I hope the Manchester Evening News will tolerate my copying their photo, because it is the honest photo which others failed to print.
Cerrie Burnell is beautiful. She looks younger than her 32 years, which is a good thing for a presenter of telly for 4-6 year olds. She was born with her right arm ending just below the vestigial elbow. When she started presenting CBeebies, there were complaints that a disabled woman should not be doing this job. How do you explain to children that someone has no arm? Disabled people should not be seen or heard.
Standard issue lesson: celebrate people for who they are, what they can do, rather than judging them for what they cannot. What they cannot do is not useful information. But have a look at this Sky article. While it rightly gives the answers from disability charities, the BBC and Ms Burnell herself, the main picture it prints is head and shoulders, so that its more delicate readers will not see the Arm. It prints the above picture, lower down the page, and much smaller.
I suppose it helps that she is very pretty. These presenters tend to be pretty. More than one difficulty to overcome in getting this job might have been too much. We are only making the progress we are making. So- is it not wonderful that she is so visible? Even if that is not her intent, she widens public acceptance of difference.
That is what I want. Simply to be, without that self-consciousness, the internal nagging voice saying “What will people think?” which always misjudges what they actually think.
“I find you particularly masculine”. This sort of comment has been irking me for ten years, all sorts of judgments creating all sorts of echoes in my head, am I right to transition, am I safe from prejudice, what will happen? I do not pass properly, I need to do more work on voice and mannerisms and dress, so I can hide that away- Oh, it is just dreadful, time to hide away in the living room again.
It is time to turn that response around. Why on Earth should it be a bad thing to be masculine? Let’s try again.
-Clare, I find you particularly masculine.
-Yes. Isn’t it wonderful? Greater physical strength than most women, and the ability to project my voice from my chest. I give wonderful cuddles, women can just melt into my arms.
This can work for anything. Clare, I find you particularly whiny.
Yes. Isn’t it Wonderful? The squeaky wheel gets the most oil!
Clare, I find you particularly Nazi.
Yes! Isn’t it Wonderful? A complete sense of my own superiority and right to organise everything, and willingness to fight anyone who gets in my way.
So, this is my new party game, for any number of players.
A. B, may I pay you a compliment?
B assents fulsomely
A: B, I find you particularly-
B: Yes! Isn’t it Wonderful? B states why.
I had only the vaguest idea where Stonehenge was, and did not know my route passed it; but seeing the signs, I had to call in. I would like to Commune with the Stones, but instead got my camera out.
It is hard to commune with the stones, because of the security. Well, it is a World Heritage site, Britain’s most famous stone circle, and I would not want hordes of people approaching it. If you book in advance you can get in for £15. I was fascinated to see the blokes in copes, one white, one yellow. I approached the security guard to ask if I could join in. I am a spiritual syncretist, and could show suitable respect, but it was a baby-naming ceremony.
I think this picture works because of the yellow of the cope matching the hi-vis jacket.
I did get to approach one stone, as a consolation.
Men and women who are married
And men and men who are lovers
And women and women
who give each other
Hafiz, again, by Ladinsky. That wonderful rule of three crescendo to climax. There is sweetness in “married”, it means being one flesh; then “lovers” is more solely Wonderful; but “give each other light” goes so much further, expressing the spiritual aspect of carnal love.
Somewhat dispirited by my debate with one of those Christians who thinks that condemnation of homosexuality is the touchstone of Christianity- if you do not condemn it, you are not a proper Christian- I was delighted to read this. I find myself wondering, what would a literal translation say? Though other cultures do not condemn homosexuality nearly as much as these obsessive Evangelicals do, would Hafiz really have written this? Or would he have had a “spiritual” interpretation, nothing to do with sex at all? Actually, it does not matter. I read the English words now, and delight in them. I give light spiritually at the moment, but it is lovely to think that I am capable of giving light carnally.
Sunday 20th November is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, remembering more than six hundred people murdered because they were trans, and there will be commemorations all over the World of people murdered because of a random characteristic which I share. I think it important to mourn our dead, including our countless suicides, but I also think it important to celebrate our heroes, people who have transcended the difficulties of being transsexual and given something to the World. Just a few, in no particular order:
I was delighted a few years ago when Fascinating Aida appeared on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 without the transsexuality being mentioned. Other things were more interesting. It is a sign of acceptance.
Also I remember the courage and strength of our pioneers, such as April Ashley, who is still going strong. I could name my own personal heroes, but some are in stealth, and I do not want to out people.
In one way, it is no more sensible of me to be “proud” of the achievements of these women than of the achievements of, say, left handed people. But I am inspired to see what may be achieved, and how any difficulties arising from transsexuality may be transcended. And I have fellow-feeling with them, as I have with Scots, and pleasure in the value and worth of my kind.
Oh I cling to things
and I hoard things
and I fear loss
and I need not
for there is more where that came from
Oh I hide and I watch and I withdraw
I so fear if I touch, and I withdraw
and I fear hurt
and I need not
because I heal
Oh I seek to control
and I seek to understand
and I seek to name things
and I seek to force things
and I fear Unknowing
and I need not
because every thing is all right
I have hidden away
for I feared being seen
but I can relate
because I am all right
My heart is full after the Human Awareness Institute weekend, and I wish to share about it. Not about the people, apart from the fact that they are wonderful, because of confidentiality; not about the exercises, because they are entitled to their copyrights, though I can say we built trust and love and affirmation through stroking of faces and hands. I want to share part of the blessing I received.
I became aware of how, though I have discovered that being transsexual really is a blessing, I still resent it. It has been so painful and difficult. Why me? And so I have judged and condemned myself for being transsexual. I have then projected this onto other people, onto tout le monde, imagining their judgment on me for being trans. And this has prevented me seeing how they really react. Some of them, it seems, have some difficulty with my way of being, though I think very few judge me for it, and those poor souls will have enough else to think about so that they will rarely be thinking of me. I intend to be freed from this projection, and to see other people more clearly as they are rather than my imagining of them. I feel more able to love myself, accept myself, and be kind to myself.
It is tempting but untrue to say, the HAI weekend has changed my relationship with x. What it has done is show me that so much more is possible in my relationship with x, more delight and joy and love and authenticity and honesty, and so given me the possibility of changing and improving that relationship myself.
I am really enjoying doing Yoga badly. Alice puts one arm round something and through something else, and miraculously her hands meet. My hands are a yard apart still, and that is quite alright. Put your head on the mat- use a block if you need to- oh well, three blocks. “Don’t fight the pose” is a useful tip, rather than straining to go further with muscular control, just relax into it, go further. So I get better. My PE teacher said that if we practised, we could do the splits after about ten weeks. That was thirty years ago, but I am sure the principle still holds. I will get better, I will go further, if I do this. It is beautiful, and its beauty will increase for me.
The hall where I do it is in a village which seems Mediaeval: manor house at one end, church at the other, street of houses in between with one cross-street by the church. No pedlars, as far as I am aware. It is in the Domesday Book.
I am enjoying doing it badly, because I still get harsh on myself for doing things badly, and then next time stop trying. Yes, that is childish. Yes, I have noticed and am finding myself able to avoid that.
I will make no undertakings or promises about the future, because I get all insh-Allah-y about such things, but I notice that I want grace in my carriage and deportment, and notice that yoga may help with this aim. Such Edwardian words- grace in deportment! Out of fashion because they were made a chore, the concept seems to me a joy.
I met a man this Summer who, when obese and very ill, decided to start going to the gym. He realised that he could not make the movements with weights as other people did, so he made the movements without weights at first, for as long as he needed, and now years later is well, and in work again.
A woman criticised herself angrily for the “baby-steps”, the only, small steps she could take to extricate herself from her violent relationship. And yet she took them, and did leave the man.
So I decided to celebrate, rather than denigrate, the steps I actually take. They are my steps, and what I needed to do at the time, and look how far I have come!
Celebration is good generally. The editor of the Evening Standard has said that he made a conscious decision that the stories in his paper should be more celebratory. He lives in the greatest city in the world, and delights in that.