Defiant

I have lunch with my friend, who is slowly and steadily making the preparations for transition: telling people of her true self, appearing in public, laying the ground. I notice the imperfectly shaven hair beneath the make-up. To my mind, her face, the size and shape of it, jowls and brow ridge, appear male, and the wig is wrong: its parting shows a cloth lining rather than a scalp. The clothes suit a woman of her age, but the dress sense is slightly off.

And this is me, not her. How often I have looked in the mirror and thought, “Oh God, I look like a man!” and at other times thought, well, actually, I don’t look too bad; and I looked the same, it was just the way I was looking at myself. I thought of telling her- “Don’t do it! It isn’t worth it!” but what would be the point? I do not know that it is not, for her; and I really want to tell my two decades younger self, but I can’t, and that younger self might not listen anyway. S/he had her heart and mind, her reality and nature, and if s/he would not listen to them s/he would not listen even if someone came back from the future. Or, perhaps, she is right and my doubts now are wrong.

And this is dissatisfaction, a nameless unease rather than a clear understanding of what might be better. If that’s all there is, let’s break out the booze and let’s keep dancing. In Tesco’s, two small children, below waist height, stared up into my face and said “Are you the bikey man? Are you the bikey man?” “I’m the bikey person,” I said weakly. Such clarity and definiteness from two so young is depressing.

Possibly the thought of defiance is the kind of illusion I would jump at in this mood. I shake my fist in the face of encroaching Night. It feels as if it might be energising. The febrile energy would be heat not light. What would I be defying? What would be better?

Possibly dissatisfaction is better. I am dissatisfied. Things are not as I would wish- this is the impetus to find what might be better. I would be defying the expectations of others, or what I imagined those expectations to be.

If-

If that really is all there is, it is good enough, actually. I try to be a Real Man, and fail, because that is not who I am, and learn about transition. It fits me better than anything else I can imagine, so I do it. I could fit in, take a role which is almost acceptable. I could be me.

Years later, I look down at that child. It would be nice not to be laughed at, not ever, but it might not be possible. Good enough: I work out how best to be me, and now am still working on that, but more precisely.

Now I decide it does not fit, so create a new role. This takes a long time, but I get there. I see more clearly who I am, accept that, and can live it; less conflicted, resentful, but incrementally. Would that the work was done!

After meeting I drank with H, and told her I was populating the word “pansy”. It means effeminate male, but has no other baggage I dislike, unlike “sissy”. She said, so, you are identifying with masculinity? No, maleness. Definitely not masculinity. Masculinity is cultural, maleness physical. I should have asked her why she used the word.

Being a soft male is OK.
Being a soft male is OK.
Being a soft male is OK.

I don’t know what defiance would look like or what I would defy. I am happy with the names I use and the way I dress. If I can admit I am a “man” would the pointed scrutiny of that small child have less effect? What she sees, thinks, even says is part of the world I cannot control, which does not hurt me really.

In the pharmacy, I ask for “Prescription for Clare, please”. It makes me sound like a disease! To see it another way, I could be an elixir or universal tonic, inspiring merriment everywhere.

Winsome Evangelicals

The heart of the Gospel is the Love of God. Rather than going on about Hell, like so many Evangelicals, Joel Osteen, among others, embodies loving acceptance of all, as all kinds of sinners cross the threshold of the Church. As Paul says after enumerating really really bad people, And such were some of you. Here the weary, scunnered and flummoxed by the World, may find rest for our souls. And here’s the collection plate.

Here’s past0r_r0bert, coming from much the same place. He gets much of his argument from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, but rather than being horrible about outsiders, like Evan Lenow on trans women, he attempts to portray their false understanding of masculinity as some sort of ideal to which men should aspire. He goes over the story of Adam and Eve as if it were literally true. He welcomes every man, as Christ would- no matter what mess you are in right now, you have great value because you were created in the image of God– but then gives this masculine ideal:

A godly man is not ruled by his passions, but rather conquers them
– does not harm his family, but protects them
– does not neglect his family, but nurtures them
– does not abuse his family, but cares for them
– does not rule over his family as a tyrant, but serves them like Jesus
– does not see women as objects, but as image-bearers of God

For those who can fit themselves to it, this may seem attractive, though no-one fits it perfectly. r0bert sticks with the procrustean idea: married women should Allow your husband to lead and meet his failures with support not criticism. And While all men are unique in their own way, they all share a common design.

He is nasty about gay people on the way: when we use labels such as wimp, gay, loser, we dehumanise him. Gayness and transgenderism have resulted in confusion about men and women.

r0bert is not quite as vile as some Evangelicals. It is so much better to present your understanding of the Christian life as a positive ideal than to condemn outsiders as Al Mohler, say, does; but still his message only fits the small group who can just about conform to his idea of normal. He would let the rest twist in the wind. However welcoming he appears, he denies the variety and beauty of God’s good creation, calling it “confusion”. Perhaps he has not read that in Christ there is no male nor female.

Osteen said that while the Bible condemns gay sex that would not be the first message he would emphasise. But while it is in any part of his message, he is an oppressor, driving people from God.

Is not Mary beautiful with the Moon? One might almost think her Artemis or Diana.

Murillo, Immaculate conception

If

Rider-Waite Tarot

If I were a man, I would exult in the strength and beauty of my body
If I were a man, I would sing loud and often
If I were a man, I would walk for miles
If I were a man, I would cycle on country roads

If I were a woman, I would care for and nurture others
If I were a woman, I would practise healing
If I were a woman, I would make eye contact and smile
If I were a woman, I would give warm hugs

If I were cissexual, I would notice my privilege
If I were cissexual, I would notice the disadvantage of others
If I were cissexual, I would be Worthy
If I were cissexual, I would speak the truth

If I were transsexual, I would follow my path to the end
If I were transsexual, I would stand tall and free
If I were transsexual, I would make myself beautiful
If I were transsexual, I would hear others

If I were a man, I would dance in the darkness
If I were a woman, I would carry a light
If I were cissexual, I would practise fearless Love
If I were transsexual, I would see what Is

If I were human, I would worship God
If I were human, I would delight in service
If I were human, I would make connections
If I were human, I would touch your heart

Damien Hirst

Name a living British artist? Damien Hirst has the recognised name, though “showman” is a better word. I wanted to see his exhibition because his is the foremost name of the Young British Artists as was. I was aware of his work, of course, the shark, the cow, I had heard of spot paintings, there was that anatomical model thing- I wanted to see the Retrospective, simply because he is important enough to claim my attention. The Turbine Hall exhibition right now is simply a black box with a long queue, we go inside to see The Skull, or “For the Love of God”. It is the cast of a skull covered in diamonds, with the real teeth of the man whose skull it was, one huge diamond at the place of the third eye. As I walk round it, the teeth make the greatest impression on me, the human remains; I value the object more as a whole when I see a slight depression in the underside of the skull, which seems again human- vulnerable, even pitiable. The sparkling is pretty. We go for a coffee, to wile away the time before we may see the Retrospective.

In the first room, there is a spot painting which he actually painted himself. What’s it about? asks H. Er, let’s do that art appreciation thing. I station myself so I can see the whole with one wide glance, and yet pay attention to individual parts. It seems to be “about” the drips coming down from the blobs. I can say quite a lot about the drips. The spots are all single-colour, apart from where dripped over, possibly the relations of the colours speaks to an artist but I do not know the language. Also, there is the picture of Damien, in his teens, with the head of a cadaver in the Leeds anatomy department. The head is long preserved, hairless, distorted, hideous. Damien grins. In the leaflet, he is quoted:

if you look at my face, I’m actually going, “Quick. Quick. Take the photo.”… I’m absolutely terrified.

but his smile appeared to me to be self-confident. What of these fish? Can you remember the name? “Isolated elements swimming in the same direction for the purpose of understanding”, I say, pleased to have got it right. I look at it as I might in a museum. H would prefer to see them in an aquarium.

I start to laugh in delight when I see “The Acquired Inability to Escape”. In a- I would use the word “Showcase”, the curators use the word “Vitrine“- there is a white desk, a swivel chair, and an ashtray, fag packet and cigarette. I love the size of the showcase and the- simplicity? of the things inside. “It’s art because I say it is” goes back to Duchamp, but here it is huge. Perhaps you could say something about the arrangement of the items on the table, but to me it’s brash, self-confident, “it is important and valuable because I say it is,” its size asserts its importance, is the sole point of it. It seems joyously Masculine, a part of masculinity I want to develop in me. As an art student aged 23 Hirst says “I realised we wouldn’t fit into the art world the way it was,” but there were conceptual artists long before Hirst.

The exhibition is crowded, but few people seem to spend long looking at any particular work. The stationary people, packed together back through four rooms, are queuing for the butterfly room, where there are live butterflies. We decide to give this a miss. I would pop in through the exit door, but there is a “visitor assistant” on guard to prevent this. There is another long queue to go between the two halves of the cow: I content myself with sitting between the two halves of its calf.

Huge spin paintings, discs of colour from household gloss paint. I find them beautiful. H thinks “Anyone could do that”- you could not, because of the size of the things. Anyone with the technical team could do that. In the centre of the room is a beach ball on a column of air, like the pingpong ball on the blast of a hairdryer in room one. H has seen Hirst’s drawings: he does have the technical skill of an artist, as well as the ability to come up with ideas of the conceptual artist.

I love the butterflies, arranged in precise circles. I see why he uses technicians: for other art works, the point in part is in the variations, the- imperfections, but Hirst’s butterflies are precisely placed. H thinks it unpleasant that we are looking at dead things. I found them beautiful.

My strongest emotional reaction comes from Black Sun. It is a large black disc, and I need H to explain to me what it is made of. Dead flies. I feel utter disgust. Then there is that huge ashtray with a lifetime of fag ends. I might be shrunk, doll-sized, in the huge world of huge Hirst.

There are cubic zirconia on narrow display shelves, again precisely laid out and affixed by the technicians Hirst uses. I find the room beautiful, H finds it gaudy. We go out through the shop.

Looking back on it, especially after seeing Kate’s video, below, I am disgusted by the use of dead creatures, and more by the use of the live butterflies, for Hirst’s games.

Butterflies source via Wikipedia, cigarette ends.

The Compliments game

“I find you particularly masculine”. This sort of comment has been irking me for ten years, all sorts of judgments creating all sorts of echoes in my head, am I right to transition, am I safe from prejudice, what will happen? I do not pass properly, I need to do more work on voice and mannerisms and dress, so I can hide that away- Oh, it is just dreadful, time to hide away in the living room again.

It is time to turn that response around. Why on Earth should it be a bad thing to be masculine? Let’s try again.

-Clare, I find you particularly masculine.
-Yes. Isn’t it wonderful? Greater physical strength than most women, and the ability to project my voice from my chest. I give wonderful cuddles, women can just melt into my arms.

This can work for anything. Clare, I find you particularly whiny.
Yes. Isn’t it Wonderful? The squeaky wheel gets the most oil!
Clare, I find you particularly Nazi.
Yes! Isn’t it Wonderful? A complete sense of my own superiority and right to organise everything, and willingness to fight anyone who gets in my way.

So, this is my new party game, for any number of players.

A. B, may I pay you a compliment?
B assents fulsomely
A: B, I find you particularly-
B: Yes! Isn’t it Wonderful? B states why.

Robert Bringhurst

The review said that Robert Bringhurst is a great Canadian poet, not previously published in his own book in England. I had to get the book.

File:Robert Bringhurst.jpg

Picture credit: Jason V

Instantly I am plunged into a strong masculine vibe. The Beauty of the Weapons:

With the truncated butt
caught in the cocked
elbow, the trigger
falls exactly to hand.

Bringhurst addresses the male/female divide. Though I do not imagine that the “Poet” in These poems, she said is Bringhurst, rather than an aspect of him, it rings true to have a woman tell him that “These are the poems of a man who would leave his wife and child because they made noise in his study.”

I love Deuteronomy. This is not a comforting Bible story for children, this is fear and unknowing and uncertainty and urgency in the Desert. Miracles are played down, and the Voices could be madness. And at the end, the task accomplished, tiredness, not fulfilment.

Can words describe the World? No, because they cannot mean the same to two different people, and they cannot encompass the whole nature and variety of the simplest thing, a grain of sand or a wild flower. And yet they are all we have. In Hick and Nillie, a poet talks to a god, of words turning false, until

Silence, like clear speaking,
washes words. In time they will
come true again. But then, of course,
they will be different words.

It is the poet teaching, and the god listening.