An “Adult human female”, and toilets

I am in another city for the weekend, and visit the Quaker meeting. In the lobby, people are chatting, relaxed, before meeting. As someone takes off her back-pack, I see the sticker on it: “Woman, n. Adult human female.” I then go into meeting for worship, where the convention is that we sit still and quiet.

My body is still, but my mind is racing. Now is not the time to stand in ministry, but I imagine doing so. I might say, “I am a Jew, and someone here has a swastika sticker on their backpack”. That’s how I feel: the campaign group portraying trans as Bad and Scary, and making trans the Outgroup to protect the Good People from, so that “defensive” violence is legitimised against us, includes Rupert Murdoch, Ron DeSantis, JK Rowling, Viktor Orban, Joanna Cherry, Rishi Sunak and that woman, and I am scared.

Or I could go to my Trump Card. Yearly Meeting 2021, Minute 31: “We seek to provide places of worship and community that are welcoming and supportive to trans and non-binary people who want to be among us. Belonging is more than fitting in.” I do not feel welcome. But I do not like trump cards: her trump card would be “humans are sexually dimorphic”, that is, my delusions should not impinge on other people. But, from inside it does not feel like delusion. Trump cards only work in a zero-sum game.

But that woman does not conform to feminine gender stereotypes. I bet she’s been challenged going into women’s loos, or knows someone who has. She’s campaigning to make her life worse.

I think of sharing past distress: lying weeping, curled in the foetal position, repeating “I am not a man”. Ah. I am thinking of my distress in the past. Emotions now come into consciousness sometimes through story. Perhaps I am distressed.

I am distressed.

I sit with this, in silence, for an hour. Someone ministered, and I cannot now remember what they said. By the end, I have two words: “contingent welcome”. I want my Friend with the sticker also to feel welcome here. Is there anything someone feels they could not bring to the Quaker meeting? Is our welcome contingent on hiding parts of ourselves? What parts of yourself do you feel might be unwelcome in Meeting?

I need all of me- my transness, my sensitivity, my potential for being triggered- to be welcome in the Quaker meeting.

After Meeting I stayed for the business meeting. There is a great deal from Finance and Property. YFGM had signs on loos: “stalls with bins” and “stalls and urinals”. They marked the disabled toilet “All-gender toilet”. Should this meeting follow suit, “recognising the Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act”?

The GRA is irrelevant. It seems the false interpretation of the Equality Act has infected their understanding.

I feel threatened when someone alludes to or asserts that false interpretation. Trans exclusion turns my life upside down. Now, I feel excluded from amateur running, even fun runs- I might be classified as “male”.

The reason for marking a loo “stalls with bins” is that marking it “women” (or “Merched”, which I did not understand the first time I saw it) seems like a rule- particular people only. “Stalls with bins” is a description, so that people can use whichever fits their needs. Arguably, men’s loos should also have bins in case trans men need them. Disabled loos should always have sanitary bins.

Such a change would need careful explanation to the cis, so that they could know in advance how alienating any objection they made would be to a nonbinary person.

Or, the disabled toilet could be marked “All-gender toilet”. That’s for nonbinary trans. I am binary trans. I am a woman. I use women’s loos. Of course. Then the nonbinary person does not have to use a loo marked “men” or “women”, so is not pressured to define themself other than nonbinary by the signs on loo doors. There is a great deal of other social pressure to define as binary. Anything we can do to reduce that social pressure is a good thing.

Should there be a sign on the all-gender toilet that disabled people have priority? They need the raised toilet and the support rails around it. No. Such a sign implies the disabled person’s need for that loo is more real, or more important, than the nonbinary person’s. I see the temptation: disabled people are also systemically devalued.

But, but- what if some vile anti-trans-campaigner man, say Graham Linehan, goes into the women’s loo offensively shouting that he can call himself a woman if he likes? Deal with that if it happens. Rules can only protect us up to a point.

I want the Friend with the sticker welcome in her Quaker meeting. And, that cannot come at the price of my needs. My needs matter and are not to be dismissed in some “objective” way- humans are sexually dimorphic, whatever. With my internalised transphobia lessening, I might need less help to assert my own needs, but I still need help.

And the second half of this post, on toilets, is my happy place. I have been explaining as calmly, clearly and winsomely as I may the precise considerations around trans inclusion in toilets. I like writing. This patient intellectualising makes me feel safe.

Impressions of Yearly Meeting 2023

Alighting from the carriage in the crowds, I want to get to the ticket barrier as soon as possible. I am irritated by people walking slowly, and overtake if I can. So I get to the barriers a few seconds earlier. I realised I am walking rapidly because I am anxious. I habitually suppress signs of anxiety so I am not consciously aware of it: it only shows through my actions. The next time I was there, I paused to look around me.

This is my place. I belong here.

As I passed the piano, a young man- twenty? As I get older, seeing the precise age of younger people gets more difficult- played the first three chords of the Rachmaninov C# minor prelude, and I stopped to listen. Unfortunately the first three chords were all he could manage. He suggested I play something, and I played the Chopin C minor prelude. This got me to start playing the Rachmaninov again. I would like to play it without the score, as I used to.

I dropped off my case at my Friend’s house, and went to the National Gallery to see Les Parapluies, by Renoir. I got a stool and sat before it, considering the relationship between the two girls, and their- mother, I think, rather than nanny. The woman on the left is a milliner’s assistant, with a hat box, says the caption. I started talking with a woman who had also come to see Les Parapluies, she told me. We considered the young man looking over the milliner’s shoulder.

Art opens me up. I am more in the moment, more aware of feelings and bodily sensations, and my surroundings. I am in the place I am, rather than trying to get somewhere else.

To Friends House. The assistant clerks welcome and hug me, and we talk a little. In the café I see my Friend, who shows some sign of anxiety. I describe Les Parapluies, and he looks it up on his phone. Oh, yes, the man’s definitely coming on to her, pursuing her. She shows some distress.

More Friends, more loving conversation, then in to the Large Meeting House, or the Light. This is my place. I belong here. I feel completely at home. I hear the long, careful minute-taking of the nominations. I am in worship.

Next morning, walking through the long pedestrian tunnels of the Victoria Line, I check. Yes, I am probably anxious. I repeat to myself as I walk: This is my place. I am safe here. This is my place.

People here tell me they love what I write- my articles in The Friend, my essay in the Friends Quarterly. One has read it three times! I am delighted. I chat to more accomplished writers. I do not have, yet, something to say that is worth the 20,000 words of a Quaker Quick. I hope to. One stands on Saturday afternoon and talks of the Society’s declining membership. I note how here I am considerably younger than the average, though there are beautiful, vital Friends in their twenties and thirties here too.

I could not remember, on Monday, what we had discerned on Saturday. Oh, yes, considering the structure of central committees QPSW and Quaker Life. I do not have any position on this, but as we upheld the clerks writing the minute, I loved the sense of worship. I felt there was a sense of sadness there too, though I may be projecting: over dinner my retired lawyer Friend thought that ridiculous.

As I understand it, Meeting for Sufferings discerned that Vibrancy workers, now called Local Development Workers, should be appointed for the whole YM, and referred that to trustees. The triennium ended, and a new MfS was appointed. Trustees reported on the local development workers, and some of MfS were affronted. Why were they not making this decision? To me, it seemed some still felt trauma from this. As a former lawyer, I had the idea that MfS should make the decisions as led, and trustees should implement them- which would mean making a myriad decisions, and still provide potential for friction. You cannot make a clear rule which will ensure nobody will feel such trauma ever again. We can only do our best in love. But it is very tempting to try to draft such a protective rule, rather than accept our unknowing. Rules can protect us to an extent. Faith, trust and Love are better protection.

I may be mistaken, but it seemed to me at one point the clerk was comparing herself, unfavourably, to a Perfect Clerk who exists only in her imagination.

In meeting for worship for business, there is the great joy of coming together over Equal Marriage, but we cannot avoid perplexity and disagreement. I found parts of the discernment distressing and I love the final minute on this. I do not like the epistle. It is too confident for my liking. I made a Friend laugh when I said, “If you did not know what the phrase ‘Metropolitan Elite’ meant-“ I don’t think it captures all that was there.

The epistle says we can provide leadership. I would prefer “walk alongside”- we have a lack of hierarchy among us, which could be our gift to the world. We will attract people who love what we say and do.

On Monday morning I thought, if “This is my place”, then all of me, all my beauty and sensitivity, belongs here.

I am safe here.
That means my whole sensitivity and love is safe here,
because I am nothing without my love and sensitivity.
I am safe enough.

I picked up my case, and left the building, without pausing to talk to anyone. On the wall in the garden is a beautiful enigma, eating her sandwich. She is perhaps the most intelligent person I have met, of strong will, capable of determined action where no-one else yet sees the point of it, and wonderfully contained. I joined her. Having been a clerk, she sees the meeting as a clerk would, and might go to talk to the clerk. She asked, has the yearly meeting been good for me? Oh, yes. Utterly, utterly wonderful.

A Quaker diversity statement

Should Quakers produce a diversity statement? What makes you uncomfortable in your Quaker meeting? What restricts your ability to be fully yourself? How can we accept the full humanity of each of us?

If a meeting is to draft a diversity statement, we need to be clear who it is for. Addressing outsiders, we need to be clear about what is description and what is aspiration. If it is for us, we should be aware if we fall short of it.

The policy should take account of privilege and systemic prejudice. Disadvantaged groups internalise systemic prejudice against us: I have internalised transphobia. There is also internalised misogyny, homophobia and racism. These things inhibit our Light.

Black and nonbinary Friends have told me of their difficulties in their meetings. People of working class origin who pass as middle class have expressed anger to me at middle class assumptions. Disabled Quakers have told me of finding a meeting unsupportive in overcoming the barriers to their attending. We need to talk to the Friends who leave.

The inner Light is in all human beings. If we attract all mystics who seek that Light, we will grow and flourish. If we only attract people who fit in to the culture of our meetings, we will die out. First, we could consider what we know about how we respond to diversity.

The Meetings in London and Manchester I have attended regularly have a greater proportion of LGB people than the general population. This is because of the sustained work Quakers have done, from Towards a Quaker View of Sex to treating the union of couples equally, before the 2013 marriage laws. Openly and publicly, BYM welcomes LGB people. Does your meeting? How many regularly attend, and how do they feel in the Meeting?

BYM has a wide range of spiritual belief. We seek the light within, an unmediated experience of God. That is hard to express in words. Poetry approaches it. Our ways of explaining might seem incompatible, eg, Trinitarian and Nontheist, but when we open ourselves to hear each other, we see our similarities, and our differences help us understand the Light better.

And, there are tensions between us around spiritual belief. Some Friends express doubt that nontheists should be members. Do Friends in your meeting feel comfortable expressing their spiritual beliefs? Is all the wide range of Quaker spiritual belief expressible in your Meeting? What steps do you take to promote understanding between people of different spiritual belief?

I can feel tension with people of different political belief, and especially factual belief, say on the efficacy of vaccines and masks. Can we use such tensions to get to know and respect each other better?

To look at other issues of diversity, we need to listen to people who are affected. Black Quakers know what work we need to do for racial diversity. Nim Njuguna calls on us to dismantle racism in all its forms. Disabled Quakers can express their needs far better than I can. Our diversity policy needs the discernment of these voices. What kinds of diversity do we miss? Equality requires work: it is counter-cultural. Which of my attitudes come from Light and testimony, and which from the wider culture?

My own experience and understanding relates to being trans. It is not enough to state that we welcome trans people in our meetings. Sometimes, Quakers express “gender critical” beliefs. Other Quakers see “gender critical” campaigners in some way as underdogs, so sympathise with them, or want to smooth things over when trans people object to them. “Gender critical” is an ideology created to justify denying the validity of trans identities, and so is inimical to welcoming trans people in your Meeting. Nobody should be ejected from a meeting for holding “gender critical” beliefs, but expressing them is reasonably seen as hostile by trans people.

Quakers should take notice of the extreme prejudice trans people suffer from mainstream media, government, and society. The essence of “gender critical” belief is that there is some harm to cis women if trans women are recognised as women, trans men as men, and nonbinary people as real. Believers should be held to a high standard of proof before their demands to restrict a trans person’s ways of being in the world are considered. Restricting trans rights is a distraction from better ways of helping cis women under patriarchy.

“Gender critical” campaigners are often happy to say things like, “I respect trans people and want to protect their rights”, by which they mean, our rights as they define them: no trans women in women’s services. This is gaslighting.

Much “gender critical” campaigning seeks the rigid exclusion of all trans women from women’s services. The rhetoric includes the idea that sex is real but trans is only a “feeling”, so the trans excluder’s feeling that she needs all trans women excluded is more worthy of respect than the trans woman’s existence as a woman. Trans people exist, but “gender critical” campaigners often see us as merely delusional. The claim that violent men might seek gender recognition, or pretend to be trans, to get access to women’s services is inimical to trans people living our lives in peace.

Quakers should support “gender critical” campaigners when their nonconformity to gender stereotypes causes them problems, and especially when they are victims of patriarchy, but not allow them to cause problems for trans people. Making a statement that we welcome diverse gender expression is not enough.

No Quaker consciously wants to drive away Black, disabled, working class or LGBT people. By considering how we are diverse already, and what problems this causes us, and by listening to voices from marginalised groups, we might see action we could take to increase diversity.

All this needs to be said because we do not, always, speak from the Light of Love. Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to God.

Left-brain, right-brain

You’ve been dating for three months, and it’s fantastic, but a question gnaws at you- Are we in a relationship? You want to know where you stand. You ask her, and she leaves you, because she does not want to be pinned down.

Certain things have to remain implicit, and I have to accept that, however uncomfortable I find it. I have a model of my spiritual growth where I become my true self, living in the moment, responding to reality as it is. Rather than worrying about the future, I see something I can do in the present to make it better, and do it. Instead, I am trapped in ego, attempting to propitiate the insatiable critical parent, where facing what I have to do is too painful so I do not do it however much I worry about it.

Iain McGilchrist, in “The divided brain and the search for meaning”, explains: the right brain deals with perceiving the world as it is, and the left brain manipulates it, so divides it into discrete concepts, a map not the territory. To the left brain, a table has no meaning or existence except when I need to use it. So I use it then forget it again. To the right brain, it can be a thing of beauty and as if on an LSD trip I can be transfixed by the detail of the wood grain.

For McGilchrist, Zeno’s paradox shows how a left-brain attempt to codify the world is a delusion. The arrow must first go half the distance to the target, then half the remaining distance, and so on, so that it never reaches the target. When we observe the real world, the arrow travels as fast at the end of its flight as at the start, and hits the target rather than slowing down before getting there. The “paradox” shows that privileging logic over perception can mislead us.

The spiritual practices I spend most time with seem to encourage right-brain thinking. I sit in silence, seeking awareness in the moment of myself in my surroundings. The surroundings are kept as non-distracting and non-triggering as possible to make this easier. So there are rules- no knitting, for example, in the Quaker meeting, as it means you are not “centring down” properly. And I am now analysing with left-brain- I do this to achieve that- rather than simply sinking into that right-brain mode of being.

In reality, the left and right brain are both involved in anything I do. McGilchrist writes, “The meaning of an utterance begins in the right hemisphere, is made explicit (literally folded out, or unfolded) in the left, and then the whole utterance needs to be ‘returned’ to the right hemisphere, where it is reintegrated with all that is implicit – tone, irony, metaphor, humour, and so on, as well as a feel of the context in which the utterance is to be understood. To achieve meaning in the world requires what linguists call the business of pragmatics, which comes from the right hemisphere.”

When I cook, I chop things up and put them in a pot, manipulating, left-brain, then use judgment of smell, taste, appearance- right-brain.

On the twelve steps, I seek serenity to accept the things I can’t change, and ACA defines this as other people. In making amends I would concentrate on the things I did wrong: any wrongs by another are irrelevant. Seeing someone as a cipher without an internal reality, whom I could manipulate, sounds to me like left-brain thinking. Attempting to relate to a whole person sounds more like right-brain.

McGilchrist says that in Western culture, “the ideal, theoretical world began to triumph over that of experience”. We think in terms of manipulating the world. As tax or benefit law gets more complex, with each rule getting more defined, any exceptions precisely delineated, there is a hunger for control which collapses on collision with messy reality. Yet “the left hemisphere sees truth as internal coherence of the system, not correspondence with the reality we experience”.

If my culture emphasises left-brain manipulation, and so my spiritual practices emphasise right-brain perception, I seek taijitu balance. But Right-brain good, Left-brain bad is classic left-brain thinking. I never understand sufficiently to formulate an iron law.

How to see a human being?

What a glorious human being! The physical animal, the energy, the love, she shines. Her arm moves, her sleeve pulls back, I see her wrist, and my breath catches in wonder.

Interpreting the eighth commandment, “Do not bear false witness,” Luther said we should explain others’ actions in the most generous way possible. I learned that from this video, starting at 21.30.

As Nadia Bolz-Weber says, Luther has answered the fundamental attribution error, whereby we say we did something because of circumstances, but others do things because of their character. Or we interpret our actions more generously than anyone else’s. I see God in her, and it is overwhelming. I fear seeing God in everyone: it would take all of my attention.

Others see God in me. I seem able to help one regulate her emotions and see more clearly. I am dimly aware “Rescuing” is a bad thing. I know that approaching life from a victim-standpoint is a bad thing- being clear about what is possible, what I can change, what I can do, is necessary. If I can bless her, I will. And I am abashed at her respect. I know she does not see all of me, that underneath there is anger and fear which I keep a firm lid on until it explodes.

Yet others see me as not much, really. There I am in poor clothes and a dirty cycle helmet or aged wig and they do not respect me; and I fall into a state of responding as if I am not worthy of respect. Then I see how I have been, and wonder, why was I like that, self-abasing? How can I see what I am doing, at the time, and reconnect to my powerful, glorious, beautiful self that others see?

Luther produced that sublime wisdom, and my antitheist friends amassed detail about how he was antisemitic. I have no idea what case might be made to mitigate his antisemitism, but say it was part of a tradition half way between the German Crusade and the Holocaust. Iris Murdoch posited a concentration camp guard who is a kind father. Does his wickedness mean that he is not really a good father? Steven Moffatt put a brilliant line in the mouth of a man convicted of murder: “Everyone’s a murderer, you just haven’t met the right person yet”.

In 1986 I realised that I see myself as the centre of the universe, and as totally worthless, and both of these self-images were insane. I tried to come to a rational view between, and a good shot was,

I am a human being.
Unique, ineffably beautiful.
One in seven billion.

I am most destructive when I suppress my anger, out of fear of it, and then it bursts out, surprising me. The parts of me which most perplex, shame or frighten me are the parts most needing my love. What is good and beautiful in this neglected, malnourished, shameful part?

If I can see it as good and beautiful, it will become so.

Trying to accept my transsexuality, I thought, I am opposites- Scots and English, loving the country and the city, loving empathy and relating and emotion, and loving patient rationality, teasing out the meaning of a clause in a regulation. I am man and woman. It’s not opposites, it’s apparently incompatible ways of being, or even just different ways of being. I could be both. I could be all of these things.

And so I could be the still point of the turning world, and all that I see as worthless, all at the same time. I am not one thing. I am too complex, too great for my own conscious understanding. And, I am a human being. If I am that complexity, that brilliance and beauty, so must everyone else be.

I work out a way to realise there is that of God in everyone, as I catch glimpses of it. I will get to my aim, or perhaps I just need to see it is already happening:

God in me is dancing with God in every thing.

I am beautiful, complex, mysterious, dark, magnificent. And so are you.

I can’t do more than one of these Adult Child meetings in a day. Even doing one, sometimes I find myself zoning out, reading on the computer. Why? Does something feel like a threat to me? How can I make it a blessing? Interpreting another’s action in the most generous way possible, rather than judging it- just seeing it, for I can only see clearly with eyes of love- I thereby excavate myself, my dark secrets, and more becomes possible for me.

Quakers and politics

It is deceptively difficult for Quakers to discuss politics.

Being left-wing, I am in near despair. Publications I trust- The Guardian, Paul Krugman in the New York Times- tell me that cutting taxes, particularly corporation tax or higher rate income tax, does not promote economic growth as Patrick Minford and Liz Truss say. I read that the new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, will be tougher on immigration than Priti Patel was.

So it is a sad pleasure to talk of this with some Friends. Like me, they believe Liz Truss will take the wrong course on the climate crisis, the cost of living crisis, the Sterling crisis- I read a suggestion that parity with the dollar is possible- and will increase division and suffering in the country. We say things like “I thought Boris Johnson was bad, but Liz Truss will be worse” and agreeing brings us together.

It is tempting in these conversations to say things like “The only good thing the Tories have done in twelve years is Equal Marriage”. I thought of writing that, drafting this, then thought of other things the Conservatives have done of which I approve. I must guard against hyperbole.

My impression is that most Quakers are left-wing, like I am now. Our testimony to Equality seems to point that way. When I went to my first Monthly Meeting the Friends taking me said their children were in the Socialist Workers Party but their values were the same- and I thought, that’s a bit extreme. At the time, I voted Conservative. I have canvassed for the Conservative party. Perhaps it is my bias to imagine people to be like me. Perhaps it is that right-wing Quakers usually keep quiet about it. There is no one right Quakerly view of immigration, leave alone economics.

In a letter to The Friend on 4 August 2022, Deryck Hillas wrote, “Johnson is the worst prime minister in British history and we will be well rid of him”. In a reply in The Friend on 8 September, Clive Ashwin wrote, “Boris Johnson will emerge as … a great prime minister for his far-sighted and effective handling of unforeseen national problems”. For too many Friends, one at least of these opinions may set us off. We get angry, and think of all the contradictory evidence. On social media, we may start typing, delighting in our rhetorical flourishes. Face to face, I go into that kind of conversation where I am planning what to say rather than listening.

Reading the Guardian, I get a different impression from those Quakers who are Times readers. Things which seem obvious to me are not obvious to them. The risk is that if we argue, both will lose. The one with the sharper rhetoric and debating skills may have the last word, but that is a hollow victory if the other is hurt and the trust in friendship is lessened.

Speaking to a Quaker Leave-voter, I was reduced to hearing his views expressed calmly and definitely, and feeling that if I contradict him it will do neither of us any good. That was better than arguing, but there is a more excellent way.

We can each state our views, without interruption or contradiction, so that we know where each stands without attempting to contradict or persuade. Or, we can worship together and see what words will bring us together in Love. We can check our own understanding: I see my temptation to fall below “strict integrity” in what I say. Especially when disagreeing about politics I should take care to be truthful, and listen carefully when someone with a different news source gives a different perspective.

These things matter. Last winter I spent some time each day wrapped in a sleeping bag cuddling a hot water bottle. I will be colder this winter.

How can I speak the truth in Love, so that I have the best chance of being heard?
Am I better to remain silent, when speaking truth as I see it will merely divide us?
Can I properly hear people who disagree?
How can we come together in Love, to know and respect each other better?

ego hurts

The tribunal action of Allison Bailey is an insane act of hatred and vandalism. She is a lesbian who wants to tell the world that trans people and transition are a danger to women, especially lesbians, and children. This is false. So she raised and spent half a million pounds in order to win £22,000 from her barristers’ chambers, but failed to get an award against Stonewall, the main lesbian-run charity for lesbian rights. The Guardian reports this as a win for freedom of thought and expression.

Bailey will have succeeded in disincentivising companies from using Stonewall’s services, and so has achieved a great blow against lesbian rights- whether she wanted to or not, whether she realises it or not.

I might have blogged about the case, but the Employment Tribunal judgment is 117 pages long. It may yet reach the Employment Appeal Tribunal. David Mackereth, is a physician who wanted to enforce his right to refer to trans women as men, because he is a Christian, and thereby discommode his employers who thought the trans women involved would hate and fear them even more if he did. His case in the EAT produced a judgment of 61 pages. I could plough through it telling his story- I think him a cowardly fool, devoid of Christian love and a silly poor Christian in other ways. I would mock him, share my blog on trans facebook groups, and get perhaps a hundred views.

Instead I considered giving up reading the news. Anywhere I might read that Liz Truss will be a continuing disaster for the British people, let alone anywhere I might read she is the Thatcherite saviour the country needs, is likely to have articles saying Trans is Bad.

I see Bailey looking triumphant cuddling JK Rowling in the Guardian, and feel misery, rage, terror. Then I go to the pharmacy expecting to have to argue and cajole, and come back next week, or at least wait for ages, and have an efficient service getting my prescription instantly. My tiny world is quite bearable. A charming salesman aged about twenty called, and persuaded me to take four successive meal kit boxes, of three meals for two each. I have cooked two, and heated up the unused half the following day. So I have unwrapped tiny packages of tarragon or coriander leaves, chopped them up, and delighted in the aroma flooding my kitchen. After four boxes the price will go up £10 a week, and I may stop then, or not.

The delivery man had a good delivery. The person was in, answered the door before he got to it because I had seen his van outside, and let him take a photo of the box in the open doorway so he could prove to his employers it was delivered. He gave me a namaste gesture, perhaps in relief.

I want to read of the Bailey judgment and not be paralysed by fear. The true self, the inner light, cannot be hurt. The fear feels paralysing, but does not particularly relate to my life. I can go out tomorrow, perhaps to the organ concert in St Mary’s, and escape my intellectualising for a moment into pure delight in beauty.

I wonder if the fear’s intensity is from the ego, which imagines that transition might in some way let me fit in to British society and is angry and resentful when it does not. The ego asks “What will people think?” The soul replies, “Let them think what they like”.

I want to live from the light, and escape the ego. Its fears do not relate to the real world, just to my sense of entitlement, of my illusions of what ought to be or what I need, rather than what is and what I really need. The Light can be aware of the ego, raging and crying in its despair, without sharing such feelings. What is, now?

The governance of Britain will be even worse under Truss than Johnson, the war in Ukraine may yet lead to a nuclear exchange, fuel and food costs spiral, and there is unlimited funding for the promotion of hate and fear against trans people. However, I hear that accepting the things one cannot change is a good idea, and even that the inner light can grant serenity!

The weirdos inside me

“It’s lovely to be sharing space with you again,” says L, and I am confused.

-He’s just saying that to manage me.
-How lovely of him to say that.

Your thoughts are headfuck FM, the endless talk radio, anger and delusion. Be the wise, kind adult watching your thoughts. Actually, it does not feel like headfuck. The thoughts are me, now. I am feeling my feelings, even in my body, wise and kind enough. I feel anger at M, and want J to acknowledge it is right, and it is too hard to get him to. Then she joins the zoom, and I am absorbed in her. I study her background, judging. I go to the gallery to see if anyone is reacting to her. In a small group would I tell her I hate her?

Someone says you look so calm and present, and inside it is a cacophony. J says if someone winds you up that is good data. Someone talks of letting go of someone close, and I want to let go of M.

Everyone has an inner critic and slave driver. Mine says, You can’t say that, when I speak from the heart, and “Harder, faster, harder, faster”. It tells me I know what I need to do: keep the house clean and tidy, apply for jobs, write for publication. It says, Come on, get up. It does not feel my anxiety, but then, I don’t either, usually.

Then what it says and what some “I” separate from it says merge. I am so alone! Zoom is not enough, I can’t bear it. I am afraid. I must control every aspect of my environment- for safety. I want to be safe. Help me I want to be safe. The monster will get me. This is horrible, I can’t bear it.

Sometimes I speak from the heart, and in two conversations with Quakers last week I felt the need to speak to correct the way of this conversation. Get that word in and speak the truth everyone should acknowledge. Then conversation becomes a conflict, I do not hear others, and speak from less than myself.

My desires are in conflict. I want to hide away, and I want to be seen. I want to say, “Everything is alright,” and I do not believe it. I am scared, anxious, watchful, anticipating the future: what if I am in a group with M? What if I am not?

J says once you know what the inner critic says, you can argue against the limiting beliefs, but you need to make them conscious first. I share on the dialogue of the critic and protector. I would have, anyway, but make it about M by referring to not hitting myself with a riding crop and saying sometimes “You can’t say that” is what I need to hear. Later I notice she is gone and wonder if I drove her away. She accused me of being fixated on her. Well, possibly, but it is a problem I am trying to get over. “Lovely, vulnerable share,” say people.

Sometimes I need to hear “Harder, faster, harder, faster” and the inner critic says it reflexively, all the time, so is no more use than a stopped clock. And, I have a hack: if I just give up and do nothing, it stops nagging. I needed it to survive, and now it just hurts me.

I don’t know. I want to hide away. I want to be seen. Or, I do know, I want to be seen, but don’t know how. I am hiding away. It is what I do. And, I talk on zoom. Right now, I am in a prison of my own creation, which I created in order to survive, and it is killing me. I will listen to these people, to hear what they have to say.

That slave driver/inner critic helped me avoid pain and strong emotion I was incapable of handling- rejection, abandonment, and disappointment. Children nurtured, heard and seen don’t need to do that. Hold it like a baby. Rock and console it. Eventually you feel it relax and go to sleep.

In dialogue with it, writing with the non-dominant hand, it may have revealed puzzlement. It knows its ways are not working for me. It wants to feel safe, to be hugged, not to feel alone. It tells me it thought I was a threat. Now it considers me too trusting, needing balanced by threat-perception. It wants to stop fighting, come together and be one with me.

M grows desire like a tender plant, and it gives her power. I need to hate her to free myself. Then I might let my hatred go and wish her well. I tried telling J I wanted him to see me as her victim, and he said I am not. She had a right to act as she did.

She said, “I feel free to love”. I thought that a manipulative lie, but what if she were telling the truth?

In four days since, I have built something of worth on that thought. Other people see things vastly differently from me. I believe there is something so wonderful in each human that calling it “the inner light” or even “That of God” is not hyperbole. But as an atheist materialist, I believe my inner God is a manifestation of my own neurons. Therefore it is not all powerful or all seeing by itself. To be powerful it needs united with God in others. I need to listen to others of widely different perspectives and views to mine, and find the truth in what they say.

In the midst of my powerlessness and lack of perfection, I still find some pleasure.

Yearly Meeting 2022

What do love and justice require of us? Our theme was Faith, Community, Action, so we considered what we might do. Preparing, we heard of problematic Quaker history.

Quakers in Lancaster owned slave plantations in the Caribbean as late as 1796, and transported at least 3916 slaves. Research continues, and the number may be greater. Profits from slavery enriched Quakers who donated to the Society. Our capital is tainted.

A Friend ministered that other area meetings should research their own records, to see if other traders or holders of slaves were Quakers. We would not have minuted in 1761 that such people who would not be dissuaded should be disowned, if they were not amongst us. Janet Scott, of the Quaker Committee on Christian and Interfaith Relations, pointed out that other churches are doing their own work on finding their profits from slavery, and considering reparations, and we should learn from them, not start from scratch.

The British Empire remains a system of oppression. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, remnants of that empire. They include the British Virgin Islands and the Cayman Islands, among the top ten tax havens in the world. I am part of systems of oppression when I buy food or clothes. Benjamin Lay avoided that by growing his own cotton.

We are proud of the work of Quakers against the slave trade, and of the achievements and writings of William Penn, who owned slaves. Penn, and our Society, did great good and great evil. I too do good and evil.

We automatically do wrong, but slowly come to notice it. For example when we welcomed Friends from other yearly meetings, a Friend said she came from what was “originally” the Welsh tract of Pennsylvania, where Welsh Quakers made their home. Later, she asked for her apology to be read out, saying she had been white supremacist. Originally, the land was the home of the Lenape people. The clerk apologised for not checking the pronunciation of Lenape- Wikipedia says it’s /ləˈnɑːpi/.

The draft epistle said, “we need to get outside our comfort zones and feel the pain of those less privileged”, as if we are the privileged people, and the less privileged among us are not part of us. Someone noticed, and that was deleted. Increasingly we challenge each other.

We are not all of one mind. A Friend ministered online that he had read replacing the word “overseer” was “decolonising” our language, because of the association with slave plantations, but elder and overseer are the correct translations of presbuteros and episkopos, and are part of our Gospel Order. I believe the testimony to equality requires us to work to counter the privilege in our thought, word and deed, and see the beauty in his view. Another stood repeatedly to speak of God’s grace, and was not called. When he stood to ask to add the phrase to the minute, it was not added as it had not been heard in ministry.

I was delighted that several people told me how they liked what I write in The Friend. A typical comment is, “Well-written and to the point”. I am tempted to name those whose names Friends will know. I stood to correct minute 17, with the additional word which met the meaning of the ministry. We are broken open by the Spirit. Several Friends thanked me. Too full of myself, I stood to alter minute 22. I wanted two questions at the end of the minute changed to statements. I prosed on about indicative and interrogative moods. It was changed, but I think not improved.

I counted three paid poets in the meeting. There may be more. From ministry, a phrase was added to the epistle: a Friend wanted to be “planting flowers as well as pulling up weeds,” an image I loved as soon as I heard it. Our words in ministry and minutes matter, because they encourage us, form us, and from them come our actions.

We are all complex people, being steadily purified by the Spirit of grace. We might like an achievable, comprehensible solution to hurry the process along, but it happens in God’s good time. I would feel so much more comfortable if I thought I was perfect, but my Friends and experiences slowly fit me for Heaven. I do good, as well as harm. I celebrate the beauty of my Friends and our Society.

The picture is of a pig farm, from the Taiwan Presidential Office.

Entering the Now

When I think about it, I enter the Now. Nonduality accesses consciousness. These words are the best approximations I can manage.

People say in this state they feel joy. It depends. If I am by the river, and lay down my useless burden of rumination, and use a mantra such as “I am here. This is. I am”, I will notice the uncountable tones and shades of green, the birds, perhaps some wild flowers, the path and the grass, and am likely to feel joy. Sometimes I feel terrible misery.

I share because it is good to have these things recognised. A man asked how I was, and I replied, “In Heaven and Hell at once”. He said, “Yes, it can be like that for people who feel deeply,” and I felt affirmed. Even if no-one responds, here, at least I am shouting into the void with the possibility that if I were wrong I would be contradicted. And putting things into words often clarifies them for me.

I am still working on negative and positive thinking. It is never good to deny uncomfortable reality in the name of positivity. And, I do not like how my life has turned out: all these difficulties while I ploughed grimly on. We all have our crosses to bear, and it is good to count our blessings. Perhaps it is as simple as that.

I have been hot from the world in Meeting with a bit of facebook nastiness winding me up, and I have felt that I am larger than this befuddlement. So I allowed it to rant as it needed, and felt that I was a calm presence holding and permitting it.

And there is the voice of my inner light speaking the truth. There I am, video-calling with my Friend. I want to say something, and cannot get it out without upset- my voice breaks near tears- then I settle into being the Light. The pitch of my voice goes up, and the inner critic is angrily denouncing me- that’s weak, put on, unreal, etc, etc- but I can say what I needed to say calmly without tears. I call this

the voice of my inner light speaking the truth.

As I grow to accept it, the misery may become less. In Pendle Hill worship I pick on this mantra/affirmation to repeat:

I am who I am.
It is as it is.
It is all right.

That self feels unbearably soft. Release the judgment, and I might release the agony. I am still exploring. Am I improving? Integrating is a better word.

Calling this a particular mental state, different from other mental states I often or habitually inhabit, has value to me. It feels different, just as practising a more erect posture feels different. I am conscious of it, as my muscles or mental pathways adjust to the unfamiliar way of being. Some time ago, it was magical and extremely rare. Now, it is more common. Speaking from it still requires a conscious adjustment, while I pass through discomfort.

I am in conscious incompetence. It behoves me to analyse, to notice, to adjust. And there is innate wisdom, so that letting go has value too. I need to value myself before I can complete this task, so I repeat,

I am a human being.
I have value.
I am a human being.
I have value.
All shall be well.
All shall be well.
All manner of thing shall be well.


I am a human being, or, perhaps, I am a living creature. So, whatever else I get from someone, I should oppose their cruelty to me at least as much as I would oppose their cruelty to, say, a cat.

This self feels unbearably soft, and yet, more real, more authentic, than the male mask. I suppose I am performing a teenage task: creating an adult persona for myself. I spent an hour on the phone with Jane from the Samaritans, on my various difficulties, my current rumination, and this decision, and feel affirmed.

I have presented to the world in shards of my male personality, though I know they do not fit, and often then cried and gone into the authentic self, speaking with a softer tone, telling the truth from my heart. Now I want to speak from that soft self all the time. I have heard the inner critic. I know the soft self is the real self. This may mean that I may keep some privacy: someone on Zoom admired my thick head of hair, and I surprised myself by not revealing it is a wig. Instead, I just smiled.