Three Quaker trans women

For a moment, I was a true transsexual, quite clear transition had been right for me. Of course it did not last.

Rarely, with other trans women I feel completely comfortable. I am with people like me, and it is reassuring, empowering, clarifying. More often I notice presentation issues, and judge the other and myself, and am uncomfortable. When I imagine a group of trans women, we’re all staring at our shoes and periodically one will hiss,

“Stop it, you’re embarrassing us!”

And it was lovely to see my friend F, to walk round the park to see its beauties of landscaping and artistry, and the wildlife, to wander and chat, to sit eating looking at beautiful things. I told her that story: on 14 February 1999 I felt a tremendously painful and revivifying change in how I viewed the world- I was “born again”. I gained hope, became conscious that I am on a spiritual journey, and became conscious of something I called first the “Vulnerable bit” being released from deep suppression in my unconscious, and then the “Real Me”. I wrote this poem identifying that Real Me as female. I felt reassured.

And when she left, I was frightened and confused. Possibly, it is unnecessary and even harmful to have the goal of knowing yourself. The human being can be flexible, responding to circumstances, and an idea of who you are can inhibit that. Better to have stories of who you are, that reassure you, help you fit with other people, and are malleable to fit your situation. Yet I still want to know that at the kernel of my being I am Trans and therefore Transition was right and remains right for me; and so I fight for that particular story. It is the thing I have done because I wanted to, despite all the prejudice from others.

I want transition to be my rock, my reality, and felt washed around by the currents and tides. Bluntly, Margaret says, “It’s as if you’re acting when you’re Stephen and just you when you’re Clare” and I am encouraged to transition because it is right for me; Heather says “You have this lovely male energy” and I see myself as a man, and am filled with doubt; and now F reminds me of that experience, and I am reassured. Transition was Right for me. Except that I’m not, because what I believe depends on the strong personalities around me. Am I so moulded by others that there is no self at all?

Actually I had seen myself as male before meeting Heather, as a way of understanding who I am, without prejudice to the sufficient rightness of transition. Perhaps I contain so many truths that I might be moulded, but never so that I am not at least a real part of whole me. Then the moulding becomes a way to find all those parts and realise them.

When I got to meeting on Sunday I had a lovely hug from C, who said she had seen I was in London and hoped I would come. In the Quaker meeting, another trans woman who had been scrolling her phone stood and expressed anger, which I found troubling. Is this right for worship? She had been reading the constitution of some particular Quaker body, which used the term “Friend” to refer to members, and “Attender” to refer to regular attenders. She called this “Bigotry”. I was intensely uncomfortable, thinking, “Stop it! You’re embarrassing us!” Then one stood, and talked of being appointed an overseer but with the letters n.i.m. after her name- whisper it, not in membership, then another talked of becoming a member after more than ten years. The meeting is capable of absorbing anger, if you trust the process.

In the discussion group after we worship-shared on short texts, and I got, When you speak in a group, are you listened to? Do you create space to listen to others? How does the text comfort or discomfort you? I said, yes. I have energy, charisma, and a persuasive command of language, and can make myself heard. I have used my voice to amplify that of those who would not be heard, and am practising listening. A man, not obeying the rules of “worship sharing”, interrogated me and I took this back to the Latin, com fortis. After, a woman said she liked how I had stated my good acts positively, not accentuating the negative as we often do in sort-of humility. I wondered if she was stating what she liked, rather than giving her whole internal response, which is another Quaker technique I have noticed.

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