. I asked Dawn Furness what the Green policy on trans inclusion was, and she refused to answer unless I confirmed I was in her constituency. Then I said I heard you are trans exclusionary. If so, I hope you do not bring the Green Party into disrepute.

It’s not an entirely friendly way of putting it, but her response was OTT. That sounds an awful lot like threats and intimidation… Perhaps you could explain your defamatory statement “I heard you are trans exclusionary.” before I pass the matter on to my solicitor?

-Your angry response disturbs me.
I think you are confusing my polite and civil responses with your own anger and intimidation.

More heat than light there, as with the trans “debate” on telly, after which a Green party candidate, Olivia Palmer, was suspended for allegedly engaging in transphobic abuse.

If you google Olivia Palmer or Dawn Furness, you find their twitter profiles. Both appear to be talented individuals, but they have no press coverage or interest as candidates. Palmer is quoted as saying “It is immensely damaging to give credence to climate change deniers and biological sex deniers alike”. So, that’s me told, lumped in with the Bad People like Donald Trump in one pithy quote.

What can I say to these people? Please, please shut up. You might not like your party’s position on trans people. It was made in a different time, before this damaging battle was fomented by your party’s enemies. If you persist (yes, that word which has resonance for feminists) you will have some press coverage, delighted at the Greens fighting amongst themselves and poking fun at the arcane nature of their battles. Twitter warriors will tweet angrily from the extremes of both sides, and gender critical feminists and trans people will resign from the party in high dudgeon. Local parties will be split, with activists unable to work with each other.

My ideal solution for Palmer’s suspension would be for her to state that she should not be abusive, and for her suspension to be lifted. No-one should be abusive. I doubt it will happen. So people for whom this is the only important political battle at the moment will pile in, and the authoritarian hard Right will rejoice.

7 February 2021: Kathryn Bristow, a trans woman, and Emma Bateman, who “stands up for sex-based rights”, are co-chairs of Green Party Women, elected in December. The Daily Mail claimed “dozens” of activists were leaving the Green Party over Bristow’s election. That is, some “sex-based rights” campaigners are so obsessive they think excluding trans women is more important than the climate crisis.

Sian Berry, London Mayoral candidate, tweeted “I want London to be the most trans-inclusive city in the world”.

7 March 2021: The party conference passed a motion for self-determination of trans people. However, anti-trans obsessives brought motions, all defeated, to attack trans rights.

27 August 2021: Shahrar Ali produced a campaign site where his opposition to trans rights, sometimes expressed in coded language, took more words than the climate crisis and was the only substantive issue, apart from climate, mentioned. Fortunately, he was clearly defeated for the party leadership.

Debbie Hayton

Is Debbie Hayton a True TranssexualTM or a “feminine man”? It depends who is talking to her.

On 4 May she and sixteen others wrote to the Guardian, saying “Transsexual people undergo a meaningful transition, including hormone therapy and surgery”. They distinguished this from “male bodied people, including sexual fetishists, demanding access to women’s space”. However on 10 May in the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff reported her saying she had male privilege from her upbringing, in an ideal world would present as a feminine man, and gave this utterly bizarre justification for transitioning: The problem is, as a teacher, if I express myself completely as non-gendered, I couldn’t get on with the job. If somebody comes in saying: “I’m not a woman or a man” then every time I did a new class, you would have to go through that with them, when what you really want to be doing is teaching them”.

So, she got castrated so as not to have to explain herself to pupils. Actually trans women need to be explained to pupils, and the explanation is not necessarily easier than of an effeminate man the pupils might think was gay. I can see it might be a problem for a supply teacher, but others don’t get new classes that often. If the school has an ethos of acceptance and respect for difference, she will be accepted, and if the school is an academy, many of which have an authoritarian ethos, she won’t. It may be more difficult to get a job where she can fit in. Or, she can pretend to be someone else, like every other teacher in a bad school.

Debbie is active in her teaching union, which has several gender-critical feminists. Do they like her? No. I saw a facebook thread. “Like a too eager puppy,” said one. “Somewhat cute but has annoying habits, like humping your leg. I am a cat person.”

Why tolerate her? “When accusations of ‘transphobia’ are made, TIMs get listened to and women don’t. Like it or not we’re stuck with them.” TIM means “trans-identified male”, or trans woman. But they’re not happy: “I prefer the ‘PUNCH TERFS! DIE CIS SCUM!’ variety. At least they’re honest.”

I am using whatever platforms I have to attempt conciliation with gender-critical feminists. I identify as a feminine male, and have had the operation. I have much less visibility than Debbie Hayton. I would even speak on an “A Woman’s Place” platform, if they would have me, even if another speaker gave a transphobic rant. All trans women are ludicrous and easy to mock. There is an intense vulnerability in being yourself, which many of us do not manage even after transition.

And, don’t throw other trans women under the bus. Don’t claim sexual fetishists are demanding access to women’s space- for some TERFs, with an unforgiving understanding of autogynephilia, that includes post-op transsexual women who have ever been aroused by dressing female, so all gynephile trans women. Don’t claim reform of the Gender Recognition Act has anything to do with such problems. One radical feminist graciously said she would permit me in a woman’s loo, because she knew I was post-op. But, when I was considering transition and going out dressed to see if I could hack it, with a functioning penis, I still needed the loo.

Using the word “male-bodied” is problematic. It won’t endear you to the TERFs, many of whom believe it fits you. Your pelvis is still male, and every human cell will have a Y chromosome. Your labia are a mere simulacrum, the shredded remains of your penis.

That letter said she had a right to define as transsexual, but transgender activists sought to remove the distinction. Well, some object to the word “transsexual”, precisely because it distinguishes between us and creates social pressure to have surgery. I could identify as transsexual but instead identify as trans. There is a temptation to claim I should have rights, because I have a medical condition, diagnosed by a psychiatrist, but there are all those fake trans perverts from whom I, as well as the real women, need protection. No-one prejudiced against trans women will make such distinctions, so claiming that does us no good and gives ammunition to our enemies. Debbie wrote, A Plea to Trans Activists: We Can Protect Trans Rights Without Denying Biology. However no-one denies biology. We all know what we are. And no-one is a trans activist- we are just ordinary people living our lives, speaking out against everyday prejudice.

Now Debbie Hayton is claiming she has autogynephilia, and that because she imagines she has, every lesbian trans woman must have. I refuted that claim.

At yearly meeting

Yearly meeting, a thousand Quakers in one building in Euston for four days, is heavenly for me. I am with my tribe. Sitting in the sun, I said I had mislaid my lunch, and a friend bought me sandwiches. She has previously bought me coffee, dinner and champagne, and had me to stay, and shows me the weirdness of my world can be lovely as well as threatening.

That was after the Salter lecture, organised by the Quaker Socialist Society and given by Diana Jeater. She wondered why she, rather than Zimbabweans, should be considered a world expert on Zimbabwe, and spoke on how we in Britain are still colonialist. British people went to Africa, and some went to study Africans; but to explain them in British concepts for a British understanding, with metaphors we were comfortable with, which did not precisely fit. So they attempted to formulate how grammar worked in local languages, and then in schools told locals they were speaking their own language ungrammatically. People say “I have been to Africa” as if it were homogenous. We looked at them as if our technological superiority and different religion were superiority of civilisation, and imposed on them. How would it be, if we could find new words, to understand their other ways of seeing? Or let them say who they were, rather than defining them? This is so close to the idea that trans people should speak for ourselves rather than mediated by cis people that it strengthens my acceptance of myself.

I am sad to say that Quakers who spend less time with me seem to like me more- or perhaps it is just harder to negotiate ongoing relationships, and occasional encounters can give the joy of seeing and sharing without the difficulty of working together. Those who have met me before here want to talk to me, and while they care for me they also receive from me. I was glad to see someone again, though they spoke of the increasing difficulty of travelling, and dislike of being apart from their wife. If you’re ever in —-? I will look you up, I said. I may not see them again.

One observed that she had not heard me speak in the business meeting yet: um. Well, even with a thousand people there I often know I can contribute something worthwhile, and I spoke on racism later- to much the same effect as I wrote here. Most of that session was from people pre-arranged to speak, and there was only time for one person from the floor. I was moved to hear my words “Who is like me?” in the minute of the session. The meeting the evening before was a synchronicity. All worked out for good. What one woman heard was that “we are animals”- she brought her young daughter to hug me, as her daughter says the same thing.

Two years ago there were signs on the disabled loos that non-binary people should use the unisex toilets in the basement. This year the disabled loos were marked all-gender toilets. That was OK. I tried the men’s once, and though it was clean I was more uncomfortable than anywhere else- I felt my awareness shrink to my physical location, so I did not bang into anyone. I could not allow myself to be aware of anyone’s reaction to me there. I don’t know how they reacted.

We are included and heard. I heard trans folk give ministry in meeting, and from someone at Oxford meeting about the hire of a room to “A woman’s place”- she showed there was no transphobia in the Quakers hiring out the room. Quakers stood with the demonstrators outside. They only heard details of the room hire at 3pm that day, which was dishonest of AWP. If they make a statement I will publicise it as soon as I hear of it. Yet at the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity meeting, some expressed trans-excluding views. I hope we can hear each other amongst Quakers.

Different experiences

Trans-excluders argue that trans women do not have women’s experiences, so must be excluded from women’s spaces, and the experiences we cannot share are having a female reproductive system, and being socialised as women, which they experience as oppressive.

I don’t have that experience of menstruation, but nor do many women with disorders of sexual development, who would be accepted as women by the trans excluders. To be clear, “But you accept intersex women as women” is a valid argument against “You are not women, because you do not have a woman’s reproductive system”. It is a lifelong series of experiences, usually following the same path, which moulds a person’s life, but it does not mean that I cannot be accepted as a woman, and I have experienced variations in hormone levels which I have found difficult.

I don’t have the experience of men coming on to me and not taking no for an answer from the age of 13, but here women’s experiences are variable. Some girls are seen as unattractive. People are seen as more or less sexual. I have experiences of anxiety or anguish around relationships, and I have had men coming on to me or feeling me up. It can’t be said that we do not have women’s experiences of relationships, as women’s experiences are varied, and we share them with many.

Being socialised as a woman- well, women’s experiences are varied there, too. If you want to climb trees as a child, does your family encourage you or not? Some families are keen that their daughters not feel restricted in what they can do. As with everything, some families are keen to fit in, and some to nurture and celebrate the gifts of each child. That is what is most important for me: the parallel trans experience of not being allowed to be yourself, which happens to those of us least fitting our birth gender, may be mitigated or reinforced by family.

The women who would most keenly exclude us seem to have had these experiences together at a peculiar intensity- shame inculcated at bodies and especially menstruation; sexual abuse and harassment from early teenage; and gendered expectations not fitting their true selves and felt as particularly oppressive. That can seem like one Woman’s experience which “transwomen” can never experience. Sexual harassment can be appalling- I worked briefly in a hotel where the cook often repeated a vile phrase about sex with young girls. If he acted on it! I don’t know how many women have such an intense experience, and how many react to it as trans excluders seem to.

Generally, though, the difference between women who welcome us and those who would exclude us from women’s spaces is openness to us, and not particular experiences. Can you feel sympathy with this person, or do you experience them as intruding where they should not be? If we might be harmful, what level of harm and what level of likelihood of that harm is believable, or necessary before we must be excluded? Some would take a logical line- woman is biology, not gender identity, so we are not women, but back that up with heightened statements of the risks we pose. Yet if you are open to including us, our experiences are not sufficiently different from other women’s to make you stop.

Quaker whiteness

In Britain, most Quakers are white. A far smaller proportion of us is BAME, Black, Asian and minority ethnic, than the population. What can we do to change that?

In my last Anglican parish, the vicar worked hard to include Afro-Caribbean people. The church warden was Afro-Caribbean, as were half the choir, and people came to my church from all over the borough. The BNP was rampant there at the time, and the vicar may have saved one member from involvement with them. And still, at church socials, usually black and white people sat at different tables. Coffee after the Eucharist was mostly white.

For me, Yearly meeting is like a colossal party. I shed my radiance on many people there, and on leaving was stopped for two hugs of beautiful warmth and togetherness. I am grateful. There are many people there whom I have worshipped with over the years, and made connection, but also I can go up to someone I do not know and start a deep conversation, thoughtful, playful, sharing, truthful. Heart meets heart. A thousand people in Friends House might suit the more extrovert of us, and I see some reserved folk whom I know only by reputation, powerful intellects, equally deeply feeling but not showing that as profligately as I do.

I stayed with a local Friend who volunteered to put up Friends from elsewhere. On Sunday night I went to worship at eight, and heard the buzz of conversation down below ebb away. I felt it enriched our silence. I went back on the Tube, and on the platform was recognised by a Friend. Three of us talked in the car, and I enthused about Yearly Meeting Gathering last year. It was like a party, I said. And the man of Asian heritage asked, “Why is this different?”

A day after that conversation I was doubting my interpretation of his question, and two days after my doubts increase, but I remember my certainty of the meaning that evening. It would be impertinent for me to speak for him, and this was my impression: that while YM in London may be more intense than YMG, more focussed on the meeting for worship for business, for him there was not that ease of moving into groups, hearing and being heard, togetherness, a relaxation and removal of masks more profound than alcohol could ever achieve- and part of that was white racism. White people there were not interacting with him in quite the same way as with other white people. We are great apes, with fifty million years of primate evolution behind us, and dividing up others into in group and out group is hard to shed completely.

I love to be with people who are like me.
Who is like me?
How can I expand my understanding of “who is like me”?

There are a lot of us queers in BYM, possibly more than in the general population, and much of the reason is the welcome we get. Quakers are alive to HoBiT- homophobia, biphobia and transphobia (maybe less so to biphobia) and have worked against it. Our support for equal marriage is a powerful witness. I am Quaker because I am trans- I might have found the Society if I had not wanted to transition, but as it was I was a stranger and you took me in. One answer might be to find some equivalent principled work that we could do to serve BAME people, though it is hard to see an example. And supporting equal marriage does not just benefit us queers, but the whole Society: we are all enriched when more voices are heard.

I am aware of the working class origins of many Quakers, but generally because people have told me their histories. About three quarters of us have at least one degree, and many regional accents are moderated or even expunged. We are more homogenous than we should be. There is that of God in every one, and you do not need a degree to hear it in yourself, or feel that spiritual connection with All that we so value. There are people inspired by the Spirit who would enrich us, if they could find us and we could welcome them.

I am an aspiring ally to disadvantaged groups, because I am trans and it behoves me to see other oppressions beyond my own. Yet I am not speaking as an ally here. An ally would say, what barriers are we white people erecting to make it harder for us to connect to others? Speaking as a white person, wanting the good of white people, I ask, how can we hear other voices, expanding our understanding of truth, and enriching our knowledge of God?

Mental health

Normally, the word “Kafkaesque” is too strong for my life. I have not turned into an insect, or been arrested on charges I don’t know, but which could be capital. I am not in the position of the mother who knows the social worker will take her child if she does not give the right answer, but has no idea how to believe what she must say.

Today has not been completely wasted.

Water has been coming into my flat for years, but only when the rain was particularly heavy and the wind in the right direction. Since March it has been coming in most rainy days. I told the letting agent in March, and eventually when I saw him and the landord outside, I invited them in to see the damp patches on the ceiling, the crack which drips along its entire length and the bucket under the light fitting with several pints of water in it. We went up on the flat roof, and saw the guttering on the upper storey was broken.

A few days later I saw a man with a blow-torch applying more sealant to the flat roof. Never accuse the landlord of not spending money. Water is still dripping in, though. Trickling, sometimes, down the light fitting. I called the agent again, and the secretary would see what was happening. She sent a man round.

The man and his son went with me up on the flat roof, where we saw water flowing from the break in the gutter onto some gravel on the flat roof. The son poked around on the gravel for a bit, and the father said the roof should slope a bit, rather than forming puddles like that. It may still be under guarantee. He thought the gutter should be fixed, but could not just come and do any job needing done- he had to provide a report, then a quote, for everything. Next door has water flowing down an inner wall. He left down the metal stairs and I just stood for a bit, thinking I should probably go down again but not really seeing the point.

Today I cycled to Scotstoun to see someone who works for the local mental health services. I had been referred by the woman trying to get me back in employment, then a woman, Ines, had phoned me, and told me I could have a “follow-up” appointment. She had quizzed me in great detail about my suicidal ideation, and I told her those metal steps were my chosen place for the drop, and how I had considered the precise nature of the rope and the knot I would need. I found the detailed quizzing wearing. Today, Bharti was surprised to hear I was suicidal in December, she thought it was in 2009. No, that was when I left the office at lunchtime intending to take my sleeping pills. The thoughts of hanging were around the start of this year. Even as I said it, I was unsure of the point of explaining.

I got the impression that she did not think she could do anything for me, perhaps because of funding, or the particular service she offered, and wanted to create a file record to justify that decision. “You’ve not got any goals,” she said, near the end of the 45 minutes. I reminded her that I had said my goal was to get back to work, as Esther’s minions were liable to take away all my income. I would like my rational self, which tells me to apply for work, and my emotional self which can’t bear to, to be talking to each other and working together. I would like to be able to talk about these things without crying. Near the end I was blurting all sorts of stuff about why I could not trust or respect my GP practice- the first mistake I can forgive, the second carelessness is more troublesome. Was that a mark down against me?

But the day was not completely wasted, because I cycled thirty miles in sunshine, and spent some time in mature woodland with these bluebells.