A pronouns poem

Jill Smith, she/her/hers
it says on her email signature
or her Zoom caption, huge in white on black
when her video is off, showing nothing of her
or the badge she wore when we met in person in another world.
“We invite you to state your pronouns,” they say,
showing how woke their allyship is.
“He/him” says Joe, “she/her” says Sheila,
and I am terrified.
“He/him”, I say, hating the betrayal.
Right now I can’t say “she/her”, because
I remember my father’s reaction,
my sister’s reaction,
or the moment she said “You know, I think he’s telling the truth!”
and I felt myself disappearing as I sat there
and they talked about me
then talked of something else.
Forgive me.
The hate looms larger than your acceptance.

So now I say my pronouns are obvious from my name
like a Free Speech, No Identity Politics, Fox News guest,
except I don’t.
They mean well and I am not going to be rude to them
though I hate my gratitude.
“She/her,” I say.
I like when straights say “he/they,”
it means man, but not too bothered about gender.
But “she/they” is too frightening.
“So you admit you’re not a woman” shout the accusers
pointing their fingers
and I collapse in misery
though they are only in my head.

“She/they/he/it,” I say.
You choose the pronouns.
If you choose “it” I know where you’re coming from.
My pronouns are “We/our/ours”.
If you talk about me
talk about something we share.
Talk about us.

Encounters at Greenbelt

I hugged a bishop. He agreed to wear a pronouns badge, when I explained what it meant. It is a declaration not so much that he is binary male, as an ally to trans and non-binary.

He understood about privilege, as a white man in leadership. He had a tour of the Supreme Court and took tea with the Lord Chief Justice, and it may even be a good thing for such different pillars of the Establishment to be in dialogue- yet revealed why he understood privilege when he said he was a “Grammar school boy made good”: seeing class privilege is his way into seeing white and male privilege. Yes. We English place every one on a precise pecking order, as he says.

I walked from the Shelter, and gatecrashed a conversation on the Second Amendment. The US Supreme Court decided the right to bear arms was as unlimited as the right to free speech- only about ten years ago. Yet we cannot say “That man is wrong. Kill him!” A woman joined the conversation and said but we say that all the time- and my understanding changed. Yes, but only a few people can choose the victim. She is a nun. She leads clowning workshops. I hugged her, too. I hugged lots of people, after meaningful conversations: at Queer Spirit I went up to strangers, asked for hugs, and usually got them.

I went to the Inclusive Church stall for more pronoun badges. I got my first at the Out stall. I wore three, one He, one She and one They, to stir things up. Had there been an It badge I would have worn that too. The woman there was a Quaker, and she said she had got them to change their Inclusion statement from “Our Statement of Belief”, which is Evangelical sounding,  to “Our Vision”. They don’t just let churches sign up, they go to work with churches to ensure the congregation is behind it, that the church has undergone metanoia, a Christ-inspired change in their way of being. No out-groups. The discussion can be a powerful moment for growth.

They pledge to challenge discrimination in the Church on grounds including gender and gender identity.

On to the United Reformed Church. I asked, and they said individual churches can decide to solemnise gay marriages. It’s a matter of church government- but the discussion leading to such decisions can be a powerful engine of growth and maturity.

In the Grove there was a Play for Adults workshop. We were told to visualise a tiny self, an inch tall, and imagine their adventures in the undergrowth. Some used this as a way into fantasy. I used it to enter mindful awareness of the growth and decay. Then she offered us choices. A friend said at his two year old’s birthday party the children were all playing separately, having not got the idea of playing together, and here we were, as adults, mostly playing separately.

I joined a person drumming with twigs on a log, and two others joined us. After the person said their name, and I am now unsure of their gender and assigned gender. I mention that. It’s unusual. It feels a little weird, and good.

My other time with a microphone was at the LGBT social, when I spoke to the group about becoming Quaker, and how proud Quakers are of the welcome they gave me.