A pacifist considers Remembrance Sunday

William Orpen, a German gunners' shelterMinistry in meeting: I much prefer my little bit of God to the bit of God they have at the war memorial a few hundred yards over there. Yet when they invoke God, God comes. S ministered that peace passes all understanding.

I heard things about Remembrance Sunday which revolt me. Until the 1980s, someone said, they did not allow people maimed in armed service to parade; those parading had to appear normal. I thought, it has to be pacifist, to an extent, thinking of about 850,000 British military deaths in world war one, 450,000 in world war two, and thousands in other conflicts. Even if you see it as “Heroic Sacrifice”, you are still confronted with all that death, and in Britain the popular phrase “lions led by donkeys” encapsulates the thought of thousands wasted by bad strategic decisions of men taking too little care of their own side. I must not get too- “gung-ho” is the word that came to mind, inappropriately- about this, not everyone would see the war in the way I do; but the parade is not just a sentimental UKIPpy Pride in Britain thing.

William Orpen, a grave in a trenchThough when the parade started, and we heard the military drums, I heard how militarist it can be.

Marion went, and reported there were thousands there, perhaps 5-10% of the town. There were various ministers, and a Hindu priest singing prayers.

Of course it is not one undivided They with one undivided view, but a range of people with different motivations for turning up in brilliant sunshine in chilly November at the war memorial. It is not Quakers, the chosen people of God,  following God’s will while the Benighted swarm outside: I can allow them to believe as they do about God, war, remembrance, reality, without it feeling like a threat to me, and that is part of feeling able to hold my own understanding about these things even if others disagree. This understanding of how it might be to be at peace in the chaotic flow of the world’s opinions is not where I am, and not a perfect view of where I might be. Peace passes understanding. But I move towards it, and that is good. God is big enough for all of us.


Remember and celebrate

Sunday 20th November is the International Transgender Day of Remembrance, remembering more than six hundred people murdered because they were trans, and there will be commemorations all over the World of people murdered because of a random characteristic which I share. I think it important to mourn our dead, including our countless suicides, but I also think it important to celebrate our heroes, people who have transcended the difficulties of being transsexual and given something to the World. Just a few, in no particular order:

Lynn Conway
Adèle Anderson
Dana International

Anna Grodzka
Marci Bowers

I was delighted a few years ago when Fascinating Aida appeared on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 without the transsexuality being mentioned. Other things were more interesting. It is a sign of acceptance.

Also I remember the courage and strength of our pioneers, such as April Ashley, who is still going strong. I could name my own personal heroes, but some are in stealth, and I do not want to out people.

In one way, it is no more sensible of me to be “proud” of the achievements of these women than of the achievements of, say, left handed people. But I am inspired to see what may be achieved, and how any difficulties arising from transsexuality may be transcended. And I have fellow-feeling with them, as I have with Scots, and pleasure in the value and worth of my kind.