What conversion practices should be unlawful?

It should be unlawful for a priest to preach that gay is sinful, if a gay person is present.

I consider the effect on the gay person. They may have been traumatised by prejudice, which makes it more difficult for them to resist that lie. The priest- imam, minister, whatever- has power in the community, and ostracism from community hurts. I would not make it criminal, but I would enact that any gay person present during an anti-gay sermon after the law came into force could claim damages for it, and allow such claims for twenty years after, rather than the accustomed three, because of the time it can take victims to recover and realise how harmful such preaching is.

Praying away the gay should be criminal. A figure with any religious authority who tries to “heal” a gay person or counsel that gay person to be celibate should be charged with a criminal offence. The gay person is never wholly voluntarily in such a situation, as they are affected by general societal homophobia or the specific homophobia of the religious body.

Note that the religious body attempts to change who the person is, not just how they act. The faculty of being sexually attracted to other humans is part of the person’s very essence. More people are bi than the culture admits, and prejudices and fears might prevent someone acknowledging an attraction, but the attraction comes from our very nature. Some people are mostly attracted to male or masculine, some mostly to female or feminine.

It’s not what you call that attraction that is the nature of the person. If you think they are a man, and they are attracted to men, you call them gay, but the attraction does not change if in fact they are trans, really a woman, and they transition. They may still be attracted to men. They may admit more attractions, as they are not suppressing their essence after transition, but even if the words we use for them, heterosexual rather than gay, change, their truth, their nature, of being attracted to men, does not.

So it is completely ridiculous to call transition “conversion therapy”. It is a complete fabrication. Unfortunately, some people hate trans so much that they are putting forward that argument- either in a hategasm where they cannot control themselves, or in the cold, deliberately deceiving way that they and their ilk might use denying climate change or evolution by natural selection.

On 15 May, Janice Turner told this lie in The Times, claiming that parents might try to transition a gay child to avoid the stigma of being called gay. She appears to believe that there is no stigma in being called trans. This is divorced from reality.

Worryingly, she claims that the government plan to include compelling someone to transition in the definition of unlawful conversion therapy. The idea that a parent could, or that even the medical professional most committed to children being able to transition would go along with it, is ridiculous. That is the lie she tells, though, in an attempt to smear Stonewall and Mermaids.

So what should be unlawful conversion therapy for trans people? The religious figure preaching against it should be subject to paying damages. The religious figure praying over a trans person should be criminal. What about psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists?

The definition here is simple: attempting to change who someone is should be unlawful. Exploring who someone is should be permissible. Robert Withers, who pretends to transphobes that he can cure trans, should never be allowed near trans people, but a therapist should be able to help a person presenting as trans to get to know themself better.

Sometimes it will be subtle, but the therapist should be aware when they are putting pressure on a person. If they are unaware, they are not qualified to be therapists, because the therapist in a position of authority can damage people by suppressing their nature, in all sorts of ways apart from LGBT. Professional bodies are capable of investigating and disciplining such therapists.

Criminal sanctions will only be available when the pressure to change is clear beyond reasonable doubt. That is enough to protect any therapist helping a client explore their relation with their gender and gender identity. So the definition of criminal conversion therapy could be quite simple: it is an offence for someone in the position of therapist to attempt to change someone’s gender identity. However much some might attempt to obscure it, there is a clear line between attempting to change someone’s nature and helping them explore it.

British Government to ban conversion therapy?

The British government is not going to ban conversion therapy. Instead they are going to start a consultation. They could look round the world at legal bans, or look at what expert bodies have published, but instead they are going to ask religious bodies their thoughts about religious freedom, that is, freedom to preach that LGBT is Abomination unto the Lord, and the usual nutcase transphobes about how trans medical treatment is “conversion therapy” against lesbian and gay people.

They are also writing, still, about “conversion therapy”. It is not therapy! Sometimes it is pseudo-therapy, aping some aspects of therapy- there might be a psychologist, talking to a person about their thoughts and feelings- but it is the opposite of therapy, as it seeks to prevent the person expressing their true self, and seeks to force them into a conventional understanding of what it is to be a man or woman. And sometimes, it avoids the appearance of therapy, as when a priest laid hands on me and prayed to God that I stop cross-dressing. That is an abuse of power, and should be criminal. The pretence that an attack on someone’s core being is “therapy” or “the Love of God” is one of its most damaging aspects.

It is anti-SOGI conversion practices. SOGI, sexual orientation and gender identity, should be clear enough for anyone to understand or look up. Call it what it is.

Liz Truss started with a lie: “As a global leader on LGBT rights”. Most advances on LGBT rights have come about under a Labour government, and equal marriage would have been defeated by Tory rebels without Labour support. Ten years later, the British government is definitely falling behind. So, no, it has not “always been committed to stamping out” anti-SOGI conversion practices, or it would have done so by now.

She writes of “the coercive… practice of conversion therapy”. I had two experiences, of having a psychiatrist and psychologist attempt to stop me cross dressing, and having a priest lay hands on me to cure me. I sought them out. In that moment, they were voluntary, not coercive. The coercion had happened many years before. My apparent free choice of conversion therapy was from programming. My recovery is proceeding many years after.

How will they “protect the medical profession”? The medical profession have ethics rules against conversion practices.

I am bothered about “upholding religious freedom”. Children are taken to worship, or to coaching by religious bodies, and when there are children present such religious bodies should not be inveighing against gay people or trans people, because they may damage gay or trans children present. Ideally, they should not be preaching a heteronormative family structure of Mummies and Daddies. The Rev Tina Beardsley explains some debate on conversion practices in the Church of England.

Even adults who have bought into religious structures, and find community there, or fear ostracism if they come out, are intensely vulnerable before homophobic or transphobic preaching. I do not want it argued that a gay man can decide to be celibate for religious reasons and is entitled to support in that from his church.

The religious bodies have the power, and LGBT+ folk are hurt. Where people realise they have been damaged by that religious power, they should be able to claim compensation for that damage.

When will this happen? After a consultation. The trans consultation was announced in 2017, launched a year later, and only this month the Government acted- to reduce the costs of getting a GRC, slightly, but keep the greatest cost, that of getting medical evidence. Then, “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. Don’t hold your breath.

Meanwhile Liz Truss and her rabble preach hate against trans people.

“Truth in Science”

A group calling itself “Truth in Science” has sent DVDs to schools across the country, claiming that “professionals” (unnamed) have “concern” that vulnerable children are being confused about gender identity, and instead of growing out of it naturally at puberty they change sex. The usual nutters, I thought- some name unconnected to trans, which mysteriously only campaigns to reduce trans rights, and attempts to frame the issue as anything but trans rights. Some nutters are part of four “separate organisations”, some will sign their name to any transphobic rubbish going.

But no. This lot are “Christians”!

I went to their website, and found their one other concern is Creationism. They claim that “the existence of superbly engineered birds remains a significant challenge to neo-darwinian evolution”. Totally barmy (I have decided not to use the other British word, “Batty”, because it may be misunderstood). That writer, Dr Marc Surtees, works in pharmaceuticals, but appears not to be attached to any university.

Surtees’ article is interesting as a specimen. It gives references to real scientists, and discusses their evidence at length. I cannot be bothered looking up the minutiae, but Surtees has not addressed all the evidence that birds evolved from dinosaurs, and the article is obviously rubbish if you have any concept of how evidence may add up to become convincing. Birds descend from therapods, which are saurischian, lizard-hipped; confusingly not ornithischian, bird-hipped. The resemblance of ornithischians to birds was only superficial.

Professor Andy McIntosh, who signed the letter to schools about “The Transgender Agenda”, is a meretricious professor of thermodynamics at the University of Leeds. Sorry, “Emeritus,” which means that he is retired, but holds the title as an honour. He has done serious scientific work. I used to wonder- do Creationist scientists actually believe the rot they peddle, or do they lie for money? Who could tell. It’s the old “Are they fools, or knaves?” question. The answer is usually “both”: fools not because they are stupid but because they have huge blind spots preventing them seeing reality.

The video has experts, though again the ones with most screen time are propagandists. Peter Saunders is chief executive of the ICMDA- that’s the International Christian Medical and Dental Association. I had a look at their website, found nothing in a search for “transgender” or “homosexuality”, and found their “Coronavirus resources” were unobjectionable links to the BMJ, Lancet and WHO. Their aims are to discuss “Christian faith and ethics” in the context of medicine. The Christian Medical Fellowship, a linked British organisation, has the usual propaganda against gay people.

So what of the DVD? Over a doomy ostinato more suited to a horror film, Julie Maxwell, a paediatrician, says “We are losing our parental rights to teach children according to our family values”. Dr Carys Moseley says children are “traumatised and terrified” by LGBT lessons in primary schools.

“We know from anecdotal evidence” says Carys. Huh. Only the strongest evidence could show how birds evolve, and these people will always quibble about it. “What my mate said” is good enough for them to attack LGBT+ people.

Peter scaremongers about reverters. They will come back to doctors and demand justification for hormones and surgery! That scaremongering is better addressed to doctors than teachers, I suppose, but fling it at the wall anyway.

Should trans people bother about it? Probably not. Schools get a lot of rubbish sent to them. Teachers have no time to waste on it. We should be worried about Department for Education guidelines, which show dangerously right-wing views, but not this stuff. “Teachers will ignore it,” says my nonbinary teacher friend- anecdotal evidence you can trust!

Trans pronouns and the US Constitution

Can a professor use male pronouns and the title “sir” for a student who is a trans woman, because he claims his religion requires it and he has a right to Freedom of Speech under the United States Constitution, and that “forcing” him to use people’s pronouns violates his right to exercise his Presbyterian religion? Jordan Peterson first achieved notoriety by refusing to use the pronouns courtesy requires, and Nicholas K Meriwether, an otherwise unremarkable academic, sought to follow in his footsteps supported by an anti-LGBT+ hate group called “Alliance Defending Freedom”. He has failed at the US District court, and I hope that’s an end of it.

Meriwether questioned students during lectures, addressing them as “Sir”, “Ma’am”, or by the titles Mr or Miss and their surname. Treat a student as an adult, and they might behave like one. He addressed Jane Doe, a trans woman in his class,  as “Sir”, and refused to address her as “Miss Doe”. So he differentiated her, by addressing her as “Doe”. According to Meriwether Jane Doe “became belligerent, circling around [plaintiff] and getting in his face in a threatening fashion” while telling plaintiff, “Then I guess this means I can call you a cunt”- but the evidence has not been heard in court, and Meriwether’s exaggerated whining about the complete impossibility of treating students the same or the claimed effects on him of the university’s response makes me doubt his credibility. The judge says at least one of Meriwether’s claims is “not entirely accurate”.

The university suggested Meriwether could address all students by their first name, or surname, but Meriwether refused. In August 2016 the university emailed all academics to require them to use students’ pronouns. On 9 January 2018 Meriwether called Jane Doe “Sir”. After repeated meetings and discussions, on 22 June 2018 the university gave Meriwether a written warning, which Meriwether claims unmanned him completely: he could not discuss gender identity, fearing dismissal, so he sought an injunction preventing the university from enforcing the discrimination policy on him.

The policy for reporting discrimination prohibits Negative or adverse treatment based on… gender identity, [where] the treatment denies or limits the individual’s ability to obtain the benefits of Shawnee State’s programs or activities. It defines gender identity as A person’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth. Calling Jane Doe “Doe” and all the other students Sir, Ma’am, Mr or Miss is plainly disrespectful and would make the class needlessly unpleasant for her.

Meriwether said he would respect Jane Doe’s gender identity if he could include a disclaimer in his syllabus that he was doing so under compulsion and setting forth his personal and religious beliefs about gender identity. He was teaching a political philosophy class, not otherwise relating to gender identity, and as his student I might find that disclaimer more offensive than his refusal to use a title for me.

The judge said any reasonable person would discern the difference between refusing to acknowledge the gender by which an individual student identifies and a discussion of substantive issues surrounding the topic of gender identity.

The judge found use of pronouns was speech, but not protected speech. He was addressing his student as part of his duties as an employee. He might have been entitled to state his beliefs about gender identity in class, but his refusal to call Miss Doe “Miss” did not by itself convey any belief, state facts or make arguments about gender identity. Even if people hearing knew that he did that to express his belief on gender identity rather than to insult Miss Doe for some other reason, the judge said he was not sharing ideas or inviting discussion but was directing his personal beliefs toward Doe, who objected to his speech, and other members of a captive audience who were not free to leave his class or decline to participate in class. The speech did not take place in the context or a broader discussion, and there was no admitted academic purpose or justification. In the speech of an employee the court distinguishes self-expression from the expression of ideas or opinions [which is] participation in the intellectual marketplace. So whenever law or rules protect us from discrimination, we can insist others use our pronouns.

Meriwether’s religious beliefs are repulsive. He believes in Hell for those who fail to declare faith in Jesus Christ- that’s eternal conscious torment for most people, imposed by a “loving” God. The chair of his department, of English and Humanities, expressed her revulsion. He claims his religious beliefs are extremely limiting: they constrain him from calling a trans woman “Miss”. I think his religious beliefs do not limit him at all. Rather they permit him to do what he likes, including insulting and bullying a student, and imagine he is acting morally. However, public authorities may enforce neutral and generally applicable rules and may do so even if they burden faith-based conduct in the process- including a rule to use preferred titles, or, say, a rule against bigamy though it affect some Mormons. Religious beliefs, even if sincerely held, don’t allow you to break any rule you choose.

God save us from what Neil Gorsuch might make of this case, but for the moment in the US our pronouns are safe. Meriwether v. Trustees of Shawnee State University may be found here.

Quaker unity

The idea of Unity is at the heart of Quakerism, yet we rarely try to define it. Instead we use the word as if we all know what it means. There are about seventy uses of the word in Quaker Faith and Practice, and from the context of each we might gain an idea of it.

In the Bible, NRSV, it appears seven times:

Psalm 133
How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
life for evermore.

Here unity is in our common life, and it makes that life bright and beautiful. It is God’s anointing, and life-giving water.

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind.

Ephesians 4.11-13 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

I read this as having maturity, the same faith and knowledge that Christ had, which will bind us together in unity. If we are in touch with what Quakers call the Inner Light, as Jesus was, we will live in unity together.

It was a Quaker word from the beginning. Edward Burrough wrote in 1662 of making decisions in love, coolness, gentleness and dear unity. All these words are aspects of one way of relating. Isaac Penington might find unity with anyone he meets, when he found the spirit and life in them. Francis Howgill repeatedly echoed the new testament in his description of worship, including 1 Peter: We met together in the unity of the Spirit, and of the bond of peace, treading down under our feet all reasoning about religion. George Fox wrote of our “unity in the Spirit” and Margaret Fell of “peace, love and unity,” both to people outside the new movement: it is a common English word, and Christians would understand it just as they understood Christian love. For William Penn, when someone ministered in meeting the rest, recognising the leadings of Christ, would adhere with a firm unity. Elizabeth Fry feared the snare of spiritual pride in the sense of religious unity.

Unity is a state of our being in eternity: Job Scott wrote of everlasting unity shortly before his death; we are in unity with the living and the dead. And unity is a process. We continually achieve it, in our meetings for worship as they gather, (when two or three gather together I am with them) and our meetings for worship for business. It is not in words and doctrines: We have sought unity through agreement in doctrines and institutions; and the track of church history, like some new road through the desert, is strewn with the parched skeletons of our failures. For John Punshon, we might find it with Methodists in communion- I am like you, and we share one faith in God- though Friends might disapprove, or counsel against. It is from God, and it is part of our wordless human, primate, mammalian way of being with each other when our words and our conflict fall away. Our differences are always present. How we deal with those differences is our continuing work, with God’s help. Iain Law feared breaking unity and his friendships if he ministered of his experiences in his meeting.

In business meeting we sometimes all join together in a certainty of immediate rightness and sometimes one will acquiesce in the discernment of their Friends, after they have been heard. As a worshipping community, particularly in our local and area meetings, we have a continuing responsibility to nurture the soil in which unity may be found. John Woolman found Quaker work best done with the discerned assent of the Meeting.  The Yearly Meeting struggled to find unity on sexuality in 1994, and found it sixteen years later. There is unity in the search and the struggle together.

In the struggle to find unity, in finding the beauty of what one other has found and valued, we may grow. One Friend’s boldness leads us on. We might seek a feeling of safety from uniformity of outward practices and observations, or from creeds, but that is not true unity, which we find in Jesus.

Our differences persist, though mostly unexpressed, so in considering membership we need trust and a sense we are safe enough, for the moment. Rufus Jones wrote of the “hidden seed of God”, and for me our current exploration of privilege becomes relevant: we have differences of culture and of personality, and worldly ways of enforcing hierarchy come naturally and mostly unconsciously to us. We recognise we are at different stages along the way. We don’t require great achievement but sincerity of purpose. Boundaries are sketchy, because they cannot be defined beforehand in words but must be known in relationship in the moment: there are broad principles of belief and conduct on which unity is essential… even though precise agreement on every point is not required. Thomas Story wrote, The unity of Christians never did nor ever will or can stand in uniformity of thought and opinion, but in Christian love only.

Unity, and the sense of the presence of God, is our experience outside meeting: Anne Hosking found it kissing her children, and from the earliest days of Christianity we might find it in coitus. It is in our shared humanity- with everyone- so might be found in our most painful experiences such as bereavement.

Janet Scott wrote, This is the truth which we know and try to live … that every person is capable of response to the divine Spirit; that this Spirit, or Light, or God reaches out to each one directly and freely; that if we follow the leadings of this Spirit faithfully we are led out of sin into unity with the divine will; that this unity leads us into love of and care for all humankind, who are our kin; that what the Spirit shows us is living truth which cannot be fettered by words.

Two chapter headings include the word. Chapter 25 is Unity of Creation, arguing that All species and the Earth itself have interdependent roles within Creation. Humankind is not the species, to whom all others are subservient, but one among many. And, This is a marvellous world, full of beauty and splendour; it is also an unrelenting and savage world, and we are not the only living things prone to dominate if given the chance. In our fumbling, chaotic way, we do also make gardens, irrigate the desert, fly to the moon and compose symphonies. There is a unity of the human species, and of the biosphere.

Chapter 27 is Unity and Diversity. God’s truth is too wide for one person, or even perhaps one religion. John Woolman found it among the “Indians”, and Robert Barclay in the Turks. Henry Hodgkin, a Quaker missionary, wrote in 1933 I believe that God’s best for another may be so different from my experience and way of living as to be actually impossible to me. I recognise [a change] to have taken place in myself, from a certain assumption that mine was really the better way, to a very complete recognition that there is no one better way, and that God needs all kinds of people and ways of living through which to manifest himself in the world. We might also find truth among other Christians, for example in Thomas Merton’s contemplative prayer, but these things may be too close to us, and QFP does not say this. We value the Bible, and the Spirit which is above it. We have our reasons for rejecting specific consecrated sacraments, and ordained ministry.

The Lonely Transsexual

The Lonely Transsexual is a fascinating blog. Some of her/his writing makes me want to punch the air and shout YES! Some simply misses the point. She gets herself in some sad fights, though.

Pronouns- I will use “she”, as she has a diagnosis of gender identity disorder and transitioned, was a husband, and identifies as transsexual. However she also says she is a man. When she says she is gay I interpret that as attracted to men.

She thinks pronouns should refer to sex not gender. She is happy to be called “she” as long as it is not coerced. She is a man and does not object to “he” though it reminds her of her medical condition, gender dysphoria, so hurts. I see no difficulty in calling gender variant AMAB people who transition “she”. That does not mean that you can’t make assumptions with other gender variant people. Generally, it’s courteous to use the pronoun people choose, and while someone might have suggested the pronouns on her list from xe to per, most people seem to use he she or singular they.

She learned to hate herself as an Evangelical Christian, but has now found an accepting church.

What I like, first. Being trans is about a mismatch between gender identity and biological sex… Biological sex should not determine gender roles and stereotypes however right now it does.

Well, yes. There are gender variant people. Some of us express ourselves using gender stereotypes of the opposite sex. Some assert our sex but resist or subvert the stereotypes. Some resent the term “gender variant”, saying concepts of gender are incoherent and without meaning or value.

However I disagree with her when she says transvestites have legitimised themselves by coopting transsexualism and intersex, and what was a fetish has become an identity. I am sure there are still men who dress wholly or partly in women’s clothes and would not transition. My friend was sick of cross-dressing all the time after a week. He used women’s loos when dressed female but would not use a refuge.

Most people who would transition want some surgery and hormones. There has not been some great takeover by “transvestites”. Possibly more gender variant AMAB people are transitioning because they think it is more acceptable.

“The” Lonely Transsexual? So many of us are lonely. It is a difficult path. We distrust cis people and do not get on well with other trans women, because they reflect our insecurity and difficulty back to us.

She writes of her hatred of her penis. She could not consider sex. I don’t think that puts her in a separate category. Some people hate the thought of infertility or body alteration. You can be trans, even “transsexual” according to doctors’ definitions, and not want surgery.

A transwoman is no more a woman than a seahorse is a horse. Sigh. Arguably. But we exist, and if we are harmless making an exception and allowing us in women’s spaces seems worthwhile, so that gender variant people may find our way of being variant.

She doesn’t pass, and has stopped trying to. She uses makeup to express herself, and is fine that no woman would use it like that. This is brave. No longer worrying about fooling people into believing she is a cis woman allows her better to be herself. I’m not doing it for you! Today I am sporting a two color eye makeup in blue and purple, blue eye liner and blue lipstick! It’s my look and style and I like it. This attracts hatred: she was standing at a crossing and a middle aged woman hissed “pervert” at her.

I love the bravery. She is not fitting in. She has found a new way to be gender variant.

Yes AMAB people get sexually aroused by dressing female. But if you see one so dressed in the street they are probably not aroused. It makes tucking difficult. They probably do it too much to be aroused all the time.

She is read as TERF. A commenter writes, I recognize the risks that you and the high profile women’s rights advocates are running in this fight. They run no risk beyond being despised for the exclusion they preach, but incipient martyrdom is so much a part of their identity. I feel Lonely TS could be more challenging to such commenters. Being stuck in the binary with the trans-excluders is a waste.

Is she British? She knows the gender marker on the UK driving licence, and goes into some detail on the Gender Recognition Act, but does not know the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 was superseded by the Equality Act 2010 and uses US spellings- color, license. I find this odd. An American might be glad to hear of the GRA but not want to go into the minutiae. And I would expect most churches over here to accept a trans woman, except the most extreme Evangelicals.

I wanted to find out whether she uses men’s, women’s or disabled loos, but don’t need to know. I am sure she feels guilty and conflicted or frightened whichever she uses, and that is a shame. She is concerned for the rights and feelings of others, and I wish she knew she has a right to exist, in her unique way.

Extinction Rebellion

At last, there is something I can do.

I hope to spend as much time as possible on Lambeth Bridge in the coming week. I will worship God. There is Quaker worship planned every day at 2pm for half an hour, and there will be other worship: I will sing hymns, join prayer, if I am allowed worship with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and join their call to God. There is a spiritual reality binding humanity and the biosphere. I call it God. Others may have other understanding of spirituality, but it is the still small voice that calls to every person, the Truth and Good in every heart, the source of courage and inspiration in the darkest places.

Even if you do not call it God, you know what I mean. It is the thing all humanity has in common. When we come together in Love, humans are powerful.

There is an emergency. I could reel off any number of horrors, but the Bahamas hurricane will do. I will not give you statistics- you can find them if you want. Nor do I want to justify climate science- CO2 has been recognised as a greenhouse gas since the 19th century. I have seen the wilful lies of the climate deniers, and their duplicity for financial gain repels me.

Democracy is under threat from a Prime Minister who promises fantasies- Get Brexit Done- heedless of the risk to the population. Now is the time to act.

I can give up meat, and that is nothing compared to the Amazon fires, encouraged by the Bolsonaro government, or the emissions from private jets (I am tempted to link to George Monbiot’s article, but would be tempted to go on, and just be linking to horror after horror, promoting despair.)

Instead I will say what we, the people may do. We can say No. We can act in the strength of the Spirit of God (or of Humanity, if you will). We can come together.

I love Extinction Rebellion’s simple demands.

Tell the Truth.
Act Now.
Beyond politics.

Beyond politics- they want a citizen’s assembly, to decide what can be done to save our planet separately from the manoeuvring of party politics, and the influence of big donors and propagandists.

I love their principles, in particular no. 9:

We are a non-violent network

This is the heart of my Christianity. Jesus said,

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God. . . . You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy”; but I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven.

As Richard Rohr says, we can live by this now.

These are my strengths. I worship. I connect to What Is, and to God within me. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, loving. In this way I can form connections with the others worshipping on the bridge, and with others who approach us. I want to meet people heart to heart, talk, listen and connect. The action may be a silent retreat amid the noise of London.

My great niece was born in 2017. If she lives as long as my father did, she will still be living in the 22nd century, when the current level of CO2 has wreaked its full effects on our climate, melting the ice, raising the sea level, killing off countless other species. I must mitigate the effects of CO2 as far as possible, for her, and even for myself as I may live past 2050. We will find a way.

Encounters at Greenbelt

I hugged a bishop. He agreed to wear a pronouns badge, when I explained what it meant. It is a declaration not so much that he is binary male, as an ally to trans and non-binary.

He understood about privilege, as a white man in leadership. He had a tour of the Supreme Court and took tea with the Lord Chief Justice, and it may even be a good thing for such different pillars of the Establishment to be in dialogue- yet revealed why he understood privilege when he said he was a “Grammar school boy made good”: seeing class privilege is his way into seeing white and male privilege. Yes. We English place every one on a precise pecking order, as he says.

I walked from the Shelter, and gatecrashed a conversation on the Second Amendment. The US Supreme Court decided the right to bear arms was as unlimited as the right to free speech- only about ten years ago. Yet we cannot say “That man is wrong. Kill him!” A woman joined the conversation and said but we say that all the time- and my understanding changed. Yes, but only a few people can choose the victim. She is a nun. She leads clowning workshops. I hugged her, too. I hugged lots of people, after meaningful conversations: at Queer Spirit I went up to strangers, asked for hugs, and usually got them.

I went to the Inclusive Church stall for more pronoun badges. I got my first at the Out stall. I wore three, one He, one She and one They, to stir things up. Had there been an It badge I would have worn that too. The woman there was a Quaker, and she said she had got them to change their Inclusion statement from “Our Statement of Belief”, which is Evangelical sounding,  to “Our Vision”. They don’t just let churches sign up, they go to work with churches to ensure the congregation is behind it, that the church has undergone metanoia, a Christ-inspired change in their way of being. No out-groups. The discussion can be a powerful moment for growth.

They pledge to challenge discrimination in the Church on grounds including gender and gender identity.

On to the United Reformed Church. I asked, and they said individual churches can decide to solemnise gay marriages. It’s a matter of church government- but the discussion leading to such decisions can be a powerful engine of growth and maturity.

In the Grove there was a Play for Adults workshop. We were told to visualise a tiny self, an inch tall, and imagine their adventures in the undergrowth. Some used this as a way into fantasy. I used it to enter mindful awareness of the growth and decay. Then she offered us choices. A friend said at his two year old’s birthday party the children were all playing separately, having not got the idea of playing together, and here we were, as adults, mostly playing separately.

I joined a person drumming with twigs on a log, and two others joined us. After the person said their name, and I am now unsure of their gender and assigned gender. I mention that. It’s unusual. It feels a little weird, and good.

My other time with a microphone was at the LGBT social, when I spoke to the group about becoming Quaker, and how proud Quakers are of the welcome they gave me.

Howard Thurman

If I never feel confused, is confusion that terrifying emotion which I must always suppress below conscious awareness? If the distance between how things are and how they ought to be is so great that I cannot see how things are, being just confused, how can I do what I need to do? If my anger is always directed at myself- do better, try harder, keep going- how can I survive a world unless it is designed to fit me and support me? When do I realise that it isn’t?

I am wary of using Black experience as a way into my own as their oppression is greater than mine, except that mine matters too. I am a trans woman, conveniently available for anyone to punch down at, relieve their feelings on, use as a scapegoat or ridicule. We get screamed at, assaulted, killed by casual acquaintances or strangers, and painted as perverts or predators when any need is felt to justify that though often it isn’t.

So I read extracts from Howard Thurman, Black mystic and spiritual adviser to Martin Luther King.

“The stirring of the will of man to action, the dream of humanity, developed and free… is God.”

God speaks through my survival instinct and the occasional, fleeting desire I have to be equal, not to be that whipping-girl. I will not wrong others, and I will survive.

God lives in each person, we are each the outworking of God’s love, power, creativity and beauty, each hair on our head is numbered and God wills our flourishing- yes, even trans women.

The Black man, used by whites for the most menial work, lynched- murdered- by whites to keep all Blacks in a state of terror and subjection and satisfy those whites of their own righteous superiority, finds that in religious experience “I hear His Voice in my own tongue and in accordance with the grain in my own wood. In that glorious and transcendent moment, it may easily seem to me that all there is, is God.”

God is a real me, more real than I can conceive. This is not a matter of dogma but immediate experience, to be captured in feeling not prose or theory, perhaps to be glimpsed in poetry. Then I am my full glory as my part in God’s outworking of creation.

Thurman’s God and mine is transcendent, eternal, all-encompassing, and personal and intimate, caring for me like God’s child in self-sacrificing, motherly love. So, I will show myself the love God shows I am worthy of.

Christianity is an ideology of empire, for security and respectability for the strong and powerful, giving grudging “charity”, sometimes, to deserving outsiders but teaching us our obligations to our betters. This makes those betters feel good about themselves. No, God requires that we are brothers and sisters, equals. I claim my equal worth. God in me seeks not to serve or dominate but to hear and communicate.

Why do I call myself Christian when Christianity oppressed me? To create it anew!

I am a human being among human beings, not for anyone to categorise or judge as “a trans woman”, for no-one’s stereotypes classifications or perceived understanding- even my own. That is love of self in my incomprehensible beauty, a love worthy of loving others with. I am my part of Life, as you are. Each Christian encountering another Christian as an equal, a beloved fellow child of the loving Mother would be an example to all other people. “See how they love each other!” We would win souls for Christ.

Gender is as oppressive as race and we who do not fit gender stereotypes or are not served by them must come together. So I take Richard Rohr’s questions and apply them to gender:

Where in your life do you feel numb, shut down, dismembered, disrespected, or disconnected? What is your earliest memory of feeling this way? What events or circumstances do you believe gave birth to these experiences? What do you believe such feelings keep you from knowing?

What gender identities or stereotypes have shaped how you have come to know yourself as a person?

What views did your ancestors, elders, parents, or caretakers have about gender? How did their views impact you? In what ways were/are your views similar or different?

This is what to do with my anger, whether directed inward or outward- transmute it into a sense of self-worth: which becomes understanding, then love.

Being discombobulated

The doctor makes me feel ill.

Like the battle between trans and terf, the battle between biblical literalists and atheist rationalists continues on the blogs. I blog to get things clear in my mind, and having dismissed creationism to my satisfaction I have moved on. You can’t win against them: they seem happy to continue asserting their rubbish, backed by their tight communities of Evangelicals. They twist and distort. So the truth-teller comments, and they respond in an arrogant way, a beautiful example being the assertion that trilobite fossils offer at least as much proof for the creation/flood scenario as the old age earth cosmology.

I remain proud of this comment: The more I interact with you, Tim, the more I see how pitiable you are. How much more beautiful my world is! I hear words like biostratigraphy or palaeothermometry, and learn what they mean, and think- How wonderful! How beautiful! People are finding these things out! And you think, They must be wrong. It is all rubbish. Here is a dispute and there is an inconsistency, and all scientists are FOOLS!

How much more beautiful my Bible is! My Bible has story, and metaphor, and poetry, and poetic imagery, and allusion. Your Bible has a series of propositions, more or less ridiculous, which you have to Believe. My Bible leads me to God, and your Bible mires you in lies.

And my Christian argument against creationism: God created people in God’s image, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, and scientists seek understanding, assessing the evidence. From presuppositions of a young Earth and a Flood, geologists in the 18th century established evidence of an old Earth, and how the Flood could not have created the strata visible all over the world. They seek the truth. That academic science, involving millions of people, should have produced such a detailed account of the Earth’s history, continually being refined, is one of the wonders of God’s creation. They do so based on evidence in the Earth’s rocks, as astronomers observe electromagnetic radiation falling on the Earth and its satellites, and geneticists, genomes. A God who created all this evidence to delude God’s people would be a monster, creating a stumbling block that uses our good qualities, curiosity and commitment to truth, against us. Alternatively, a God who allowed Satan to deceive us in that way would not deserve my worship. My God does not send ane to Heaven and ten to Hell.

This towering achievement of humanity is airily dismissed. Here that doctor uses the diversity in the oldest evidence of the Cambrian explosion to argue for creation. Schizochroal eyes are indeed complex. But earlier life has been found, in the Ediacaran biota, too soft to create fossils without exceptional conditions. As life began to move on legs and fins, and detect light and sound, an evolutionary arms race began between predators and prey creating the Cambrian explosion. Richard Dawkins explains the evolution of eyes. Isaiah quoted by Matthew describes the person who would dismiss that explanation.

And yet this Emergency Room physician dismisses all this evidence, all this analysis, as “Arrogant, prideful and foolish”. He turns his back on the truth. Challenge him, and he will answer you. Anyone wanting to find the truth, or deal with argument fairly, has an impossible disadvantage- for I want to show him the wonders of God’s creation. Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you will be a fool yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes. He is a blind guide.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.

The cascade of wicked falsity makes me feel ill. He is a physician! He writes in grammatical sentences. I dare to hope that Christians can seek truth together, in love, and his torrent of gibberish, told with a straight face, belies that. I get stronger, though. Yes, people are trapped in delusion, and try to delude others, but also some seek truth, and we can approach it if we are committed to it. When starting this blog I wanted to analyse why I find an arrogant series of assertions, stated as if the speaker believed them but clearly untrue, was so disorientating to me. It is like motion sickness. And I can’t. Why do I find it so unpleasant? I just do.

One of my exercises is the Agreement Challenge: what can you value in something you disagree with? Violet introduced me to his blog, this post. So I was glad to be introduced to this article on how the value of scientific evidence is a philosophical question rather than a scientific one. Indeed. I like Violet’s prescriptions for education, and am sad I even considered anything that physician said.

There is a limit to the value of pointing out the foolishness of fools. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, the way is to promote birth control and education on human relationships and consent. US Republicans oppose this. We like to think rationality will prevail, but they’re not listening!

I am less discombobulated than I was by such vileness. Yesterday, at a conference I was discombobulated in a completely different way: I glimpsed that if I could better understand what these speakers were saying, perhaps reading the paper rather than hearing it, my understanding of the World would be enriched. Good advice: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. I will spend less time worried about wicked rubbish!