They

blossom and fruitWhy should I go? They will hold me up to ridicule and contempt. Their every action will make me acutely conscious of my inferiority. Then they will pass onto other things, ignoring me, for I am unworthy of their interest.

Breathe.

I contemplate an evening with these people. It is the kind of thing generally thought of as a pleasure: eating drinking and talking together, with attractive intelligent people.

Consider. Bickering? Point-scoring- competitiveness- some ribbing- not really, no, I don’t really expect that. How well do I know these people, as opposed to having assigned them to boxes-

The Wind seizes ChlorisSo there I was, saying that I have grown so much more sane, no I have not wasted the last two years, and- I have my illusions confronted with Reality- or, no, that is not quite it-

I am ashamed. I am ashamed of being unemployed. Where people gather and assess each other’s attractiveness, as a sissy I am the least possible attractive. Or these are the things which are in my mind, now, a symbol or symptom of my greater disquiet.

What set me off was H telling me who would be there. D and his new partner. Fine, I have no problem with D. Then she mentioned U, for some reason- U is not going- and I reacted wildly. I would rather H did not think me still affected by that. I would rather I did not think me still affected by that. I don’t think I am though I don’t want to see U.

So much resentment. So much anger. How badly I have been hurt, so much shit has poured down on me, it is not my fault and

the flowers underfootSo much fear. What am I going to do? How will I support myself when I feel so little energy.

If at some undefined point in the future, I will by some way I don’t yet know improve my situation, then everything is alright. If it could not be otherwise but that I will improve my situation then it will be alright. The thought that I cannot and will be unable to floats uneasily just under my conscious awareness, mostly.

H would come to meet me if I wanted. I think I can get to Islington, but that is generous. Caring. Loving, even. Then other H phoned and told me I did not need to go if I did not want to. I think I would regret it if I did not. I should be able to cope with these things.

I don’t know. Or, what do I know? These are attractive people whose company I have enjoyed. Being unemployed is part of it. What do I want? To be the centre of attention? Sympathy? To be able to relax, and take off my masks- or something- but to be authentic with them, I must be authentic with myself, and that involves all that fear. And resentment.

—————

Afterwards- of course it was not like that.

Here are the Three Graces, then all of Primavera.

three graces

Botticelli- primavera

Citizens’ Income

Grace 1I find this Green party policy attractive. My sister called it ridiculous, because unaffordable and not giving proper incentives, as well as that the party had no power to implement it. I feel that it will appeal to a particular kind of personality, and rational persuasion of its value will be more difficult for others.

It will appeal to communal people, like me. We like “everyone to get along”, and have a high level of altruism. Perhaps altruistic is a better word. Altruistic people build strong communities. Individualists look out for themselves. This is not because they are bad, but because of their character, and has advantages for the whole community as the individualist seizes advantages no other has seen- as long as those advantages are not to the detriment of others, but benefit the Relative Least Advantaged Person.

Grace 2The communal person will see that only a hurt or damaged person will seek to be a freeloader, or feel unable to better themself by working for additional income. The individualist might see attraction in freeloading and be suspicious of others being tempted. The Green party sees the informal sector- people doing each other favours- growing, a highly communal view.

Initially, the citizens’ income would be partial, not including housing costs, and housing benefit would remain means tested. HB would be extended to cover contributions towards mortgage repayments. Eventually, the CI would cover housing costs, taking account of the variation of housing costs across the country, from high to insanely high.

Grace 3To me, the stress of the constant threat of loss of income to benefit sanctions makes a person less likely to find work. There were 554,000 sanctions in eight months to June 2013, a 10% increase on a similar period in the previous year, on 2.5m JSA claimants at any one time. We need more carrot, less stick. The CI would achieve Beveridge’s ideal of a reliable safety net which would not stifle initiative or incentives. Now, we have no safety net. There would be incentives to take part time work. More people could undertake higher education or training. The tax system would be simpler. Redistribution of income from the wealthy to the poor would increase the flow of money, as the poor spend more of their income on basic services.

Now, employers pay low wages and the state makes them up with tax credits, but with a CI it would be easier to change jobs, and so employers would have to pay realistic wages to retain staff.

How would it be paid for? By replacing current benefit payments, reducing administration costs in the tax and benefits systems, and improving economic efficiency. Because fewer people would be caught in the poverty trap, more would be practically available for work. Multinational companies do not pay tax on profits created in Britain under the current system.

Much of this is cribbed from the Citizens’ Income Trust.

Comfort zone

Chloris, scattering rosesI wondered what a comfort zone is.

Others are different

therefore I am wrong

Oh well, I can live with that, if I know it is the default. Pause, bring it into consciousness, consider alternatives. If it is the default, it means there is no comfort zone, everything is uncomfortable except switching the mind off. If I find a friend and start to play, that is comfortable.

Two years without even voluntary work, three years unpaid, it has to have value, somehow. I have been thinking, much of it here. Seeing more clearly how I am, and deciding that it is not shameful: patching myself up, healing my wounds, grieving. I am thinking better. In January 2013 I wrote on Original Sin– not particularly Biblical, not psychologically insightful or helpful motivationally, just bad. My friend Sacred Struggler commented,

I know you’re mad and rightly so, but try not isolate dialogue until you know no progress can be made. Grouping people and cutting them off from you isolates them from the awesomeness that you are and prevents them from being faced with your undeniable humanity.

I replied Sometimes I scream NO NO NO! because I want to be heard. I needed to differentiate myself. There they are- I will wheel out that Neil Peart quote again: “Quiet in conscience, calm in their right, confident their ways are best”- They, the Others, it is my perception that They are an undifferentiated mass, rolling over me, even if that is not entirely true. I felt overwhelmed, and this was my struggling out of that. Yesterday I posted on Original Sin again- the idea is not right, but it is not merely harmful. I was not merely reacting against, but being more able to accept and articulate my different position, I can find value in other views.

I wanted to be heard by myself. I wanted to be able to hold an idea in my mind despite what I perceived as the weight of authority against it. This is all in my own head- others are less interested in me than I am. I begin to create a comfort zone, inside my own skull. In my isolation, I expand it: rather than ruminating on the same ideas, I think through others. I am thinking better. How wonderful to have the luxury of that freedom!

I am fringe Left wing, left of the Labour party, having been a Conservative party member. I am on the Left now because I am a benefit claimant- it is self-interest; but also because the people around me, socially and at work, have been on the Left. I say fringe Left- the word “extreme” is not comfortable- but R says merely Left. The Labour party has left him behind, moving Rightwards. Calling Ed Miliband left wing is merely ridiculous, he says.

I change because of people around me, and that is OK. I am a human being, part of a social species.

Original sin II

Mars sword, Mercury sandalsAs in Adam all die-

Because of Adam’s first sin, all human beings inherit that sin, and so are damned unless we turn to Christ. God cannot look upon sin.

I phrased it as bleakly and repulsively as possible, because that is the understanding many people have of original sin. Biting the apple has great importance, so a young Earth creationist suggested that if we did not all descend from Adam and Eve, Christ died in vain. A more nuanced view is possible. If you grow up with people who are angry, violent and chaotic, you will become so. The sins of the fathers are visited on the children, even to the tenth generation. My story of my mother’s mother’s father shows how controlling he was. St Augustine, not aware of a distinction between nature and nurture, observed this.

Some say that Augustine invented the doctrine, based on a Latin mistranslation of Romans 5:12. Or, the ideas were around from the Bible, and Augustine systematised them. Here is that verse in the NRSV:
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—

And here in the NIV:
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned –

I am not going to burrow into the Greek, I am not that keen, but once it has been thought- we inherit sin, when our soul joins our foetus- it could be read that way. I read it that my sin is my own, and my responsibility, which is a little harsh when I did grow up in that fearful, controlling environment. If we inherit sin, it is not through some mystical curse on the new soul but through environment or part of human nature. Pelagius came up with the idea of Limbo, where an unbaptized baby would go: not blessed, but not in eternal torment either.

Which is harder to bear, that we sin from our first thought, or Original Blessing? That says I am created Good- your works are wonderful, and I know it well- but yet still fail, doing what I do not want to do.

I move on. From Original Sin v Original Blessing, a vile way of seeing humanity against a good way, I move to Original Sin and Original Blessing, layers of metaphor which fit part of my experience and help me understand it; rather than rejecting a doctrine and rejecting its believers, I can see more clearly that part of God they have.

Green policies

Botticelli-primavera- Venus and CupidSurely the Green Party’s policies are a waste of time? It wants a citizen’s income and the decommissioning of British nuclear weapons, neither of which are remotely likely to happen. At best, with a Green cohort of twenty MPs holding the balance of power and entering coalition with Labour, would Labour accept either of these, even if the Greens agreed to support all other Labour policies as the price of them? This is an optimistic view of the potential election outcome.

If the Greens have practically no chance of implementing nuclear disarmament, why bother announcing it as a policy?

I find nuclear deterrence ridiculous. It might have some value in a world with five nuclear powers, but when North Korea might develop a bomb and a missile system to deliver it, it seems reasonable that Kim Jong Un would not be deterred by the destruction of his country from firing off the missiles, if he felt his grip on power slipping. If he cared about his people’s suffering, he would not be governing as he does. I do not want a Prime Minister who is willing to destroy all life on Earth, even if provoked by the destruction of all life in the UK. Having a submarine hidden somewhere under the Atlantic, hidden well enough that it can emerge and destroy the World, revolts me. It is a sin, demanding repentance and cleansing.

Saving the money- whether £15-20bn as the Government claims, £34bn says Greenpeace, £100bn for lifetime costs says the Scottish Government– would be good too. £16 666 for every person in the country, a good contribution towards a citizen’s income.

I want that policy to be articulated, with as loud a voice as we have. Whatever result it may have- losing the UN Security Council permanent seat, perhaps, or offending our allies; whoever many oppose it- all the other parties, though 63% of voters support scrapping Trident. I want it to be part of the national conversation, a nagging doubt at the back of the most militaristic mind, a named possibility so that others might see the rightness of it and come to support it. This is a long game, but politics has to last more than a week.

And, the policy says who we are. It arises from our principles. It is the kind of thing Green MPs would seek. We would turn away from fear and hatred to trust and hope.

Party wear

I wanted to dress like a whore. Well, not quite.

I went to U’s party on 31 December, the memorable night she got together with D. Last night was her birthday party, and next week she will move in with him. At Hogmanay, I wore a mini skirt and a rather demure top. Yesterday I went shopping with my hostess S down Kilburn High St and got a lace front human hair wig for £35, (amazing) and a black thing of lace, beads and sequins loosely tied between the breasts, showing off flesh around the navel, and a lace pair of shorts. Worn without a bra, it is not something to wear on the Tube if travelling alone.  Alas, no photographs.

I wanted to be out there. I wanted to celebrate myself as a sexual being. I wanted to show off my bare legs, and my midriff, because women tell me my legs are a good feature, and women are the people I want to attract. I do not want to hide myself away. I also wanted to experiment with this: it is just not the way I have dressed, before, even at tranny dos. N thought I looked as if I were trying too hard (she really dislikes my usual wig, too). U, whose long skirt beautifully shows shifting impressions of her legs, appreciated me, and leant me a chunky silver necklace, more suited than my Moonstone to the ensemble. “The bedroom is the place to be,” she said. “No, the place to be is the room I am in,” I replied.

It is a summer party, starting about five pm, and most people are dressed fairly casually. There are about 25 of us in the flat, about half of whom I know. Bloke in shirt and slacks comes up to me and says, “Hello, I’m Tim.” I’m Clare. “So, you’re trans then.” I was astounded, and not in a good way.

Later, I am chatting to Paul, a DJ with Jazz FM. “I’m Paul, by the way.” I’m Clare. “So, why did you choose that name, then?”

I was irked at that. Second mention, and I wonder if it has something to do with my way of self-presenting. He refused to admit that he had realised I had changed my name because I am trans. He started telling me that a lot of black people of his generation had changed their names from slave owners’ names to African names. I was so irked that I did not point out I am white- he can see that, after all. He says he interviews people. Monica, his seven-year girlfriend, joins us.

Third conversation: S tells me how she had a girlfriend 16 years older, twenty years ago. After they had been together for a year, she was looking through one of her partner’s books and a photo fell out of it. They fought over the photo but she ran with it to the bathroom, and there realised that it was her partner, presenting male before transition. S had not realised until then that she was TS. S found this a dealbreaker, thinking her partner had been dishonest, but the partner explained she had been advised by her therapist to put “her male life” completely behind her and live in the present moment. S left her. This shows that passing to an amazing extent- for a year in a lesbian relationship- is possible, making me feel worse.

Paul said I should have said to Tim, “No”, or, “What do you mean by that?” Well, I was a bit surprised when he said it. “What did you say?” I could not remember. Why should it matter, anyway? Because it is loaded. It means most to me, it is my life, but it means things to others as well. And he put me in a box.

Don't define me before you have even talked to me!

The day before, someone had chosen to unburden himself to me about his cross-dressing experiences. I tried to encourage him, saying it was alright, no big deal, if that is how you want to relax you go ahead- jumping to conclusions, really. Responding too quickly out of my stuff. His tone of voice had given some indication that was appropriate, but he might have wanted to celebrate it.

Around eleven, there is a mellow late evening feel. Eva comes with her friend Michael, a musician with a keyboard, and we jam, two guitars, a flute, and some of the rest of us singing voicelessly.

Oh look, my glass is empty. Let me go and fill it up.

Energy returns. I dance close with U, and then with Jack. I feel wide open, and weep. The weeping helps me get into the present moment. Jack sees this. I feel he is giving me something beautiful, the space to seek to dance spontaneously in his arms, following not leading, rather than play-acting, assessing and judging how I am dancing and thinking through, intellectually, what I should do. This is an animal, feeling-based activity.  I am almost there- I weep again, in frustration.

Not quite a whore- a whore would wear a skirt rather than shorts. As N pointed out. If not all of it gave me pleasure, the party certainly gave me a worthwhile challenge.

_____________________________________________________________

What do I want from such a conversation. “So, you’re trans, then?” It is not safe to assume that this is a man to whom I can unload my own angst and be comforted, or even explain so that he will understand and affirm me. It would be easier if I had really internalised that being transsexual is a blessing. I do not want a sterile verbal joust, trying to get the other to state a position and then challenging it, but I would like to make it an exploration of his Stuff: “What do you mean by that? What do you think of that?” And be prepared to withdraw if necessary.

Blessed Christmas

I wish you a Merry Christmas, with these Nativity scenes from great art galleries:

Moscow School, 16th century, The Hermitage

Botticelli, The National Gallery

Martin Schongauer, Berlin Gemaldegalerie der Staatlichen Museen

Jean Michelin, The Louvre

Petrus Christus, Washington National Gallery of Art

May your God bless you and keep you and make God’s face to shine upon you, and give you peace.

Annunciation

When I went with a friend to Florence, I was the one who wanted to look at the “boring old churches”. We also went to the Uffizi, or “offices”, and passed dozens of Annunciations. Some of the symbolism- the lilies for purity, the dove for the Holy Spirit- may need explanation, but the relationship between the two figures is immediately apparent. Start with one I find difficult:

Philippe de Champaigne. Yes, I know he was French school, but he illustrates all I dislike about the treatment. Gabriel is clearly supernatural, floating above, wings out. Mary is- sitting at a desk! Reading! A peasant- a peasant girl– reading. Would she be surprised to see an angel floating in the air? For this artist, it seems, no.

For me, the Gospel has value for human beings if it is a human story. In de Champaigne’s work, God is taking care of everything, and the human involved is the blessed of God, born without original sin.

Often she is reading. By traditional iconography, she reads Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a maiden shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

I change “virgin” to “maiden” because I understand it is closer to the Hebrew, being able to convey unmarried woman as well as woman who has not had sexual intercourse. In the prophecy, the invaders have overrun Judah and society has broken down. God is with us, and no-one else is.

John William Waterhouse is far more to my taste, even if I would usually deprecate following a style from decades before.

Here the only supernatural thing is the halo, which I like to see as a symbol of force of personality rather than holiness.

John Collier shows the form still has vitality:

Trainers? Well, why not? Here, as always, is a Mary for her contemporary audience to relate to. I am unsure about American teenagers, but I think specifically for a rather older audience to relate to.

At last, to the Uffizi:

Botticelli

Fra Angelico

Simone Martini

Mary, for me, has to be that human being who comes to the sudden realisation that she is in the most difficult position: an unmarried peasant who is pregnant. At that moment, the cry “All generations shall call me blessed” is a cry of faith in herself as a human being, able to cope even with this situation.