Arguing the Bible

Serena, the Jehovah’s Witness evangelist, pushed a note through my door:

Hi Clare,
It’s Serena, the Jehovah’s Witness you met the other week. After our brief discussion, I realised that I had misunderstood your situation. I’m sorry if I offended you in any way. However, I’ve thought of another Scripture which can bring much comfort when it comes to internal feelings and struggles. I John 3:19-20. Sometimes our hearts condemn us, but God knows our hearts better than we do. I hope that you find this to be of comfort to you. I wish you a pleasant day and week ahead.

So I went to look up that passage:

19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.

I am little the wiser. Even the context does not assure me of what she is getting at, and Neil Peart runs in my mind

He’s not afraid of your judgment
He knows of horrors worse than your Hell
He’s a little bit afraid of dying
And he’s a lot more afraid of your lying
And the things that he fears
are a weapon to be used against him.

So these are the verses I would use to claim God’s blessings on LGBT folk. First, Psalm 139

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Genesis 1:

 31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.

God has not made a mistake. I still take the Bible seriously, and those two verses were a useful tool in my self-acceptance. And finally, Ecclesiastes passim:

8 ‚ÄúVanity of vanities,‚ÄĚ says the Preacher,
‚ÄúAll is vanity.‚ÄĚ

And grasping for the wind. What is the point about debating what the Jews thought two thousand years ago, anyway? I know the arguments about the story of Sodom, and Paul’s condemnation of idolaters. Jesus accepts me:

 28 Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Why should I care what anyone hostile thinks?

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I do care. It matters to me. I think this is because I want to fit in, and because I have not fitted in naturally and happily, that has become very important to me. So I look out the rules, and seek to conform to them, because my spontaneous reactions have not fitted in, and I have found that threatening. Or-

I want to seem to fit in. I want to be entirely under the radar. I hate being told what to do- the Evangelicals’ price, and reward, of giving clear rules to live by, but a lot of social togetherness, really does not appeal. This is why I see myself as a harlot, doing good for what I can get from it. Proust:

When we converse with someone, it is not we who are speaking, but at such times we try to take on the semblance of other people, rather than be the self which differs from them.

I want to survive, just to Exist.

What do I want, more than that? Crivvens, I don’t know. Well, I wanted to express myself female, and after a huge amount of soul-searching, and then eighteen months’ planning and creeping towards it, I¬†started to do so¬†all the time: and that made¬†no sense to me, other than it made me happier.¬†I wrote this in 2007:

I want to do the right thing.
Always.
So I will be safe.

I want there to be a right thing to do.
I want to know what it is.
I want to be able to do it.

I want to be able to work out the right thing to do.
Always.
So I will be safe.

¬†I get the sense, rationally, that there is no terrible social consensus policing what I do, or caring particularly much what I do. I think my desires, what makes me happy, are actually constructive and creative and will not bring out anyone’s wrath, certainly not wrath which can really hurt me. And yet I have this terrible fear.

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8 February: Now, I would put it more clearly. I think my basic desires are constructive and creative. However, a lot of my desire to be good comes from my desire not to be noticed- the teacher’s pet does not get shouted at- and also, feeling worthless, I wanted external validation. I feel a great deal more self-respect and self-valuing than before, and seeking external validation never worked for me, I needed my own. But the desire to be good in order not to be noticed is still strong in me. If I can free myself from that, then I may pursue my own desires. So, freeing myself from the need to be a good person, I become one.

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Transmisogyny. Thanks to The Tranny Times.

Elegant idiocies

The otherbugger will get on your back if he can.
That is all the advice you ever need to give.
If he’s on your back already, it’s TOO LATE!

That was sent on a postcard to the Citizens Advice Bureau where I worked, and it fascinated me. It pictured a world where each human being was locked in war with every other person, seeking advantage, and all comradeship was a lie. Everything we did was worthless: if that really were all the advice we needed to give, it could be given with a poster on the wall, rather than forty-odd people inside, beavering away, thinking they were doing something useful. It fascinated me because it was so far from the truth, yet so coherent and so beautifully expressed.

So I started collecting such phrases.

Don’t compare your sin to my skin.

Here are people of colour firmly in the Kyriarchy, busily oppressing others. “Christians” who believe that gay people, rather than being part of the wonder and diversity of Creation, are sinners who choose to be disgusting, and do not deserve “Civil rights”- in fact the comparison of their campaign to that of Martin Luther King is wicked. I can imagine people¬†repeating that phrase to themselves,¬†thinking how clever¬†they are, making themselves even less open than before to the need and¬†hurt of others: in the words of Neil Peart,

quiet in conscience
calm in their right
confident their ways are best

The evil in the phrase is focused and intensified by the elegance of its expression.

Who would wear a T shirt reading “I hear voices and they don’t like you”? It could not be expressed better, and it is a foul sentiment.

My favourite explanation of Astrology:

As above, so below.

Well, of course it isn’t. The orbit of Neptune does not affect my destiny, at all. The value of Astrology is in being a repository of wisdom about how people are, and a way of bringing these characteristics to mind whose randomness actually enhances its usefulness. In the hands of a skilled practitioner it has value. She says something about me which she thinks may be true, but her choices are constrained by the framework, which means she must be more creative herself. Then the thought sits in me and matures, either attracting or revolting me, and so teaching me. Just possibly, belief in the doctrine may help in this.

And finally, a sentence which is the opposite of elegant, but equally striking, in the circumlocutions half-concealing the basic idea:

Apart from a few comparatively unimportant particulars, the Law of England appears to be almost as near to perfection as can be expected of any human institution.

Wow. We’re so good that if we said it straight out we¬†would risk being¬†accused of self-worshipping blasphemy. One wonders what “comparatively unimportant particulars” the¬†Real Property Commissioners, delivering their first report in 1829, had in mind: perhaps the fact that someone¬†might be executed for stealing something worth less than two weeks’ wages for a skilled artisan, or the rule that no woman could own real property: it was held in trust by her father or husband.

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Winston Churchill said,

You create your own universe as you go along.

Now, I happen to believe that. My perceptions are not the same as reality, but from within my own brain, and my moods and past experience affect my perceptions. The struggle to make them closer to reality is painful and difficult. However, have a look here at the context. Or here. It seems from the second link that Churchill takes a naive realist position- he knows things exist because he senses them- and from the first, that he believes in Christian doctrine because it gives him comfort, and he wants to believe it. The quote is a straw man. So to quote it out of context is to misrepresent him and to cite him as authority for a belief he derided. And yet a quick Google shows it is often quoted in Law of Attraction sites, without context. Picture: public domain.

Einstein is quoted often as saying,

Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.

Wikiquote disputes the citation. Again, from Google, it is frequently quoted on Law of Attraction sites.

What matters is not who said it, but whether it is true. Perhaps the quote has such value as it has not because he wrote it but because a particular Facebook friend chooses to share it. However imagination is much richer than that. I hated one of my psychiatrists so much that I had revenge fantasies about him. I would be horrified if they happened, but they were a safety valve for my feelings.

‚ÄúEverything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.‚ÄĚ I have seen this attributed to Confucius, but since I cannot find where he is supposed to have said it, your guarantee of its truth or value is either your own experience, or your faith and trust in me.

Masks

J wrote of a conversation with a woman about experiences of Love, where she realised how alike we all are. It is not a new thought: the line in my mind was

the Colonel’s Lady an’ Judy O’Grady
Are sisters under their skins!

and I stick by that¬†on looking at that whole¬†poem. The¬†auld sodger in whose voice it is slips away when Kipling says that.¬†I am sure¬†there¬†is something Biblical on the thought, even if St Paul often articulates our different gifts. A quick search for “We are all one” yields this. “We are all brothers and sisters” yields Glenn Beck!¬†For a British person, whose glimpses of Fox News are in satire showing how weird¬†these Americans can be, with Beck the principal exhibit, that was a surprise.¬†However, while it is a sentiment anyone may mouth, it is a truth each person has to see for themself, experientially, and ideally in the muck and mire of living, not just in meditation on retreat. Like j’s deepening conversation.

What gets in the way of the realisation is the masks each of us wear, pretending to be normal. The mask creates a feeling of inadequacy, and impairs our vision of other people: we think they are closer to “normal” than we are. I am taking mine off. All the time. The mask of being male was impossible for me, but when I transitioned to female I still kept a great deal of my reserve and silence, which is also too painful for me.

Quentin Crisp, gay when that was dangerous, said

What I want is to be accepted by other people without bevelling down my individuality to please them- because if I do that, all the attention, all the friendship, all the hospitality that I receive is really for somebody else of the same name. I want love on my own terms.

One friend says of my sharing, “it is so wonderfully surprising how open and vulnerable you are. I truly admire you.” I discount that less than I would have at one time.¬†A reserved and private man, quite eminent in his field, who once told me of being very badly hurt by the dysfunctional Cardiff Quaker meeting, called my earlier effusions “cries for help” and counselled me against them.

It is important for me to state precisely why I am so open and vulnerable. I am not showing off my insecure spots to be rescued and validated by others, to have someone say “there there” and kiss me better, to be accepted so that I can accept myself- for that is what I wanted, and when I could not accept or value myself, no amount of validation expressed by others was enough for me.

I am taking off my masks because my aim is to accept and value all the bits which the masks hide, all the bits which I am self-conscious about. So that I can achieve the state in my tag line, “Open heart, independent mind” which I took from a strong-minded friend who I think is closer to that state than I am. Or Neil Peart’s Cinderella Man-

eyes wide open
heart undefended
innocence untarnished

This is the best way I can see right now towards my own flourishing and growth, and ability to survive in the world. I am taking off the masks, or the Shell, because I cannot live that way any more.

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I am a primate, and primates are social animals. So other people have great power over me. But the nature of that power and its exercise has changed.

All my friend did was touch me lightly on the arm- two fingers by the elbow- and kiss me on the cheek, but such is the state of my heightened sensibility at the moment that I was- the best word I can come up with for it is “Unmanned”. Moved to the core of my being. It was completely lovely. When I was trying to pretend to be a man, repressing all my feelings, that would have had no effect on me at all. I remain lonely, and starving for such connection- and now it is possible, and I will find it.

In the coffee shop, the woman behind the counter said “That is ¬£3.10, ‘s”. I was not sure I had heard aright. What did you say? “That’s ¬£3.10.” Did you say anything after that? She denied it. Then she said, “There’s your change, sir”, and this time admitted it. So, calmly, I took time to explain to her. “That is not the right word. What do you think the right word is?” With the sound of disbelieving questioning, she said, “Madam?”

So I explained to her that I am a woman, and I feel insulted by the implication that I am a man. She apologised.

Now, I am irritated. I do not have time for such petty games, and buying a coffee should be a pleasant experience, as I am sure Darcy Willson-Rymer¬†would agree. But I am no longer subject to this woman’s power. I am not, now, lying curled up in a ball on the floor weeping, as I might have been ten years ago.