Loneliness, shyness, attention

In the world I have created for myself, I rarely have to suffer unwelcome attention. Like the child in sister’s underwear, certain s/he does not wish to be seen by others, in much of my life I do not want to be seen. I need to be able to bear being seen, to go out into the world, and want to understand why I crave attention and seek it out, yet hide away.

I seek attention. I stand before forty people at the HAI weekend and tell a story. I get a few laughs and applause at the end. I know some people are afraid of public speaking, but don’t get why. There can be a difficult audience, but generally people are wanting you to succeed, paying you all their attention, the room is focussed on you. I love it. And blogging, I like attention. On Friday 193 people from 27 countries on six continents looked at my blog, and that pleases me. One from Uganda has made twelve page-views on Saturday, showing sustained interest. It’s probably the same person as the four page views from there the day before. Likes, even follows, are cheap and attention seeking- I’ve looked at you, look at me.

Attention in real life is reciprocal. We need attention. We are a social species. Oddballs may set out to walk across Australia or the Arctic alone, but at University one summer I had three days in a row without a meaningful conversation and at the end I was climbing the walls. Now I have three days like that quite often. Next week I will see a friend for lunch whose company I enjoy, and I will make many spoken and body-language signals of my regard for her. She will do the same for me. It will be delightful. We will make each other think, and provoke feeling, and in a sophisticated, adult way, play together.

Getting over 250 upvotes on a comment in the Guardian- it has to be made early so that it is visible to anyone scrolling the article, and it has to be trenchantly stating a popular view- feels good. Not as good as attention in person but it is my best substitute. Or I shared on a facebook trans group, and people piled on me. I argued back, and would not give the last word, but it was exhausting. I do not like negative attention, but there I was arguing a point I thought was useful and truthful, against a negative and defeatist denial. The negative attention was wearing, but I was right to persist. Facebook is not just a parasite on the human need for attention, but our need to feel worthwhile too.

Work is the way people get to feel valuable, such that some cannot bear to retire. Meaning and purpose in lives needs to be affirmed by other people. At any time in the last five years I might have taken up voluntary work, and been clear that I was doing something worthwhile, generally affirmed by others, but I have not. I am gregarious. I like company. Voluntary work would give me company, and I have considered it but never applied to start.

Here’s Hayley Webster, or Scott, on shyness in the Guardian. She tried to be her perfect self, and hide her real self away. Yes, I get that. And watching herself on video she saw herself, apologetic, well-meaning, softly spoken… shrinking into myself to not inhabit space. I didn’t want to be too loud, too much or too anything. Yeah. Me too. My perfect self had to win all the tribunals, and if not then I was no good. And when I could not win, I could not face trying. Feeling I was not doing something worthwhile, and getting some unpleasant attention, in actual hostility, finally stopped me. I wrote this just before I stopped, and that condensating man in Cumbernauld has been a symbol of why I stopped for me ever since.

It has not made sense to me, so I wrote this. That’s the other reason why I blog. Why can I stand on a stage and yet not bear to go to work? Because of an audience rooting for me, and a man expressing contempt. But I have to! I have to!

People seek negative attention, says Leo Benedictus in the Guardian. It does not work for me. I would say those people are doing something they are particularly committed to, because they think it necessary for themselves, or vindication/revenge, or even the right thing, bolstered by much positive attention from their cell.

Telling Greenbelt about trans

This is what I said:

My name is Abigail, and I am ridiculous.

I have always been ridiculous. I grew up thinking that was a bad thing, and I should be sensible instead. I want to be sensible. I want to be normal. I want to fit in- and I can’t. And now at the age of fifty I am coming to accept that. I want the law changed so I can get “ridiculous” written on my birth certificate!

Everyone is in a constant struggle between Being themself and fitting in, and words can trap and constrain us, and words can liberate us. My friend says that full skirts like this are Out of Fashion this year, and I don’t care. I love this dress. It’s bright, and extrovert, and joyous. Words can liberate us.

The word “trans” liberated me. I am feminine, and I grew up knowing that was a very bad thing indeed: weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous, illusory. I got told “big boys don’t cry” by the age of four, perhaps younger. I knew I had to Be a Man, and so I fought very hard to make a man of myself. Many trans women do. We take manly jobs like the armed forces. I knew one who was in the police firearms unit. She had never shot anyone, but she had pointed her gun at people, ready to shoot if necessary.

We are not alone in this. Too many people are still told “Big boys don’t cry”, and grow up unable to trust or express their emotions. Lots of people who are not trans, who are very happy being men or women are shoved into a constraining man box or woman box, with a particular set of expectations which do not fit them. Gender norms are- ridiculous. In a bad way. Everyone has gender norms which they fit, others which they more or less go along with, and some which they resist, which are inimical to them. Gender norms are constraining. My free gendered way of being is a gift. It is a beautiful thing. This human diversity enriches society, and enriches every one of us, if we can let it flourish. It can enrich the church.

The law at the moment accepts a particular kind of trans person. If you, being of one sex, decide to transition to present exclusively as a member of the other sex, you will be protected by the Equality Act. If you are gender-queer or have some other gender you are not. I want to speak up for wider acceptance.

I am a Quaker. I am a refugee from the Anglican Church, where I was baptised and where I attended almost every week until 2001. That was the time I decided I could no longer worship God disguised as a man. So I told the vicar, who said, “You mean you want to look like that, all the time?”

I did not look particularly female. I had shaving rash and a bit of stubble under thick makeup, and a cast-off wig. I dressed unfashionably, with an underdeveloped sense of style. That meant I got spotted, and insulted in the street. “It’s a fucking bloke!” shouts someone. There was a child in a shop, pulling excitedly at Mummy’s hand and shouting, “Mummy! Mummy! Look at the strange man!” And there was a man who, as he passed me, whispered, “Fucking nonce”. I still can’t get that. He calls me a nonce, a sex offender- what makes a man so hate someone he has never met?

The other thing the vicar said was that he would try to ensure I was not driven out of the church. As if I had this ridiculous whim, but he had to bear with me so that I could see for myself that it was wrong, though the rest of the congregation would object. So I went to the Quakers. Two Friends had taken me to their meeting occasionally, and I thought I might fit.

A couple of years later, after going full time, I went back to that Anglican church to a wedding, and the welcome was warm and loving- but some of the congregation would not speak to me.

Being accepted and valued among Quakers, I can serve my meeting. I am Area Meeting Clerk for Northamptonshire- it is sort of like being chair and secretary in business meetings. I want to contribute. I get to contribute. It pleases me, and it does good for the worshipping community. The Friends Homosexual Fellowship, now named QLGF, is the oldest gay Christian group in Britain. We have trans folk on our national committees. Everyone wins.

I want to speak up for other sexualities. The polyamorous people I know are Quakers. One is in an open marriage. She has had brief affairs, with the consent of her husband, but is now beginning what she feels will be a long term relationship with another woman. She is an elder, which means she takes part in pastoral care. I am not sure I could manage my own jealousy in such a situation, but I trust her judgment and her husband’s, to behave ethically.

I need to speak up for Queer Hetero sexuality. We all know about this, but it is so rarely open. All the words for it are condemning. Queer Hetero sexuality is mocked. The woman “wears the trousers” in a relationship, the man is “pussy whipped”, and this is seen as a bad thing, because Men should be Men. The woman is a harridan, termagant, virago, angry and bossy and unnatural and unfeminine. The man is effeminate, a pansy. I don’t know any positive words for this. “Beta male”, possibly. On the web, in the manosphere, you will hear that men should be dominant Alphas, and betas are second rate.

My parents were like this. My mother was extremely controlling. My father was soft, and acknowledged this, calling my mother “The Boss”, loving it when she drove off in her district nurses uniform to sort people out. We could never admit it. I grew up knowing I had to Be a Man, which was nothing like that. I grew up having no clue what my feelings were- “I am perfectly calm”.

I am not aware of web communities like this. On the internet there are dominant women, in leather and pvc, whipping men, tying them up or putting them in cages, or “sissifying” them, putting them in pink sateen mini-skirted maid’s outfits. It all revolves around the man paying a woman to enact a fantasy humiliating him.

Soft men are beautiful. Strong women are beautiful, and we fit together. Yet we are ashamed, and we try to conform. A friend of mine has a soft boyfriend and wants him to make a move, make it a relationship; and I think, but he wants you to make the move! He wants you to take control, really. One friend is a radical feminist, and she says most radfems are lesbian- there is some mistrust of her, being hetero.

My friend’s current girlfriend wanted him to be “more manly”. He had decided to try: he would put on an act, rather than behave spontaneously and freely. Another man I met had quite a passive girlfriend and a hard manner, and when I met him the second time he had dumped her, and seemed far gentler, as well as more relaxed and humorous.

I am not sure how common it is. I grew up denying my softness, knowing it was weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous and illusory, and now I accept I am soft, gentle, peaceful and that is beautiful.

And after we had all spoken there was time for questions.

Gender clinic V

Serra the psychotherapist unravels my lie quickly, with simple questions. This is useful. I lie to myself because I want to imagine I am rational and sensible, so my verbal formulation sounds rational.

I looked at the microphone and the wee stage, and they pleased me. I stepped up and looked round the small room. I know I want to perform. The thought of it delights me. I want to be looked at. The problem is that I am not a comedian. I do not make jokes. I still think my line “We asked to be treated as women. So they told us what we should think and feel, and judged us on our appearance” is funny, but it does not get laughs.

So I told the story of the kiss. I had a verbal formulation which satisfied me: “I want to communicate emotion”. Her question was, what emotion? I am unsure.


Returning to this post next morning, I find “lie” too strong a word. Confusion, perhaps. Analysis is my strength, so I will analyse.

What do I want?
-I want to perform. I want to feel appreciated. This might come from childhood experiences, or natural character, or whatever. I feel the desire, and see no need to resist it. So I want to work out what will get me that appreciation.

Liam wants to perform and be appreciated. I find his poems awful, expressing commonplaces in a prosaic way, with some rhyme but no meter, long flaccid lines with unnecessary words. He got applause from the friendly audience (perhaps they thought him better than I did). He spoke on Disability.

I felt my applause was not particularly enthusiastic. I had a moment in my story when I feared I was eliciting no response at all. The audience was smaller in the second half (after me, and Liam). That fear- how well does it relate to reality? When at the end someone said I was “excellent” why do I assume he was just being kind? I need to discuss this with others there.

There is a monthly open mic. How may I use it, to achieve anything I want?


There are more women in our community than men, but that day I met two men: A, who is here for the first time, with his mother, and still at school, and Carl, a bit older, on T for just three months. His voice was deep before, but is changing. He can’t sing, but he can act and dance and has been in plays with The Princes Trust. He has been coming here two years, but has only just had his second opinion.

There was a different receptionist. I knocked on the glass in the door, and she told me to ring the bell instead. So she pressed the door release, and I said on coming in, “It doesn’t let me in, does it?”

No, she said, this button does that.

It seemed a question of who is important. I feel I am a customer, entitled to greater courtesy. She seems to think I need to pay her greater respect, especially by Following the Rules. I did not feel disrespectful.

Ingres, Joséphine-Éléonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Béarn

Positively trans

It is so easy to pathologise my femininity. It is not femininity at all, it is effeminacy or unmanliness. Femininity is a construct of patriarchy, a trap set by the culture which does not fit the speaker so she cannot imagine that it fits any woman, women who pretend to it need their consciousness raised, and trans “women” are tools of patriarchy. I am not “feminine”- what I think of as feminine in me is weak, sick, perverted, disgusting, ridiculous, illusory, misogynist.

When I am just me, in a carefree manner, my reactions are just So Wrong: I try to be something else, some stereotype masculinity, but am simply inadequate.

My feelings are anger, resentment, frustration and fear.

I have retreated to my living room, and I despise myself for it. It is Ridiculous! Weak!

This journey takes so long! I accept my femininity. It is real, me, how I react when I do not police myself. Yet I am still stuck here, in my flat, frittering my life, existing, because I do not want to do anything else. I do not have access to my desires, beyond a desire to hide away. Again I despise myself for that. It is a complete waste of all my life, so many experiences I have not had, always, hiding-

I accept my femininity? Oh God, I think of her as a man. I hate that. I judge her: her tight red dress is not appropriate for her age or the place, her wig is poor, her face is so masculine, I feel, and these are bad things. Judgements of others are projections of things about which I feel uncomfortable in myself- the measure you give will be the measure you get– so I learn of my shame from this encounter. It is deep. She was kind to me, a feminine characteristic: I talked of my job interview, and she told me of interviewing, how she was looking for a person whose character fitted, rather than the attributes the person might think mattered. She was being reassuring in that deep, husky, soft voice. Kind. Sweet. We hugged.

belting it outI can accept others if I can accept myself. Well, here am I in a dress where women would be in trousers. It is what I want to wear. We are all in skirts and dresses, well, we are hyper-feminine, or we would sort-of be able to make a go of presenting male. I am at the Positively Trans workshop, tunnelling towards something positive through all the shit, looking at shame and stigma, and I realised I had not just been ashamed of being feminine, but also of being submissive sexually, and of my Performance side. I was singing on Sunday at the Quaker garden party. I was belting it out, knowing my voice was strained and I was not hitting all the notes- for I have not practised my performance skills, the inclination is there, possibly even the talent, but my shame has eaten it, and I have been reserved, suppressing myself. This may be why after performing I often get a very low mood: it is back to ordinary life. All that shame, then in my daily Spiritual Practice email I get:

Your past is not your potential. In any hour you can choose to liberate the future.

And I think- fuck you? Not more Work?


It is wonderful to be in this loving, supportive environment. I express myself strongly, and others relate to what I say. I am a recluse, I have withdrawn from the world- others relate to that. My shame bound me in iron, unable to express myself naturally, and even now those bonds feel like protectionwhen I take them off I feel vulnerable, yet then I am real, free, truthful, enabled to feel. The bonds whisper to me, you are pretending, you are not like that really, we are your True Self- but I know they are Wrong.

I was bullied, controlled, erased.Their concept of me was superimposed on me, the real me ignored and devalued. The psychologist starts to riff, talking enthusiastically. It is beautiful. I write it down hungrily:

experience is rich and complex, full of emotion and pain

That was what I first noticed, and wrote, so I ask him to repeat himself

full of desires, wants, needs, yearnings… JOY…


It is hard to be outside the binary. It takes courage. I would stare at someone as feminine as you said my friend in Linlithgow. I don’t see you as male or female, I see you as you said more than one person, attempting reassurance. But it is how I see myself that matters, whether I restrict myself in my bonds, my false protection, or step outside them

as I realised, delightedly, I had done walking through Winchester to my job interview. I did not tourist the cathedral, but near it I saw a bust of a man who “saved it with his bare hands”. So I asked a woman what that meant, and she said it had been subsiding, so in the late 19th century he excavated underneath it, supporting it with masonry, and it has not moved since. We shared our admiration of him. This is what I do: I make connections with people.

I dug into my shame, and saw it was not just around being feminine, but being submissive, and dramatic, too, seeing my father who could not admit these things. It made me feel inadequate and disgusting. It made me very careful, never spontaneous, born middle-aged. I coped by trying to follow the Ideal I was forced into, and suppressing my feelings. I was made to feel bad by my parents because of their fear of Society and of me: they were trying to protect me.

I said to the group,

I am submissive.

I felt no shame. It felt wonderfully liberating.

Are these experiences still affecting you? I am reclusive. I have no experience of being submissive in relationship, little experience of performance, and though I took my opportunity on Sunday I am wary I overdid it. I have not made my opportunities. I am still careful and reserved.

It is a long journey out of shame. First I hide and repress myself. Now I focus on this is who I am. I seek support from friends and Charing Cross. Suppressing the shame will not work, but pride is a useful antidote. I feel shame at deception: I am revealing my Self, but others feel I am hiding my maleness- unless I am projecting again.

Laugh at shame. Contact with trans people increases pride in trans identity.

Love, acceptance and compassion are the best antidotes to shame, along with community, visibility, recognition by others. Consider how I would respond to another: I am always harder on myself. Practise metta.

If I can acknowledge my pain and difficulty I can celebrate my struggle. To get where I am I have been brave, truthful and determined. When aware of my feelings I am better able to cope with how they affect me. I can choose my own identities.

The answer is Love.


Through the negativity to something positive and beautiful…

Four years ago, I awoke at war. There was my negative, mean-spirited self, and there was a positive, better way of seeing things: love drives out fear. The point of the seminar at Charing Cross was moving through the negative to something positive.

I realised at the seminar that my bonds of shame did not only discount and reject my femininity, but also my submissive sexuality and my dramatic way of presenting myself. I hid myself away and pretended to be other, and eventually this grew so painful that I have hidden away in my flat.

Negative: I have wasted my life, pretending to be something else, and my hiding is weak
Positive: I have been on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, and now, on the cusp of self-acceptance, I am liberated. I have all the time I need to be myself. The hiding was the best I could do: I have always done my best. I can develop that beautifully dramatic persona. I can be free, as me.

Or the job interview.
Negative: I don’t know that I want it or could do it but was terrified of having my benefit cut. My answer to that one question was completely dreadful…
Positive: With these people, I was truly myself. We spent ninety minutes together, showing their valuing me, plus a tour of the meeting house. Winchester is beautiful and the meeting house peaceful, though I saw two people sitting in sleeping bags by the side of the street. I could do that job. They thought my account of my Quakerism, in particular of being clerk, spot on. Yes it is disappointing not to get the job. There will be others.

So, the seminar, led by a psychologist, a gay man using his own research. He was lovely. 1% of the population are gender-variant. Through our values and the dominant culture, we tend to think of binary rather than spectrum.

The exercises brought out decided answers in me. What identities do you have in your life- parent, sibling, gay/straight etc? I am Abigail. I am


Anything else is too painful. I am Abigail, or I am dead-grey, not wanting anything but to hide.

Which of these identities is gendered? Me is definitely gendered, feminine.

Who chose these identities? Do you like them? I choose Nothing. I am myself, or I am forced into the dead-grey, initially by my mother and now by my shame and fear. I am myself, or I resist myself. I like Myself.

How do you identify in terms of gender identity- pick as many of trans, straight female, non-binary…? I am Abigail. Man, woman, transsexual, feminine- all possible; the constant is Abigail.

Which of these identities is positive? Abigail! Yes!

How would you like to be seen or identified? Dancer Actress Performer Poet

Joyful, playful child

Renoir- Les Parapluies, detail

This continues: Positively Clare.

Clothing optional

File:Paul Gauguin 001.jpgI extended my performing range on Saturday night: for the first time, I had a props bag. Since you ask, my props were a pot of moisturiser, three bras, a lipstick, a credit card and a bunch of keys. I mixed my physical comedy with observational comedy- moaning about stuff, with only the slightest exaggeration- and had a few laughs. I performed topless before sixteen people.

I had no clear idea of what HAI was before going three years ago, and the “clothing optional” bit would have been too much for me but that I had camped in community with several of the people a week before, and liked and trusted them; and I had committed myself to be positive, having realised how negative I was, in the middle of that camp. We caress each other, and do exercises which you might do in a Tantra workshop or personal growth event. Now I can declare myself “sex positive” though still with a moral sense around sexual matters, and I have a better understanding of myself, my responses and other people. We show each other respect, and do not penetrate or orgasm. The aim is consciousness around sexual matters.

Clothing optional means that it is the individual’s choice, in the moment, and we are in the “Room of Love” mostly naked, with some in underwear or loose clothing. This past weekend, I delighted in the beauty of bodies, and the muscular and skeletal structure under the skin.

File:Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) - Two Nudes on a Tahitian Beach.jpgIn one exercise, in groups of three, we took it in turns to ask one of the others if one could perform a particular action: may I hold your breasts? May I spank your bottom? May I kiss your lips? The other responded either yes, no, or “ask me something else”- if the response was “no”, the turn moved on. In another, one of a pair lay supine while the other approached to stroke or touch parts of the body: the one receiving could say yes, no, stop or please, to indicate boundaries: so we practised negotiating boundaries and asking, verbally and non-verbally. Previously, one response has been “maybe”- so we can also test the rules of the game. After, we shared how we felt: I strongly wanted to ask for something but forebore, because I did not want asking that to make me appear a certain way: I could state that in verbal sharing, but not while playing the game.

I have introduced HAI people to Quakers, who found each other lovely, open people, and would like to tell Quakers about HAI. I have told one or two, and not been judged for it, and I have met Quakers at HAI events. The problem is my residual belief in morality as a system of rules, rather than a mature human judgment moment to moment- one of those rules is something like nakedness in large groups must be strictly regulated. I want my judgment trusted, and fear it will not be. When I taste freedom, the benefits seem worth the risks.

Another exercise: having a choice of what to do, I affirmed myself- “I am highly intelligent”, “I am loving”- and after each affirmation three others said “Yes”. Which is a lovely experience. Try it.

It was lovely to spend time with old friends, and get to know people new to me.

What the left hand knows

Jesus as stand-up comedian:
Matthew 6: Be careful not to practise your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

‘So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Classic observational comedy. You see those guys? Aren’t they ridiculous? “Announce it with trumpets” is an arresting image, to get the audience going. I don’t think announcing with trumpets a wholly bad thing. I think of the Tate gallery, and its Clore galleries, and the Saatchi gallery, free to the public, and named after the Benefactors. I have spent time with Turners in the Clore gallery, and I am grateful.

And- I get the idea, the hypocrite giving not from the love in his heart,  or even the fear of damnation, but from the way it will look to others. Yet even he might be moved closer to the Kingdom of Heaven by his giving: he is admired by others for his generous act, and he might come to see the value of giving by itself.

Jesus exaggerates. Do not let your left hand know. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. The trouble is Christians making a rule of this. A quid for the collecting tin is Treasure in Heaven- oh bugger, Dave saw me, that one doesn’t count. Do not let the left hand know? Why ever not? Generosity for the joy of it, of achieving something, is treasure in a heaven which is here and now. It works unless you do it to work that.

As a Christian, I am tempted to find a reading for this passage which fits my own understanding of giving. It does not, really. Having a grand opening ceremony for the first Tate Gallery makes Jesus’ image of “announcing it with trumpets” scarcely an exaggeration, and yet I think it valuable. I don’t think secrecy a particular virtue. Generous acts may build a generous character, if done for the sake of the act and not how it makes me appear to others. Jesus said what Jesus said, which gets me thinking; what Jesus said does not think the world out for me.

Outside the M25

File:M20, Folkestone, UK.jpgI have a terrible confession to make. I live outside the M25. That’s worse than South of the River, that’s worse than Croydon, that’s worse than Hillingdon, I live North of the river but that doesn’t count because I live- Outside the M25.

And yet my world is magical, Ladies and Gentlemen. I came down on the London Midland Trains service, and hear three chimes. Bing Bing Bing. They say, Mind the gap, get out of the way, we’re closing the doors, but I hear the three great chords at the start of Prokofiev’s first piano concerto and then the next grand chords flood through my mind and I am in Heaven.

But it is not just London Midland Trains. When I hear a car horn blasted repeatedly, I hear the start of Belshazzar’s feast by William Walton (I knew his nephew) and then in my mind the male voice choir sing Thus Spake Isaiah and- I hear car horns and the squeal of brakes quite a lot, come to think of it.

So I walk along the Embankment, down by the River, and I see- not the Millennium Wheel- Millennium wheel, meh, so what- but thirty swans floating regally along the River. The River, that is, the River Nene, in other places called Nene. And a swan is flying overhead, its great wings going Whoosh Whoosh Whoosh and it comes in to land on the water- yes, it lands on the water- and it meets its mate and they caress each other’s necks, and it is beautiful and strange and I am in Heaven, ladies, and Gentlemen, I am in Heaven, my world is Magical.

So I walk in the park eating blackberries which are washed by the rain, not bathed all the time in car exhaust fumes and I see a dragonfly and it sees me and it looks at me. There it is, hovering, and then it shoots sideways and hovers again, still facing me. And I look at it, and its beautiful iridescent colour, and its wings moving too fast to see other than as a Blur and it is beautiful and wonderful and maybe yes I should get out more- cos I’d see more dragonflies

And my world which is Heaven which is Magical is full of poetry. Poetry floods through my mind as I walk in the park or by the River- the River Nene, ladies and gentlemen, there is more than one River, this one’s outside the M25- and poetry floods through my mind-

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveller,

Not being a Photon-

I’m not a photon, I’m a Neutrino, I’m faster than a photon, travelling through rock sixteen nanoseconds faster- that’s a lot faster than light and light does not go through rock, and the scientists say did we get it wrong did we measure it properly let’s try again let’s try more to make sure we measured it right and I say No because I’m a Neutrino and I’m faster than light whatever you say and  if you say you got it wrong and no, neutrinos are limited to lightspeed then I am an imaginary Neutrino and I am Still faster.

My world is magical, Ladies and Gentlemen, outside the M25.

My world is magical, ladies and gentlemen, because there are no rules.  You look at someone for the first time and the first thing you notice is what sex they are. And if you can’t work it out you get worried. A two month old child looks at someone for the first time and the first thing he notices is what sex they are, and I am Both. I am male, I am female, I am Transsexual. I break this most fundamental rule and therefore there Are No Rules! Freedom! Magical!

Is it funny?

I was waiting for my girlfriend to come round.
I had hit her really hard.

This was told at an Edinburgh Festival comedy event, and there was a debate on Woman’s Hour (yes, it really is called that, it has been going since the forties) about whether it was funny or not. Jokes about hitting women are not funny. And- it works as a joke: set up an expectation, subvert it. Ideally subvert it on the last word, which is not done here, but I did not “get it” until after the end, so it works.

On stage, one may be in character. What clown tells it? The stressed, anxious clown, life is always too much for him? I would introduce another voice in the middle of my act if I said such things- Geoff, the psychopath. Thick man, violent, monstrous even. End his part with, “Geoff, the men in the white coats are coming. Run!” And- the clown is part of me. What else might Geoff say? Geoff is not for the stage. Right now, he is in a dungeon with thick iron bars. The only light is a candle, far in the corner of the outer room, where the guards can go.


I decided to try centering prayer. The word I chose was “self”. I mean, “Organismic self”, the whole being, my own link to the Unconscious, all my responses and instincts. My theistic/spiritual  and atheist/materialist sides agree that the way to the highest self is through the unconscious- and I am not sure I can claim that Christ or God is linked through any part of me.

Half an hour is a long time, but I have the time, and it is better spent that way than at Solitaire- three hundred “games” now, and counting. And- there is no good or bad, no success or failure in sensations of frustration or “deep peace and calm”- there is just Doing it. The mind wanders. Bring it back, with the Word.

Valerie Brown quotes Basil Pennington: when we become aware of our thoughts, if we continue to dwell on them, we leave our prayer and become involved again in the tensions. But if at the moment of awareness, we simply, gently return to our prayer word, the thought or image with its attendant tension will be released and flow out of our lives… we very truly die to our superficial selves, in order to enter into our Christ-being in the depths. We “die” to all our thoughts and imaginings, no matter how beautiful or useful they may seem. We leave them all behind, for we want immediate contact with God Himself, and not some thought, magic, or vision of Him- only the faith experience of Himself.

So I do it, and at the end pray-

 Lord God, or Christ, or whatever is

down there

let me be my whole self

Perhaps “Christ” is a better word, a possible word. The leap of faith is to say that what is “down there” is Good, that there is no line which is the border between me and Christ.

And the wandering mind can be a healing thing: I Reikied myself, and found I was thinking about all sorts of things which have made me cry, and not crying. There may be no “good” state in a practice, but there can be a healing state. And I do not do this to do it, but because it might make me feel better or function better.


The opening lines of an autobiography should set the tone, create a theme elaborated throughout the rest of the book, like Beethoven’s four note motif at the commencement of his Fifth Symphony, or Austen’s deathless Truth Universally Acknowledged.


Our water supply came from a nearby stream, and our sewer was more private, a septic tank and soakaway. Yet I was never a country girl.


Oh, I know. What about a Trans reference? My name is Clare Quintessence Flourish. But I had a different name until I was 35.

Or, Start in the present and work back. I am old, and full of years, and now I see fit at last to share my wisdom with the World. Nice, that. Get them interested with something punchy, let them know they are getting what they need.

Nature is a good thing to bring in. The Hedgehogs hibernate at the foot of my garden, for I am a friend to all living creatures. Outside my gates, the great city throbs and pulses, but inside is an oasis of calm.

Tell them key facts. Few people have faced such great difficulties in life with such grace and finesse as I.

What would be the first one or two sentences of your memoirs?


All my windows are open, in the glorious weather, for the breeze and the scent of the roses.
Neighbours’ cat pops in for a look-see.
Neighbours’ cat is housetrained.
Neighbours’ cat thinks my house is “Outside”.

Had I written “Neighbours’ cat scent marked my flat” it would not have been funny. This is an attempt at a joke, with allusions to the punch-line throughout, all the weight on the last word, the last word making everything clear without actually spelling it out. What do you think of it?


I am chatting with Nichola and Regina. Regina asks Nichola how she likes to be called. Nicki, or Nichola?
-Actually, I don’t care. I can’t control it, and either is OK. Some people call me both. Though I too like to get names right.

Regina says “OK, I will call you Nichola. It is pretty,” though she has misunderstood: Nicki meant, get other people’s names right.

Later, I hear that Regina hates being called “RegINa” as it sounds like vagina, and wages fruitless battles to get people to call her “RegEENa”.

On another occasion, I am fully aware of the line I should take. When this particular friend compliments my hands, I say that hers are the perfect balance of femininity and strength. After all, I have been here more than once before, it is almost a ritual between us. The first time I did not get it at all.