If he can persuade the mist to rise The Sun will blaze today, in startling blue. The clouds caress the Earth with softest dew, yet can’t resist the Sun, so strong and wise. Three hundred thousand times the Earth’s mass flies a ball of plasma we still misconstrue. The ancient Greeks (Oh! Could it still be true?) called it a God, amongst us in disguise. Assigned a character, desires, and thought, it’s something I relate to. Humans do. It proceeds round our spinning galaxy, an accident. To it, our lives are naught. it gives us life, and stories all anew: A God, a star, a metaphor, all three.
Only love is real.
I can only see the world through the eyes of love.
I can only see myself through the eyes of love.
At my core is only Love.
I float in love, breathe love, radiate love.
Ram Dass summarised his wisdom in four words: “I am loving awareness”.
People like my words:
-I love that smile
-I love you. I love seeing you in your wonderful chair of wisdom ❤️💜💛
-in times of difficult decision making , I try to remember to ask myself “What would love do?”
Forgive us if we seem to you like men.
It is a shell, it’s only how we seem
For so long our real selves were just a dream
or shame and weakness, glimpsed then fled, again
Girlish, girlishness was danger, then
the mannish act was habit, or a scheme
to fool the world, and hide, till our extreme
desire overcame us, til the moment when
we could deny no more. That was the start.
I feared too much to claim my womanhood.
Old habits stick. I cannot simply be
If you expect a man, I play that part.
The gentle, peaceful self, half-understood
will flower in time. I know I will be free.
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.
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.
I faced the Monster, which frightens me more than anything. It did not kill me.
In psychotherapy, I said how I had felt after last week- tired and upset at first, but then really wonderful, loose, delighting in my body, happy, on Sunday after rising at six to go cycling and miss the 30° midday heat. Let us go at it. There is that “joyful, playful child” which I give strongly positive names, such as “Real me,” and which seems to hold almost all of my power of self-motivation, even if it can only resist things my rational self thinks I ought to do. It feels feminine. There is a more masculine protector whose way of protection is to suppress: to get her to be quiet and sensible. I feel that Real me might be useful in life situations. For example in the Employment Tribunal, in cross examination, I feel she could be useful if I found an opening to eviscerate and humiliate someone.
We agree to bring her out to play. I do not play long. She is charming, winsome I think, but that is only her most oft-shown face. There is hurt here. And I lean forward, ready to play, to create, to explore together but can’t say something.
It’s like Emo Philips’ joke. My parents told me never to go near the cellar door, but when I was six I was alone, the door was unlocked, and I opened it. I saw wonderous things! Trees, grass, the sky!
The masculine protector wants to shut the cellar door on the Child. It is the only way to be safe. The masculine protector will be good, obey the rules, and be safe. This is an immature technique I use in adulthood: find out the rules, follow the rules, because it gives me a sense of safety.
In fact it’s like a trapdoor. The Child wants to be charming, I promise I’ll be good, because otherwise the protector will shut the trapdoor which is the only source of light in my cellar, or bottle-dungeon, and just be good, quiet, watchful, himself.
Then comes the judgment.
I had a perfectly ordinary childhood!
What are you making up now?
So I shout it at Linda, quite out of control, enraged. There’s another reason why doing this by video is safer: I can show my full rage.
I pause to write this down. “Judgment- PERfectly ordinary childhood.”
Half way through I decide to minimise it. It is the Elephant and the Woodlouse- imagine an elephant carrying a generator and two vast loudspeakers, and the judgment is deafening. Now imagine a woodlouse, with proportionately smaller speakers. It also walks towards me, and I notice this strange high pitched noise. I lean in to hear what it might be, interested. The malice is the same, but it is less powerful.
The malice is directed at myself. How can I be suppressing my true self, when my childhood was caring and nourishing, enabling me to be fully normal? That’s its main idea. Stop whining! Stop pretending! Stop fantasising!
Oh, I would like to terrify people! I would like my anger to be effective, usefully directed outwards, not just inwards at myself. I would like to know that Child was safe to enter the world, and be herself in the world.
I thought a long time ago, whether I have gone through something no human could go through without being crushed, or whether I just stubbed my toe once, I am where I am. It becomes clearer to me that I have gone through traumatic experiences, some while too young to remember them, and the Monster is lying to me. I would like the Child and the masculine protector to reconcile, and even the Monster, to tame Kerberos so he eats out of my hand, and only barks at others when I tell him to.
More than ten years ago I thought The Monster will get me, and I now see the monster more clearly.
There is something in my room, and I write a poem to it.
I hate you as much as I have ever hated anyone.
I want you dead.
Your touch makes my skin crawl.
Your noise is worse than tinnitus.
Your constant motion baffles and immiserates me.
I want you to feed the birds,
yet one of you drives me to distraction.
I surprised myself today (Tuesday). Previously the Real Me has been only sweet and lovely, playful and joyful. Today she showed her teeth. If that is to be my main self, it cannot be without dark emotion.
On Tuesday evening, with Canada Yearly Meeting annual sessions, which I joined by Zoom, I named the Real Self and the protector slamming the trapdoor. This is a childish self-protection mechanism, I said. When I became an adult, I shall put away childish things.
On Wednesday 12th, I was reading Mysticism and Resistance by Dorothee Sölle. The “Resistance” in the title refers to political action; I am only on the second chapter, on mysticism, on stepping out of the ego or petty self into God. I could not read it. Where is God in this scheme, the real me, the masculine protector, the monster? With Pendle Hill worship sharing, the question was, “Are you ready to respond to any concern God may lay upon you, large or small?” How could I respond? No, my hands are full at the moment?
First, I thought, this is my Concern, that I am working on. Then I identified the Real Me as the inner light. The more I speak from God and act from God, the more confident I become in so speaking and acting.
This is the end of my mysticism, to become fully that real me. A Friend wrote, “I hear you opening yourself to let God think through you, and see through you, and also, I sense, feel through you, as you lay your ego aside in worship.”
Wednesday afternoon I joined Canada Yearly Meeting annual sessions, online. I was part of a worship sharing group on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the second question we addressed was, “How has the spirit been with thee since last we met?” I feel abashed. I know the depth of the claim I am making, that I can speak directly from God or Spirit in conversation as well as ministry, and I want to make it. I remember Liz saying a better translation is “I Am is the way, the truth and the life.” The ego, which seeks to guard me and make sure I appear well is like filthy rags which do not cover me or keep me warm, like Isaiah’s dry, cracked cisterns without water. Ego is worthless. God speaks and acts through me, as an atheist materialist.
One says she is Spirit until she stops and distances herself from it. Being nondual, we allow the unfolding and are part of it. We join in the dance.
I maintain self-respect as a trans woman, despite the hatred and mockery of the transphobes, despite the prejudice of society. How? Through self-knowledge and acceptance.
I am coming round to the phrase “I am a woman with a trans history”. You put your transition in the past, and move on to other concerns. You have done the emotional, intellectual and physical work of transition. It need not mean you abandon trans people or deny being trans. We can be proud of accepting this daunting and difficult path, and of the progress we have made on it, wherever on the path we are.
We can’t reach self-respect through creating a hierarchy of trans, this trans is better than that trans because they are further through transition, or transsexual as opposed to cross-dresser, or through attempts to create a war between androphile and gynephile trans. Every way of being human, including those “social conservatives” pick on to hate such as different skin colour or eye shape or sexuality as well as gender, is of value. The conservatives create slurs to denigrate those they hate, and get others to join in. Like in this post– content warning transphobia, obviously.
Self-respect is not “even though I am trans” or “I am trans but”. Being trans is a characteristic like being left-handed or aphantasic. It is something society enthusiastically tries to make me ashamed of, with the phobes making various spurious arguments why we are all dangerous or to be feared, and moralists calling us disgusting. If we are to be feared or admired it is for what we do rather than what we are. They want us ashamed, they want us hiding away, and therefore we need gay pride, trans pride as an antidote to that- I am happy to be trans, because if I were not trans I would vanish in a series of weird space-time paradoces, and cease to exist. The person in my space would not be me. This pride is not the opposite of humility, but of shame.
Like with aphantasia, the well-meaning often can’t quite believe how shit it is to be us. Look at this blurb on an aphantasia programme. What if you could not… it seems inconceivable, but that is the reality for some. It’s not concern-trolling, but the effect is to make people pity others as abnormal and lacking rather than value them (us) as diverse and gifted. It’s all-pervasive. My imagination is just fine, thanks.
Against this pressure it is necessary to say, I am Trans (aphantasic… Scots… ) and that is OK. That is the heart of Pride marches. This is who we are and you will not bully us into hiding it.
In the past I surrendered to that bullying. I conceived of dressing female as a temptation, as a bad, unmanly thing which I wanted because of Sin or something, and gained false self-respect by denying it. I am not really like that. I compartmentalised, imagining a good me shorn of all these bad impulses, and with righteous desires. Or, I hoped I could resist the desire to cross-dress, and make a man of myself. I felt self-respect insofar as I could make a man of myself, and when I could not that false self-respect was torn from me, which was extremely painful.
And in the past I gained self-respect by what I could achieve, which in the end was the most monstrous perfectionism: any achievement was only what was to be expected, any failure even if it was entirely because of circumstances beyond my control was a disaster. I could not cope with the pressure, and that self-respect vanished too.
I was left with myself, the trans woman, whom I despised. Feminine, emotional, every characteristic wrong. Taught to loathe and despise my true self I fled from it, but could not get away, and it makes me think of Francis Thompson’s The Hound of Heaven.
Then self-respect is a matter of seeing what I have been taught to admire, letting it go, and finding ways of admiring what is actually there. This person, with these gifts. There is no self-respect without self-knowledge and self-acceptance. A lot of this is what I am doing here in this blog: teasing out aspects of self which were not valued so which I denied, which I need to see and value for myself.
And as I strip away the false understanding, in order to accept who I am, I need lots of self-forgiveness. This is who I am, this is what I have done, these are the pressures and difficulties I suffered. I would rather be in a less precarious place than I am, but if I curse myself as useless or stupid for ending up here, that only traps me here.
In the lockdown, here is a verse I wrote:
Eight little peanuts
lying in a palm
wondering what would happen
would they come to harm?
Eight happy peanuts
One gets dragged away
where has it gone to?
None of them can say
Seven salty peanuts
are getting their kicks
another is taken
then there are six
six surprised peanuts
begin to get concerned
another is taken
nothing have they learned
Five roasted peanuts
looking all about
one of them is taken
he didn’t even shout
Four little peanuts
arranged in a square
Now it’s a triangle,
the fourth isn’t there.
Three sanguine peanuts
think it can’t be that bad
one is pinched in fingers
two are going mad
Two little peanuts,
lying side by side
One got eaten
The other tried to hide
One lonely peanut
hadn’t long to wait
Thrown up high, and caught in mouth
and then it was ate.
It is about death and the fear or even dread of death, though that is part hidden by playful fantasy. I thought it was for Covid. Perhaps it is not just for covid. “Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully.”
Queuing for the supermarket
is like walking a labyrinth.
Every few moments, some mindful steps.
Ribbons wind the path, and we turn in sunshine.
Blossom and birdsong are beautiful.
Over the fence,
a path curves into the woods,
in cool green light.
“Wonderful,” said a friend. “You woman of so many talents. I’d lose the last sentence…” Well. I wanted to share the idea, of walking in the queue being like in a labyrinth, but for me it evokes a specific place. The police are telling people not to buy inessential items or sunbathe in parks, and they have the power to impose on the spot fines, so if you want to enjoy sunshine, doing nothing at all, a supermarket queue is a permitted place. This one has trees, so even if a carpark is not beautiful there is beauty there worth my attention. And across a steel fence of sharp uprights a few inches apart, there is the Greenway, with the contrast of light through a scrap of mature woodland. There is a contrast in the last three lines, in the lowered intensity of words matching the difference of the vision. So there.
There is no afterlife. If “He descended into Hell”, as the Apostle’s Creed says, it is here, in this life on Earth, and if Jesus saved people from Hell as apocryphal Gospels state and the Orthodox Church celebrates in icons it is now, and how better when people are afraid of a pandemic?
I remember my first labyrinth. The path was marked in different coloured square tiles, and was square so that repeatedly one turned a 90° corner, facing a different vista, bushes, trees, grass, and angle of sunlight. I did it slowly, barefoot in March, in about 2007. It did the job, bringing me into the moment, contemplating the beauty, out of Hell. From that place one can begin to see what needs to be done in the moment now. I probably didn’t have covid two weeks ago, but I don’t know if I picked it up yesterday; and the sun is so hot in my back yard that I sit in the shade. A siren. Is it a police car come for someone who bought something inessential, or an ambulance taking away a sufferer? Someone tells me her child brought it home from school and they all had it, and were fine after a week. Someone has died. A neighbour shouts at his daughter for eating chocolate before tea.
Here is an icon of “The Harrowing of Hell”. Christ breaks the walls to rescue the imprisoned, while angels hold Satan down.
Western European art tended to go more for Last Judgment scenes, with sinners falling unequivocally and finally into torment, but there are some examples. In this by a follower of Bosch, the devils resist, and only some people take notice. Click for a larger version.
In this Cezanne, Christ saves individually and personally.
Another follower of Bosch. Most of the people are untrusting. The woman covering her nakedness makes me think of Eve.
I went to the supermarket
and came home with a poem.
Would the police deem it essential?
My house is much cleaner than normal. I tidied away a lot of papers and stuff a couple of weeks ago, and have gone on a cleaning jag today, vacuuming crannies and crevices for dust. If a tiny particle can make a sufferer cough, irritating the airways further, I do not want my house as dusty as it was.
Eight percent of people over fifty coming down with Covid 19 need hospital treatment. My fear is that if I can phone and describe symptoms I will not be deemed sufficiently sick for transport or treatment, and if I can’t then I won’t be helped. And what that means for poorer areas without a fair hospital system horrifies me.
Oh I would like to talk face to face! I last had a friend over on Monday 16th. I like video calls, and now can attend Quaker meeting twice a week or even more- so I am having more conversation!- but I like hugs. Ministry is mostly guardedly positive- things are bad but we will be OK, quotes from 17th century Quakers- with occasional reminders of people who are particularly vulnerable.
And I think of people I know- people with MS, people over ninety, people who need oxygen to breathe even without 19. I fear for friends, I fear for people, I fear for myself. I am likely to suffer only minor discomfort, little more than any cold, but the worst possibilities are unthinkable. It is likely that someone I know will die of this thing.
The restaurants were told to close on Thursday 19th, and we were told to go into lockdown- only essential workers to go out to work, others can work from home if they can, stay at home but for one session of exercise daily and one shop weekly. Not having a freezer, and not always finding what I wanted, I shop more often. There are no rules yet on wearing masks. I don’t know the differences between masks, but with NHS staff angry about their lack of PPE, and the ENT consultant Amged El-Hawrani dying- he will not be the last- should I have a mask at all?
On Saturday I went to Asda, and was taken aback to find the front door locked. There was only one door in, round the back by the car park, and people were queuing quietly to be allowed in, one in one out, by the guards on the door. The aisles had arrows on the floor marking a one-way system, so we could keep 2m apart, and while I heard gallows humour a week before now it was silent. Again I could not get tinned tomatoes, but cooked with fresh tomatoes instead. I could not get basmati rice, but got brown instead, so that now I have got basmati rice I have 1kg of brown rice to use. Boil uncovered for 20-30 minutes, in six measures of water for each measure of rice, then drain, put back in the pot and cover to steam for ten minutes. It’s alright. This seemed to bulk out quite suddenly after 22 minutes.
I like worship on the net. I place the laptop on a table slightly to my left, and sit below my window, composed. Today, I sat in the sun for twenty minutes paying attention to my fear. Paradoxically, the desire for a crisis in which the British can show our mettle is the desire for a more ordered world: a world where priorities become clear, action becomes defined or predetermined, our feelings fit the needs of the moment. Actually, the crisis increases mess: we still have the same old problems in the same messy lives, but unaccustomed new ones- using kitchen roll as toilet paper, perhaps, or not knowing how to care for parents suddenly under such great threat.
There are horrors, on the net, such as video of overworked doctors and patients on ventilators. The New York Times quoted a website advising doctors on how to broach difficult topics with relatives- your beloved granddad is getting no better, so we need to take him off the ventilator so we can save someone else. So here is a sweet article by George Monbiot on people being creative and generous. I have The Mirror and the Light to savour, but at the moment I am rereading Bring up the Bodies. Here is Cromwell: in those huge hands Holbein places a legal writ, but that crease down the middle of it makes it look like a dagger.
I was moved to parody TS Eliot.
Johnson the Etonian, a fortnight dead,
had forsaken spaffing for bouts of coughing.
Those are pearls that were his lies.
We do not wish anything to happen.
Seven days we have lived quietly,
Zooming, and queuing at the supermarket,
Living, and partly living.
Let us not go, you and I
where society now sleeps upon the world
like a patient etherised upon a table
Let us not go through half-deserted streets.
In the room the women stay
With Covid, there is naught to say.
Is this the world changing, or the world’s strangeness revealing itself?
How could I claim to love you, and ever cause you pain?
You’ve said our friendship’s over. I won’t call you again
I battle to forget you and you still invade my brain
I re-read all our emails and I’m crying out your name
You smile at me and touch me, and climb into my head
Obsessing a week after, I wish that I was dead
I think of you each moment, your body haunts my night
And then I wake up weeping, deprived of my delight
I see you in the distance. You’re shining like a star
Some worshippers are near you, I worship from afar
In movement and in stillness, your beauty blows my mind
You’re brilliant, witty, clever, charismatic and unkind.
The report, chaired by a woman, seeking evidence from women and women’s organisations,
“ignored women,” she said.
She meant, ignored her.
Did not repeat her views.
Perhaps I should tell her the ways of the world.
Even I ignore me.
I said to the paedophile
(Of course he is more than that-
hopes, fears, dreams, love, aspirations
Achievements- and yet a paedophile
And so, a paedophile)
“Look mate, I get it. I am someone the meanest of men can despise too.”
You’re never invisible when they want to hurt you.
Do these feminists take their equality so seriously
that they think they can despise me like men do?
When she says “I was raped. I was traumatised. I was sexually assaulted”
I hope she inspires sympathy, anger and resolution
but against rapists, not trans women.
“for the crime of asking if it was a female only space”
(That is, pure of trans women
Who pollute like a drop of ink in a litre of water
even if we are not actually there)
“I was spoken down to!”
Women abet the Oppression of Women!
What greater loneliness could there be?
Woman’s voices are being suppressed! Misogyny!
She will preserve her standard of Integrity.
As for me, I wheedle, “Why can’t we all get along?”
How feminine is that?