I was on the stage at Greenbelt last Saturday night. It was the Hothouse debate: Is gender bendable or fixed forever? An intergenerational conversation hoping to dismantle the potential otherness of trans experience on a personal level; exploring how church communities can better welcome trans people; and wondering how trans experience might be more fully integrated into the church’s conversations on human sexuality, so obsessed with same sex relationships.
This isn’t the magnum opus, which will be published in Quaker Voices in November. Some day, I may get paid for writing.
Being an Artist, with a bright yellow Artist wristband, I put up my tent in the Artists’ Glamping. At the bottom end of the field there were pre-erected tents each with rugs, two beds with sheets rather than sleeping bags, and a lamp on a table. Clare and I went over to peek in then got embarrassed when we could not zip up the door again. There was a fence around, three slightly pleasanter portaloos, and a gateway-marquee with tables, chairs, mirrors, hairdryers and tongs, and women checking the wristbands. They did not know to let me in at first, but I phoned the programme manager who said it was OK. Then two volunteers, topless in the sun, helped me put my tent up. It has two rooms and I took a clothes rail. One of them assured me that young people are completely accepting of trans- it had come up, because I said what my talk was, but I wish it did not need saying.
Clare is with Stand-up Christology, which shows comedians and theologians talking of the same issues, and was in a panel discussion to push religion, politics and comedy to the absolute limits. She had her own tent too, but a “two person” one. As the sun bore down on Friday we sat in the coffee tent by the urn and the fridge, in the small amount of shade, chatting. A woman came round and said next year they might have some shaded space like that for socialising. Then I went off to help put up the Quaker stall in the groups fair. I tied balloons to string to make a frond across the top of the opening.
Paul, professor of engineering geology, apologised for his tent being so close to mine, put up by his teenage son, who sat in the entrance absorbed in video on his phone. He was doing a talk in the Grove on “what the Bible teaches about the role of soil in our lives”. That makes sense- he had an Evangelical feel, that careful precise intellectual understanding. “What information do you want your audience to take away?” he asked, and I felt a fool- er, dunno- only later I put it into words. It’s not information but feeling. I wanted them to see my humanity. He understood- he is not a robot- but his first way of being is in concepts and intellectual expression.