Dancing in the Street! Spot the trans woman.
Imagine everyone in straitjackets, all tight-laced up the back. I cannot loosen my own straitjacket at all, but I can loosen yours slightly- though it is very hard work, and I am so concerned with my own bonds that I do not want to address yours. If I loosen yours slightly, then you might loosen mine a bit, and eventually I might be able to loosen my own. I am aided to accept myself if others accept me. I can deal with non-acceptance from others, but that needs my own self-acceptance, and that in turn needs some acceptance from others.
I posted that on Facebook, and Z responded with a long warm message of how if others do not accept me it is their loss. I am grateful. How does acceptance by others interact with acceptance by self?
I journey into self-acceptance from a place where my instincts and spontaneous reactions were entirely wrong, probably inculcated in early childhood. When I transitioned, I was accepted, and treated warmly, in the Quaker meeting and the Citizens Advice Bureau where I worked, and random insults in the streets from strangers meant far more to me than that. The insult would affect me for days. I went back to the Scottish Country Dancing in South Manchester, and was a little late. I was putting on my dancing shoes when a man came in, and as he took off his coat he said hello. I smiled at him and he-
He read me in that moment. I am certain of it. I do not think he was comfortable with a trans woman in the club. I never asked him about it, and nothing was ever said, but with fifty million years of evolution as a social animal, I trust my instincts on this.
It is normal for women to dance on the man’s side, there are usually more women than men, but in Cardiff the SCD class I attended had a number of poor dancers who insisted on dancing on the women’s side. So I danced on the man’s side until I got too upset with this, and burst into tears. My inner critic told me I was indulging in manipulative play-acting, and I was upset. I am not a man. I was welcomed there, accepted, I danced on the women’s side. One of the men- I noticed I was flirting with him, noticed my words and body-language, and was uncomfortable and embarrassed at my own reaction. I was frightened, I felt ridiculous, I feared being snubbed.
I am at least two beings, the one who cries and the one who reacts with contempt and fear at the crying, and the latter seems more under conscious control to me- I can consciously work out that I need to react with compassion to my own crying as I would react with compassion to someone else’s, it is behovely to do so, I can choose to do so. And if I do, if I accept my own anger, the anger grows less, like a child no longer clamours for attention once heard.
I am accepted by others. I want to pay that my full attention, to hear it, to take it in to myself. It aids me in my work of self-acceptance. I am not accepted by everyone. I am sensitive to that on a semi-conscious level, and it raises echoes in me.
Actually, now I am adult, I think none of those internal restraints are profitable. They hold down my emotional reactions, which get stronger to be heard; I do not feel and accept the emotions, so old emotion comes up and clouds my judgment.
“Sensei- Rei” comes the command. Already kneeling, we put our foreheads to the floor. This morning (Sunday 23rd) I felt moved to do that in the Quaker meeting.
On my mind was the thought of being two, and how this did not work for me. Terry pressed on me his copy of Self-Hypnosis for Cosmic Consciousness, a way of attaining mystical experiences which the author, Ronald A Havens, PhD., believes are accessible and beneficial to any human being, and not connected to any God. I thought how that more conscious I resisted, and how the more unconscious I prevailed: in transitioning to female, in my current Refusal.
I thought, “I must submit. It is the only way out of this impasse.” First I put my hands together in the prayer pose- Gasshô, Reiki practitioners call it- then felt moved to kneel, and finally to put my forehead on the floor. This is not my final surrender, and it is a step towards it.
“This is silly and self-indulgent” said Johanna my inner critic, and I thought, yes, and isn’t it Wonderful! And- what I loathe and detest in myself is my Submissiveness, and this is where my Submissiveness fits, and has value, and is Good, good for me and good generally. It would not have been possible but for that kneeling in the Dojo, and that kneeling is my habitual posture in my Ritual space. And I feel fear of that submission.
Driving home, Terry talked of severing the corpus callosum, and how the different hemispheres had different personalities. Well, yes. That is my favourite Materialist explanation of the Muse, or the Inspiration of the Spirit. So it could be two halves of my brain, in conflict. This puts me- conscious-I, I suppose- in fear and withdrawal. And yet I feel and think that Submission is my path.
Acceptance is submission.
Or, at least, I have opened negotiations with a characteristic of myself, that submissiveness, which I have found vile, in an attempt to find its value, respect it, and integrate it in a better-functioning self.
From the deck on the altar, I draw the card The Miser, and feel a moment’s distress. That is horrible. Is that me? Then I decide to go with it. Yes, the miser, hoarding, clutching, clinging, is part of me. I kiss the card, and put it down face up. This evening, I will claim it. I will celebrate it.
There is no 5Rhythms dancing in Swanston, but B invited me down. It is good to spend time with her, and she proposed meeting here. I have not seen Tim and Jane since their Field of Love camp last year, and am pleased to see others here I know only from that. C is having a walk along the River on Sunday, followed by lunch, celebrating her birthday. I had thought I would go to the Quaker Area Meeting, having agreed to be assistant clerk I should fulfil my obligation which I took on voluntarily, and I am so angry about the clerking that I could just throw it up, and spend a sunlit Sunday with lovely people, making new acquaintances. Is it possible? I ask B, who would be happy to put me up another night.
It is very hot, upstairs in this former church. The windows open such a little way, there is no breeze, and I cannot bear to keep my wig on. This skirt is very full, but has a less full lining, so I roll the lining up and pull it through the waist band, so I can move my legs. I cannot bear to keep my wig on, and at one point put my head under the cold tap, trying to cool down.
In the station, I popped into Monsoon, whose stock is all dresses, beautiful feminine things in silk and rich Autumnal colours. The child, who had been slouched against the doorway, attended by parents, is now running among the dancers- exposure to this now, in childhood, is such a blessing! The video B shared- gorgeous, watch it- runs through my mind. So there are light, sweet thoughts in the mix, but I am here to celebrate my shadow.
In the opening share, Tim talks of the value of dancing in heat, and of getting away from words. I stand behind the line of a shadow on the floor, and it becomes symbolic to me. I have a decision to make, and this side of the line words come to me: duty, honour, right, relationship- I will cross that line, and escape the words. I can label almost anything with any of them, and they do not help.
It is a beautiful sprung wooden floor, and it is all church. Out of the window, on the second floor, I look out to that high, sharp point on the gable end. The windows up here are Gothic apart from the circular West window. It has the look of 19th century pastiche to me, I could be wrong, and the Roses carved where the roof beams meet are just copies. It reeks of Church of England, Organised Religion, even though deconsecrated into a community centre, and I hate it. My hands grow hot with the feel of healing, and I remember how the priest blessing the Eucharist holds her hands in a similar gesture. I dance with the shape of the windows, and the Roses. I kneel to the East, and put my forehead on the floor.
In Staccato and Chaos I dance to celebrate my No, my Resistance, the strength and power of it: in all my fear and desperation I have chosen it to keep me safe. I have sought safety through not being obtrusive, not shocking, holding in my fire. What might that power do, turned outwards? I dance with beautiful sweaty Duncan, moving around each other keeping body contact just as in that video, though I would need to verbalise my request for consent to be comfortable lifting off the floor. I am the Miser. Duncan, you are in me, I eat you, I suck you in, you are mine. I incorporate karate moves into my movement, Heuch, gabble gibberish to get away from the Words.
I wanted to dress like a whore. Well, not quite.
I went to U’s party on 31 December, the memorable night she got together with D. Last night was her birthday party, and next week she will move in with him. At Hogmanay, I wore a mini skirt and a rather demure top. Yesterday I went shopping with my hostess S down Kilburn High St and got a lace front human hair wig for £35, (amazing) and a black thing of lace, beads and sequins loosely tied between the breasts, showing off flesh around the navel, and a lace pair of shorts. Worn without a bra, it is not something to wear on the Tube if travelling alone. Alas, no photographs.
I wanted to be out there. I wanted to celebrate myself as a sexual being. I wanted to show off my bare legs, and my midriff, because women tell me my legs are a good feature, and women are the people I want to attract. I do not want to hide myself away. I also wanted to experiment with this: it is just not the way I have dressed, before, even at tranny dos. N thought I looked as if I were trying too hard (she really dislikes my usual wig, too). U, whose long skirt beautifully shows shifting impressions of her legs, appreciated me, and leant me a chunky silver necklace, more suited than my Moonstone to the ensemble. “The bedroom is the place to be,” she said. “No, the place to be is the room I am in,” I replied.
It is a summer party, starting about five pm, and most people are dressed fairly casually. There are about 25 of us in the flat, about half of whom I know. Bloke in shirt and slacks comes up to me and says, “Hello, I’m Tim.” I’m Clare. “So, you’re trans then.” I was astounded, and not in a good way.
Later, I am chatting to Paul, a DJ with Jazz FM. “I’m Paul, by the way.” I’m Clare. “So, why did you choose that name, then?”
I was irked at that. Second mention, and I wonder if it has something to do with my way of self-presenting. He refused to admit that he had realised I had changed my name because I am trans. He started telling me that a lot of black people of his generation had changed their names from slave owners’ names to African names. I was so irked that I did not point out I am white- he can see that, after all. He says he interviews people. Monica, his seven-year girlfriend, joins us.
Third conversation: S tells me how she had a girlfriend 16 years older, twenty years ago. After they had been together for a year, she was looking through one of her partner’s books and a photo fell out of it. They fought over the photo but she ran with it to the bathroom, and there realised that it was her partner, presenting male before transition. S had not realised until then that she was TS. S found this a dealbreaker, thinking her partner had been dishonest, but the partner explained she had been advised by her therapist to put “her male life” completely behind her and live in the present moment. S left her. This shows that passing to an amazing extent- for a year in a lesbian relationship- is possible, making me feel worse.
Paul said I should have said to Tim, “No”, or, “What do you mean by that?” Well, I was a bit surprised when he said it. “What did you say?” I could not remember. Why should it matter, anyway? Because it is loaded. It means most to me, it is my life, but it means things to others as well. And he put me in a box.
Don't define me before you have even talked to me!
The day before, someone had chosen to unburden himself to me about his cross-dressing experiences. I tried to encourage him, saying it was alright, no big deal, if that is how you want to relax you go ahead- jumping to conclusions, really. Responding too quickly out of my stuff. His tone of voice had given some indication that was appropriate, but he might have wanted to celebrate it.
Around eleven, there is a mellow late evening feel. Eva comes with her friend Michael, a musician with a keyboard, and we jam, two guitars, a flute, and some of the rest of us singing voicelessly.
Energy returns. I dance close with U, and then with Jack. I feel wide open, and weep. The weeping helps me get into the present moment. Jack sees this. I feel he is giving me something beautiful, the space to seek to dance spontaneously in his arms, following not leading, rather than play-acting, assessing and judging how I am dancing and thinking through, intellectually, what I should do. This is an animal, feeling-based activity. I am almost there- I weep again, in frustration.
Not quite a whore- a whore would wear a skirt rather than shorts. As N pointed out. If not all of it gave me pleasure, the party certainly gave me a worthwhile challenge.
What do I want from such a conversation. “So, you’re trans, then?” It is not safe to assume that this is a man to whom I can unload my own angst and be comforted, or even explain so that he will understand and affirm me. It would be easier if I had really internalised that being transsexual is a blessing. I do not want a sterile verbal joust, trying to get the other to state a position and then challenging it, but I would like to make it an exploration of his Stuff: “What do you mean by that? What do you think of that?” And be prepared to withdraw if necessary.
Hear the myth of Cupid and Psyche
which tells of God’s lust for man
Can we all become a Goddess?
Say it baby: yes we can
you give me fever
fever in the midsummer light
Life is hot like a cauldron
Fast and sharp and painful and right
Cupid fell in love with a woman
Aphrodite just said No
Psyche became filled with the fever
Fever made her glow
you give me fever
Fever by night and by day
No, no, no I can’t fight it
fever carries me away
Aphrodite sent her to Hades
All Hell fell in love
Psyche was all woman
So she became God Above
You give me fever
everybody dances in flames
Fever burns inside us
I had not done Biodanza before the twenty minute taster at L’s birthday party. Her friend S teaches it. She had a colleague calling up the music. I thought, well, I have done 5Rhythms, this should be OK. S talks us into an in-the-moment place, heart open. I flick into that immediately, which is a useful skill, then find myself thinking, get on with it, as she carries on talking us there. Intriguing. How would you get people in this state, in your group? How would you know they were there?
Actually, in other groups, leaders have used dancing as a way of getting us to relax into that state of Presence. Perhaps S could just trust the dance, if she had longer to demonstrate. Or perhaps she needs us there first, so that when we do the dancing we get its full effect.
There is a great deal more instruction than in 5R. There is some couple work, we move in concentric circles making eye contact. Again, with L’s friends, this is easy enough. We are into that eye-contact thing.
I held the weight in my hand, arm extended sideways. “Are you lifting it with your Qi?” asked H. Mmm. Actually, I can see it could be called that, but I would explain what I was doing in a materialist way: often lifting a weight I tense up, and I was seeking to relax all the muscles apart from the ones actually needed to hold the weight up. It is a lesson I took from my handful of yoga lessons: relax into the pose. The tension does me no good. If I screw my face up as I try to twist the lid off a jar, how might that help?
I had not known the “spiritual” explanation could be given for the technique (though, possibly, those who would “lift a weight with their Qi” are doing something different). I do not know what value it has. It sounds like obfuscation.
Thinking as I write: if I told you that it was possible to lift the weight with Qi, and that you should simply relax and do it, would that enable you to lift the weight unconsciously? We are so good at self-consciousness. We overthink everything. Perhaps I could limit my consciousness to telling my body and my unconscious mind to do its thing. That might feel like Spirit or Qi doing the work.
Law of attraction seems so fitted to a materialist explanation, stripping away all the taboos and fears holding us back from decisive action, that a spiritual explanation seems otiose. Could I “manifest” something other than by my own actions?
I still want breast growth. I can manifest that easily, paying a surgeon to stuff them with silicone. Then again, after eleven years on the Sweeties, I would have thought any growth I was capable of would have happened by now. So, just as a game, I will seek to manifest it Spiritually. I will use my Qi. I will pray for it. See what happens.
Don’t say there’s nothing to do in the Doldrums
It’s just- not- true
I would have carried on:
Of course I escape the pit. I escape it with television, staring alone at a screen and indulging in vicarious connection, difficulty, effort, triumph, love. No great harm in that, perhaps, I need a little time just relaxing, but the rush of emotion at something unreal is, well, unreal. The escape is not real either.
My friend A escaped the pit in reality. He did not have a particularly fulfilling or rewarding job, though it was skilled labour, but he was churchwarden at a time when in that town most churches were segregated black or white, and A worked with the vicar bringing other black people into my parish church. This is good and worthwhile work.
I block out the pit with fantasy and magical thinking. That is a large part of the reason why I am here, now, because I imagine impossibilities as possible, and moon over them. I make the pit bearable with fantasies, and so do not take the necessary action to achieve what is actually possible and get out of it. I hear all these “inspirational” quotes about following your heart, doing what makes your heart sing, etc, etc, and imagine that all of Life could be an endless whirl of that delight, like the quick achievement- sorted within an hour!- on the telly.
I had got myself right down. So it was good to get the link and photo from Rose, a reminder of real connection with real people, doing something beautiful together. Of course I do fantasy and magical thinking, but in depression it can seem as if everything positive is that, and the depressive thinking is false: there are good and beautiful things everywhere.
I need to be completely truthful with myself. I need to see the delight, and the difficulty, where they are. A wise friend has told me to pass on to the next thought.
Added: someone liked it too.
The Field of Love, run every year by Tim Broughton who also organises dancing in Norfolk, Suffolk, St Albans and Kew, is highly recommended.
Of the three camps I have attended, this is the one I would be most likely to attend again, because it seems the most likely to move, delight, inspire and grow me. During morning meditations I have been in Blake’s state- “to see the world in a grain of sand/ and heaven in a wild flower”. In sharing circles we have held serious conflict, and grown through it. In dance, I have related to others and brought forth new aspects of myself.
£300 for ten days’ camping seemed a bit steep, but there are professional musicians to dance to as well as a reasonable sound system for recorded music, a good site crew doing a fair bit towards the communal cooking and keeping the hot tub and showers hot, and Tim himself organising exercises to enrich and grow spirit and community. We built that community, and I connected with each other person there. My hug bank is full.
And- when the weather is dreich, what better way of keeping warm than dancing in a marquee? A whole week of Dancing- wonderful. My only regret is that I did not take enough beautiful clothes to show off!