Seeing both sides

“I’m shocked there is a process” for Quaker excommunication, disownment, whatever, she said.

“There has to be,” I said. That surprised her, and she stared at me for a few seconds.

“To see from so many aspects,” she said.

“It is a huge gift,” I said. I sympathise. I see where they are coming from. I simply want a solution to include me in the decision-making.

“They may be too frightened to take you back.

“How do you feel about it?”

My comfort zone has restricted to a point. I am a beaten cur cowering in a corner. I am frightened to go out. I do not want to see anyone.

Take that as a compliment. I trusted your unconditional positive regard so trusted enough to speak to you. I don’t want to see anyone else. I have phoned a couple of people.

I had the thought this morning, I passionately desire you not to disown, disfellowship, what’s the dry phrase- termination of membership. I want to remain a Quaker. I thought there was a possible explanation of that which would be unhealthy. I could not bear the judgment that I was so unbearable, so I needed them to affirm my value because I could not affirm it myself. I am pretty sure that is not my motive.

Oh wow. Can I say that? Is it true? I can!

I have worked out for myself I am acceptable.

After the low point of despising myself that I came to, reaching this point is pretty impressive.

I want to be in a Quaker meeting because I want the experience of worship. This is therapeutic, but that is a by product: I am seeking the Inner Light, that is, doing what I am supposed to be doing, though it is more difficult for me than some Quaker writings might seem to imply. The inner light is worth seeking.

Quakers give me my opportunity to be a contributing intellectual: for years the only times people have paid for my writing (though not paid me) has been in Quaker publications, and most of my audiences have been Quaker.

Having been disowned, or TM’d under 11.30c, I could still attend worship, but would feel compunction or constraint. Now I do it as of right, with equals, then I would feel tolerated (if that) and separate. The loss might stop me attending at all.

It is the Religious Society of Friends, and I want that friendship. I want to talk with my intellectual and spiritual equals and to stimulate and be stimulated. I know people value what I say, and even if one felt “collared inescapably” over coffee, others enjoy my company, even seeking me out. You can’t get on with everyone.

The beaten cur explores tentatively, glances round furtively. What might be possible?

“I hope you write,” she said. Of course. It is pouring out of me. It is my way of exploring. “I’m in awe of your writing ability,” said someone. Another told me I should write a book, though I still don’t see that as possible or worthwhile. What I write now, exploring from different positions, may not be what I come to eventually.

seeing and being seen

If you saw someone you could not fail to love them. You would see aspects and feel something like pity but more like fellow-feeling and other aspects and feel awe and recognise them in yourself.

I want to be seen. I am a human being. Human beings are beautiful.

If you do not want to love anyone you can restrict what you see. No, not looking at that bit. So we agree to look at a tiny bit of the other and talk of nothing at all.

-How’s the campaigning going?

Or it’s not even a part of me, it’s like what I thought was a shiny badge but it’s not even a sharp piece of gravel from a road builder’s yard, not even as beautiful as that, as it’s not real.

-Well enough. It’s great when a Tory says they don’t trust the Tories any more.

I can’t do that for long. I recall: I used to read the Telegraph, and then one day there was an article by AN Wilson

(Noted aesthete, fogey, and biographer of CS Lewis)

and I thought he’s having a laugh. It was so right wing I did not think anyone could believe it. The following week, it was the Sunday Telegraph, there were several letters saying “how wonderful to read The Truth from AN Wilson!” “Wilson tells it as it is!” And I didn’t want to read the Telegraph any more.

That was a small part of me.

-Shall we arrange another of these meetings?

I don’t say anything. I wait to hear what anyone has to say. So someone says they have run their course and there is no need. I feel cut off, and afterwards text someone who says if I had requested the meetings continue that would have happened, and if I request it now he will pass that on.

If I beg, they may in their mercy cast me a scrap.

Are Quakers transphobic? Not in a way they would realise it, but their aversion is worse for being unconscious. The irritation is greater, the fellow-feeling less.

If you want to hate me, or make others hate me, describe me. Turn me into a construct of words. Make me an abstraction, either as an individual or as part of my group. Of course not all trans women are criminals but enough of them are that it is reasonable for women to be frightened of them. Women should not be frightened so trans women should be excluded. See? It’s simple, it’s rational, it’s loving.

One of the purposes of natural justice is to humanise the accused. Audi alteram partem, hear both sides, is commanded because if youdon’t your sympathies naturally attach to the person you see. The person you don’t see is not a full person.

Hear both sides before making a decision. Otherwise your decision is prejudiced. Hearing after making a decision, you are biased against changing your mind. So you should put off making your mind up and always be open to changing it.

I thought of going there. I would hold them in love. They are loveable (see above) and my capacity for fellow-feeling and compassion is huge. However, when I find myself unable to communicate I regress to the distress of a pre-toddling baby. I could find myself in such a state.

I may, still. I wish to humanise myself in their eyes. However, if they are too far gone, they will not see me. They will see a problem not a person, even if I am there.

H told me when she was a child her nose was considered ugly, and she was mocked for it. I had never thought of it. She explained why. That is thought ugly? Since then I have noticed noses. Before, I considered eyes, mainly. Certain faces I thought beautiful or full of character I see through other eyes. That nose would be called ugly, so the face is, so the person is. It is a loss. My friend is not ugly.

What I can do

I’m not sure I would call it a personal crisis-

Last week I was effective. I was out protesting, talking, persuading, encouraging, writing, photographing for eight hours a day. I valued myself and people valued me- that vicar on Friday talked of me dancing on Tuesday. I think she saw I needed valued, and she valued me.

The week before I was not effective. I was supposed to go in to the office twice and both times failed to do so, and the thing is that I did not realise I would not until I did not. There’s the moment when I should get up, having had breakfast, and shower and dress and I just carried on reading the Guardian on my phone. Well, my phone is my main source of dopamine. And this week, on Tuesday I just stayed in bed.

I don’t have the energy or motivation to get up but until I should but don’t I don’t know it. I imagine I will.

I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I will do, and when I think I want to do something I don’t know if I will. I would not call it a personal crisis because it doesn’t feel that bad to me; it’s only when I see what I do that I think maybe I should be worried.

And yet I was effective last week. It’s odd. I wanted to do all that stuff.

Consciousness is overrated. Subconscious (superconscious?) me makes decisions, conscious me watches. Possibly there are different voices in subconscious me that pull different ways, so one wants to go to the office, and possibly it only fibs to conscious me that it wants to because temporarily that makes conscious me feel safe. Possibly the bit getting its way, and not going to the office, is the Real Me following my heart, and possibly it’s childish-in-a-bad-way me, following immediate pain-avoidance at the cost of long term goals.

I have the experience of speaking with whole me integrity, which indicates that at other times I am torn, or in two minds.

The good thing I have done today, rather than phone-touching, is half an hour’s meditation, holding XR Quakers in the light at the time they were worshipping. I think it “good” because it was focused beyond myself.

It seems to me that in the lower ranks of that office people are constantly irked, and the strict hierarchy is shown by who gets to moan and who has to listen. C said to me she did not expect me in, the day after I did not get the job, and I said, well, it was a matter of pride- and self-interest, getting me into a routine whatever my motivation. It was, that day, and that worked. Then after S complained to me about M moaning to her and how M should think of that quote, you know, the something to accept what you can’t change, I walked back down the corridor fighting the tears (usually a losing battle for me) deciding I would demand a listening ear and it would be whole life all problems, the expression of pain I would erupt into, starting I used to be a solicitor! Well, I fought down the tears and found myself hearing an account of someone’s Saga holiday in Egypt- not telling us of tombs and temples, but of the transport getting there. The day trip to the Pyramids (Great Pyramid of Khufu, I thought to myself, not all pyramids are at Cairo) involved internal flights.

“Now you’ll know what to do, when they weigh your heart against a feather,” I said, but she did not rise to that one. There may be many things messing up my relationships there, but I doubt being trans helps- even if only in the sense that I had male privilege and have not got it now.

In a world which is almost all black, going to that office offers the faintest chance of the darkest grey for me. It’s not what I would have wanted. It may be all there is.

I feared I could not do the job anyway.

I have a cold, and together with the depression that takes away my motivation.

Mostly today I have played on my phone and watched telly. The Broo is after me again. I could have bought food or done washing. I liked the busker’s puppets, moving their mouths as if singing harmonies.

Extinction Rebellion VI

When the police are cutting people’s lockons, it doesn’t half smell. I watched them at it in the morning and afternoon. Several phone photographers were cranking round the police lines. “Pity she won’t stand somewhere else so we could get a better view,” said one, as the sparks flew. Those plastic shields would have protected us. I don’t know whether the police provided the protester’s visor and ear protection.

“What are Quakers then?” asked the policeman. Continue reading

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.

The Cubic Structural Evolution Project

To get to the Quaker meeting I left the house before eight, and cycled up steep hills and into stiff winds. Then at the station the replacement bus was full, and a man had suggestions of what the incompetents managing the service should have done. Do we get compensation? Yes, but only £6.75.

A woman offered me a lift in her car. She’s off to see Romeo and Juliet, at Sadlers Wells, choreographed by Matthew Bourne. He always manages to surprise her with new ways of expressing story in dance.

“You’re obviously very creative,” she said.

Yes, that’s why I wanted to tell you of her.

“I’m not creative myself,” she said. I protested. You talk to your grandchild, don’t you? You’re interacting, sparking off each other. She agreed and enthused.

“The 9.42 will get me to my meeting on time,” I announced.

“No pressure, then,” she said. She got her silent husband to let us out at the drop off point before parking. If they rowed about her generosity they did it after I left.

On the train the big shaven-headed bloke in jeans and white t-shirt talked of going to Mass and his grandmother’s power of attorney. At Meeting I looked at the food bank box and thought of connection- mine with these people, through them with my fellow benefit claimants.

I had not known what was in the Turbine Hall, and went over to look. I had not intended to join in but got chatting to a mother and daughter who explained it to me.

“I want to go back to the bar,” said the mother.

“How old are you?”

“Eleven,” said the child, who looked younger.

Oh, she’ll be alright! No one will mind!

“You have to take towers down or there will be no bricks to build with,” says the mother. I joke about playing Godzilla and the daughter is horrified.

The future city is very beautiful now. Those are huge towers, wonderfully varied, from only a few different brick types. I have not really noticed adult Lego hobbying before. I was aware of its existence but only seeing what is possible in real life makes me alive to it. Children make structures at ground level, but I want to contribute and be Noticed. When the towers have taken so long to build, and such inspiration to imagine, how can I compete? I will build a bridge.

That’s difficult with the short bricks available. The round towers can only sit on the table, not build on bricks. I am Creating: constrained by my materials, inspired by other work. My bridge has a hinge in it, making it considerably weaker but more able to place between towers. It is irregular, Brutalist among these neo-classical forms. Inadvertently I knock the top off a tower as I try to affix it, and am abashed; but I do not have time to rebuild it even if I knew how.

It is ungainly, detracting from the Beauty! No, it is a piquant or picaresque contrast, adding to the whole work. I hadn’t seen a bridge there before, but noticed someone creating one later. Future cities need bridges! Writing next day I don’t know if my bridge still exists, but my posts are web archived, and perhaps archeologists will find silicon with this photograph, just before the Sun as a red giant engulfs the Earth.

Then I go to gaze into the eyes of the Goncharova Christ, which is why I came to London. I can’t find it in a postcard or online- possibly like an icon it is holy, so restricted. The grapes on His vine are rich and strong.

I want to take a tower apart and put a slab of blue bricks in! It would not need to be large, and it would stand out like the Sun in Impressions- Sunrise!

With biscuits and cheese, and two cups of tea at Meeting, I don’t need to buy food in the gallery. I am with Christ and the Queen of Heaven when I am chucked out.

Without the mask

If I were to appear without my mask, I would appear almost exactly as I do now: serious except when humorous, caring, determined, sometimes deeply moved. Heaven and Hell are so close I almost cannot tell the difference, except for the pain of it.

I was unable to speak again, and as always it surprised me. After we discussed his wedding at the weekend, he asked why I volunteer here.

I have emotional problems, I thought. I am (or part of me is) happy to be open about that. And I could not say it. I closed my eyes trying to gain control, feeling tears rise. It is not that I consciously feel overcome. And then suddenly I was over it, as if there was a barrier to speaking and then there wasn’t. And later when D asked the same thing I had no problem saying it, in that higher voice which feels the more authentic me.

I do not know what I am feeling, much of the time, but today I realised how anxious I am. I wish I were not, but the need to be perfect is hard.

And I do not realise what I want, often. I wrote, “I want”,  then put the paper down for some time. Then I picked it up and wrote,

“to take a full part in my AM. I want my service valued there as it is elsewhere.”

When I got home, I called the Samaritans to talk of that paralysis or barrier. I don’t climb over the barrier, I let it go.

I want to be high-functioning, I said, and saying it I know it to be true, and so learn the fact and realise how much I want it.

I want to appear competent, so there is a barrier to saying things like “I have emotional problems”, because a competent person should not; yet achieving competence requires that I am able to admit it is it is true. Competence does not mean pretence.

She asked, why do you wear a mask? Because I am frightened of showing what is underneath. What would happen if I did? Utter humiliation equivalent to death. And yet I showed myself this morning and was met with sympathy and understanding.

I don’t climb over the barrier.
I let it go.

I may learn this fully, then the barrier (fear, need to keep up appearances, whatever) will have no more power.

Then it is a paradox: the need to appear competent in my own mind prevents me from being competent. My fear of being unable is the only thing preventing me.

Then we talked of suicide. I have been suicidal, and am not now though I feel incapable of looking after myself, and my income is inadequate and precarious. I tell the safety harness story. Jess said, “The thing I learned about you is you are a really hard worker,” and that is how I learned it myself. I had not known it before. And now I realise how much I am hurt by that.

I am seeing how hard I am working now and what I have had to overcome. I would have said ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ Perhaps I would still: me without the mask looks very like me with it. Yet I would no longer believe that.

Ignoring women

The report, chaired by a woman, seeking evidence from women and women’s organisations,
“ignored women,” she said.
She meant, ignored her.
Did not repeat her views.
Perhaps I should tell her the ways of the world.
Even I ignore me.
I said to the paedophile
(Of course he is more than that-
hopes, fears, dreams, love, aspirations
Achievements- and yet a paedophile
And so, a paedophile)
“Look mate, I get it. I am someone the meanest of men can despise too.”
You’re never invisible when they want to hurt you.
Do these feminists take their equality so seriously
that they think they can despise me like men do?
When she says “I was raped. I was traumatised. I was sexually assaulted”
I hope she inspires sympathy, anger and resolution
but against rapists, not trans women.
“for the crime of asking if it was a female only space”
(That is, pure of trans women
Who pollute like a drop of ink in a litre of water
even if we are not actually there)
“I was spoken down to!”
By Women!
Women abet the Oppression of Women!
What greater loneliness could there be?
Woman’s voices are being suppressed! Misogyny!
She will preserve her standard of Integrity.
As for me, I wheedle, “Why can’t we all get along?”
How feminine is that?

Hugs and masks

This social group practises consensual touch, and I have been held and cuddled this weekend. I feel revivified, warmed, cared for.

It is a wonderful exercise, and quite simple. In pairs, one touched the other. The other responds yes, to consent, no to veto such touching, “Pause” to consider, or “please” to show enthusiasm. The giver of touch can say nothing but the phrase “Are you still there?” if there is no response.

And then, in pairs, ask for what you want.

I want to be held. In fact I want to be cradled. I feel incapable of facing the demands on me, and without support, and this is lovely. I look up at my friend, and she looks down at me and smiles.

We started with a series of personal growth weekends, but from around 2000 they built a community of those who had done level one. I joined in 2011, when there were a number of community camps, and though we don’t have the courses in the UK any more, we still have community gatherings. It had been fading for a while- our youngest participants are in their forties, and when I wanted to encourage those actresses into it I felt unable to as there were no men their age.

My friend held the gathering in her three acre garden, and I went early to help put up the marquees. I also helped with food prep.

We have lots of time to sit around in the sun talking, or enjoying the garden, and we started our personal growth activities with a ritual in which we make eye contact with each other participant in turn, and appreciate them. It seemed to me that even in this work, where we seek maturity, self-knowledge and growth, I was wearing a mask. I know the rules of these workshops. I share my feelings and touch as required, and even get more able to know them, yet hide my true self so well I hide it from myself.

And I know what I should feel- pleasurable anticipation- so when I actually feel irritation at what I perceive as timewasting it’s a shock. I seek refuge in rules, even here which is supposed to liberate my authenticity.

Possibly I have never really participated in such activities at all.

Go with it. What do I feel, really? Anxiety, frustration, a touch of anger. Fairly normal, then.

Making the eye contact, a ritual I have found pleasant, is confusing and painful now. Rather than safe, non-threatening types also following rules, these are human beings, with different characters, perceptions, feelings. Perhaps I see them better than I have seen people before (consciously, at least).

I become aware how I reinforce privilege and oppression, also unconsciously. People ignore her, she says, as they see her as unattractive therefore uninteresting. I did too. I saw her in 2011 and have not really talked to her before today. I saw what her profession was, and that made me take note, though I had mistaken her level in it. My ignoring her and paying attention to another will hold her back. That she is where she is, is despite an unfair system I uphold.

Similarly with one of the most generous, self-effacing man I know. I am on the first floor chopping veg by the window, and notice him walking past below. “What are you doing, skiving there?” I call down at him. I thought of it as a “joke”, though I felt on some level even as I said it that it was mean. Then I thought I would never have shouted like that at a white man, and was ashamed. I apologised later, surprising him. He had thought nothing of it.

When she talked of being invisible, I was tempted to give a consoling hug, but forebore- we agreed after that such a hug would be disrespectful. It means people will still ignore you, but you can’t complain about it any more.

I find another woman attractive. I find myself acting coquettish or shyly girlish with her. Even though I have transitioned I don’t believe in transsexuals, not really. My femininity surprises me.

It is Me, I decide. I will go with it. It is against the rules I was taught, for men, and I am judging myself, and I am untangled enough to accept.

I talk to another small woman used to being invisible, and she impresses me. She values me, too, calling me highly intelligent and caring. And a man I asked if he respected me seven years ago finally said that he does. These people value me. I am once again with a tribe I might sojourn in, and it feels good.

“Do you have wise people you can see at home?” she asks. Well. It’s complicated.