People are strange

Why on Earth would I tell that story in that way?

I imagined explaining to Rachael why we could not agree to do some task, and beginning by disclosing how a number of Quakers decided that I am very bad indeed. But why say that? It is ridiculous!

-To be understood. To gain sympathy.

-To alienate. To push away sympathy, and be judged. This is not necessarily incompatible with the former motive.

-To prove what I am saying. I could merely say, “We can’t”. Like it or lump it. Instead, I imagined giving a long story explaining to force her to see it exactly as I do, a story, an understanding which I have rehearsed, myself,

possibly seeing it better, possibly reinforcing blind spots-

There is a useful goal in here somewhere. I want her to do the job herself, and not blame me. Possibly, though, I want to maintain my own self-concept, though that motivation is shadowy and I am not clear how it works. Whatever, there is a useful goal, but it is not my primary purpose.

Pat came to talk to me, of her Buddhist group having internal ructions and various people storming off. Not what you think of Buddhists, or Quakers, perhaps, but we are human. Andrew wrote, I find it ironic- and a little sad…that you and I, Quakers both, can be at loggerheads. But of course we are. We have different views, and I particularly resent that his solution to something I did not even see as a problem would be me walking more than ten miles in total, at particular times however inconvenient to me. Had I not checked with him, I would not have known of this brilliant plan even now.

Pat told me that because I had thrown a wobbly inside the Quaker meeting, and gone to sit outside in the sun. I would not have done that if I thought I would be harshly judged for it. I was sitting thinking of how I would respond to her, while she was talking, but the main message she got over was, “People are strange”. She repeated this several times, and only because of that it got through. Yes. Possibly others as well as me have fixed ideas about how people should respond, and get surprised. Rather than giving a long complex explanation about group dynamics, I said, “Sometimes a row clears the air”, which said all I needed to say.

So I resist experience, and resist my own responses to it, and that involves me in so much work. Instead being open might frustrate me less. This huge heavy framework of my responses to situations just gets in the way, but putting it down frightens me.

So I reassure myself.
I am learning.
I don’t get everything right, but I don’t need to; it is usually right enough.
I have been learning, all my life.
I am good enough.

I am away from the blog for a bit, but hope to be writing again soon.

Degas, little milliners

Why are they wrong?

James wondered why any Christian ever might disagree with him. Fortunately, he has the answer: they are ensnared by the World, and have not allowed the Holy Spirit access to every area of their heart. When they do, they will think exactly as he does, and leave behind the things he disagrees with- which are “The World’s System”.

This absolves James from thinking. Anyone who disagrees with him is simply less spiritually mature than he. When you have had the same inestimable blessings James has had, you will think just like him, and if you do not, and go to Hell- well, the ways of God are strange.

Whereas, we do not all follow the same path of spiritual maturing, but learn different lessons at different times.

One has only so much head-space, and surely it is better to devote it to learning what is Right, what I Believe, than to listening to wrong people. This short-cut absolves you from ever having to refute them. Their ideas are not even wrong in an interesting way, so should not detain us.

I give some attention to any opinion. Possibly, it will increase my understanding. I might be happier with more confidence in my own opinion. There are many good choices: like the supermarket cereals aisle, there might be a best cereal but there are many which are good enough; with so many things one can be wrong, but not wrong enough to hurt. I am giving more attention to attitudes, ways of being: some people with ways of being with others, or in the world, radically different from mine, seem effective or happy and I might learn from them. Though some are merely an awful warning.

Like James, I experience God as changing me, bringing me to health. The changes are unimaginable beforehand, sometimes inexplicable after. It is one reason why I am religious not atheist: I do not proceed by rational argument, but sometimes against what had seemed rational.

Degas, at the milliners in gloves

Seeing me as a woman

Am I a “real woman”? I am real, I assure you. Quite solid. But do people “see me as a woman,” and if not, does it matter? It is almost the first thing even trans folk notice about another person, and if we can’t decide we are as uncomfortable as others are, so often- which is, really uncomfortable.

I met F and her friend Nan, and later F asked me to help move furniture. She told me Nan had suggested it: “so she saw you as a man”. Well, I was happy enough to move furniture, and strong enough for the load F had; and I took my wig off so as not to get too hot doing it: we were out in the country, no-one but F’s removal team of one man and one other woman would see me. Women can lift and carry too, even if on average we are smaller lighter and less strong than men.

Nan had been reasonably polite. We met at the theatre, and had a good discussion about the play, though not about personal matters. So whether someone “sees me as a woman” is different from whether they are polite, or even willing to form a friendship. I asked K if she “saw me as a woman” and she said “I see you as you“- dodging the question- but I call her a friend. I still tend to feel that if someone does not see me as a woman that is a disaster, they will see me as some kind of weirdo, they will be horrified and disgusted, they will snub me- but people don’t, and that is my internalised transphobia. It is me thinking I must not appear trans as if being trans is a bad thing.

And that group of lads in a car, catcalling as they drove past: that could have been because they saw me as a woman. Women get cat-called.

It matters whether I think I appear like a man. In a car with my deaf friend, we found she could hear me if I spoke baritone, but not with my higher voice. I did that for a time, then found it too upsetting. The thought of presenting male gives me the willies. But when I put on a hard hat next week I will not have a wig under it.

People treat men and women differently. Sometimes this is a disadvantage for a woman: women are disapproved of more than men when expressing anger. If you play the game, fit the stereotype, strangers are more comfortable, though they might be happier with me as an obvious queer rather than an apparent man who was very feminine indeed but only showed that gradually.

It is everyone’s experience that not everyone else is nice. We click with some, we wind up others. Few people are particularly rude, and being trans does not make that worse- it is only because I am trans in my own mind.

Degas, At the Millinery

Transphobia

I would rather have died than not transitioned. I wanted to die. I had planned to transition, then realised I absolutely had to, Now, when I found myself envying a dying woman. I would have swapped lives with her.

I get read, all the time. Not everyone reads me, but most spot it quickly. I would love to drop into conversation that I am trans, and have someone actually surprised. Sîan might not have spotted it: I was so hot that I took my wig off, and she asked me if I had had cancer- then how did you lose your hair? Stress, I said. If the explanation that I am trans had not occurred to her then, perhaps it would not after.

I don’t know if I would have decided to transition if I had not known of others who had. I cross-dressed without knowing about other people. I might have just dressed female at home. I would have carried on, ashamed and terrified.

I don’t think I have reached my potential. I have been aware of other trans people, had a great deal of support and acceptance, and still suffered shame, and the derision or hatred of a few; and one man could not remain my friend, because he could not see me as a woman.

The Scottish Catholic bishops yesterday apologised to the victims of priests’ sexual abuse. It is a mean, lying apology- deliberately covering up abuse, and attempting to avoid paying proper compensation, is not merely “slow, unsympathetic and uncaring”, but criminal. Yet when I heard of it, I felt such rage. Overwhelmed by the anger of Catholics and others, they make this belated apology, yet they continue to abuse and stunt trans children with their wicked lying teaching that gender reassignment surgery (GRS) and hormone treatments distort the God-designed and God-created human body to the extent that it is a very serious sin.

I wondered what they gained from it. Faced with a person doing something which harms no-one else, which makes them happier, they condemn- to what end? Then there is the evidence of psychological studies that psychotherapy to make someone accept their assigned sex does not work.

Faced with the facts which refute their false understanding of the world, their response is a blank denial. Why? Would they feel uncomfortable to admit they were wrong? Do they wish to simplify God’s creation, and simply deny the bits they do not like? Or do they feel threatened by someone doing something which they would not want to do themselves?

They gain nothing. I enrich the lives of everyone who knows me with my unique perspective on life- just like every free human being. Keith O’Brien, talented enough to be a cardinal, crushed by having to deny his sexuality into a corrupt predator, could have given so much to his church if it had not denied his God-given being. Some people even still oppose equal marriage! They fill me with horror and contempt.

Degas, the milliner's shop

You statements

Sulking, Edgar Degas-You were angry.
-No, I wasn’t.

OK, you were in Brook No Contradiction mode. You stated The Truth, leaving no room for my thought or my perception or anyone else’s. From my position it felt like anger: there was the force of you, ready to push aside any other view, because it was wrong. So we could unite, where we should be, behind you.

Quite sexy, actually, definitely to my taste. Often, I am prepared to fall into line. It is so much easier, and it is so nice to have a single position we can all unite in- and- wearing, sometimes. Sometimes, I want to say-
steady on…
I tend to think…
er…

Or even, Now just you wait one damn minute. Though that is quite rare, obviously.

OK, you weren’t angry, you weren’t even confrontational, because no contradiction was stated so there was no confrontation necessary. You were just stating The Truth, in an entirely reasonable way- though from my position it felt forceful.

Non-violent communication values I-statements: I perceived X, and I felt Y. This is not a demand, except in the most passive-aggressive way: in confronting a demand with an I-statement, I take the moral high ground so you better do as I see fit. Sometimes You statements are a necessary preliminary to useful communication:

You are completely wrong
and it would be really good if you just stuck your head down the loo and flushed it
to save everyone else the bother.

Under the wave off Kanagawa, Hokusai

I am wary of I-statements. Sometimes they can be part of a joint endeavour to reach the best way forward, and sometimes they can be a fencing match.

Travelling light II

File:1872 Degas Die Ochestermusiker anagoria.JPGWe’re all drawn to certain places. If you had the power to get somewhere — anywhere — where would you go right now?

-Nowhere. I would stay here.
-Oh, come on. There must be somewhere you want to go?

-Alright. Say I said Swanston. So I got there right now and wandered round the shops for a bit, then I would come home. That’s £2.65 bus fare! I’m not made of money!
-Swanston? But you could go anywhere!
-Well, where? If I went to Mars I would choke to death or explode or something in a few seconds. If I said New York, I know one blogger there, I’ve never met him, I’m not interested in the Statue of Liberty because I’m thinking well what next, I’m thinking, I don’t have a passport. I met this bloke in Rome who had lost his passport, and was waiting around for months while the embassy sorted him out.

-No, you get the power to go anywhere, and come back.

-What, anywhere?

-Yes.

-Still nowhere.

Don’t look at me like that. You’re asking me, what do I want to feel. Excitement, fascination, the wonder of seeing something beautiful, or meeting someone, or anything I wanted. OK, I want to meet Nicole da File:Edgar Germain Hilaire Degas 038.jpgSilva. She’s busy at the moment, and someone is calling Security. The Grand Canyon is one of the most inspiring sights in the world, but right now I want a cup of tea. I’m happy here, thanks. Who are you, anyway? How did you get in?

-What if you could- Do- Good?

You know what I mean. Change someone’s life for the better. Meet a new person, find out who they are, find out the problem which is besetting them, and help them sort it.

-What, like Jonathan Archer in Quantum Leap? Or like the Pope’s miracle in Earthly Powers?

-Who?

-The Pope lays hands on a dying child, and against all odds the child recovers. After he dies, this is considered a miracle, making him a saint. But the child grows up to be a mass murderer. Mass murderer. Geddit?

It didn’t end well for Jonathan Archer. So I save someone and they make the world worse: their vote lets a Republican become US President. Or I save someone, and they fall into endless misery, because they knew their time to die had come. Or I tell Margaret Atwood to make her novels cheerful, and people are denied that wonderful angst, schadenfreude and  catharsis. Or I rescue someone from a knife-wielding maniac, except that was the moment he had to save himself, the iron would enter his soul and he would turn his life around. I would do him harm.

Why do you want to give this gift, anyway? I would go somewhere, and my first stop would be the bank vault, for cash; then I would cut a swathe of chaos through the town. You don’t want to do good, you want to rid yourself of this curse. Useless fairy godmother you are, you couldn’t sell a fridge to an Arab.

I’ll go into Swanston, please. I need the supermarket.

Righteousness and hypocrisy

File:Femme se coiffant dEdgar Degas (Musée dOrsay) (3210104657).jpgJesus seems quite clear that we cannot be righteous. “No-one is good but God alone“. “If you say ‘you fool’ you will be liable to the hell of fire“. Non-christians might agree that while we can imagine an ideal of right behaviour in all situations, we might not live up to it.

Yet most of us are sort-of OK. We fall below the standard of perfection, we acknowledge it, we try to be and do better. We encourage each other or we point to each other’s sins in a futile game of one-upmanship, seeking an illusory moral high ground. To “I’m OK: You’re OK” Anthony diMello responded, “I’m an ass, you’re an ass”.

Some conservative Evangelical churches welcome divorced and remarried couples. I think Jesus would too. However, Jesus, who tells it like it is, says that “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her,” though when I searched I found that even Google preferred Matthew, with the exception for victims of adultery.

Ideally, people would marry, become one flesh, and live together in mutual supportive love until death parted them. And- some marry unwisely, and some couples grow apart, and sometimes divorce. Finding a partner is a good thing: “It is better to marry than burn” says Paul. Churches now welcome such couples, though they might not have done in the past. Roman Catholics deny them communion, but even some bishops want to change this policy.

Where does this leave gay marriage? Brent White wants to permit remarried divorcees in church, while still File:At the Stables, Horse and Dog.jpgtelling gay couples to begone. He cites Robert Gagnon, though in that passage Gagnon does not go so far: Gagnon permits divorcees, but not specifically remarried people in church. Two commenters delight in his arguments. They too would permit remarried couples, while excluding gay couples. He is a hypocrite.

If remarried sex is adultery, as Jesus says, nothing can stop it being adultery. Ideally, if the couple repent of their adultery the only course is for them to separate, as their lovemaking will always be adulterous against the wronged first spouse. That is the traditional view of Catholics and Evangelicals alike. However, as I am as much of an “ass” as the remarried couple, I welcome them in church. Remarriage is not Perfect, but is sort-of  OK. Gay marriage is perhaps not perfect, but again sort-of OK.

We can imagine an ideal target- the mother who is never flustered, always loving, always tidy, never a hair out of place- which we fail to reach. One response to my imperfection is to see how often I fall short, and keep trying. Another is to pick on a group of sinners- married gay people, perhaps- and exclude them from church as the Worst Sinners Possible.

Before I sin, that sin is monstrous. After, it is what happened: deal with it and move on. “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect”- perhaps we are perfect, just as we are.

Quantum leap

Degas woman seated by a vase of flowers

A woman seated, detailIt seemed that my spiritual growth came in Rebirth moments, and I could give their dates. I Awoke on 14 February 1999. On x July 2001 I came to value my feelings. On 1 July 2011 I turned to Positivity from Negativity. That no longer fits. I have always been positive, and I remain negative. I may have seen a spiritual lesson, but the work still has to be done. Perhaps, we are always learning the same lessons throughout life: I must ask my wise nonagenarian friend.

One moment still feels like a great liberation. When I was about nine, I wept, and my mother looked on uncomprehending; and until September 2010 I would have told you of that with my original outrage and resentment, ending SHE DIDN’T UNDERSTAND! And suddenly that changed, and I understood. Oh, right, she didn’t understand. It was liberating.

It remains remarkable to me that anyone could fail to make a connection and not be ridiculous, disgusting, useless, worthless, moronically unfit. That is why I have my intelligence that others remark upon, but which I find hard to recognise. And I could permit that one failure to understand in her, which had hurt me so much I still felt the hurt 35 years later. So I could accept all her lapses from the Perfection we demanded of each other. I was freed to respect and love her.

And I had loved her since, just after her death, I picked on two beautiful loving memories to be my special memories of her; and before. Steps forward at the pace I can manage, and suddenly turning a corner and finding a new vista ahead, make the journey seem worthwhile.

In conversation, two stories from work came to mind, and I told them, and I was surprised and ashamed that I was still upset about them, because I should have processed that emotion by now, and let it go; and frightened, because I am stuck, and my reaction to these old stories is part of my stuckness. What causes it? Changes in hormone dose?

The Quaker meeting is a good place to process things like this acid reflux experience. What tools do I have to deal with it? That “forgiveness” of my mother- forgiveness seems the wrong word, posthumous reconciliation is better. Forgiveness of self is a useful tool to develop. Sometimes I make connections later, which I did not make at the time. This does not mean I am useless and fuckwitted, necessarily. If I can untangle the feeling that I should have done better from resentment at wrongs in The World or The System- for these are memories of injustice which I wanted to correct and could not- then I can accept myself.

I need to deal with my feelings about the world and injustice, as well- but disentangling them from my feelings about my own capacity is necessary. One thing at a time.

How did I do? As well as I could have, at the time. Breathe.

In the silence of meeting I became emotional, and the process made me feel good. No, not a Rebirth or Awakening, but the patient work of taking that step forward feels good. Keep taking the steps.

I want to be seen

File:0 La Paix embrassant l'Abondance - P.P Rubens - Yale center for British Art.JPGI want to be seen. Luke 7:31-35:

 Jesus went on to say, ‘To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the market-place and calling out to each other:

‘“We played the pipe for you,
    and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
    and you did not cry.”

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He has a demon.” 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.

Despite the “for”, here are two different sayings, with two different meanings. The second is about the critic’s negative way of seeing the worst in a person or situation. The first pictures a human being wanting contact and attention and engagement and to be seen, and not understanding when another does not give it- or, perhaps being insatiable: it is never enough.

I want to be seen, and I hide away in my living room. Or I play about on this blog and facebook, seeking out comments and likes. I have tried stand-up, to mixed success.  In the 90s, a friend played gigs in pubs, and was paid in tickets- if he could sell the tickets he got paid. I hear that on prog rock gigs, they cover their costs. File:Dancer in her Dressing Room (danseuse Dans Sa Loge) pastel and peinture à l'essence on canvas by Edgar Degas, c. 1879.jpg

It is worthwhile being positive, valuing all the contact and affirmation one does get. My hunger is not assuaged, and this may go back to childhood, never having enough attention from parents.

I clutch and cling. Judy has been talking of burning journals: I am not quite there yet, though I did empty two files of hoarded emails. Not personal ones, just the wordpress notifications of new follows, and Wisdom Commons, which I can access elsewhere. My diaries record my journey of self-acceptance, world-acceptance, which I imagine might free me to seek what is possible, now. I think Miyamoto Musashi said something about the pupil memorising his writings not being enough, we must take them into our heart. I keep my diaries because I need to keep telling myself I have made that journey, I have realised my feelings have value, I have reconciled with my mother etc.

The criticisms come back. Not enough, not right, not “taken into the heart”, though not “not real”, now, that hurt so much before, even the inner critic has learned not to say that.

A folder of emails which I never look at- why keep that at all? I hoard such symbols for reassurance. I want to be able to reassure myself- and the symbol cannot reassure, if I cannot reassure myself. Act as if, perhaps: act as if I can tell myself

 Everything is alright

and believe it. Menis Yousry’s image is of the Nile, taking in water and giving it out, prodigally, and being full of life and constant change, and the Dead Sea, never giving out, and being filled with salt, and lifeless.

Added: going back to that one, the homophobic preacher sings a dirge, and the gay people do not cry: we ignore their “moral” views. That makes it one saying. Why should I think and feel exactly what they think and feel?

Dancing in the Shadows

Harald Giersing, Danserinde, 1918I cycled in to the office, and went to chat to the other volunteers. Having cycled, I was a bit sweaty in shorts and vest, and had taken off my pink helmet. As I went to change into  a more suitable top and skirt, Les came to talk to me about it. There had been complaints.

Les skirted around the dodgy ground- “Is it becoz I is Trans?” and said the objection was to me appearing without my wig. I could have pressed it- would there be any objection to my appearing without a wig, if I were not trans? S takes great care to make her thin hair appear to best advantage- do you think she should cover her head? And- I did not. So if I cycle in and want the sweat to evaporate a bit before changing, I must hide away in the other room. But he said, “It is as if you want to shock. Do you?”

I have been asked this before, by an Episcopalian priest who was on the Community Building in Britain Facilitator Training Group, around the time I joined it. I joined the FTG only just before I decided I would transition, so first attended dressed male. It was appearing female that shocked the priest. Do I want to shock? Well, yes. Or, if this shocks you then I want to shock you; or if the choice is appearing male or shocking you, then I want to shock you.

And Philip, also on the FTG, commented that I seemed to be seeking to blend in, in the most eye-catching way possible. I was in drab colours; not dressed fashionably, because I did not have the eye for it; and not sexily, because I wanted to get away from the transvestite stereotype, the ugly, beefy bloke in a mini, tight top, and huge falsies- but I was dressed dramatically.

I want to hide away, and not attract attention, and I want to be on stage, the centre of attention. The hiding comes from past hurts. I have wondered if the dancing does too, an attempt to placate others, to be accepted because I entertain- no, it is what I want for itself. It is just so exciting.

I have been cavalier about going wigless, in part because I think I get read anyway: but as John thought me normal female until he saw me wigless, perhaps I should keep it on. I commented on the new hairstyle of the woman on the checkout. She changes it often, she told me. So I lifted my wig an inch, grinned at her, and said so do I. Yes, I do like to shock, provoke, destabilise, challenge. I like to take a contrarian view in argument. And, I am hiding away.