I have consolidated all my trans privilege posts in one essay.
I met my neighbour today. He saw me bringing my wheelie-bin in, and followed me. So I went in my back door, and he stood on the mat, looking in, making wordless sounds. I told him he could come in if he wanted. This is my bicycle. He tapped the light, which was just below head-height on him. Then his grandmother came round after him, and called him out, scolding him, and apologising to me.
-He asked, and I said ‘yes’, I said, to excuse him.
-Sorry, no speak English, she said. At least she wasn’t accusing me of being a pervert.
His toys, a beautiful big lorry and an ambulance, were on a rug outside, as it was so warm, with his older sister’s tricycle.
At the bus stop, a lad was complaining about someone else at the college. “He said, ‘you said “Death be upon you!”‘ That’s stupid, fam. He doesn’t understand Arabic, he doesn’t have a clue, fam. My dad speaks Arabic.
“You could tell him anything! You could tell him Bismillah [in the Name of God] meant anything you like, and he would believe you. If you say Salaam Aleikum he says Salaam Aleikum.” Rather than Wa-aleikum O-salaam, or indeed Slamakum- well, “Goodbye” is contracted from God be with you, then further to ‘bye. That was the first time I was aware of Muslims locally, there is a large Hindu temple on Victoria St and when it has come up Asians have been Hindu.
Not sure about the word “fam”. I guessed it meant something like calling a friend Family, close friend I can trust: to my mind, a need to keep telling someone “I trust you” implies something else, and also implies that those guys over there can’t be trusted, it’s just you an me, bro.
How do you spell ‘bide’? asked the child. Mmm. It is an odd word for a child, a bit archaic, dialecty, not a word I thought he would get in primary school. “As in I buy a toy”. Oh, it’s “bought”. Yes, it is a bit odd for a verb. I remember my nephew saying “goed”, when just learning to speak: he knew the general rule, and applied it.
There was a pong from the landfill, which is 2km away. You only smell it when the wind is in the right direction, but that is the prevailing wind. There used to be a pong from the chicken factory. I remember the Coupar Angus chicken factory, the smell of guts and death: far better to live the other side of Marsby.
How much more sophisticated than Marsby is London? Let me count the ways… “London has buses on a Sunday,” said the twelve-year-old, at the bus stop. Indeed- and after six in the evening! He was only going down the town centre. The old woman told me when the houses round Eagle’s Nest were built. Those were built in the thirties for the workers in the laundry, and those were built in the fifties. She used to goo to the open air pool in J–, but there isn’t one, now. People aren’t as gritty as they used to be. “Goo” is an indicator I have noticed of the old local accent, as opposed to those who were decanted from London in the 1970s.
Round the corner, two obese young mothers got on. One changed the sim in her mobile, with great difficulty because of her elaborate nails. Why would anyone need two sims? Her son cried, and could not tell her why: perhaps it was the sun in his eyes through the window. They mock the young lad about his bad behaviour- putting bricks through windows. “Not me,” he grins.
The toddler stood by himself on the bus, just for a moment. The bus juddered, he staggered, and kept his footing. He was not loud, then, but clearly triumphant. The problem was that he could not believe a judder could be worse, so refused to sit in his pushchair or even to hold the hand rail. He dropped his dummy several times, on the floor: at least once his mummy gave it back to him unwiped. One way of improving his immune system- though wiping does little good. The old local woman is now telling someone about her operations.
I get to Thamton bus station, a glass walled corridor of stances in a black cavern under a building, brightly lit. My fellow social class E, and some of my betters. It is a drab, noisy place where people are particularly courteous to each other. I cannot understand the bus driver, which is a first for me: I thought bus driving not a usual job for EU immigrants.
On to the “medical” centre. I wait half an hour in a small crowded waiting room. The politics of the moment is that no-one should be on the sick, though previously people have been left there to reduce the headline Unemployment statistic. So someone who Cannot learn anything beyond a moderately complex task, such as the steps involved in operating a washing machine to clean clothes and Frequently cannot, due to impaired mental function, reliably initiate or complete at least 2 personal actions because of their mental health problem but did not score other points would not because of that be found entitled to benefit. However, I give it a go.
Then I go into battle. The nurse is trying to catch me out. I read, I say, and she has a win: that means I can concentrate, so could do a job. Well. If you read, you will have got to the end of a page and realised that you have not taken it in- everyone does that occasionally. I say I do that. It is true, and it depends on how much of the time. I will be found fit, so I will have to sign on and be vulnerable to JSA sanctions. But I gave it a go, not making eye-contact, whining, saying someone takes me to the supermarket, sometimes I do not get up all day.
In the waiting room, the snow makes us talk. It is compacting on the pavements, trying to lie on the road. “In Canada or Germany we would see it is beautiful, be used to it, just get on with it” says a woman. It is warmer in Portugal, I say. She does not like Portugal. Why not? She knew Madeleine McCann’s grandfather, so she was put off it. She used to like the Algarve. She is less willing to say, when saying something less happy.
She loves Germany. Does not like France so much. She has been to Paris.
-Well, you have to go to Paris.
She prefers Brussels. I want to be in the conversation, I say how much I love the Magrittes, but she is away, with her story to tell. She went with her nephew on a four day coach trip to Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris. He had only wanted to go to Paris, it is the city you know is magical. They saw the sights in the evening and morning, and travelled in the afternoon. He did not want to get much, he only bought a key-ring of the Manneken Pis. That was what he wanted, it would appeal to a thirteen year old boy.
-Yes, I knew of it when I was a teenager.
When the tour was finished, the driver from Antwerp asked him what he had liked best. He said Amsterdam, then Brussels, then Paris. What did he think of the Eiffel Tower? Glorified Blackpool tower, he said.
The other woman went to Venice once, and did not like it. The gondoliers were on strike. I am called up to the dentist, who tells me how well I have been brushing.
Slip and slide on the steep pavement to the bus stop, just in time. Woman says how beautiful the snow is, and I agree. “It should have been snowing at Christmas”. On the bus, I hear her phone call. “How can you keep my children in care when they would be better off at home?” I am listening, and I could not write it. There it is, so expressive, and I could not convey it to you. Or at least, not as quickly as I am writing now. She is on the phone from Swanston to Downley, and I wonder at the social worker not ringing off.
“I can look after my children better! They were losing their hair!”- What do you mean, environmental factors? (Nothing, of course. If he said something concrete, it would be refutable, it would leave space for engagement.) What the fuck? That, of course, gives the opportunity for the social worker to rebuke, I wonder if he took it.
Some problem or other. The bus stops, the bus driver gets out and messes about a bit. A howl comes from upstairs, and a youth, hood up, hoodie with “No Fear” once in large letters and repeatedly in tiny letters comes down, loiters a bit on the lower deck, then goes back up. His agitation perturbs me. Getting off later, he thanks the driver. Everyone does.
Footbridge safety: slippery when wet. Walk, don’t run, and always hold the hand rail.
A person is liable in damages for an accident if there is damnum injuria datum– loss caused by wrong. For there to be a wrong, there must be a duty of care- if it is reasonably forseeable that the wrong, negligent failure to take a reasonable precaution, may cause an accident, and the accident happens, then there is liability.
The footbridge at Bedford station is not particularly slippery, but if someone did slip or trip on it, the question of liability is whether there was a reasonable precaution to take which had a good chance of preventing the fall or the hurt. Such a precaution might be, covering the surface with something less slippery.
That precaution would still be available whether or not there are warning signs of the risk. What caused the accident? The carelessness of the person who fell, or the slipperiness of the surface? Both. The person who walks or runs over the footbridge is aware that surfaces can be slippery.
I find the warning signs patronising, as if I do not know that hurrying on a slippery surface increases the risk of falling. So, placing the warning sign there is not a useful precaution to prevent accidents. It tells no-one anything they do not know already. Instead, its purpose is to blame the other. You hurried, you fell, it is your fault: it attempts a moral defence. It is not effective as a legal one: in law the question is whether a different surface is a reasonable precaution against accidents.
That works, for me, as a moral argument. Our society is too litigious. The solicitors’ haiku:
Have you stubbed your toe?
There must be someone to blame.
Come. Sue him with us.
But then, I have slipped and fallen in the street but not injured myself.
Actually, I felt my usual irritation seeing that on the station foot bridge, but by the time I was down the stairs- shockingly, without holding the hand rail, you will be glad to know that I was uninjured- I had forgotten it. I stood on the platform for ten minutes, enjoying the sunshine, the quiet and the trees.
Also on Bedford: it is a much better shopping centre than Swanston, with Next and M&S, but I could not be bothered. A few days before, I had got chatting to a man on the bus when I went to shut the window and he objected. He told me that he had moved from Bedford because it was full of “supplicants”. I dislike his use of the term- we talk of benefit “claimants” because there is a moral right to a reasonable level of support, which one “claims” rather than begs.
All my accretions and pretenses and lies to myself and habits which get in the way of that are things I have taken up in order to Survive, and they are the things in the way of my flourishing now. On this blog and in my retreat from the World I am working out what that might mean. Possibly it is anatomical: the amygdala in conflict with the frontal lobe- and the idea of the Real Me, under all the attempts of my parents and society to “civilise” me, is so attractive to me.
So much for the origin of this post, written in a Tea meditation, a desperate search for how to be. On the bus, a woman says, “these chairs are so uncomfortable, so uncomfortable” and I note how I place her immediately, the word “chehs”- one of those decanted from London- rather than the more correct and educated “seats”. When we all get off, and queue by the stairs, a little girl tries to push ahead downwards, and her mummy tells her to wait. Then a man with them grabs her by the back of her coat, and she immediately starts to struggle and cry out. Just to rub that in, for my benefit not yours, she fights the restraint of a man so much larger. I note a red heart just above her bottom- what a gorgeous birthmark! If it is a tattoo-
He picks up their pushchair from the lower deck, and says “cheers, mate” to the driver in a gruff but cheerful, salt-of-the-earth manner.
In the street, I note a woman in a long floral dress and a bulky floral headscarf, Muslim “modest” dress made beautiful. Is it just the Autumn sunshine making me feel this good?
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. The Struggle for the Real Me.
Thing is, the pain and distress are real, the unknowing, the old self-protection mechanisms which I have taken up to survive and now hurt me, the difficulty in perceiving all this, because I feel that my false perception is reality and the constrained way of behaving is Right and Good- all Real. And so are the flashes of insight, and the Progress, and the absolute commitment to do this work, and the necessity of it. I thought my opening a bit whiny, and then looking back at it, it is positive.
What do I want from anyone else?
Ah. Can I say that, really? I know that is the right thing to say. I know that any other response causes me needless pain, am I really there yet? Not sure.
I know that is the place to be, loving the beauty of all good things, undaunted by bad, and that further on good and bad cease to have meaning for all is good. Actually, I am fair pleased with mysel that I have the theory!
I waited for my appointment in the garden. There was a beetle meandering over the paving slabs. The azaleas were particularly beautiful. Much nicer than the waiting room, with its “Aggression towards staff will not be tolerated” notices. There was a policeman waiting too, for a partner-agencies meeting. “It’s been all go in your patch” he said when the social worker came in. Yes, there has been a murder in Marsby. Something to do with drug dealing. I joined the conversation. I may be one of the nutcases- “service users” is the preferred term- but I still look like a professional, more or less.
Normally Bob (I read his name badge) works in Zhuzhkov, but he was in Swanston at the weekend. It was a nightmare. There had been a fight at the club, and so the manager had closed it down, and there were all these people hanging around outside, resentful at not carrying on drinking. Bob thinks they are idiots, they should just go home. Would it be better to keep the club open rather than pour people onto the street all at once? No, the manager was right to shut, and when it closes at four in the morning people hang around outside for ages. Idiots.
There was a man shouting outside the bus the next day, and then he got on the bus and hit a man sitting at the back. He shouted something about don’t try to burn down my mother’s house. Two men about twenty, maybe younger. The bus driver, sixty with a pronounced South Efrican eccent barrelled down to deal with them. He would not let the assailant off. The assailant phoned his mum to say that she should come to the police station, and the bus driver would not let him off the bus. “He had me by the throat”, he said, an exaggeration. The bus driver phoned the police, and the bus company. An older woman stood by the assailant gloating. “The police are coming. You’re in trouble now.” I thought this unhelpful. He seemed a child. He waited quietly.
I got off, thinking the police might want witnesses, not wanting to get involved. I understand the instinct is to look away in these circs. A man told me that in London they would put them off the bus and deal with it on the pavement, and the bus could go without delay. He had moved out to Marsby when he retired and his wife died. He tells me of Barnet, where he lived. Well, you can get a much bigger house in Marsby for the same money, but the place is not quite so lively. Later I saw him on the bus, gesturing right and left and talking, as if to another person.
The police took away both lads, and we drove off, fifteen minutes late. Getting off, several people thanked and congratulated the driver.
Is there any moral difference between someone having a moral objection to homosexual behaviour, perhaps religiously based, and someone simply hating queers? No.
The hater needs human beings to despise. It makes him feel better about himself. Many “Christians” who are particularly vocal about homosexuality fall into this group.
If he surrenders his moral objection to gay lovemaking, will he have also to surrender his objection to sex with animals, children, or corpses? No. People over the last fifty years have surrendered their moral objection to black men having sex with white women. However loudly they protested that this was Moral rather than hate-based, we now think such a moral position merely prejudiced.
Also, there is a difference between gay lovemaking and sex with corpses. It unites two people in Love, which is the primary purpose of the sexual act in human beings: we make love when we are infertile, we make love far more than we make babies. Baby-making is essential, but not everyone has to do it. Not every straight woman who has sex has children.
Gay sex is morally objectionable if it is oppressive, just as straight sex is, for example sex with children.
What about the results of gay sex, the spreading of disease? But straight sex spreads disease too. Perhaps unsafe and promiscuous sex might be argued to be morally objectionable on the ground of its outcomes, but not gay sex per se. And, as straight promiscuous sex carries the risk of unwanted pregnancies, straight promiscuous sex is actually more morally objectionable than gay promiscuous sex, from the point of view of outcomes.
What of a Bible-based objection? It is a delusion. It has no moral value. Some of the clobber passages are translated to mean a wider range of behaviour than the original justifies. Others are ridiculous. Gay people an abomination who should be stoned? Well? Should we stone people to death, or not? Idolising the Bible above the needs of human beings, that is the immoral act.
I have no partner at the moment, and I am not thinking of marrying. So why do I believe equal marriage the most important thing for LGBT folk to campaign for? Because it is the strongest symbol, now, of our equality. Because the State will collude in the celebration and support of our relationships on an equal footing with those of straights. Because the haters find it sair to thole, and are campaigning strongly against it. Because greater equality will follow. Because there is no good ground to oppose it, and many Conservative arguments in favour, about helping people be happier, more productive members of society. Because it catches the imagination of straight allies. Because it is simple to achieve and costs nothing- a one line Act of parliament will make it. Because the only people who oppose it are homophobes.
Because it is coming, and coming soon, and we can make it come more quickly.
I went to the top deck of the bus, and then thought, this is the bus the schoolchildren get. Should I go downstairs? I decided not to, though I was the only adult here. After they got on, I heard voices from the back- “That’s a tranny.” “A tranny, there, at the front.” One came forward to have a look, and I smiled at her. They did not bother me particularly. They are good kids round here.
That is my main argument for work on equal marriage. We need to win equality battles. Any equality battle won makes all our lives better. This is one we can win.
British people talk about the weather. Particularly now, it is amazing how clued up we are getting on the Jet Stream, etc.
Yes, I linked that article before, but weather conversations are repetitive. We like to moan, as well. “It’s too hot!” we moan, on the second day of sunshine after complaining of the rain for a week. Onywye. Jet stream. If the Jet stream was around the North of the UK rather than over England, we would have high pressure and sun, and I would far rather be moaning about that.
Wettest April on record, we whine at each other. Wettest June! But not quite. Have a look at those stats again. Wales and Northern Ireland have had their wettest Junes on record, but not Scotland and England, where most of the population is. Much of Wales is hillside, barren, or summer grazing for sheep. England was wetter in 2007.
Apparently, the Jet Stream could be moved by hurricanes in the Caribbean. We discuss this, guiltily. No, I do not want hurricanes in the Caribbean. Hurricanes kill people! Er, actually… So we look at each other, sidelong, and admit our craving for hurricanes. Well, only over the sea, I would not want them to make land-fall-
I am sitting by the bus stop in the sunshine. “It’s nice when the sun’s out” says a man to his wife. Good to be able to agree on something. The black cloud moves over so quickly and we dodge inside the shelter. A young woman tells a young man of her plans. She’s going to Nottingham, where she’ll be so close to the city centre, with lots of shops and shit. She’ll work in a bar, doing cocktails and shit. What sort of cocktails? Not proper shaky cocktails, just mixing drinks. She hopes she’ll pass her driving test because she wants a car for her birthday. How beautifully her eyelashes are painted!
The next day there were three police cars by the college. Inarticulate male shouting. “They’ve put him in the va-an”, sang a woman. The police cars drive off. “Oh well, that’s our entertainment over for the day.” The bus comes as the rain comes. Oh, look on the
bright side Blessing of it- replenishment of reservoirs and aquefers, I am warm and dry in the bus, the Irish colours of the landscape… Lucrezia, my Romanian neighbour, tells me that now in Romania it is 40°, and in winter they have snow. What of Britain- an island, with no proper Summer, no proper Winter.
I got a new dress in Dottie P. It is for my party on Saturday- ten years since I last pretended to be a man. Leave a comment if you would like to come, it is in Northamptonshire, I will email you details. I am really pleased with this dress, I find it flattering. Thence to Costas to meet S.
We were discussing that spiritual healing thing, you know, the one both of us would have thought was bullshit only a year ago.
-What is happening, do you think?
Well, there is this energy, God, life-force, something, in the Universe. I just open myself to it, it flows through me, it mingles with the energy in you. Opening up and balancing your chakras.
Then we started laughing.
It does not make a decision. I do not ask it and it consents, it just is, consent. It is there for us. I do not think I can spoil it, but my good intent seems to be a good thing.
Off for the bus.
The bus clanks down Market St and along Midland Road, and I look at the two blokes, about sixty, the one sitting just in front of me, the other beyond him sitting side on. I am thinking that if I believe in this spiritual healing thing, then I am a spiritual being- a soul with a body- and so are these two blokes. The sky is grey and there is a light drizzle, but both of them seem as if in clear light. Those individual hairs in the man’s crew cut are beautiful.
Half-remembered from facebook, some guru or another said, if you can’t see God in the next person you meet there is no point in looking for God anywhere else. I read this stuff all the time, but- seeing it? Not so much. It is unusual for me to meet God on the bus. Nice, though. Added: Gandhi:
If you don’t find God in the next person you meet, it is a waste of time looking for him further.