Masks III

The greates reason for transition is that you can be your true self. Of course, you can never not be your true self, or anything other than You, but you will admit it, and be happy with it, and freed from that dreadful act of pretending to Be a Man. (Or a woman in the case of trans men- I never want to exclude anyone, but as gender is so important to us inclusive language is cumbersome. And the experience is analogous, but different.)

It might seem that the Man is a mask, a painful one like the Iron Mask which could not be removed, and when its rivets are finally broken there will be only freedom.

Yet the Real Self is elusive. It is important to maintain a professional attitude, including professional detachment. We have a job to do in whatever place of work, it is usually defined by others- unless you are an Artist, and extremely fortunate- and the part of you you express is that professional person. I wondered whether you might be your real self with a partner. Not before transition, in my experience, possibly as I approached it. But then even in those Spiritual Growth workshops where I am told to look into the eyes of another, and hold their gaze, I know the rules of the situation, I follow the rules, my face is calm, the time passes. Whether there is any real contact or communication I don’t know.

Though I judge myself harshly, and do not want to claim anything which may not be true.

Possibly we can be ourselves when we escape words. Words might trap us in our masks, words to explain ourselves to ourselves or to others, words to reach a common Understanding, words to define what we must do in this moment. Then again words are how we are with each other, and I found myself forming a connection even as I spoke to someone. I was aware of the subtext later. The words may have some part in that.

Can you be yourself by yourself? We are made real by others. Possibly when outside, where there is life and unpredictability. There is the moment of the task, which is using yourself to some end, and the moment of perception, which is receiving rather than being.

Or, we are not made real by others, we have been forced into masks through childhood with continuing reinforcement so that a human face is an impossibility, there are only masks.

I said,
I am this person
This individual
Myself, and no other
and felt I was looking out of my own eyes. It is a particular state. I can ease myself into it, then I go to sleep again.

You put your arm round me, and I reacted in an instant, I felt and knew what I felt, I could see myself and be seen without a mask. There was a moment when one aspect of The Real Me was visible to me, and possibly you- No! Not a habitual response! You put your arm round me and I relaxed into your shoulder, and felt intense misery. I hate my sexuality. I am ashamed of it. It merely humiliates me, it distances me from others rather than bringing me together with anyone, it is weakness, I do not know what to do with it. It would not be so hard for a woman- as vulnerable, as fearful, but not as ridiculous, or Impermissible. So I lay back on your shoulder, needing the contact, a few drops of water in the desert. And on stage a woman conducted a woman’s piece, Missy Mazzoli’s Sinfonia. She was professional, as an artist perhaps her true self, sufficiently in control of the orchestra. One of those white shirts in the audience is mine, but I can’t quite be certain which.

Why I write II

In cases of profound and permanent unhappiness, a strongly developed sense of shame arrests all lamentation. Every unhappy condition among men creates the silent zone alluded to, in which each is isolated as though on an island. Those who do escape from the island will not look back. -Simone Weil

A hard hitting essay in The Boston Review- too many people writing have nothing interesting to say and no interesting way in which to say it– and I wonder if it condemns me entirely. All my personal reflections here: are they too thinking about some stuff then thinking about some other stuff that kind of relates to the original stuff you were thinking about but not really, like that of Durga Chew-Bose, into whom the reviewer Merve Emre sticks the boot into so enthusiastically?

The tag at the top gives me a way out. “Feminism”. Aha, this is women resisting patriarchy and refusing “femininity”, first kicking the feminine essayist who reveals her feelings then praising the more muscular feminists who follow, and their insistence that we disentangle ethics from empathy…[which] We see in Weil’s “painful clarity”: her simple, yet brutal, prose style that stressed concrete detail over abstraction in her descriptions of factory work, and thus extended neither sympathy nor empathy to laborers but a far greater form of compassion: attention and intellectual honesty.

Mary Gaitskill: I think this is the reason every boob with a hangnail has been clogging the courts and haunting talk shows across the land for the last twenty years, telling his/her “story” and trying to get redress. Whatever the suffering is, it’s not to be endured, for God’s sake, not felt and never, ever accepted. It’s to be triumphed over. And because some things cannot be triumphed over unless they are first accepted and endured, because, indeed, some things cannot be triumphed over at all, the “story” must be told again and again in endless pursuit of a happy ending. To be human is finally to be a loser, for we are all fated to lose our carefully constructed sense of self, our physical strength, our health, our precious dignity, and finally our lives. A refusal to tolerate this reality is a refusal to tolerate life. Am I one of those boobs? I would love nothing more than getting on a talk show, my essays are in print celebrating my Feelings- often resentment, anger, fear and sadness, caused by circumstances which I lament as a toddler does, loudly demanding someone remove them.

There is one more problem humans, and writers, have: we live in a world of illusory shared experience, ready-made identities, manipulation, and masks so dense and omnipresent that in this world, an actual human face is ludicrous or “crazy.” Every human experience is pretense, and most attempts to write it down,or  to explain it to yourself or others, are continuations of that pretense. Not all: the best art illuminates the cracks in our inexhaustible social performances, lighting our way through “the maze of personality and persona” so that we may, if only for a brief and fragile moment, forget who or what we are playing at.

Unless I am Simone Weil or Virginia Woolf, there is no point in writing at all.

I appreciate the aims of these women, and they are not mine. I treasure a compliment from 2014: I also like this writing. There’s something Proustian about it. If you can get through the thirty pages on a goodnight kiss without throwing The Way by Swann’s across the room, you might suffer through the boredom of the narrator’s paranoid speculation about Albertine’s lesbian affairs. It is him, in his wrongness and humanity, his petulant childish idiocies stripped of all masks. This is me, attempting to understand, or self-justify, or formulate so I may communicate, or cover things up because I find them too frightening.

I am still tempted to read Merve Emre’s essay for rules on writing, so that I might obey them, and evade her criticism- though even if I obeyed them to her satisfaction, someone else would find my writing wanting. The only way forward is to do what I do, and keep doing it- or to do other stuff- in fact the way will be as it will, exploring and excavating, not necessarily a way forward at all. I write because I want to, and find it worthwhile.

Review.

Being an activist

Does being trans make you an activist? The time comes when you realise, it is OK to be me, just as I am. Then all the messages that it is not OK become toxic monstrosities, and you take up your sword against them. Or, perhaps, you transition, and carry on making your life.

The problem with being an activist is the people who aren’t. Here I am, the Truth hot within me to be proclaimed and defended, and there are they, sometimes sympathetic, sometimes bemused, sometimes wishing I would give it a rest. It does not stir their hearts as it does mine.

And I see other activists for other activisms. The woman tells me that by patriarchy men are to her like white people to black people, in a time when to say Black Lives Matter is to challenge, because for too many people black lives do not matter enough, if at all. She is oppressed. I could sympathise except she says that she is oppressed by me, and trans women are perverts who get sexually aroused by fooling others into imagining we are women. I cannot be an ally, only a persecutor. Then I see that activism may be wrong, rejecting allies and chasing irrelevancies, putting off the allies we need so making the struggle more difficult.

The Friend, the Quaker magazine, has an article this week enthusing about Greenbelt, and one by Symon Hill criticising it. If you expect the Guardian – or Greenbelt – to be a voice of the radical grassroots, to meaningfully include the excluded, or to be run as a workers’ cooperative, you’re going to be disappointed. They both broadly accept capitalist assumptions and are compromised by being large commercial institutions. They are liberal, not radical. He is glad that gay couples can hold hands there- queers are celebrated, where elsewhere in the church toleration is often too much to ask- but angry at the wickedness of the Government in cutting away support for disabled people and thereby making Britain a less civilised country, and angry that this was not highlighted at Greenbelt during the focus on disability. The Government deliberately undermines our social fabric, and Greenbelt should resist that. I sympathise- I fear the benefits snatchers. I have a personal stake.

He wrote a similar article for the Morning Star, removing references to Quakers and including references to Communists.

I was at the Greenbelt session when someone said the police should be abolished. They are always there to preserve the status quo, to prevent demonstrations changing anything, to protect property rights, to move on homeless people. I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting- why?” I don’t actually agree, because I think public order and its preservation are important, and that we can change things through democratic politics. People will see that selling arms to kill people in Yemen is criminal. We may by opposing end it. There were people there who strongly objected to such views being expressed there. I had not considered the idea before. I feel without the police, strong capitalist forces would find more brutal ways of defending themselves.

At the festival, there are a range of views. I am not dismissing the idea immediately. Someone who is angry that it even be voiced is still exposed to it. There is a mix of people, talking to each other. It’s a church festival. There might be someone there who thinks themselves wildly liberal for being willing to tolerate queers, but a bit uncomfortable seeing people holding hands. If you build coalitions and gain support, you have to have a place where activists can meet with people who have not really thought about it, might be open to some of our least radical ideas. Our choice is between ideological purity- being right, and being agreed with- or achieving change. Though it is restorative to spend time with activists, you have to work with others to make a difference.

“Cis gay man”

Is the phrase “cis gay man” offensive?

A gay man does not conform to the male stereotype, which is heterosexual. He does not pretend to conform, if he is Out, and he is gay not as a matter of choice but because of who he is. His expression of himself as a gay man contradicts and subverts that male stereotype, whether he is conventionally masculine apart from his attractions, or not.

More broadly, there would be more than two groups, whether you consider who people are, in their inward selves, or how we behave. There are those who fit fairly comfortably within the male stereotype, those who do not but pretend to, those who do not fit and do not conform, and those who transition. Those who pretend to fit are oppressed by gender- are they “cis”?

For me, the word “cis” simply means “not trans”. A cis gay man is someone who does not self identify as a (trans) woman, and presents as male, however camp. This is true whether Trans is something we are at the core of our being, so that I really am a woman, or a choice we make because transition is most comfortable, given the circumstances. I am trans because I have transitioned, even though I claim to be a feminine man who could not bear my attempt to conform to the male stereotype, so fled it.

If “cis” simply means not trans, it can include gender non-conforming people, and those oppressed by the stereotype. There is some problem when we talk of “cis privilege”, which they have only to the extent that they pretend to conform, and we never have. “Passing privilege” is something different. There is a grey area with people who are perfectly androgynous in presentation- you can’t always tell what gonads someone has, just by looking at them- but few people are in that grey area.

Am I boring you? I am almost boring myself. I read the suggestion that “cis gay man” is offensive, somewhere on the internet, and must use my felicity with words to establish that that suggestion is hostile to trans people, and unjustified. I have a right to exist.

I have a right to exist anyway, but now find myself in need of seeking to reassure myself of that. I can name me and not-me without being offensive!

I wish gender non-conforming could cease to be a thing, just be part of ordinary human expression. It is a thing because someone finds it objectionable or surprising- a child in the playground, a colleague, a passer-by on the street- and expresses offence, or displeasure, or institutes some sanction; and because we are permanently hurt by such displeasure, and ever after inflict those sanctions on ourselves; or we go into fight mode, always alert for the displeasure and armed to resist it.

THEY’RE THE ENEMY! NOT ME!

Oh God, it’s frightening. The intolerant are the enemy, those who want to force us all into tiny gender conforming boxes, men, only ever attracted to women, never expressing any feeling but anger, and life would be so much easier if-

Queer Christianity

Liz Edsall says Christianity must be queer: it must learn from LGBT folk to be truly Christian. In Queer theory, queer is a verb, meaning to rupture. Queer breaks down false binaries between male and female, to make space for queer people. Christianity too, when working properly, ruptures false binaries, between human and divine, sacred and profane. The Revd. Liz, an Episcopal priest from New York, ignores the clobber passages. Why should we engage with Leviticus 20, which calls for our death by stoning? Who would cite such a passage imagining it had anything to do with life now, or was other than repulsive? Instead, she starts with the story of the Good Samaritan, the Outsider who did the humane, loving thing, the despised foreigner who saved a life when Jews would not. Christianity ruptures the boundary between self and other, as there must be no outsiders, no bad people, no Them.

Even St Paul wrote, There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. I loved that verse, and yet there is Presbyterian and Episcopalian, even ECUSA and ACNA.

Queers find the identity which defines us, and tell the truth about it. We build community with others with the same identity. We live this path over and over, and get better at it. Liz Edsall learned the Christian path from following the Queer path, what she calls “Queer virtue”. The importance and effectiveness of both paths is rooted in their relation to Scandal. Both are powerless because they are scandalous, and that is the basis of their power. Christianity was never expected to be respectable. Mark calls Jesus “Mary’s son”, that is, the illegitimate child. It was a scandal for Jesus to touch the Unclean, defend adulterers or value people on the margins of society, such as the women who followed him. The cross was designed as a public shaming, destruction of the personality, and breaking of the body. The Resurrection overcomes death and the violent destruction of dignity. Jesus shook up convention and disrupted the understanding of power.

This disruption is good for the whole world. When she protests racism she does not just quote the Bible but gives it a meaning for us, now. The Christian Left needs a theological framework to make sense of the tradition and the world. Queer is a lens to give clarity to our vision of Christianity. Queer shows us how to be Christian: come out, find healthy pride. Christianity is actual Good News, allowing everyone to be their authentic selves, as opposed to conservative Christianity which would crush everyone into the same straitjacket.

People on the margins will not be nice but will gain their God-given dignity by opposing violence to their souls.

An audience member asked, how to queer liberal Christianity. When they oppose equal marriage, the conservatives portray themselves as counter-cultural and the liberals as infected by secularism. To revitalise our faith, Queer it; be honest about the dynamics in play in relationships, pay attention to the life and health of everyone, and make community.

Liberal Christians want nuance, and others want false simplicity. Everyone is entitled to respect.

The woman next to me, who recognised me from my talk last year, photographed my notes.

Miranda Yardley

How could a trans woman be transphobic? First, you have to define “trans”. My definition: a trans person is one who copes with their gender non-conformity by transgender behaviour up to and including transition. It is not something innate, but a choice we make in our particular circumstances. I feel it is a legitimate choice. We make our own lives easier. We do not harm others. This definition gives me freedom.

A transphobe, then, is one who delegitimises the choice, as Miranda Yardley does, even though she has transitioned and not reverted. For example, her insistence on the discredited autogynephilia theory, here. First, she selected the writings of four gynephile trans women, who write of being aroused by cross-gender fantasy. I don’t know whether these people have also written about being feminine, and if Yardley bothered finding out, she does not mention it, as it would refute her argument. Then she explains autogynephilia theory, that the desire to transition comes from an “erotic target location error”- you get aroused by the wrong thing, in this case fantasies of yourself as a woman. There is no explanation of what causes this error, because innate femininity (gender non-conformity) causes the error, and that refutes the theory. Yardley however wants to deal with the problem that sexual arousal is not a basis for living female continually, which she handwaves away by claiming that the erotic attachment becomes a romantic attachment.

The articles Yardley cites refute her. Why did Natalie Egan transition? Because when she was outwardly successful as a man there was always something gnawing away at me that I never understood and couldn’t explain. Only now do I understand it as a deep dissatisfaction with myself. This inner misalignment and horrific fear of expressing the person I really was inside. That’s clear enough for me, not enough for Yardley. Natalie was emotionally intuitive, yet hard to get to know. Her wife thought she was trans, at a time she herself was in deep denial.

In the New Statesman, Yardley denied being transphobic. She is a trans woman. She addresses crowds about her heavy metal magazine as “an openly trans woman”. I parse that phrase, and find it can only be a claim to be a “woman”, rather than a man. However she is “gender critical”, which means she claims to be male, and that being a woman is a matter of reproductive biology. Gender is sex-based socialisation which oppresses women. She calls a trans woman’s claim that she has always been female, “gender essentialism”, which contradicts her gender critical approach. However, I have always been feminine, and argue that women should be free not to be feminine.

Then she reaches the nub of the issue. Do the rights of a trans woman who has lived as a man for 60 years to not feel intimidated by having to use male facilities trump the rights of women to have a safe space where they do not need to be concerned about voyeurism or sexual violence? She does not give her answer here. Mine is that no woman need be concerned about voyeurism or sexual violence, if I am in a woman’s loo. I go in there to use the place in the normal way.

Here’s the transphobia. Yardley asserts that women feel threatened, and we are part of that threat, simply because of being born male. However, we are as broken by gender norms as anyone. It is a literal fear, seeing me as a threat, simply because of who I am. That negates me, and denies my right to exist.

Transtrender

Is that really a thing? People cross -dress because it’s fashionable? Apparently. Hooray!

True trans people go through terrible experiences to be most fully themselves, to express our inward essence. How should we respond to folks who are just playing at it?

With delighted encouragement. They mock and subvert gender boundaries and binaries. They make it harder to insist that a man or woman should be in a particular way or should not be other. They are showing bravery in challenging convention, but they  choose this particular one- they do not just seek notoriety by breaking rules, but challenge them. Why should not anyone cross-dress, if they wish?

I have gone through a terrible experience to express my true essence, but coming out at work followed a similar pattern. The first time I told a woman, it was a heartfelt exploration of my overwhelming need to be who I truly am. The last time I told a man, I said, “Oh,  by the way, Jonathan, next month I will be coming to work expressing myself as a woman.” “Congratulations!” he said. That was it. Why ever not? I can do that if I want to.

While my friend in the 1980s insisted her “boiler-suit” accentuated her femininity with its harder fabric, and the local rugby club might like to get their ballgowns on now and then as nothing can detract from their rugged manliness, most people who cross dress, even once, are expressing something within themselves, just as I am. I am feminine, and all men have a feminine side. Usually those in skirts will have a stronger feminine side than others. I want it not to be a big deal for a man to wear dresses. That might reduce the fraught disputes about it.

Their “playing at it” does not detract from my struggle. I struggled to make a man of myself, then I put myself through transition. Transition has brought me to a greater understanding of who I am and how I tick, and what gender conventions are. I dunno. Barry Manilow comes to mind- “I made it through the rain and found myself respected by other people who’d been rained on too…”

Will it stop me using the women’s loos? Well, I continue to do so, as no-one has objected yet. I hope it would not, in itself, make anyone more likely to object.

The idea on Urban Dictionary that people identify as trans without experiencing dysphoria in order to appear cool or edgy, just like (they say) some girls pretended to be bi- well, I am delighted that trans is cool. Far better than being disgusting or ridiculous.

Here’s someone who identifies as not “born this way”. They say they were fairly comfortable presenting as a stereotypical girl until they heard of trans and non-binary folks. They had always felt an outcast among girls, but was not “suffering deeply”. (How would you know, necessarily, if you were suffering deeply?) Now they found a chance of expressing themselves other than in a cis feminine way, they were “enchanted”. Now they approach surgery after five years in transition. If that is transtrender, I don’t know what is more trans than that.

Of course it is a twitter hashtag. Someone tweeted, I’m tired of these hysterical #transtrender SJW fuckwits trying to corrupt the kids of today. They are toxic filth & worse than terrorists! Who is this person? Mucky the Duck tweets also in support of Mr Trump and about Whites as a “minority”. Someone tweeted a photo of self in a skirt, showing male pattern baldness. “Me at Pride!” Someone else objected: “Being perceived like this is something that real transgenders fear worse than death.” Well- I get read. Some people think I am a man. It goes to show that Twitter is just a place to be horrid to folks.

If you have surgery or hormones, be certain they are right for you. Anything else is fair game. Anyone who wants surgery or hormones is truly trans. Anyone who cross-dresses is not against us, so is for us.

 

Transitioning to Vegetarian

It was feeling disgust at the thought of meat, and thinking, Oh God, I really have to do this, that made me think becoming vegetarian was like a gender transition.

I have long known that vegetarianism is a good choice. In nomad cultures, humans are in a symbiotic relationship with domesticated animals: we look after sheep, and take their wool, milk and meat. We save them from other predators. We find them green pastures. In modern factory farming, we are increasingly parasites, torturing them. We keep them in tiny cages, we prevent them from rolling over, we keep them pregnant constantly, we take their young away, we butcher the young. Meat is cruelty. I met a woman who would eat game, for this reason that the animals are free until they are shot, but grouse are systematically bred for the gun.

Meat is also cruel to the staff of abattoirs, who must kill animals all day, all week, clean up their blood and excrement, are paid minimum wage and are brutalised. Meat is cruel to farm workers.

Meat is wasteful of the Earth’s resources. There is not have enough land to feed everyone the meat-rich Western diet, even if all wild species are killed off.

I knew it was right for me, but balked at the effort it would involve. I was used to eating meat.

So I started experimenting. When out with my vegan friend I ate vegetarian, after being embarrassed to eat a rather lovely sea bass while she ate chips. We ate a lot of chips together after that. I found groups where people were vegetarian. Quaker shared meals are typically vegetarian. I would eat veggie meals with friends, and it would all seem perfectly normal. Then I would go home and find I was craving a bacon roll. How can I be vegetarian, if I cannot have a meat free day?

I found if I fried veg in a lot of olive oil, I no longer craved meat. I was after the fat, not the meat. Now I wonder whether I can interpret my cravings. I want a balanced, healthy diet. Will I know if I need protein? I don’t even know what is a reasonable size of meal. I have cooked the same things for years, and have to learn new things to cook. I baked a butternut squash, first googling to learn how: bake the seeds separately, as they are also tasty.

Society is arranged for the majority, not the minority. There is little fresh fruit and veg in the village shops. This minority is sometimes mocked, derided and despised.

I will eat meat if I want it, and will preserve this rule. I am still an aspirational vegetarian, rather than firmly and definitely vegetarian. It has to be what I want, rather than what I feel fits for anyone else.

Why I transitioned

Women are free to be human. In transitioning, I sought their freedom from constraints I could not bear, which crushed me. Trans men, however, transition the other way: they too are seeking freedom and not constraint. What is the blessing of each gender? How is each empowered, and free?

I feel free to feel and express emotion. It is still a struggle for me. I do not always know what I am feeling. I do not always tolerate it, so that it bursts out of me in difficult ways, in tears or movement. I feel more free to connect. I connected at the Greenbelt festival and the Yearly Meeting Gathering. I could express feeling heart to heart.

I still associate this with weakness. Clearly it is not weakness, but flexibility. It may be vulnerable, but only if I can be shamed about my feelings or expression: if the attack, the attempt to shame me, does not work, then it is clearly strength.

The constraint was there, shaming me into not expressing myself like I can now. And when someone says “trans women transition to get sexual arousal from fooling people into thinking they are women” it is merely ridiculous, and only has power over me insofar as the constraint remains, shaming me into denial and self-hatred, using my belief that I really am weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous, deluded and misogynist.

And we can express ourselves among trans friends, and then we find ourselves out in the real world where we read condemnation even where there is none, we project onto others our own internalised transphobia, constraints, understanding of manhood and shame. Yet we carry on, we fight through this, and eventually, possibly years after going full time, we reach that goal of freedom of expression, and self-acceptance. We are not inadequate males. We are human beings.

Strange that strength should be thought the same as control, and that self-control meant not expressing feelings, and the only way not to express feeling for many of us is not consciously to feel feelings. My feelings, and ability to empathise, are beautiful. Do men lack this entirely? Do only high-status men have this ability, or do men need an underling before they can evince emotion, as a way of controlling or using the other? Could men’s groups like Male Journey permit emotion without violence or shame? Is it something men can gain as they age and grow in wisdom?

How can you see anything outside yourself, how perceive beauty or the true nature of another human being, without access to your feelings? And, how suppressed was my real self, that I undertook this transition in order to express it. I still know what I want- Freedom. I have not attained it yet. I have a particular feeling, now, and I find my reaction ridiculous. It can only hurt me. I need it to stop. The chance of hurt or embarrassment frightens me. Accepting and forgiving myself is ongoing difficulty.

I felt the need to write, I am not going to “toughen up” by rejecting my softness and vulnerability which are beautiful and essential. I will not deny my pain, fear, incomprehension, desire, longing, loneliness, misery,
strength
truthfulness
loving-kindness
and this shows I know the threat, the desire to toughen up in that way, even though I know that only leads to misery and chains; that I am working on this acceptance, and see my goal; that I still need to work on it.

Trans men also seek freedom. Their freedom is from being seen as weak, patronised and not taken seriously, used as sexual playthings, not treated as a full human being. They find themselves respected, as they pass better.

All people contain the needs and abilities arbitrarily ascribed to “feminine” and “masculine” people. The man has his anima, the woman her animus, the soul of the other, which needs expressed to be a fully rounded human being. I might express my inner man having become free to express my inner woman.

Greenbelt encounters

I got recognised. “You did a talk last year, didn’t you?” asked the person sitting next to me. She had enjoyed it. How wonderful to make an impression on someone like that!

I really enjoyed meeting Kirsty. She was walking up the path as I was leaving my tent for the Eucharist. We talked deeply, enjoyed the sun together, and without irony she expressed admiration for my wisdom. I can’t remember anything we talked about. I saw her again just as I was leaving, and we hugged warmly. She is a lovely person, and found me a lovely person. With another, I enjoyed getting my reference understood- I had “seen a cloud no bigger than a man’s hand”.

At Greenbelt, we consecrate the bread and wine together. We are worshipping, we become one body, but we need no priest or leader to do that, just the whole group of several thousand people. I raised my hand in blessing of the bread and wine- the priest’s physical action is much like a healer channelling Qi- and we share it among ourselves. We danced and we sang and we heard a teenager preach through a speech device she programs through eye movements, as she was starved of oxygen at birth. She quoted Daniel 7:9-

an Ancient One took his throne;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames,
and its wheels were burning fire.

God- in a wheelchair!! She was delighted to find God in her image in the Bible. God is us, and we are God: God is trans as well, the Father gathering us under Motherly wings. We are acceptable before God.

As I was packing up my tent, a man was walking by on the path, so I asked him to help me roll it up. “Are we folding it in half?” he asked. No, we are folding it from one end, about 2’6″ wide folds, then rolling up the folded tent. It is so much more efficient when you have one person each side, folding it inwards, dashing back and forth to do that is a pain. I roll the tent round the inner tent and the poles, but officiously he started to roll it up by itself, ponderously, forcing out the air. He was taking charge, diminishing me by looking after me. “You’ll have to dry it out later, or it will be smelly,” he warned. Well, that’s my decision. The rain had dried off in sunshine, the underside was not damp, I thought, it will be hard to roll up again if there is a breath of wind. He was talking down to me.

In the marquee, where the actors were preparing for their show, I looked over the shoulder of one into the mirror. Yuk. I have an old wig on, it is squashed flat, and its look displeases me. I push vaguely at the front, then move away.

“You’ll need to spend some time on that,” says a woman. She judges I have no idea how to present my hair, and starts to educate me. I could push it behind my ears, she tells me. That means I notice my own grey hair, and it looks more like a hat plonked on my head rather than my hair, I feel. What I said was, I was self-conscious about the tabs above my ears. “Oh, nobody notices those,” she said. My concerns don’t matter. She will show me what to do. She showed me in her own hair how it was fine around the temples, and how she had had to draw it forward to conceal that. I back-comb the front of my wig with my fingers, and it plumps out a bit. “That does not look too bad,” she says. It’s good enough. I want to take it off, possibly will drop it on the floor, and did not want to take my human hair wig. I don’t need to look impeccably groomed. I still got recognised, and given the microphone to speak from the floor.