Return to Edinburgh

I am very happy. I met my great-niece for the first time on Saturday. At ten months, she is standing up, and walking round furniture or when supported by two hands- sometimes by just one hand. She stood on my knee, and I told her how strong she was, and how wonderful that was. S tells me that “great-aunt” sounds much older than “grandmother”, but I am not convinced.

That is the first time I have seen the family since 2013. I suppose I am closer to them than at any time since then. I am unused to blogging like this, I am being especially politic: I restrict what I write to my reactions and feelings, but today not even all those; yet I can share the positive ones. I am happy. I may go back, even later this year, to scatter my father’s ashes, where we scattered my mother’s. The child’s parents are getting married. I hardly spoke to him, but he seems a decent bloke, attentive to his daughter.

Peter invited me, on the occasion of his thirtieth birthday.

-You’re not old enough to have a nephew aged 30, people tell me.
-I have an older sister who married young.
“I had him when I was fifteen,” joked S.

He has moved in with Amy, and they are getting married. He is happy with his job, and believes it has prospects, which pleases me. He picks things up. His MS has got no worse since he was put on a clinical trial, and he hopes the drug will be licensed. I worry for them, more than for my great-niece’s parents, and suppose they will face the difficulties couples face, and surpass them or not. She told me several things, some of which a parent might not want to hear, which I think are alright, actually. She is older than he is, and I like older women so I think that is fine and some people don’t.

It is never perfect. It is good enough.

I like her. I like her insecurities, they show sensitivity. And she arranged a good drink. I stayed with Fran, then walked along the Union canal to the restaurant, then to a pub, then another pub, then a third pub where Amy had arranged a downstairs room which she got for free if the people spent £300 on the bar. They did. The birthday cake was chocolate in the shape of a Wookie. Then I walked home along the canal, just before midnight, lit by tiny lights each side of the path, which was uncomfortable but safe enough.

Enough, enough, enough…

I went to Fran’s house, and was introduced to her daughter’s guinea-pig. It had beautiful long soft fur, but when I said yes I would like to cuddle it, and its cage was opened, it scuttled off into its box. I felt it is entitled to its autonomy so did not insist, but back in the living room picked up a teddy bear and stroked that.

I don’t like being human. I want to be a disembodied intellect.
-I know, said Tina.

Or, I want to be a fulfilled human. This need for closeness is such a pain when I cannot satiate it!

Confident, not confident

With Léne to Nupton, to start the Queer Trans Inclusion Partnership. She drove me down, and we compared notes over lunch in a pub. I learned that the shy, silent types we want to get talking are not called “difficult to reach” as they were when I was delivering services, but “seldom heard”. That changes the phrase from the perspective of the service provider to a global perspective, as when someone is not heard that is a problem for everyone.

We gave a talk for about half an hour. I wanted to say how self-declaration made no difference from the current position for the wider community: only people committed to transition will seek gender recognition. I spoke almost without notes. I quoted Scottish Women’s Aid in our support. I can speak confidently. On a platform, I have a role, which I play well.

And then we discussed things as a group. Only eleven turned up, three trans and several others gay. How to include trans people? A woman at the STD clinic said that her rainbow lanyard won the trust of LGBT folks. Was there something else needed for trans? I felt that a rainbow would do. Someone felt a trans flag, blue pink white pink blue, would be better. It will cost a bit to get NHS printed on the lanyards, and other people have expressed an interest, so a decision would be good. I don’t want to require a different symbol for trans. Someone did, and I wanted to shut them up but went silent.

I would not have read –, but he talked of his trans experience. He wanted to know how to engage older trans folk- he is 23. On his website, he has soundcloud interviews showing the change of his voice over the last year on T. Now he has facial hair, he seems a gentle, charming, alert young man, in rainbow braces.

possibly the hairline, round over the temples, is feminine-

I would have read — even without the context. She has a professional job within a large company, and is their trans face to the world and within the company. We went for a drink, after. We have made a good start. And I have judged them, perhaps as a way of showing trans is not safe, to my own satisfaction. I am better off reclusive as I am. It was Friday evening, and blokes came to the pub from the office. I am uneasy with them swearing so loudly. The pint of “Black Hole” tastes weird. “Black Sheep” at lunchtime was unusually bitter and hoppy, but clearly fresh. I try drinking my pint and ignoring the taste, but eventually take it back to the bar, where the man agrees to change it for Black Sheep. Why would he not? He wants to keep the customers happy. And, if he refused my trying to be overbearing would be useless, what with the bouncers on the door. I am still pleased I asked.

There’s a new drama on the telly, Love, Lies and Records. It is set in a registry office, and has a number of ridiculous plot lines, as if taken from lurid weekly women’s true life magazines like Chat, Yours or Take a Break. None are believeable, and only Rebecca Front as the villain, whose ambition to be supervising registrar has been thwarted, is watchable, but it has a character announce she will be “coming to the office dressed as a woman” from the following week. She is gormless but mostly harmless. She is promptly thrown out by her wife, the mother of her children, and cadges a bed from the big-hearted heroine. Her beard stubble is showing in the morning as she makes up. What would the target audience think? At best they would see her as harmless and she would win sympathy. Surely she would not arouse fear, though possibly disgust. But I want role-models on the telly, not people having a crap time. And it’s not about the clothes, not really. After deadnaming her, the villain says “It’ll take me some time to get used to it,” clearly never intending to.

Negative capability

Negative capability is the ability to live without answers or solutions. I was going to ask your help towards a particular solution, but I don’t think that would help.

We met in the pub, on a long sofa under the oil paintings. It would be pleasant but for the loudspeaker just above us- we both like Roxy Music enough, but the bass is overpowering-  and the man who sits alone in the armchair at the end of the table, perhaps too big to be just our table but even so. She thinks he is drugged up, not just on alcohol. I notice the colourful tattoo covering his left cheek. He has a smaller tattoo on his right cheekbone. She notices his skinny body, and his rings which look like weapons. He has two drinks then goes, to my relief.

Toxic masculinity, she thinks. He needs to pretend to be a threat. She wanted to give him a hug.

At the bar, I noticed the clothes, the washed, styled hair. Too much washing ruins a wig. Now, I notice a couple leave: he is broad and strongly built, she so slim she could be half his weight or less.

She is in a radical feminist email group. They are currently debating whether to admit men. You know the arguments- admit men, and they will take over; men should support this cause too- they have been rehashed so often. Those willing to give most energy to the emails will have their way. Others may lose interest. It is nice to be in a place where we all agree, but we don’t, as trifling differences in expression get multiplied.

I confessed my paranoia- that I was her project, she wanted me to revert, it would get kudos in the radfem groups- and she said there would be no point, for her or them. I have changed my body; and she is interested in the politics of communities, not individuals. I would not be here if I believed it, I said.

If women object to trans women in their changing room, it is mostly theoretical for them. There are so few of us, they are unlikely to run into one. For me, it really matters: if I have to try something on at home, I can only buy clothes in my home town.

She counters that neutral language for midwives matters to her. She has a female body, and she has had children grown and birthed from her woman’s body. This is a woman’s experience, and neutral language erases that, and her. She gets passionate.

And yet men give birth. One pregnant transitioned trans man got in the newspapers, and now there is a steady, small number; and people who are neither men nor women but genderqueer give birth. Here is an article on it. I may come back to this, to puzzle out my own view. That was my original idea for this post. Yet I am unsure it would solve anything.

Inclusive language is truthful. The first attempts are clumsy, but “police person” becomes “police officer” which is generally used. I would have asked you for alternatives to the terms “pregnant people” and “birthing individuals” for midwives to use for the whole client group which might get round the difficulty, might make the word choice a positive sum game; but it would not help, not really.

I have no power at all in this. I may be tolerated, or not. My thinking cannot create an answer everyone will accept. My loyalty is to pregnant men, however lovely it is to be in agreement with friends.

JD Fergusson People and sails

Don Pasquale

“They were doing really well, cycling up that hill” said Pat. There’s nothing difficult about that hill, with reasonable gears. “You must be really fit then,” she said, and I realised how proud I am of it, how it delights me striding along in top gear. There is not much I feel proud of. The next day someone in cycling gear rather than jeans and a t shirt overtook me easily. He was probably going further than me, too, and not necessarily much younger. Oh well, my jeans and t shirt label me not a Serious Cyclist, and yet I am still proud.

I got to my friend’s house in the dark, hoping to change into my pretty frock. She was running late, and her garden is not overlooked so I put my light on a chair and changed and made up. Then she said she was more than half an hour away, so I went to the pub to keep warm.

-Haven’t seen you in here before.

We got chatting. He used to work in the shoe factory in Marsby. Very little shoemaking in the county now, I say. My turn. I’m going to the Opera. They don’t believe me. Where’s that then? I tell them of that concert, and they say there’s no church in Dell. So we get our phones out.

“Set up- say ‘yes google'” says my screen. Oh, why should it be so complex? Why should my location be continually known to the phone company, Google, facebook, whoever?

“Was that what you meant?” asks another man, who finds that the concerts are usually in the Manor-house. Yes, but I know the difference between a church and a manor-house: one room is most of the building and you can see the roof from inside. Though I give up explaining.

My friend had worried about going in there in case anyone thought she wanted to get picked up. I am still worried about going into pubs in case I am abused as trans- but actually I was uncomfortable there, because I am an Outsider.

Don Pasquale by Donizetti was performed by Opera Minima, four singers and a pianist, and a silent Maid whose hammy facial expressions were hilarious. I spent most of the second half feeling complete delight, loving the voices, harmonies, tunes, and the English translation which rhymed, scanned, made sense and was singable.

Hieronymus Bosch, The Temptation of St Anthony, detail 8