Affirmations

I was powerfully affirmed last night, speaking in public about the trans experience. I was my usual charismatic self. I did it well. I formulated a question for the audience which people found excellent. Someone commented that while the other two told of their difficulties in finding their true selves, I powered in with “In April 2002 I transitioned male to female”. I spoke positively, about  finding the courage to transition when I was accepted as a member, about my talents being used, and my hope for reconciliation with gender critical feminists through Friends. We went for a pint after, and they offered me the chance to speak again, which I took. I like these experiences.

I had a series of heart-opening experiences during the day. I went to the Tate Modern, which was hoaching with kiddies, as it is half term. The Turbine Hall is carpeted, and all the swings were occupied. The scaffold holding the swings, stretching two thirds the length of the hall and above the lower bridge, is worth seeing. A huge pendulum swings above. The Modigliani exhibition was hoaching too, and I went through it quickly. Those nudes are too close to the poses in the porn mags I looked at in my twenties, as I tried to cure myself of cross-dressing with heterosexual desires, but one picture of Jeanne Hebuterne has the most stunning, haunting blue eyes. I was walking through the galleries paying little attention, but they grabbed me.

Before I went to meet H at the Courtauld Institute, where we had lunch together and saw their collection from the 14th to the 21st centuries. A Cezanne of a Swiss lake haunts me, the rich red-brown of the mountains. Then I walked over Waterloo Bridge to Tate Modern. I wanted to see you but you could not join me, and I am filled with misery. No, really, you could not, and sent a fairly warm text explaining, and still. After the gallery I crossed the Millennium Bridge in the sunshine, gazing up at St Pauls. I am- here, myself in the World, aware. I was not with my petty concerns but in the moment, where I was. I feel useless, incapable, unable to feed or please myself and surrounded by wonders.

In Friends House, the bookshop has Testosterone Rex, a gender-critical psychology, and Trans Britain, our journey from the shadows, together. I have the achievement and delight, the despair and feelings of worthlessness, together. I wish the affirmation penetrated deeper. I am frightened and alone.

— has in her fridge the means to end it all, when her physical ailments get too much for her, someone told me. She had to go on the Dark Web, and use cryptocurrency. He told me this in awe, as a thing he could not but share, and I share it with you, though not identifying the woman. On the train I was able to do a small kindness: a woman sat apart from her daughter, aged about ten, and I swapped seats so they could sit together. In the Tate members’ room there was a sophisticated woman, introducing a girl about the same age, speaking to her as an equal, treating her to cake and talking of the art works, inculcating similar sophistication. It is a gift.

A Quaker said, oh, you’re Clare, you write all those articles! Yes, that’s me. “You must read so much!” I don’t, actually, I said. I hardly read at all. (Opinion articles on the Guardian and NYT websites don’t count, only books count.) I had this self-image of the person who reads a lot, which led me to read Proust Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, and now don’t, perhaps because of depression. I buy books and hardly touch them. It seemed reading a book might be a task to devote myself to, I decide to read because it is right for me rather than imagining I will read because it is a thing I do, then realising I don’t just do it. I buy a book as an act of faith. In St Pancras I play the piano, defiantly. This is who I am, what I can do. I looked around after, and a woman caught my eye, smiling.

The colours on this reproduction are far cooler than I remember.

The seeds of conflict

Bring into God’s light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace. In what ways are you involved in the work of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations?

-Advices and Queries 32

The elder reads this, and I am thinking of various conflicts. Trans v TERF is one. I am so pleased by the Labour Party conference yesterday. Is a reconciliation possible? Always at the back of my mind is the possibility of standing to speak. Of course I cannot, on this: speaking in worship should be ministry, and not making an argument where ones antagonist may be inhibited from replying.

And there is that. Oh, I am sorry; and yet I do not think the situation is simply good people trying to cope with Bad Abigail and her troublesomeness.

Still thinking of the possibility of speaking, I pick up the New Testament under my neighbour’s chair and turn to 1 John 4. It is beautiful, talking of Love- but it thoughtlessly refers to “Father”, “brother”, “man”, “he” when it means God, Christian, person. I am unsure what inclusive language to translate it into, and I could say that conflict inhibits me even from this. I love the way Phillips expands the verse- fully-developed love expels every particle of fear, for fear always contains some of the torture of feeling guilty. This means that the man who lives in fear has not yet had his love perfected. The NRSV has perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

But there is a struggle even in myself. Have I an inner light? Is it as corrupted as Licia Kuenning’s was? I am divided, two parts of my brain at war with one another. How can I be at peace with others when there is no peace in me?

At that moment a black woman, (I am no longer “colourblind”, POCs are rare among Quakers) who has been thumbing through a song book stands and sings.

Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me…
break me, melt me, mould me, fill me
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me

Break me, words sometimes bowdlerised out. But, I need the Spirit. This was what I needed to hear. I start to pray the Jesus prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
lamb of God
have mercy on me,
a sinner.

Repeatedly. That is what I need. Richard Rohr recommended it, and explained it is non-dual in a way I read too quickly to understand or recall. I have just gone back to it: say the words repeatedly until the prayer moves from your head into your heart and you connect with the Presence already praying ceaselessly within. I am praying it out of need. I repeat it a few times out loud, cycling home. I misremembered it.

After meeting, a white man who turns out to be the black woman’s partner is reading the Friend, and I go over to see if he would like to chat. He tells me about Shungite, pronounced Shungai, which is Russian, coming from a meteorite three billion years ago. It is almost pure carbon. It purifies water, and a Friend who keeps bees says a small amount of it in the hive protects the swarm from the poisons which are killing off the bees. When he says Nobel prizewinners have tested it and found its amazing properties I am trying to get away.

Strange, disturbing and yet I feel it has been worthwhile. I cycle home. I say it now:
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Trans-misogyny

Dislike of trans women; discomfort around trans women, believed to be a problem with the trans woman rather than something the misogynist should just deal with. On a facebook Quaker group, someone posted how shocking it was that a Quaker meeting house hosted a talk by “A Woman’s Place”, which campaigns against gender recognition. Other people said the opinions of AWP were perfectly reasonable.

Someone objects to me in the women’s loos, not because of anything objectionable I have done, just because of what I am. Why is that my problem? It is far worse when they object to the mere idea of me. They have never actually seen a trans woman in a woman’s loo, but fear they might, or even it’s that if one is there it’s horrible. If a trans woman uses a loo in an otherwise empty building, are all trans-excluders still outraged?

Most of what she shares is private, but I could not see any evidence that one was a Quaker. She complained that “refusing to accept questionable definitions” does not mean she harbours fear or hate. She knows what the truth is, I am a man, and claims I am forcing everyone to agree with my falsehood, that I am a woman. I don’t care what she thinks about my womanhood. Life is too short. I care if she is rude to me, or attempts to get me excluded from where I want to go. It is as if she thinks there has to be a nationally agreed understanding of what a trans woman is, even though the whole nation agrees on nothing else. Some may think I am a man, some may think I should not be there, and that is fine.

That is why we should not debate with trans-misogynists. We are doing what they most fear and abominate, telling them that their beliefs are wrong. If a trans woman, trying to pluck up courage to transition, needs to believe she is really a woman, I want her to be able to hold to that belief so that she can.

Another woman, who does appear to be Quaker, expressed disquiet about how women might need to get away from men, at times, even certain “men who identify as female”. What can we say? If a loo in a theatre has a queue of, say, thirty women, it is unlikely any of them is trans. I don’t know how many of them will be out with a group of women and able to tolerate the proximity of men in the other seats, but not in the loos; or just have been sexually assaulted, and in need of escape. I hope the trans woman and the man-fearing woman will not come into contact. I don’t know how likely it is.

There they are on social media, expressing their disquiet. The issue of trans comes up, and like a Pavlovian response the disquiet comes out, expressed as concern for Truth or for the Vulnerable. How should we react to this?

Chaos, emptiness, community

Hello! If you’re here looking for evidence against me, you will find it; but please read to the end.

When I heard people’s woes, and felt I was doing them some good, sometimes they would get some relief. Even being listened to and respected, not treated as a fool, is a good feeling. Someone did that for me once, releasing years of resentment with one sympathetic phrase. Yet sometimes they would just get more and more angry, and it seemed they were a bottomless pit of resentment or anger. However much I earthed, there was always more. Always I had to let go of the pain after the encounter. I did this quickly, a conscious letting go, remembering I was doing some good by listening as well as professionally. Perhaps it helped that I was not close to any of them.

In June, I feared that my benefits would stop, and with the energy and motivation I felt I did not feel I could look after myself. I am alone. That was terrifying. I had just had another reason- these reasons can appear to be “mistakes” when I am less depressed but real, cogent reasons when I am more depressed- to doubt my abilities. Norethisterone did not help. I don’t like to think I am one of those bottomless pits, I have some basic trust in the world and in myself, but I do get close to it sometimes.

I did something you objected to, you did something I objected to, and in mid November we finally got round to discussing it. It’s like a dysfunctional family. The Quaker meeting are closer to me than my blood relatives, the nearest thing I have to a family.  Rather than both regretting the other’s hurt, as I do and I think you do, we affirmed our own, making the breach worse than it was to start with.

In Scott Peck’s model of group work, which he called “Community building”, we move between four stages. The first is Pseudo-community, where we make small talk. Then Chaos, when we tell each other what we think, confrontationally. You statements can be particularly liberating, as in “You never listen” and “It’s all your fault”. Possibly, Joan Didion’s overheard “You are driving me to murder” goes too far.  That can lead to Emptiness, when we let go of impossible expectations of ourselves, others and the World, and finally Community, where we delight in each other’s beauty. Ideally the Quaker meeting should cycle between Emptiness and Community, but because we are frightened of conflict and don’t do Chaos sometimes we get stuck in Pseudo-community, with the conflict beneath the surface, festering.

“Chaos” is close to “Storming” in “Storming Norming Performing” but Peck objected to Norming, calling it Organisation, a way of making rules so that the chaos would not bite us. That prevents true emptiness or community.

I would not say I am sorry to attempt to avoid bad consequences for myself. The idea disgusts me. But I am sorry you were hurt, and sorry that there is distance between us. I find you a beautiful person, I want you well and happy, and I would like trust between us.

I feel for every Quaker there is a tension between being the person who is vulnerable and cared for and the person who is doing the caring. All of us are both. In families, parents and children can have conflict as the child becomes the one caring, who then perforce has the authority in the relationship. With Quakers, there is no such defining moment. In the silence of meeting we are all vulnerable. We are all wise and strong. In other human relationships we tend either to be the one being cared for or the adult, caring. Or adult and adult, free.

If there is a way of communicating care for each other, we will come together. If there is a way only of communicating blame, we will move further apart. Where I still suffer consequences, I find it harder not to blame.

Tina observes that I sound joky, then nearly tearful. I am childlike, wanting unconditionality. It is as close as I get to family, and I want unconditional love.

Blogging, I am pushing a boundary, after it had been tested and clearly specified. No blogging. I think of watching an aunt and young child at Buddhafield, clarifying a boundary. We had the idea in Community Building of “sticky chaos”, where the problem just lasts, and chaos which clears the air.

“That’s black and white again,” she says.

A Friend wrote on facebook that “Acceptance is not resignation”. Acceptance of a situation includes seeing beauty in it. I have no mask. I have no sword. I love you.

She refers me to Carl Rogers’ paper on Reality. I go to read it. He says everyone has a different perception of reality. Well, duh. But then he says, if we explore open-mindedly the many different perceptions that exist we would enrich our lives and be better able to cope with reality. Full acceptance of everyone’s separate view would lead to commitment to each other as rightfully separate: “I prize you because you are different from me”. That can be scary, though.

Bath

When I want something, I will work for it. At least when I see a clear path, effort to achievement, or trying a few things and seeing progress, I will. Or something. I see myself acting and achieving, and am surprised. Yvonne invited me to the Quaker Gender and Sexuality Diversity Community gathering in Bath. I would speak, and they would pay travelling expenses. So I got up at 3.45, set off on the bicycle in the rain at 4.30, and got to Bath at nine. I wore jeans to cycle, and changed into a dress and suede jacket on the train. I did not bother to put on my wig before changing. The train is quiet and I did not hear anyone’s objection. A woman who works on the railway complained about a driver who has been off sick depressed, and was brought back into light duties, no driving, but is unreliable. I listened in.

On the train I met Richard, who had a camera round his neck. I asked if he had any good shots. He has been taking photos of trains, and got out his laptop to show me recent pictures. There are several of a ginger cat not doing anything particular, on a road, taken from above, and several from his walk along a canal- a bridge, a boat. I see no attempt to find an interesting frame or angle. It is a pretty view, so he snaps it. He has had one published in a specialist railway magazine, and several on a friend’s website. He hurries to write the web address for me as we approach my station, tearing a scrap from a receipt, but I have lost the paper.

I waited in Bath Abbey, the parish church. There is a “suggested donation” to enter, which I cannot afford, so I did not meet the eye of the woman standing there; but she spoke to me and gave me a leaflet. After, I said I love the fan vaulting. She only knows of one or two other places like it, which I find strange, as it is in the cathedral of her diocese; but perhaps she means the pendant, how the arch continues down to a point in mid air, where it stops. That is in Westminster Abbey too. I noticed this altar frontal with candle holder, the decorative barbed wire woven into the Crown of Thorns. Like the Cross, the instrument of torture, is made beautiful so is the barbed wire, the instrument of exclusion. It is disturbing. Jeffrey Dean said this poem in Ministry at the Quaker Life gathering, and it makes a similar unity. I felt joy and terror, at the same time.

At twenty, stooping round about,
I thought the world a miserable place,
Truth a trick, faith in doubt,
Little beauty, less grace.

Now at sixty what I see,
Although the world is worse by far,
Stops my heart in ecstasy.
God, the wonders that there are!

I was nearly asleep on the last train, which is only 10.26pm from London. Four Chinese young women wondered if this was the train to Nottingham, but the last train there had gone. A woman told them to get off at Loughborough, get a bus to East Midlands Airport, then a bus from there to Nottingham. Or get a taxi from Loughborough to Nottingham, which would be safer. That’s 15 miles, for five people. The train stops at Long Eaton, which is in Nottingham, a rather cheaper taxi ride, but I did not know this then, to tell them.

Quaker Life

On the train, I sat down as usual without particularly considering the other people in the nearby seats. It was crowded. Then I noticed the woman opposite me is trans. She has her own hair, but the makeup, nail varnish, clothes and way of being is instantly recognisable, to me, as trans. Hair on the backs of her hands is the final confirmation. I wish we could acknowledge each other, as you might seeing an English person in Kentucky, say- but the Rules say no.

Deborah joined me, and asked how H was. I have no idea. I have not spoken to her for years. Our friendship was broken, really. I heard from Helen that she was unwell, and even more isolated. It’s an overused word, but that is tragic. I sat near someone famous, and asked an impertinent question: “Why would you be invited to the Queen’s funeral?” She had been discussing buying a hat for it, just in case; she would not get much notice. She answered stating her position rather than her achievements, and I realised my question had been impertinent. In the week since, I have thought of how I might have smoothed over my faux pas, just as more normally one thinks of witty ripostes. A few days later I saw a meme of her face on Facebook.

I had seen another name on the attendance list, and wanted to meet her. No, it’s not the famous one, she spells her surname differently. I am disappointed, but we chatted away like normal people. Another woman met me in Loughborough in 2003, when I was again making myself noticeable: that week I saw the second opinion psychiatrist about the operation. She remembered me, I did not remember her. It is a pain not remembering faces or names.

I was thinking, I must justify my presence here. I must make a sufficient contribution, though my own learning and recreation is a worthwhile benefit of my attendance too. I think I have, enough. I said that to Alan and he recognised the feeling, either having it himself or having heard others state it, or even being empathetic enough to understand immediately. I was discomposed and feeling dislocated, uncomfortable, at war inside myself, inauthentic, something. We gathered in a small group, and I thought I need to be here.

I am here.

And I was, just like that, until we left.

The way into presence in Woodbrooke is to go into the garden. I went outside, and stood with a tree, watching its leaves shiver in a light breeze. I was I, and it was it. There is so much beauty there. I turn a few degrees, and then look at what is in front of me. And Iain wound me up talking of trans issues. I may have worked that out. Anyway, I went to stand under the copper beech- the trunk is a yard in diameter with a notice saying “Copper beech”, I would not have recognised it- isolated from the rest of the garden by hanging branches and watching the leaves fall, a few every minute. So I regained my equanimity just before the sessions started again. I consulted within myself to see if I should walk out or even request help calming down, and found I could manage. He came over after to ask if he had been right to let me go or should have followed, and I was wound up again. I am still quite labile. Yes, I said, he chose correctly.

I spoke to a gay man who does ballroom dancing, and has high heels so he can see what it feels like to be led. Then he went to a workshop on women leading, and spoke to an apparent woman, no sign of transition, in sweater and jeans. He asked if she would experience leading and she/they said “I don’t identify as a woman”. That is the way ahead. We are all human.

Joy and terror

If you are insane, you might as well roll with it. There is beauty in my insanity. I will love it, not fear it.

Something good happened to me on Wednesday. I have been thinking of my friends- if I become homeless, which of them might let me use a spare room? It would be unsatisfactory, and possibly only one might, possibly not him; no, I could not ask her, and certainly not her…

if I become homeless-

and there has been a reprieve. I am less likely to be made homeless, at least for the moment, I will continue to be able to pay rent, I may even find a job I could do and support myself. The benefits system is not uniformly hostile, sticks not carrots, withdraw money on a whim, but might be a little, inefficiently, more concerned with appearance than reality but a little- supportive. And the support might be enough to get me supporting myself again.

I sobbed without weeping. I read that this is contemptible and hypocritical, they pretend to cry, these horrible people, but really, they produce no tears so they are OBVIOUSLY TRYING IT ON. Well, that was a politician who had been caught out, clearly a bad person who the journalist reasonably despised, but still. Sobbing without weeping is Bad. Except I was doing it when alone, so no-one to fool but myself. The pressure and terror had been too ghastly to face head on, and now it was slightly less, a reprieve but not a release.

It is not quite as bad as I had thought.

I feel depressed, and I feel I lack energy. After doing a washing in the morning, often I want to do no more than just watch TV in the afternoon. Might the GP help? Well, having let me down badly twice from a combination of arrogance and ignorance, and in one exhibiting a lack of care which I felt indicated dislike, and possible contempt for me as a trans woman (nothing could ever be proved), my GP practice is the last place I would like to discuss depression and lack of energy. I feel all they could do is prescribe an antidepressant. I feel my depression arises from my difficult circumstances, and when I have been depressed before because of circumstances antidepressants have done no good. I feel my GP would be at best useless.

I sat in the Quaker meeting and felt my yielding softness. How hard it is to see it as a blessing, where Manliness and strength and decisiveness and leadership are praised, especially in men. It has felt that there is no room for my softness. I will give it space. This is what I need. I will give it to myself.

Three people ministered, well, I think, and at the end I had a sense of complete Joy and complete Terror, both at the same time. I have a strong will, high intelligence, and a heart full of Love, and the World I face is not as unremittingly hostile as it sometimes seems- it is beautiful, as well as implacable. Such strong, different emotions were hard to hold in, and I shook and gasped. And I had a strong sense of my loveableness and acceptableness- by God, by me- even possibly by the world. If I can accept myself, I can accept others.

I applied for a job, as usual screwing myself up to the sticking place to do it just before the closing date, and after feeling so het up I could not go to bed. It would be difficult. It might be possible, it might be the most wonderful thing in the World.

Homes and Gardens

I went into the garden, but could not sit in my usual seat. I thought, how beautiful to be here, and wake up to this:

and how horrible. In October it might be bearable, in January it would frighten me. Not just the cold, but the possible lawlessness.

A man comes out to join me. The Quaker meeting is discerning about this use. It’s the only place in the town centre which is not patrolled by guards or wardens. The other side of the garden, a prostitute plied her trade, having laid a mattress behind the bush, and they only found out about it when she led two men in while a Quaker was there.

Now it is another bed-space. You can’t sleep in polythene bags, all the sweat condenses inside the bag and soaks you. Possibly that sock is hung out to dry, or wash in the rain. There’s a water bottle hidden in the bushes. You need access to water. Most people, he says, put cans in the waste bin.

He goes to put a large piece of cardboard in the recycling bin. It could be insulation for bedding. The council take the view that there are sufficient spaces in hostels so that no-one need be homeless, but the hostels are unpleasant, and you cannot enter under the influence of drink or drugs.

Hard exercise in Meeting again. Do I have an Inner Guide? I can discern different ego-states, but the part seeming closest to real me is the depressed and lacking in motivation part which says Don’ wanoo when the rational bit says what it would behove me to do. Someone quotes Isaac Pennington: Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

and, she said, it is not. That is a lovely ideal, and there are tensions. And- we- can just- try- to- follow- the- Spirit.

It seemed to me that she was going beyond her leading, trying to get some hope, and the slowness with which she squeezed the words out showed the Spirit’s resistance. But that could just be my pessimism, at this moment.

I had thought, how beautiful are all the people here! I love them! And, I can be guarded, or even acting a calm, collected front; I can be present in the moment, aware of my surroundings- can I be Open?

Intermittently, perhaps. But when she quotes Pennington, I start to weep, and go out to wipe the mascara smudges from under my eyes.

Outside, there are a group of four people, in torn dirty clothes, chatting and perhaps drinking on one of the benches. I tell a local Friend, and he says they know them.

Ranting and Rebellion

How could you ever know yourself? “I am not the kind of person who” becomes “So far I have generally not”. I looked at those texts, and saw what they meant. I had not realised when I was texting. Self-conscious, I would not have done it nearly so well. Morality changes as I tell different stories: “I want to be a good person” becomes “I always wanted to find the rules and follow them, so that I would be safe”.

I have not so far ever seen myself as a rebel. Rebellion is as powerless as conformity, I would have said. You are not making free choices. It is mature to seek goals. That remains true, and now I am in rebellion. It is part of teenage, and I have to complete teenage eventually, I owe that to myself.

What do you do? she asked. I challenge authority and convention, I declared. Ha! I am rebelling! I am doing that teenage thing! In that moment I crafted a new story about myself. Well, the story seems to fit, and is good enough for the moment. I don’t like shadow motivation, not really, it is scary when I do things and don’t know why, or maybe work it out later. I do what I do to achieve my desires, even if I am not conscious of it. Often I don’t do something because I am scared of it and because I can’t imagine it working. I don’t want to do a job application as it will probably lead to interview, but no further.

On Tuesday it seemed to me that I had made a connection, that had helped me accept the world, myself and my history, better, that healed some of my resentment and frustration, or at least to see these things are possible and necessary. The Maintenance of Order in society, which enables us to develop beyond hunter-gathering, also restricts me, produces a Masculine Way of being which I could not approach and which broke me. What supports me, feeds and clothes me, is the same thing that poisoned and mutilated me. That poisoning was the best humanity could do at the time, the best I could see.

Lucy said she cannot put her experience into her performance while she is still angry. That makes sense to me. I don’t see the truth, because I rail against it. It should be otherwise. If I make that connection, perhaps I can accept my hurt and move on.

I transitioned to try to fit in and welcomed the poison and mutilation, which were a necessary part of transition. It was the best I could do at the time. So now I challenge authority and convention, I say portentously: or, I am in rebellion, in my delayed teenage.

I am threatened with expulsion from the Quaker meeting for expressing my distress in a theatrical way. If we are to know each other in the things which are eternal, it is not enough to discuss Cole Porter musicals. We must delve more deeply into ourselves, lift the covers off our feelings and expose our insecurities. My friend, though he needs the support of community, while he is bravely resisting the Arms fair and getting arrested for it, does not go to his Quaker meeting because, while they are nice enough people, they do not give him what he needs.

I do what I want to do whether I realise it or not, because of shadow motivation, the desires I cannot admit to myself, and because of my past trauma, all that pain and hurt. It controls me whether I admit it or not. The adult part of me, which has been civilised into conformity with rules and common sense, would do a better job of ensuring my behaviour was civilised if it could see that shadow which moves me.

I want to bring my whole self to the Quaker meeting, the theatrical expression of distress and disagreement, all my joy and incomprehension, all my creativity, so that I can get to know myself and that shadow. I brought all of me to the Yearly Meeting Gathering. There I made a powerful and beautiful declaration of Love to someone, which I almost wish I hadn’t, now, actually, though I don’t think it has done lasting harm. And I disrupted a session and took two hours of someone’s time while I expressed my distress, but the session proceeded and I think she is happy enough to have given me that service. It did me good. It freed me for the rest of the week.

YMG was utterly vibrant. Em came to see her friend one evening, and was bowled over by the electric atmosphere of Quakers being ourselves with ourselves.

-Are you going to form Noisy Quakers?
-It’s been done. The Ranters saw God in their inmost motivation, though as antinomians that led to disorder. They could feel moved by God to fornication or adultery. Though perhaps this was a Conservative myth, and no-one was as unrestrained a Ranter as all that; and my Poly friend has learned polyamory. She lives with her husband, and had several flings with women before starting a long term relationship with a woman. So they explored and tested boundaries and emotions in a mature, ethical and responsible way. There is the conventional rule, that we are celibate until marriage then chaste and faithful, and there are ethical ways to be outside that rule.

It’s not rebellion, it is not a breach of the way of our Civilisation, it is living in an alternative way and showing those who might see new possibilities and paths.

And I am in rebellion. Talking after Meeting is like a cocktail party. On the train home from Hull, I started talking to two archaeologists returning from an academic conference. I told them Sam had been arrested for blocking the road to DSEI, and they said how wonderful. We can be the Guardian, Greenbelt, left-liberal side of civilisation, but not anarchist or radical. The tension will get resolved one way or another. Maybe I will wind my horns in. I don’t want to just yet.

So I feel powerless to avoid being expelled from the Quaker meeting. Possibly I will cross the line again, and after mature discernment elders will sadly expel me for the good of the Meeting, because there are other people there besides me and their needs matter. If my inner adult decides I must only say what normal people would say at a cocktail party, to someone they knew only distantly, at the start of the party before their first tentative sips of wine, then my passionate inner self will rebel and take over.

I would like to speak to those who object to me, and reassure them as much as I can. I will not be physically violent. I do not want anyone to relieve my distress.

I want Quakers to hold all of me. Perhaps if I matured better from teenage I would have other communities which could meet different needs, but I have not at the moment. Perhaps I would not need this if I knew myself already, what I feel and desire, and could bear that.

Perhaps Quakers cannot cope with that. Perhaps the butterfly needs to be broken on the wheel.

Mirroring

Here’s a guy fae Glesca, and I notice wee bits of Argyll creeping into my accent. More the lilt than anything. His is a mesolect, distinctively Glasgow but clear enough for any Brit, probably any native English speaker, to understand what he is saying. No, I’m not mimicking you, this is jist- how Ah speak, sometimes.

Here’s a man, unselfconsciously, unaffectedly masculine. A solid bloke. It is rather wonderful.

-How’ve you been?
-Fighting vaguely the old ennui, I said. And we were away, on mid-20th century musicals. He was in a group singing songs from them. He went to Kiss me Kate and quotes from “I hate men”- “He may have hair upon his chest, but so has Lassie!”

“Fish really don’t need bicycles,” I said.

I am more and more uncomfortable, here, mirroring, empathising, mimicking, whatever it is I am doing. I fled in resentment thinking, Don’t make a man out of me- we are blokes, talking in a blokey way, and I don’t want to. I am uncomfortable enough with my gender at the moment. I feel I am now a bloke, talking like a bloke, except in a wig and bra and a silk skirt and sandals with delicate straps which make my feet look pretty. At the time I thought it was how he was responding to me, treating me like a bloke, and now I wonder if it was me, mirroring or whatever. I want to be a me I feel comfortable with, so go and talk to a woman in a different style and register. We are again sharing about things that please us but now enjoying the other’s pleasure rather than subtly competing, around human contact rather than Cole Porter’s rhymes and word-plays, and this is far more comfortable for me. “May I have a hug?” I ask. Of course you may.

I cycle through the town. A man gets up from a table in the street, staring at me, advancing in a sort of Sumo pose, and grunting- not like an ape, as the ape would have more dignity. Had a million years of evolution passed him by? It felt shocking and threatening, and I wondered what was going on for him then. I was cycling late at night last week when a pedestrian decided to sprint after me. I pedalled faster to get away, again threatened. It has happened before. It is a drunk, boisterous man having a bit of a laugh, and if he caught me he would not know what to do with me, probably- it is a play threat rather than serious intended violence, I hope- and I am discomposed.

We looked at the blokes at the bar, and she said how unattractive they all were, how badly turned out in that uniform of jeans and tshirts, how stupid their masculine poses which don’t fit them, and this morning I was thinking how I am not a woman, how “trans woman” is only an approximation to Be Who I Am, how I do not fit, even how I might revert, though having grown breasts makes that difficult. From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves. In Meeting I decided I could not tell what was Real Me and what Ego-self, what Child or Carer, what the “Image of God” as Richard Rohr calls it and what the “small self”. I kept looking at the clock, and felt uncomfortable, beside this large, friendly man- Oh! How Wicked to be writing of people at the Quaker meeting! I am not, though, only about my reaction to them- and my comforting thought at the very end was, yes, I have to let that go, but only that particular plan for getting what I starve for, I don’t have to deny I am starving or let go of the hope that I might somehow, sometime, be satisfied. Now, this mirroring or mimicking or whatever it is- my strong presumption is that my characteristics are blessings, not curses, to be welcomed, cherished, appreciated, and used ever more skillfully and choice-fully. I can mirror, and I can-

be myself???

I don’t know who I am.