What I want VII

I want to go out into the world again, from my current state of withdrawal. This terrifies me. I want to be useful.

Then stating what I want gets more difficult. I want not to be noticed. I want to hide. And that has involved suppressing who I am, trying to find and follow rules. It’s difficult because I fear a reaction of incomprehension and disdain for what I say. My working theory is that my personality has been suppressed, and now I want to let it out.

I want to do teenage. Don’t worry too much. You may not even notice. But if you do notice, if it becomes incredibly obvious, I want you to value that. I want to be valued, and really it is for me to value myself; but I find that difficult, and would like help.

These desires are incompatible: I want to Be Myself. Then something happens, and in terror I want to hide.

Write what you want, she said. God this is difficult. A job interviewer gave me feedback that on the standard question of how do you work in a team I only talked of what I could give to it, not what others could do for me.

I want to be valued. I would like help with that. I judge myself harshly, and live in a state of fear, which I cannot bear any more.

I want connection. And, I want- not to be any trouble! Please don’t send me away!

What I want for myself is to find myself in an office environment doing something which might be valued. I can type and file. I can keep confidentiality.

I want to do something which is sufficiently valuable to retain a volunteer, while learning how to be myself in society, rather than trying to suppress or deny myself. I so lack trust in myself that I fear these desires are incompatible. Asked to write what I want, I mull over missing out the bit about self-expression, as if it is enough to make anyone refuse to go near me.

Yet what I want is, self-expression, more than anything else. I never managed to hide myself, not really, when out in the world. I acted according to my character and personality. I just managed to deny it to myself. And I don’t manage to make myself different now, just to suppress my reactions.

The good trans woman

Why do trans women hate each other?

There am I on facebook, where you must be exceptionally careful to have a pleasant experience. Someone on a trans “support” group asks if anyone has any experience with progesterone. Does it improve breast growth? I say that it gave me too great highs and downers to be manageable. Some self-appointed expert said you should only use natural progesterone, not synthetic. I asked her if she could cite journals as authority, and she said I should do the googling, it was not for her to do my research. Someone else said that we both seemed touchy- are we on progesterone? The silly facebook spat ended with her blocking me, and me announcing my delight in that because I would not need to see her comments any more.

So there.

Arguably what she said crossed a line into medical advice. Why do doctors continue to prescribe synthetic progesterone? Why should I believe her? How could I know what is best for me? And, arguably, she was trying to be helpful, though I feel she was mostly concerned to be seen as the expert, the trans who’s been round the block.

Yes, I really dislike her, after a brief interaction on facebook. I know I am being ridiculous.

In the BBC drama “Mrs Wilson”, after the hugely charismatic author Alexander Wilson dies in 1963, his widow discovers he is still married to his former wife, and then that he had a long-term girlfriend who was hanging around the back of his funeral. All three women have children. They find and confront each other. Wife 2 even forges a decree absolute, though as it is not on the register it is easily refutable. She is horrified to see a typewriter in Wife 1’s front room: Wilson spent time with her.

Each of them has an insight no-one else can have into the feelings of the others. I saw their hate, and willed them to weep on each others’ shoulders. Yet each is also the evidence of their husband’s crime, and of their victimhood and disgrace, and they hate each other, and threaten each other, and make demands trying to retain some shred of respectability at the expense of the others.

So with trans women, perhaps especially those of us long-transitioned. We know what each has been through, we can sympathise more fully with each other than any cis person can. Yet when I see her, I see myself; my failure to pass, my hurt, my vulnerability. All that I cannot accept in myself I hate in her.

I am unsurprised, though more hurt, by one’s insistence that she will defend trans rights when appropriate, and not mine.

I am unsurprised by certain trans women’s alliance with the terfs. We are men, says one. We have autogynephilia, say others. They want validation from the cis, at any price. They try to achieve a fragile respectability at the cost of the rest of us. “No, I’m not like them, the bad trans,” they insist. It does not work, but they are so desperate.

We trans women can see each other, more clearly than anyone else can. We should sympathise with each other. But that requires being truthful with ourselves.

Quaker inclusion

Speaking as a white person, I feel it is in the interests of white people among Quakers to listen to BAME voices. We gain a better understanding of the world when we see it through everyone’s eyes, rather than just a narrow range of privileged experience. Last year, I decided I should be more actively anti-racist, and so have read a little, two books and a number of articles so far. For example, this is clearly racist:

-Where are you from?
-Wellingborough, says my Black friend.
-No, where are you really from?

But racism goes much deeper. That question excludes people, but exclusion can be more subtle. We should consider outcomes: if the proportion of BAME people in our Society is less than in the wider society, that may be evidence that subtler forms of exclusion are at work. A Black Friend at the Quaker gathering on Diversity and Inclusion told me over the decades he had lived in Britain, with a white wife, that a third of white people were supportive, a third hostile and a third could go either way. He needed the support of the supportive third to be able to bear the hostility of the others.

Black people do not have the luxury of being “colour-blind”, so nor should we whites. They are intensely aware of the prejudice and social friction making it more difficult for Black people to fulfill their potential, and so should we be, actively to oppose it. They may also not want whites to be blind to distinctive cultural contributions which can enrich lives.

We had excellent speakers. Edwina Peart, the Quaker diversity and inclusion project co-ordinator, who is Black, introduced Robert Beckford, Professor of Theology and Culture in the African Diaspora, who is Black. She enumerated many of his achievements and cultural contributions: the assumption that the privileged white male speaker is worthy of his platform is not always extended to others. He comes from a Pentecostal tradition where the Spirit moving in the congregation is manifest in movement, speech and song, unlike Quakers where deep feeling may be indicated by a slight tightening of the hands folded in the lap. This announcement brought out some self-conscious whoops from the audience. He explained that Black people do not talk of “Diversity”, which is top-down; rather they talk of “Whiteness”. He is expert in Critical Whiteness Studies. Whiteness is a social construct, which can exclude some of us: the pseudoscientist John Bedloe (sp?) measured British skulls, formulated an “index of negrousness” and decided that the Irish were closest to the Negro. Such hierarchies and sense of superiority underpinned the exploitation, cruelty and destruction wrought by the British Empire.

Professor Beckford went to a new post, and someone approached him to ask if it was his first day there. When he said yes, he was led to the kitchens to scrub potatoes. When he had finished his talk to us, another eminent academic stood to state the insights he shared were replicated in critical gender studies. The sex difference has been invested with cultural meaning, which needs deconstructed.

I am trans, and I am delighted that Trans inclusion was at the heart of the weekend. When our elders stood to welcome us on the Friday evening, they welcomed all genders and identities first, then all ethnicities and languages. After they mentioned “disability” someone talked of “impairment”, which is a physical or mental state; “disability” arises from the way social space is organised, to facilitate or impede all people moving through it, and is socially constructed. There was a long list, including different sexualities, faiths, ages, levels of activism. They said we welcome your emotions, joy, grief, rage, indignation, contentment and disappointment. They offered us a chance to name other diversities, and people named different social classes and backgrounds, and routes into the Society. I named “disagreement”, feeling it important to be able to live with differing views. Someone named Romany heritage.

Quaker history mentions our Abolitionists, and Samuel Galton, disowned in 1795, is less well known. He had been in the Society for decades as a successful gun manufacturer, and refused to give that up, arguing that the whole of British society, including many Quakers’ trades, was based on war and war-preparation.

Edwina Peart introduced intersectionality. Where do we find That of God? Who is erased? If Black men are excluded from an audience for prejudiced fear of their violence, but white men and black women included, we may only prove the discrimination by properly describing it. In Quaker history she could not find celebrated Black Quakers.

What identities can you bring, and which can be named modest-proudly, or need asserting, or might cause nervousness? When someone said they were exploring Paganism I was keen to talk of Quakers interested or involved in Paganism, to make her feel welcome. I want to pass as educated middle class, to fit in and have my voice heard; yet I do not want to deny I am a benefit claimant. When well-intentioned Quakers state “We are all” old, prosperous, middle-class, white, Quakers who do not fit that description can feel excluded.

We should set aside our ego before speaking in Meeting, including business Meeting. We should not have to set aside our life-experience or our personalities.

There was disagreement. Even in the final Meeting for Worship, questionable ideas were expressed which tend to increase prejudice against trans folk, particularly trans women. I stood and remonstrated. I am not proud of all I said, or the way I said it before walking out, but I said that worship had ended for me at that moment. Someone has said to me, many Friends agreed the previous speaker ended the worship. I still hope Quaker processes can find a way to ease this tension.

More on the weekend tomorrow.

Pain

If you share your pain, you risk three possible responses:

  • So what?
  • Deal with it.
  • Prove it.

And, there are other possibilities:

  • You gain sympathy, which is different from pity
  • Others agree there is injustice here, and they will work with you against it.

I feel better after sharing my pain if someone says, yes, that should not have happened. You were wronged. That was a mistake. They should have known better.

Eventually I deal with my pain. I suffered sustained bullying at work for six months. I can describe it mostly unemotionally now. It stripped me of self-confidence at the time. It was more than ten years ago. Yet the first three responses leave me vulnerable. If I describe what happened, I want my hearer to accept what I say. Challenges reopen the wounds.

My poet friend said that when she had processed pain, she could use it in her art. She can go on stage and express the feelings which the incidents evoked, and communicate them to an audience- an authentic theatrical experience, a whole room feeling with the performer- because she has processed it. She cannot until she has processed it. The healed pain can be catharsis for the hearers. We feel with the performer, and deal with our own pain, or, we feel with her and gain empathy, gain a broader understanding of what it is to be human.

Yesterday I knelt to meditate, and thought, what am I feeling? Hope. I immediately started second-guessing it. It is after playing Metamorphosis III, which rather than being bright and beautiful is the blaring bombast of the Dictator. Well, maybe it is and maybe it isn’t; maybe it is an arrangement of chords which can be interpreted as you wish, the harsh sun on the desert or a unique move not in other music. I felt hope, and possibly it was authentic.

Yet sharing pain, at whatever risk, can bring together opposite sides. We see the other as human. There they are, doing their best under difficult circumstances, and our heart goes out to them.

Amos Oz was a child in Jerusalem at the end of the British Mandate, and he was a child hurling stones at soldiers with rifles. It was, he said, the first Intifada, which translates as “shaking off”. Now children throw stones at soldiers, and their oppression is his oppression.

I want to make the thing that hurt me impossible, so that I will never again feel that hurt. It cannot be done. As long as we are alive we may be crushed. I want to heal your hurt without sublimating myself.

Dammit. Put down the shield of your rage! The shell crushes and isolates even as it protects.

Are you safe?

I looked down into Cerys’s face as she breastfed. My mirror neurons got to work: the profound contentment and relaxation I read there flooded me for a moment. Her happiness was my happiness. Then I looked away, and the trance lifted. I was back in the room, bewildered by the strength of that feeling.

It was lovely to meet C, who reads Sartre plays in French “for fun” and apologised for not reading The Master and Margarita in the original, who enthused about studying different choreographers and gave me time for my own enthusiasm. And F, who works with people long term sick, trying to get them moving. Not back into work, they don’t manage that often, but into training. She mentioned training for fork-lift truck driving, which made me think of a sudden flood of unemployed fork-lift drivers, and for unskilled labouring, training called “basic work skills” telling people they had to get to work on time. It was a pity that she was sitting listening rather than telling more. Two women, making their way and doing worthwhile things.

Privilege is believing everything will turn out all right. The world as it is fits you. If nothing bad can happen, then you can take risks. If you are not worried about imminent threats, you can make long-term plans. That sense of safety is empowering. If you trust your society, you move freely in it.

I am blogging again, thinking as I write, seeking to unite that sense of safety and the feeling it evokes with a rational sense of the actual threats, and with tolerance or campaigning against wrong, with particular reference to trans issues as always. Consider my friend Fiona, who cross-dressed habitually and often, and went out dressed female. I thought she looked ridiculous, but she thought she passed well: once, a teenager called out “Wig!” which led her to reason that had she read her as trans, she would have called that out too. Once she spent a week cross-dressed, and was utterly sick of it by the end.

I don’t think she would do much harm in a women’s loo. She would go in, use it, wash and dry her hands, leave, like most people. She is not protected by the Equality Act, she shouldn’t be in a women’s refuge or a women’s prison, but she does no harm. Or a gender non-conforming or gender non-binary person, AMAB, not trying to pass as a woman, wants to try on a top in the women’s section so goes into the womens’ changing rooms. Well, there are individual cubicles, so they won’t see anyone undressed and nor will others see them. Great Hoo-ha in press. “I tend to use whichever changing room is nearer,” said my AFAB friend.

Three pairs. Do you object to Fiona in the Ladies’?

There’s that privileged sense that all’s right with the world, and a woke “You will not trample on our rights” resentment of it motivating action.

There’s a sense that society generally supports me, and so it’s going to be alright, and experience that it doesn’t, so that I have to support myself and my rights. The comfortable cis woman can include Fiona as part of her in-group. The woke feminist oppressed by patriarchy won’t.

There’s an optimistic way of looking at opportunities, and a pessimistic concern with threats.

There’s also making your own decision about a threat, and following blindly when the hard Right tells you to punch down on some group.

What is going on with the trans debate? How do I bring those strands together and make them work for inclusion? How do I understand where my opponent is coming from, and bring us together? There is such a thing as society– how can there be a “we” here?

Cerys, sitting on her mother’s knee and just starting to sit up by herself, not yet crawling, has a super-power. She can make adults around her blissful by showing contentment, or distracted by her cries. I don’t know her or her mother, and was affected instantly. There is a clear evolutionary advantage to this, I see. We are bound to each other in sympathy and interest, and split apart. Cerys is safe, with her mother and father and community caring for her. One of the problems we face in the terrible Twos is that our joy and grief no longer have that power, automatically- so how to preserve it? By privilege, by community and by Righteous Truth.

How can there be room in the World, for two people who disagree? How might both of them be safe?

The inner dialogue

The mental health support sees me for six weeks, and at the start and end give a questionnaire, asking how often I feel in particular ways- depressed and hopeless, lacking motivation, that sort of thing; not at all, hardly ever, up to every day. At the end, you could whizz me into a temporary state of optimism and I would give better numbers. The numbers make it look objective and patient led, but it is not, really. So there has been no improvement, but the records show that there has, and that’s a win.

Why would you think of the meanness and negativity yesterday, and perhaps in the above paragraph (it seems rational when I’m there) as a distinct inner voice? Why not as a mood?

Possibly it would be a different neuronal circuit, but I could not know. It feels like the different “moods” can be in dialogue, or at least argument, or manifesting together. And thinking of them as different voices, I imagine balance may be possible. If it is simply a bad mood, simply negative, I have to snap out of it. If it is an inner voice, it has its part in the dialogue, I can listen to it and gain from it and even be led by it where appropriate.

Why would suppressing it be a bad thing, denying a voice to part of me, using my energy to self-suppress not self-express, rather than managing my mood to stop me spiralling into darkness?

I need to at least investigate that possibility. It is a way of seeing aspects of the truth which I might not see from another perspective/inner voice/mood. Possibly it just demotivates and gets in the way of seeing opportunities. At worst, investigating it, I would be feeding it so that it had more control in me. This article says the positive and negative are separate circuits in the brain- distinct, they could indeed be in dialogue- citing this, whose abstract does not confirm it but the article might.

But I do not run from threats. I seek understanding. That is important to me, and when something is important to me and I see a way forward I seek it, wholeheartedly. This is an affirmation of my gifts which I believe, and find easier to say now than before. Rather than plunging into darkness, I feel I am rebalancing. Parts of me I suppress I am bringing out, to get a better equilibrium, a more integrated self.

Being in a low mood, because of that email- “our friendship has run its course”- I noticed the inner critic being hysterical. I did something unimportant, then wondered if I had made a mistake with it- “another idiotic failure”. Well, I hadn’t made that mistake, and if I had it would not have mattered much, and so the inner critic was clearly wrong.

I could have maintained that friendship, perhaps, if I had gone full-on campaigner against trans rights. I really cannot afford to lose friends, but that would have been too much.

I do not feel I am achieving enough, but that may be too great self-criticism. Not working can be a good thing.

I will be away for the Quaker Diversity weekend. Queers, Blacks and the working classes, getting together for a moan, with perhaps a few cis white heterosexual educated prosperous males agonising about their privilege. The way to deal with my own privilege may be (irony ALERT!) to think that, even though this person is in a wheelchair, they may have something worthwhile to say.

-It sounds like there’s motivation to go to that, she said. Which parts of you-? And I answered a different question, about why I wanted to go somewhere else. It’s interesting to see the question I dodged. Well, I anticipate the joy of meeting other people with similar concerns and talking about them, with infectious enthusiasm building insight together. I anticipate learning and thinking, increasing my understanding and possibly changing my mind. I anticipate joking and saying wise loving things and having them appreciated. I anticipate connection.

Now I’ve got to listen to you talking

I start playing the piano, and wonder why I stopped. This is really beautiful. And then-

Oh No! The Difficult bit!

Ah. That’s why I stopped playing. But then I go back to it, and decide slowing it down and getting the notes then trying to speed it up can’t do me that much harm. It’s Metamorphosis by Philip Glass. It is hypnotic. It is up to me to make it expressive, and the difficult bit, in part two, is scintillating. My muscles are out of practice, and my wrist hurts a bit. Strengthen that fourth finger! I might- play for a few minutes, frequently in the day; explore the rest of the parts; hear it on Youtube to get another’s ideas of expressiveness.

And then after I have an emotion, and it is so intense I do not know what it is, just feel the intensity. Something I cannot admit to myself. I do not want to go outside because I do not want to respond to beauty, and be noticed. Even if it were Delight, the intensity of the feeling is painful.

There is the experience, of the beauty, wonder and difficulty, and the direct communication from the composer’s soul of music new to me, and then there is the Internet. Twenty years ago we could both read the same story in The Guardian, on paper, and have our own ideas about it, but now there is the Comments thread, where I see your disagreement pungently expressed- lol just listen to yourself!- then anxiously note how many upvotes the comment and reply each get. Trans excluders get lots more votes than trans women.

You can’t completely no-platform anyone, because someone wants to read what they say- this blog has had 321,333 page views in 2011-2018- and wordpress, youtube and other platforms are available, where you can say it at great length- this blog had 2532 posts in the same period. When a man got a pet dog to respond to the command “Seig Heil” and one much viler by raising its right paw, and posted it on Youtube, he was convicted for “gross offence” under the Communications Act. He stated he only wanted seven friends who follow his channel to see it, but it went viral. Now his channel has grown from eight to 389,726 subscribers. At the trial, Ephraim Borowski, director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, said joking about the Holocaust normalised antisemitism.

Offensive content gets views. It is like a chimp throwing excrement, piquing the interest of bored children at the zoo.

I took the title from this post from a line by Louis CK of such stunning cruelty and vileness I do not want to quote it. It’s here, if you really must. The wanker used to do left-wing comedy, but having admitted to getting his dick out in company and wanking into a pot-plant, he may think that he won’t get that audience, so is doing right-wing shockery instead. The bit I’ve quoted, though, is true. I saw Star Wars Ep VII on the telly recently, and had avoided spoilers because I did not care that much, so one of the deaths was quite shocking, but anything I do care about I will see things that offend me- all those comments on Brexit and trans issues on the Guardian. I could just go to places on facebook where my views on trans will be affirmed. Pug Salute Man has built up his audience from people actively seeking out offence, probably of groups they despise, and if he disparages Jews he will attract antisemites.

There are various disparaging terms for objecting to such stuff, and my favourite is “Pearl-clutching”- the elderly lady in pearls is shocked, and if you are too you are no more resilient, aware or worldly-wise than she is. An alternative is turning away in weary disgust, but I remain perturbed at all those angry, self-righteous people, and what they might do together if someone wielded their common resentment for destructive ends- like the Brexit vote, perhaps. There is much more political engagement, and most of it is angry, frustrated and divisive, of people hurling their comments at each other and winding each other up, or reassuring their look-alikes that their anger against trans, affirmative action, Remoaners, whatever, is just and true. It’s as if there used to be just septic tanks processing each individual household’s sewage, but now a sewer takes it all into the common river.

The Right encourages disgust and derision at their opponents, but that is not open to me. Louis CK meant that quote in bitter contempt. No, he’s not going to listen to anyone who does not echo him. I mean it in utter sincerity. I must listen in order to understand, and somehow remain unbesmirched by the sewer flood.

This evening I will enjoy Luther on the telly. It’s a police drama, but the murders are long-drawn out, involving torture and sadism, and the wicked kill on a whim. The policeman breaks all the rules because the killer must be stopped. It’s the fifth series, and as The Guardian said, you get the feeling that the cast are really enjoying themselves. Perhaps it helps us with political life on the internet, which might keep me in a febrile state of constant emotional arousal, hoping for likes and page-views, enraged about something which happened in Airdrie. Oh, that’s just normal. My responses are deadened, so that I can be aware of greater vileness and remain functional. It must not mean that I am drawn into the vileness myself. I must retain my capacity for empathy, or I am diminished.

And then there’s something real, like Metamorphosis, and I am overwhelmed by its beauty.

Conversations at the Transvestite club

After taking my clothes off in front of you, how should I start a polite conversation? I only used the changing facilities, a cramped crowded room, once: after that, I always drove down dressed. I don’t think I thought about it at the time, it did not register as peculiarly unpleasant, and it felt a bit of a risk to be leaving my home dressed female, but I only used the changing room once.

I found the Ebstorf Map here, and it bowls me over. The header picture shows Scotland at Jesus’ feet, on the edge of the World. Sometimes I find faces in illuminated manuscripts indistinguishable, sometimes strangely expressive of I-don’t-know-what. East is at the top of the map, and Eden is East of India.

I think I met Barbara at my first visit to Northern Concord. A wonderfully generous, kind, and deeply hurt woman, she quickly became a friend. She proposed wandering the streets of the Village, and visiting the other pubs, and though even Concord, unfamiliar, didn’t seem a particularly safe space yet, I went.

Jerusalem was always at the centre of the World. It is just east of Italy: I can work out few of the names and the arrangement is strange, but I see Sicilia. Are those Greek islands? The Mediterranean is hardly wider than the rivers.

Others became my friends, all of whom decided to transition. I realised that we had approached friendship from an unusual angle: normally you would start talking about indifferent subjects, and the weather is the clichéd English choice, then what we think, what we feel, getting deeper as the process worked. At the club, we talked of cross-dressing, which was deeply significant for us, emotive, personal, and to make a friend we still had to do the work of building up a relationship. When her son was diagnosed as autistic, the minister was so relieved, as her wife had been accused of causing his strangeness by her coldness. She was not to blame.

I had an aborted conversation this week. The man was introduced to me as an author of science fiction. I said I liked some science fiction, and named Iain M Banks, though not Octavia Butler or Margaret Atwood. It was a weak gambit. He said yes, Iain M Banks is quite good. I drifted off. I have no idea whether he is internationally famous, or unpublished. So here am I talking of the Ebstorf Map, a thing I find beautiful and wonderful, hoping to entice you into concord. Don’t you find it fascinating? What do you notice in it? Here at the far South is Africa. I note the people there are naked, and pale skinned.

Though Jesus is quite dark, and the colours may have faded over eight hundred years. That’s His hand, over the encircling Sea. Conversation is a risk: We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.

I really enjoyed meeting you, in probably the worst way to start a friendship with my friend’s wife. I got undressed- that’s the best metaphor I can think of for a counselling session in which I decided to participate fully, showing my divided self, all the different voices within me, to someone who is pleasantly professional. Revealing herself would not be therapeutic. So now I may meet you socially, and have to find some way of making your acquaintance. I feel I am at your mercy, which I find uncomfortable, being a controlling person.

The Ebstorf Map, an alien and familiar way of seeing the World. Is it not glorious?

Lobster

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

I hear that lobsters’ shells do not grow. Rather the lobster hides under a rock, sheds its old small shell, and grows another. It never thinks to itself, “Oh, I need a new shell, and that looks an excellent rock”. Its need, sensation, desire, feeling and action are all one. Possibly it knows its territory and has tucked away in some dedicated dendrites the location of a suitable stone, possibly it has time to find one. Possibly its need for a new shell conflicts with other needs, but it makes no decision. You can’t imagine a lobster under a rock, and its mates come past and say, “Fancy a pint?” And the lobster says, “I’m changing my shell”. And its mates say, “Pull the other one! You said that last month, but that shell has lots of mileage left. You’re embarrassed by what the bar staff did. They’ve forgiven you!” And the lobster says, “I’m changing my shell”.

There are no silent seas, even if mermaids don’t sing. The currents rush past, the whales cry, and the sonar is deafening, and the engines of the great ships loaded with oil or containers are deafening. The silent sea is a dream of a more comfortable place, which does not exist. So we find comfort in this one. I may see myself through others’ eyes. “I am taken aback by how insightful you are,” said one. I went to look it up, I had remembered it as “wise”. It is worth remembering, even if one has more insight on others’ problems than ones own, like the “Ten ways to keep your relationship vibrant” article by the thrice-divorced man.

And I value my care and attention. I was insightful because I cared about them, admired them, wished them well, gave them my attention. I value my joy. It is communicable. I see the beauty of the tidal river’s strong flow upstream, and of Orion overhead as I cycle at night, and the joy is in me, and I can use it to make the world better. There is so much to feed my joy. Eye-contact with the cashier as I took my groceries away and I had a boost cycling up that steep hill from the postman’s cheery encouraging: “You’re nearly there, Miss Flourish!”

Sometimes desire, feeling and action are all one, and all the feelings are right. Sometimes words mediate judgment, and I find the right way that way. Words help me balance future with now, but ants do that without words, says Aesop.

Valued only a little by another, I can value myself. Sometimes I do not realise how others value me, and sometimes

treasure, appreciate and admire

Oh! I would make excuses- even going about as blindly as I have you see stuff in twenty extra years- and yet-

If there might be a “we”, that “we” would appreciate beauty together, for it moves your heart as it does mine, and you see it and have the words for it. Dance. Enjoy words. If there were a we, we would warm each other. “Know that you are loved,” one would say, and the other would

glow.

There is a We. It is a blessing and a source of joy.

Hello.

Quaker diversity

Edwina Peart is measuring how diverse Quakers are. A friend thought the survey badly designed. Rather than the tick-boxes I see on job application diversity forms, there is a blank for whatever words you wish. So if she is measuring how many working class people there are in the Society, she first has to decide what the words used mean.

Class is difficult. George Orwell called himself “Upper-lower-upper middle class”. I think of myself as “lower-middle” class, which for me is a matter of attitudes ingrained from my upbringing. People are capitalists through their pension funds or savings, as well as workers. Pierre Bourdieu defined social, economic and cultural capital: Social capital is the resources you gain from being part of a social network and social groups; cultural capital is non-economic resources such as knowledge, skills and education; economic capital is money. I was familiar with five classes with class C divided between C1 and C2, but a BBC social survey resulted in seven classes from Elite to Precariat.

We still think of class as a matter of family origin as well as current status. Family origin affects social and cultural capital, both the groups you are in and the ways of relating that show your membership. My Friend from a family of miners was in an association of working class academics, and felt that social signifiers she had or lacked disadvantaged her in her profession.

The survey question is “How do you define your socio-economic status (class)?” It could produce all sorts of answers- by origin or current income/savings, or in terms of the five letters or new seven classes. To approximate a quantitative result, you would have to assign those verbal answers to a particular box before counting the boxes.

The survey will not confirm or deny the statement “Quakers are all middle-class”- which can feel excluding to those of us who are not, even if the speaker is lamenting the fact. It can be an expression of those social signifiers, the subconscious ways we decide who is most comfortable to talk to. It may give an idea of how we think of ourselves rather than an objective view.

I found out about the survey from the AM assistant clerk Membership. I don’t see how it can be a representative sample if it is voluntary, and publicised haphazardly.

For sex there is the Tabular Statement. The word “other” produces an element of uncertainty: I have said I want to be classified as “Woman”, but some trans people would definitely be “Other” and some would be revolted by the idea. You might be uncomfortable classifying the Attenders in your meeting, but some people might not want to be asked. It can be unpleasant putting these matters of identity into words. They are implicit, in our body language and our relations, but not stated.

Most people mould ourselves to fit the social groups we belong to, minimising our differences. Differences which should not be relevant in a worshipping community matter to us.

The survey asks “How would you describe your gender?” It asks for “gender”, not “sex”, and some say they are different: sex is a matter of reproductive organs, gender is cultural, so my gender is “feminine” rather than “woman”. The survey won’t produce numbers, so much as different stories of where some people are.

I am a trans woman, but don’t really want classified as one. See me as a person, not by that characteristic. There is some latent transphobia in the Society. No-one will refuse to worship with a trans woman, but some trans women have left, or been ejected. Being trans affects the way I am in any dispute with others. It affects the way I am seen.

If as a white person I said “Quakers are overwhelmingly white” that could seem excluding. I love YM. I can start a deep conversation with almost anyone. I spoke to a man with a different skin colour, and that was not his experience. Do we feel “colour-blind” while in fact being slightly less open to talking with people of colour? We would not ask the “Where are you from, no, where are you really from?” question; are you as open with all Quakers you meet for the first time, or does colour or class make subtle differences? I have heard that “colour-blind” is impossible for a person of colour, for you wonder how important your own colour is to the people around you.

I fear I am less open with people of colour, and my self-consciousness might make it so. I know diversity is of value to the Society, for different voices, different perspectives, different experiences enrich our common understanding. And groping for understanding, when hearing another I try to find what in my own experience fits what they are saying. Hearing that difference is difficult.

It asks national identity. Mine is Scots, as I was brought up there; English, as I had an English parent and have lived in England for many years, and British. I don’t know whether any other Quaker would specifically name those three, or whether there is a relevant difference between me and someone putting Scots and English, or British.

The survey will unearth some of the stories that we tell, and perhaps a quantitative survey would not attain the objectivity it pretends to. You can take it here.