All bodies are beautiful.
Fat bodies and thin bodies, the stretch marks and the rib cages, babies whose heads need supported because their necks are not strong enough yet-
Oh! So Tiny!
and old bodies, grey hair, wrinkles, laugh lines and frown lines, bent backs, arthritic hips
the record of struggle and delight being and doing
the record of our humanity
We are human because of our bodies, created in the image of God so loving, creative, powerful, beautiful, male and female,
created over fifty million years of primate evolution so that we fit, here, now,
Voyagers beyond the solar system saying Hello! Is there anyone there?
the Svalbard Global Seed Vault so that we preserve something of the species we are destroying
a self-portrait of Clementine Helene Dufau whose eyes follow you round the room
Georgia O’Keefe’s grey lines with black, blue and yellow- is that a vagina?- surrounded by women contemplating the beauty of the colours.
I did not know my body’s beauty
I was brought up to Be a Man, a lawyer in a world of men in dark grey suits and white shirts with golden cufflinks, where bodies are denied.
To be a Real Man, a Christian Gentleman, cultured and educated
disembodied, nerveless below the neck, a mind seen as a computing machine,
a Cartesian intellect.
I am a body! I feel therefore I am! I did not know it then.
I was ashamed of my body, too thin, too weak, too slow, not at all manly, best kept hidden.
What created this shame- nature, or nurture? Nature, or Torture?
Sex was something I did, not because I wanted it, but because men were supposed to do it. I was in my head, my disembodied mind, doing it in the way men were supposed to, because I had to pretend to be a man. I did not do it much.
My mother wore the trousers in her relationship. My dad just loved that.
They were terrified of anyone finding out. This screwed me up.
My mother was a harridan, a strict, bossy or belligerent woman; a virago, a woman of masculine spirit; a termagant, a domineering or overbearing woman. My father was a pansy, a milk-sop, a namby-pamby, effete, feeble man.
I wish I had positive words for their specific, queer-hetero sexuality. My mother was powerful. My father was gentle. It would have been beautiful, but for the fear and denial, the false idea of the “real man”, that fake, false, fanciful, fictitious, fraudulent, oppressive, ridiculous ideal of a Man.
I needed to be a Man. So many trans women do. My friend was a fireman, my friend was a soldier, my friend was a police firearms officer.
What I wanted more than anything else in the world was to be myself, to be Abigail, a woman. I plucked up all my courage and devoted two years to planning and preparing, and I could.
I laid aside my act, my pretence, the heavy stiff armour with spikes on the inside, and could Be.
The world changed, from monochrome to colour. My body was alive. My fingertips felt Beauty in wood and metal, grass, earth and stone.
I became human.
I came to love my body. I saw its beauty. It is slim, and lithe.
It is effective, cycling fast in the sun, or in a warm and gentle cuddle
and on Stage! Hello!
I changed from being a fragment of a person, just an intellect
to a person almost whole. I was like a dancing doll, with legs, arms, fingers, but
It was as if my vagina did not exist. I did not look at it. I did not touch it except to clean it.
It might as well not have been there.
And then in the garden, in the summer. There had been a barbecue, there was a marquee, carpeted with rugs, deserted except for Carol and me. Everyone has gone to bed. And I am scared. I become the head, the intellect, again, not a body, for my body is curled up tight, turned away, trying not to exist. Oh! So tiny!
She knelt behind me and touched me on the shoulder. She caressed me on the arm. She spoke softly to me. And in the next hour I uncurled, I opened up, I flowered in her sunlight.