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.

We need to talk?

How is the debate on Trans issues in the UK, and does it matter at all?

There are a variety of views amongst those left wing feminists who would ban all trans women from women’s spaces. Some are disgusted with us, and want to spread that disgust to others. Some want us excluded, and to stop calling ourselves “women”, but would otherwise be our allies, supporting us in getting separate services. Some want to divide us up- there are “genuine” trans women, who might be treated as women, but a lot of men. Which are men is unclear. Some seem to think men would pretend to be trans women in order to enter women’s spaces. Some seem to think some trans people are genuine trans women, some not- alleged autogynephiliacs, perhaps, though I have seen “homosexual transsexuals” grouped there, who the woman claimed transitioned in order to seduce straight men.

To me, genuine trans women are those of us who transition or who intend to transition, which means adopting women’s presentation in clothes and hair. It is problematic, though- need they seek hormones or surgery? Keeping a beard excludes you from this definition, I think, but what I think does not really matter. What matters is the everyday encounters a person has. And the motive for transitioning is often used as a scare factor- shock horror, someone is deluded, transitioning is obviously wrong- but people still transition comfortably.

There are also the hard-right, who want to demonise us because they like to create out-groups. That is the motivation of The Spectator. Meanwhile, it is reported that employers would be less likely to recruit a trans person. There is a low level of prejudice against us, which the Right would inflame if it can.

We have faithful allies. Most of the Labour Party say “Trans women are women”, though there is the tiny minority which think we are a more important issue than any other, and would leave the party because of it.

There are some very nasty people frothing about and some odd alliances. A man, apparently a former Nazi, has feminists praising him loudly. There has been a public bomb threat from an idiot troll. There might be some interesting ideas brewing, so many people are thinking about this, but it might be better to see what has become a trend in a year’s time rather than to try to sift them out from the cacophony now.

And really, none of it matters. Can I enjoy time with friends, am I in danger walking down the street, can I do something I find worthwhile, all these things matter. One of the most exercised transphobes is not likely to recognise a trans woman in a loo, and I am unlikely to have anyone cause a scene when I use one. There is an ugly, feverish argument on social media with a tiny number of people spending a lot of time on it, and probably very little will come of it. I would be better to find something beautiful to contemplate. Here’s a Kandinsky.