My country and its values

Was Great Britain ever my country? Like Nigel Farage, I was born in Britain to British parents, and educated here. I see he did not go to university. He says “I want my country back”, and now follows in the footsteps of bankrupt fascist Nicholas Griffin, former leader of the British National Party, by attempting to foment race hatred in Oldham. Griffin failed to get even one local councillor elected there.

In a speech in Pennsylvania, he said, Let me take you to a town called Oldham in the North of England where literally on one side of the street everybody is white and on the other side of the street everybody is black. The twain never actually meet, there is no assimilation. These, folks, are divided societies in which resentments build and grow.

He does not actually mean “black”, but “Asian”. The town has an Afro-Caribbean community, which is integrated as far as Griffin, Farage and their ilk allow. I met with them at my church. It has an Asian community, mostly in particular areas rather than one side of a street. I met with Asian-heritage people at work. I went to the homes of Black Asian people. I counted them as my friends. Farage is wrong. We met, ate together, played together.

Farage writes of the values that underpin British civil society, but gives little hint of what they are. A National identity based on our Judeo-Christian heritage. But some of my best friends are atheist. This seems to exclude: what about our Islamic, Buddhist, Sikh and Hindu heritage? And, historically, Christians have been homophobic: what does he think of that?

Theresa May named British values when she was Home Secretary: regard for the rule of law, participation in and acceptance of democracy, equality, free speech and respect for minorities…

Everybody living in this country is equal and everybody is free to lead their lives as they see fit. We are free to practise any faith, follow any religious denomination, or ignore religion altogether.

You don’t only get the freedom to live how you choose to live. You have to respect other people’s rights to do so too. And you have to respect not just this fundamental principle but the institutions and laws that make it possible. Democracy. Equality. Freedom of speech. The rule of law. And respect for minorities.

We must always take care to distinguish between Islam – a major world religion followed peacefully by the overwhelming majority of one billion Muslims worldwide – and Islamist extremism. Islam is entirely compatible with British values and our national way of life, while Islamist extremism is not – and we must be uncompromising in our response to it.

Freedom and co-existence, and uncompromising opposition to the Enemy Within. At the same time, her Home Office was implementing its “Hostile Environment”- the actual words they used- to expel British citizens and people with a right to be here, because they had not retained particular paperwork. Records of National Insurance payments were not counted.

Not every country is democratic, and not every country allows people to “lead their lives as they see fit”. Mrs May is an ally to Saudi Arabia, promoting the arms sales which enable the Saudis to bomb Yemen into famine. So her British Values are for British People, not for foreigners, just as the British Empire was a tool of oppression and wealth extraction under a veneer of brotherhood in a “Commonwealth of Nations”. Hypocrisy has always been a British value; and while dangerous humour and satire is, thumbing our noses at those in power, that is international.

In contrast, here are Will Hutton’s Labour values: the recognition and celebration of international interdependence in the pursuit of justice, solidarity and fighting climate change; tolerance of the other and joy in diversity; commitment to equality and enfranchising workers.

I believe in human rights. The Conservatives want to restrict human rights law, by fixing it in 1948 rather than allowing it to be living and developing. They name certain rights granted which they oppose, such as the right of prisoners to vote, or to have some hope of release at some time in the future. They want the European Court of Human Rights no longer to bind UK law. They state in their policy pdf that they want more power to deport people.

When Mr Farage got his country back, after the Referendum, I felt I had lost mine. Now I feel it belongs to neither of us in that way: we cannot demand that it be inclusive, or hostile to Muslims and immigration generally. There are all sorts of people here, each with a voice in stating what their values are.

Trauma in Meeting

How can we accommodate deep hurt in Meeting? My Friend’s question on a facebook thread cuts to the heart of who we are and what we do, as Quakers, in our worship and in our communities.

The heart of who we are is our worship together. We sit together, opened up to God and turned towards the Light. “When two or three are gathered together I am with them.” Someone may be moved to speak, which we hope is the leading of the Spirit, but recognise may be partly from ego. It may immediately strike a chord with another worshipper, or they may need to work with it to find that of God in it. Vibrant conversation may go on after Meeting, teasing out the meaning of ministry and reconciling differing views.

We recognise that we are all growing in God. We are called, justified, glorified. We talk of spiritual growth, or spiritual journeys, though the lessons we learn on them are in a different order for each person. Some people drawn to us will be newly conscious of the journey, and some in our Meetings have a life-long experience of growing in God, living out the Love of God in their actions and relationships. We all have blind spots, hurts, scars, and moments of tiredness when we do what we might regret. We are all made in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful and beautiful.

We appoint elders to take care of the Worship, to foster helpful vocal ministry and sometimes restrain unsuitable ministry, and to uphold the Meeting, though all present are responsible for the meeting.

And we get it wrong. Accepting what is involves sloughing off a great deal of expectation. I find myself going back to my old habits of expectation continually. Words fail: there is only the situation, and me in the situation, and when with words I seek to classify possibilities I only approximate them; and it seems they are two sides of the same coin, to be irritated by what is and to see a way of improving it, or at least something worth trying. Serenity, courage, wisdom is always a difficult balance. Love and forgiveness are continually necessary.

Seek to know one another in the things which are eternal, bear the burden of each other’s failings and pray for one another.

Here we find sorrow and joy, difficulty and overcoming, creativity and achievement. If the encounter with God affects us, our petty ego self, self-concept, pretence, gets stripped away, and there is the full human being, God within shining through, Glorified.

I don’t know about you, but I have good days and bad days. We each need the love, support and help of the whole Meeting.

...

So what happens with trauma? We are all hurt, but someone comes with deep hurt to the Meeting, which we find hard to-

Everyone needs support from the meeting, and generally once we work out what support is needed we are happy to give it. A baby screaming is something else, but a baby chuntering and gurgling is beautiful in a meeting. We do not expect the child to be quiet and are delighted to support the parents and have them among us- if we have flowers on our table, how much lovelier are babies! We build ramps, and install hearing loops.

Sometimes it is more difficult. A Friend found it helped to centre down to knit. The movement of the hands quiets the mind. And others thought this was inappropriate for Meeting. And then there is a discomfort, which needs to be handled. If the Friend who objects to the knitting tolerates it, but is still irritated, they might, out of a belief in their own Spiritual Maturity, suppress the irritation and imagine they were in Acceptance; or they might live with their distress, not wanting to express it and show their own vulnerability and need; then they can hold it no longer, and burst out in anger. Or someone knits, and others whisper together about it.

I have had to leave the Meeting occasionally. I have needed a glass of water to calm a coughing fit. Or I have felt great distress and needed to pace it out in the garden. We are one context where quaking is seen as a sign of healthy humanity, rather than mental illness, but there are limits. My neighbour offered me her hand, and I clutched at it, then regained calm. We are dealing with deep matters. It is all blessing, but sometimes it does not immediately feel that way. There is unknowing, when something is taking time to work out rather than being quickly resolved.

Someone cries quietly in the Meeting. This can be disturbing. The human instinct is to give some consolation, but to expect that will stop the crying.

These are matters of Inclusion and diversity. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Our weaknesses need support so our strengths can flourish and serve.

...

With trauma, a little consolation will not assuage it. The hurt is too deep. Someone might bring pain and anger to Meeting, week after week. What can a Friend do?

Don’t try to bear another’s burdens on your own. It’s not possible unless you are a bodhisattva. Anger must be acceptable in Meeting, or the whole human being is not acceptable. We become trapped in our petty selves, trying to appear acceptable. I feel we need a space for anger and pain to be expressed and heard, not necessarily during worship.

Recognise and state your own needs. Speak them before they become unbearable. Ask the help of the traumatised person. This is a radical statement of Equality, of each person having responsibility for the meeting. There is a problem. How may we deal with it, together? Vulnerability is difficult- the petty-self cannot bear it.

Some may feel a need for rules, and boundaries. I don’t like them. I don’t believe in freeloaders. I became aware that I was on a spiritual path, and one of my first lessons in that awesome month was that all people are doing our best, in difficult circumstances. (If you disagree, talking about it would be our way of showing respect to each other’s insight, trust in the process, and belief we might come to a better understanding together.) Rules are a shortcut when we cannot do any better, a quick way of assigning blame. But we are human beings, in infinitely varied situations, which do not fit words, or rules, closely enough.

Breaking down the barriers

If I had no problems, I’d be miserable.

A green caterpillar had dropped onto my clothes, and was now going round and round my table. It would grasp the table with legs at its rear, and lift its front end, waving it about, trying to sense food. Then it would put its front end down, bend and bring its rear end a few millimetres forward, and lift its front again. This was perfectly rational behaviour, but ineffective as there are no leaves in that room. There’s an Iris Murdoch character who finds a snail somewhere, say Kings Cross, and takes it somewhere else, say Hyde Park, as it needs soil and vegetation.

-Will you take it outside?

In the Still Face experiment, a mother faces her baby, who cannot walk or talk, expressionless. The baby tries to interact, smiling, laughing, pointing to something so she will look as she looked a minute before, but she does not react. The baby quickly gets distressed. In one of the various personal growth email series I accumulate, the exercise was to watch the video and state three emotions the baby was feeling. I thought of perplexity, and one other, but could not think of a third. After about a minute, I thought of fear– and instantly felt huge distress. I interpret this as referring to my own unbearable fear. It is a memory, empathy derived from having had the exact same experience.

With Tina, the problem is to tell her about it, and then I find the barriers. I am talking of other things for fifteen minutes after thinking of it- instead I was enthusing about various things. A Quaker I met in London on Sunday, from California, told me how meditative she found life-drawing. I was excited to hear of a radio programme about people who have no mind’s eye, as I find it hard to explain to people and have not heard of others like me in that way before.

I was fascinated by Salvage magazine: I got a paper copy. An essay argued, pace Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language, that demand for clarity is authoritarian: the idea that a piece of prose would have one meaning which could be discerned by every reader, rather than provoke different minds in different directions, is limiting.

After about a minute of the mother’s still face the baby is distressed, and the mother starts responding again.

-I am wondering what would happen if I didn’t explain to you why I’d started on that, just turned to another matter.

After a long pause I feel hurt, and the thought crossing my mind to stop me articulating my hurt is that I’m making it up. I feel the hurt comes from my early childhood, and the thought is that it could not possibly. As I tell Tina this I am forcing the words out, pausing between each. There is a brake in me, a barrier, against articulating these things.

Then the thought crossed my mind that I should be
facing- current- problems rather than- moping- or-
wallowing

Then the thought that the internal blocks and barriers preventing me from moping and wallowing are for my own good. Yet the exercise of discerning what the baby was feeling during the Blank Face distressed me at that moment. So it is a current problem.

I have two habitual metaphors. One is seeing through my blind spots. How can I see when I don’t even realise there is a blind spot. And the other is breaking down a wall with my head. That’s what this feels like: I have internal blocks and barriers to seeing certain things or seeing them in a particular way and having discerned them I want to break them down.

I NEED YOU TO UNDERSTAND!
THE DISTRESS IS REAL!
THE DISTRESS IS CURRENT!

(I am talking to myself, of course.)

It seems to me that if I can overcome the block I can allow and assuage the distress. Unarticulated distress congeals and haunts me. My attention may heal it- fifty years later.

It felt wonderful to be able to say this to another person. Typing it, even to blog it to anyone who might read it, is comparatively easy. I celebrate that I can see the blocks, see the truth behind them, and articulate it to another. I am making progress. And then I am tired. It is hard work.

I have been here before, of course, considering the blocks, considering the distress of the baby, but I am clearer now.

-Did you feel loved as a child?
I don’t know what I felt as a child
-When did you start feeling?

At University I noticed that I did not know what I was feeling, and around the age of thirty I could articulate strong feelings, sometimes. Strong feelings got through. In childhood I don’t remember noticing feelings, unless extremely strong.

Strange that “unaffected” has the double meaning of not showing emotion, and not pretending it. Why should “simple and unaffected” be a compliment?

The caterpillar had climbed onto my phone, and I took it outside, trying it on various leaves to see if it liked them. I could not hold the phone still relative to the leaf, so the movement of the leaf might repel the caterpillar- so I thought of holding the leaf against the phone, and the caterpillar crawled onto it. This could have been my act of kindness, or just doing the thing in order to see if it were possible, out of interest. The caterpillar could have been a pest, even an invasive one. I want to say I was kind, and I have blocks against that type of claim too.

I was kind. That pleases me.

There. I said it.

Three pigeons

In brilliant sunshine, I watched two pigeons try to chase each other off. Repeatedly they would move from the roof, to the telegraph pole, to the TV aerial, and back.

This looks like preparation for a blow in karate:

Here one strafes the other’s wing:

Attack from above:

The weaker bird flees:

And- the suitor approaches courteously. Alas! She flew off!

Gender free

I love the idea of being “gender free”. People could be themselves, rather than being “masculine” or “feminine”. A gender-free society would liberate everyone, as no-one really fits the stereotypes. However, our society is riven with gender stereotypes, and pressure to conform to them; so, now, gender free could mean consciously resisting such stereotypes, consciously bringing out aspects of the personality which do not conform, and lessening unconscious attempts to conform. Such free people would embolden and empower others to free themselves.

The term apparently came out of gender-critical people objecting to being called “cis”- so there are three categories, transgender who change gender, cisgender who are happy with their gender, gender-free who reject gender. Someone with a EU ring of stars as their profile picture- how much we might agree on, if we met- tweets “I reject gender as a restrictive and damaging social construct. My sex is female and that is enough for me.”

That does not mean that it should be in opposition to trans rights. “Gender-free” people would admit there is a problem with gender as constructed now. Not all people do. Many people are very happy with gender stereotypes. So we could be allies. There is only a problem if one group objects to the other’s way of subverting gender.

But then I looked at twitter, and found something to contradict that. “Gender free” is a new concept, and there is no Authority handing down definitions for it; so different people may define it differently. “Gender free folk are not saying they are exempt from gender norms. They are saying they don’t have a sense of inner gender identity.” That is merely opposed to trans rights, and not (by itself) seeking any change to oppressive gender norms. All I could say to that was, OK, but I have. I am female. And I am feminine.

Here’s another tweet making this a battle when it need not be, from a person with a male name and another ring of EU stars. “Gender is fine as long as it is not a weapon to erase women. Too often it is.” Um. I am unclear how 30,000 trans women could erase 30,000,000 cis (or genderfree) women, and I fear the erasure is going the other way.

I did not create the term, but would hope it might come to mean something which would subvert gender norms without subverting trans rights, or monstering trans people. However that is unlikely, so I hope it will die the death as not a particularly useful term. There is a twitter account “Gender free” which confusingly uses Monica Helms’s transgender pride flag, which I would insert here except it has not been Recommended for General Interchange by Unicode, and is not recognised by wordpress. The twitter account is simply abusive: “Came out as gender free. We are valid” it proclaims, as an attempt to subvert the claim of trans identity. They want to steal our words, and deny us the words we use. If they say “TERF” is a slur, I doubt they would accept COPCOC

completely ordinary people with completely ordinary concerns

as a word to describe themselves. Like Neo-liberalism, theirs is an ideology which seeks to hide by denying the word. “Genderfree” is “@peacetruth”.

I don’t mind calling anyone valid. I am irritated that she would not return the favour.

Transsexual v Transgender

Do the words we use to describe ourselves stop us being truly ourselves?

For me, the word “transsexual” was permission. I wanted to transition male to female. This was a recognised phenomenon: something that people did, often successfully, so I could too. And it was also definition. It involved hormones and surgery, and after going full time I found myself wanting surgery. I waited a year before seeking surgery, and had it ten months after that, privately. More than ten years later, I started to regret it.

The concept allowed me to transition, which made me much happier, which was the thing I wanted more than anything else in the world. Now, I believe that I wanted surgery not because I was innately that sort of human who is really of the other sex so needs surgery, but because of how I understood who was allowed to transition, and what transition meant. I could not get the gender expression without the physical alteration.

So the word was permission, but also constraint. How can I explain this? I wanted surgery, and listening to the psychiatrist dictate a letter recommending it is one of my strongest memories of complete happiness. And now I regret it, and believe that I wanted it as a symbol, the price to pay for transition, not for it itself. Not for how it would make lovemaking different. It altered how I saw myself, but I saw myself as “post-op TS”, having completed the process, rather than “pre-op TS”, having a way to go.

It is possible that there are people who need to transition to be fully ourselves, and a smaller number of those who need surgery to be themselves; and it is also possible that people want surgery to convince themselves and others that they are truly transsexual.

Chest masculinisation is different. It affects how you are seen. I thought the questions were, “Am I transsexual? Will I be happier if I transition?” Now I think breaking it down is useful.

  • Who am I, really?
  • What will enable me to be most fully myself in society?
  • Do I want to change my name?
  • Do I want to change my presentation?
  • Do I want to change my body, and if so, how?

It would not be a box marked “transsexual”, and possibly another box marked “transgender”, but a whole mass of individuals. Changing the body by facial hair removal, taking hormones, surgery, would be assessed according to what they gained for the individual, rather than whether the individual fitted the one box. One change would not mean that another was inappropriate.

The words are permission to do what we want to do, and also a moral goad, to encourage others to treat us in particular ways. I am not some sort of pervert man wanting to ogle women, I am a trans woman, who should be accepted in women’s space. That makes some people enforce the boxes. A “transsexual”, who has had surgery, is tolerable in women’s loos, but a “transgender” M-F who does not want surgery would not be. I hope most people don’t think about it that deeply. I am “a trans woman”, so I can be expected in women’s loos.

I want the acceptance as a woman to go with presentation as a woman, without physical changes. It would be humiliating to endure groin inspections, even if that meant I was admitted. But transition does not necessarily mean acceptance by others, or even by yourself. We can call any objection to our presence in women’s spaces “transphobic” if we like, and a lot of women are on our side, but some still object.

The words we use can make some ways of thinking possible, and others more difficult. Thomas Hobbes, in Leviathan, wrote, Seeing then that truth consisteth in the right ordering of names in our affirmations, a man that seeketh precise truth, had need to remember what every name he uses stands for; and to place it accordingly; or else he will find himselfe entangled in words, as a bird in lime twiggs; the more he struggles, the more belimed. Now, we create new words when we need them, but they should not constrain our acts. And I came across this quote in relation to faithfulness in sexual relationships, but it applies to much more than that: We should be aware that these behaviours are incredibly complex, and are likely to be influenced by many factors, including social and cultural effects, personality, genetics and life experiences.

What I might want to say to Elders

I want to be valued. My gifts, service and essential worth deserve to be valued.

I know it is not good to boast, or speak as a fool, and three times at Greenbelt I organised a valuable outreach event which now, apparently, you can’t. As clerk I opened the space for the group to come to decisions all could accept, after the previous clerk resigned membership having tried to force his own decisions through. I am good with words, as demonstrated by my articles in the Friend and my ministry affecting YM minutes. So I have made a valuable contribution at gatherings of Quakers, on Outreach, on Quaker Life, on LGBT, and on Inclusion.

I want your good, and I dare to imagine that local and area Quaker meetings would be better with me in them. I would like a reconciliation process, involving Friends from outside the AM, to see if I might be enabled to contribute to my meeting with my presence, my Love, articulacy, expressiveness, intellect and other gifts.

So I have to address the difficulties with including me. Some have been explained to me, and some have not. I might do that better face to face than in a letter. The word “dangerous” applied to me shows the strength of feeling, and I do not want to deny that feeling. Nor do I demand that it be articulated and justified; but I feel that our human relationships might be healed, so that the feeling was less strong. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. Andrew does not think anyone fears physical violence from me; possibly it is that you find me doctrinaire or overbearing. Possibly it is discomfiting that I present female and people understand courtesy, or something, to require that I be seen as such, while I behave in such mannish ways. Does my poverty affect how you see me?

Andrew wrote, after reading this, “I was speaking on my own account and not presuming the feelings of others”.

There are diversity and inclusion issues around my exclusion. The YM is considering Inclusion, and this process could be a valuable part of that.

I feel that seeing each other more clearly and admitting our discomfiture deepens community. So a process with the possible outcome of including me again might be good, in many different ways.

I might also be seen as a problem because of the depth of my distress and damage. That is for me to deal with. My meetings have given me a great deal of support, and considering how to be with such distress may be creative and healing. I feel I can contribute to the consideration. How can we be with each others’ pain? How can we be with the whole human being, gift and pain, discernment and blind spots, strength and vulnerability?

Part of the difficulty of committing to such a process, for you, could be concern that you had to justify your decision to exclude me. So perhaps I should justify it. After other incidents, and warnings, I had shouted angrily at your Friend, whom you value. You have the responsibility to work for the good of the meeting, which you sought when you made the decision. However you reassured me that the decision did not immediately affect my membership of the AM, so the question arises, what to do next. I would like to be part of the process of decision. You asked me not to attend, but did not state how long that might apply. These are issues which could fruitfully be addressed.

You might wonder if I fully understand the gravity of my wrongful conduct over the last eight years, how it has affected others, or how problematic that makes my attending meeting. Perhaps I don’t, and that would have to be considered during the process. I doubt I could convince you that I did, by enumerating incidents in a letter. What can I say? I know all that stuff matters. I might not understand quite how much. I may have learned from it, though too slowly. Quakers say, In worship together we can find the assurance of God’s love and the strength to go on with renewed courage. I would like to try that with you.

This is heavy and difficult. I don’t want to minimise the difficulty when I express my desire to engage with it. I want to be valued, and that is for me to address. I am hurt deeply, and it is for me to heal myself. I don’t want vindication, but community. I feel we might bless ourselves and others in a reconciliation process.

Being discombobulated

The doctor makes me feel ill.

Like the battle between trans and terf, the battle between biblical literalists and atheist rationalists continues on the blogs. I blog to get things clear in my mind, and having dismissed creationism to my satisfaction I have moved on. You can’t win against them: they seem happy to continue asserting their rubbish, backed by their tight communities of Evangelicals. They twist and distort. So the truth-teller comments, and they respond in an arrogant way, a beautiful example being the assertion that trilobite fossils offer at least as much proof for the creation/flood scenario as the old age earth cosmology.

I remain proud of this comment: The more I interact with you, Tim, the more I see how pitiable you are. How much more beautiful my world is! I hear words like biostratigraphy or palaeothermometry, and learn what they mean, and think- How wonderful! How beautiful! People are finding these things out! And you think, They must be wrong. It is all rubbish. Here is a dispute and there is an inconsistency, and all scientists are FOOLS!

How much more beautiful my Bible is! My Bible has story, and metaphor, and poetry, and poetic imagery, and allusion. Your Bible has a series of propositions, more or less ridiculous, which you have to Believe. My Bible leads me to God, and your Bible mires you in lies.

And my Christian argument against creationism: God created people in God’s image, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, and scientists seek understanding, assessing the evidence. From presuppositions of a young Earth and a Flood, geologists in the 18th century established evidence of an old Earth, and how the Flood could not have created the strata visible all over the world. They seek the truth. That academic science, involving millions of people, should have produced such a detailed account of the Earth’s history, continually being refined, is one of the wonders of God’s creation. They do so based on evidence in the Earth’s rocks, as astronomers observe electromagnetic radiation falling on the Earth and its satellites, and geneticists, genomes. A God who created all this evidence to delude God’s people would be a monster, creating a stumbling block that uses our good qualities, curiosity and commitment to truth, against us. Alternatively, a God who allowed Satan to deceive us in that way would not deserve my worship. My God does not send ane to Heaven and ten to Hell.

This towering achievement of humanity is airily dismissed. Here that doctor uses the diversity in the oldest evidence of the Cambrian explosion to argue for creation. Schizochroal eyes are indeed complex. But earlier life has been found, in the Ediacaran biota, too soft to create fossils without exceptional conditions. As life began to move on legs and fins, and detect light and sound, an evolutionary arms race began between predators and prey creating the Cambrian explosion. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of eyes. Isaiah quoted by Matthew describes the person who would dismiss that explanation.

And yet this Emergency Room physician dismisses all this evidence, all this analysis, as “Arrogant, prideful and foolish”. He turns his back on the truth. Challenge him, and he will answer you. Anyone wanting to find the truth, or deal with argument fairly, has an impossible disadvantage- for I want to show him the wonders of God’s creation. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. He is a blind guide.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

The cascade of wicked falsity makes me feel ill. He is a physician! He writes in grammatical sentences. I dare to hope that Christians can seek truth together, in love, and his torrent of gibberish, told with a straight face, belies that. I get stronger, though. Yes, people are trapped in delusion, and try to delude others, but also some seek truth, and we can approach it if we are committed to it. When starting this blog I wanted to analyse why I find an arrogant series of assertions, stated as if the speaker believed them but clearly untrue, was so disorientating to me. It is like motion sickness. And I can’t. Why do I find it so unpleasant? I just do.

One of my exercises is the Agreement Challenge: what can you value in something you disagree with? Violet introduced me to his blog, this post. So I was glad to be introduced to this article on how the value of scientific evidence is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. Indeed. I like Violet’s prescriptions for education, and am sad I even considered anything that physician said.

There is a limit to the value of pointing out the foolishness of fools. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the way is to promote birth control and education on human relationships and consent. US Republicans oppose this. We like to think rationality will prevail, but they’re not listening!

I am less discombobulated than I was by such vileness. Yesterday, at a conference I was discombobulated in a completely different way: I glimpsed that if I could better understand what these speakers were saying, perhaps reading the paper rather than hearing it, my understanding of the World would be enriched. Good advice: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I will spend less time worried about wicked rubbish!

You Be You

What happens when you let a child explore their curiosities, predispositions and inner creativity beyond their gender? The answer is clear: they’re allowed to be the best versions of themselves. You Be You is a charity seeking to break down gender stereotypes from primary school level.

They say, “We want every classroom to be a safe, supportive, open environment where children can explore their interests and express their feelings.” That is, they want children to develop as whole human beings, not shamed or restricted for who they are. Because the stereotypes which oppress us are seen as normal or natural, in school and out, teachers need trained to see them and combat them. Now, there is a pilot of their training at two primary schools in London.

Much of this is around empowering girls to be active and assertive. On their news page, there are two articles from May 2017 about girls playing football and girls and the Outdoors. The first article on their useful links is “Girls lose faith in their own talents”, and among the research papers is “Parent gender roles at home and child aspirations”. I am glad I was taught to aspire to university, less glad that my feelings were not valued so I chose the wrong course to do there.

They write, Interventions mostly focus on women and girls, but we need to focus on men and boys just as much. Why don’t more men take a lead role in parenting and go part-time at work? Why don’t more men become teachers and nurses? Why are men more likely resort to substance abuse and violence as a response to stress, anxiety and depression than women? Why are roughly 3/4 of suicide victims men? Both men and women suffer from gender inequality.

Women and girls should not be blocked from achieving, should be able to value their talents and have those talents seen and developed, should be able to be active in any role they choose. Yes! Hurrah! What anyone in this valuable work wants for boys is less clear. We want them happier, more at ease with themselves. But, do you imagine boys cannot be happy following masculine stereotypes? What, none of them? Who do you want to benefit? Aha: If we don’t start teaching boys that it’s ok to express themselves, nurture others, and show vulnerability, we’re never going to chip away at the walls women keep running into in adulthood.

In Resources for parents, there is a list of books, including “Stories for Boys who Dare to be Different”, which includes a picture of Grayson Perry in a frock. The alternative type of hero is a man who checks his privilege and who is kind, selfless, courageous and not afraid to stand up for what’s right.

There is a blog. This has lots of useful stuff, such as a study showing that children whose friendship groups emphasised traditional gender stereotypes were shown to have lower well being than others. Those who chose ‘being tough’ as the most important trait for boys, or ‘having good clothes’ as the most important trait for girls, had the lowest well being of all.

It seems the pilots are about to start. Even in a school full of enthusiastic, creative teachers, and is really committed to supporting the mental health and personal development of its pupils, teaching about “feelings and kindness”, stereotypes remained, including the idea that housework was for females.

Even their own children follow the stereotypes. They don’t fit gay and trans children, but just possibly there may be some “normal” kids they fit. I wonder how much anyone can bring forth the natural child, shorn of stereotype, and how much the training challenges the stereotype whether it is “natural” to the child or not.

I don’t know how much masculinity and femininity are social constructs. Nature and nurture interact like flour and eggs, and girls might be trained to be more assertive- if the nurture is different, and the child remains “feminine”, is that from her, or from other influences the trainer could not control? I have no idea. I know these matters are fiercely disputed. There remain restrictions on women, as on BAME people and LGBT.

I wish them well. I hope a trans child would flourish in the environment they wish to create. I hope none would be told they did not need to transition in this gender-free world, if they asserted they did. In any case, as a child, as a soft apparent boy, I would have benefited from it.

What I probably don’t want to write to elders

The question is, can you trust me. The answer may be No.

If I had wanted to be on time for this meeting I would not have stopped at the parish church to spend some time with God. One likes to talk to ones equals occasionally. I was kneeling at the altar rail, looking at the symbols of death, a plain wooden cross, and power. About one in four of the floor tiles around the communion table have little heraldic lions.

I probably don’t want to talk of quantum superposition, but even if I don’t understand it my idea of it makes a good metaphor. Until you measure them, electrons have several different positions, momentums, and spins, at the same time. Only when they are measured do they have one particular position. The idea of an atom like a solar system with electrons orbiting a nucleus is inaccurate.

In the same way, we look at each other, and evaluate. I look a bit rueful. Can you trust me? It could go either way. If we use words too soon, Continue reading