Walking while trans

How can you walk as if you own the world? Being trans may be an advantage: I have had to learn to walk three times. The first was before I was one, of course, and that is a huge challenge: it is inspiring to watch children’s single-hearted concentration on the task and their delight as they master it. But then in my teens, I tried walking in what felt to me like a more relaxed way, and demonstrated it to my mother. She did not approve. She said it looked homosexual and her voice indicated her shock so strongly I never walked that way again.

Then Carol told me I was walking in such a “Prognathous” way. It means having a protruding jaw. We talked about it- she said she could have said “Neanderthal”, and I got the message. Relax all that control. Just allow yourself to walk. Not too fast, perhaps- on holiday with my trans friend near Florence, we were late for the last train and had to hurry through the city, and she consciously went into man mode walking that quickly. I was presenting male at the time, and had taken only male clothes. She did not want to walk with me, then. She did not like man mode. She walked ahead.

Finding and permitting sadness, letting go of the anger suppressing it, means I can know my desire, and my desire is to be respected, and to be seen. This animal has value. I know the opposite and I don’t like it. I cycled to the station to go to London (God, Lockdown has been such a long time, it really is another world) and at the station realised I had not brought my wig, only my cycle helmet. Oh dear. Never mind, I went to London, went to the art gallery, in tight jeans and Mary Janes, and no-one looked at me. It was not the strange, female-dressed man with bald top and fluffy sides, it was just nobody, hardly there.

H’s dog whose name I hope to remember in a moment- Jess, that was it- walked less and less far. Once, I was walking her and a small girl said to her mother, “Oh look, a sheep”. There was no sheep in her, a bit of collie most noticeable in the head, a white, tubby body and a tail she kept firmly clamed down between her legs. I was sad for her. She did not like when other dogs came up to smell her, and could nip. I had not at the time seen leads with signs saying the dog is nervous or anxious and may appear to over-react. It looked to me rather like this police officer:

Buttocks firmly clenched. Are you ever like that? Eventually Jess would walk to the end of the next house, cross the road, walk back up the road, and back in to H’s house, and refuse to go further.

Lots of trans women were socially isolated before Covid. Ach, this post is turning out less confident and positive than I had hoped. Walking now, distancing, it seems people are self-effacing or nervous, and it could be fear, or it could be angry tension manifesting in being extremely careful with others. Or it could be just not knowing the rules, really, and wanting to follow them.

And there must be a way, to walk relaxed, to walk in joy, because the world is beautiful and things are alright, mostly. I hope I will return to this, from a more successful pov, later. Meanwhile I set my intention.

Notes on creating a spiritual experience

My mantra is

I am here.
This is.
I am.

My aim is to sustain mindful, present awareness through a walk I have done hundreds of times.

It is a warm, sunny day. As I walk down the road I notice a pain in the Achilles tendon. Should I go back for a prophylactic ankle support? No, I will not work it too hard. I will take care of my body. It is worthy of care.

I am here. This is. I am.

With the wisdom of my Friend, I seek to combat my own ressentiment. I complained of overheating in exercise, probably exacerbated by oestrogen. She said I heated, not overheated. It just is. Deal with it. Certain parts of the walk are rough underfoot. These are not difficulties, they are just parts of the walk, easily passed with care, more difficult than a metalled road but no real problem. My feeling that difficulties should not exist is the problem. One applies a lesson narrowly then more widely.

I am here. This is. I am.

I am blogging and writing as I walk. I think of what I might say here. I want a record of it. I use words to describe my direct experience: it does not detract, not really.

I am here. This is. I am.

Nettles lean over the path. I might be stung. There is the river.

I am here. This is. I am.

It is beautiful, but more, it simply is. I want to go beyond suddenly noticing beauties and being shocked into awareness of my surroundings, to a steady awareness. It is all beautiful. I am here. This is. As I am trans, often I walk along not really aware of my surroundings, in case someone is reading me and is derisive. All is OK.

I am here. This is. I am.

And then, where the path had been overgrown with nettles and thistles and rough underfoot, a wide swath has been mown down. I did not expect this. I am grateful. It is pure pleasure.

I am here. This is. I am.

The school holiday has not started, but a whole class has been brought here. Some swing on the tyres, some are supervised on the zip wire. One wants to do it by herself. I enjoy their noisily expressed delight.

There is so much sensory experience! There is the sound of the children, and the birds; the warmth of the sun on my skin (with sun tan lotion); the sight of the broad track, the river, butterflies, trees; a feeling-

slight discomfort- I am always nervous- over a feeling that all is well.

I am here. This is. I am.

There are times in shade, even when trees meet overhead, and times when the vista broadens and I am in sunshine.

After about an hour I lose concentration. I am thinking, rather than paying attention to my surroundings. The first time it is about an email I might write, but after that about old resentments, ruminating as I have ruminated before. I use my mantra:

I am here. This is. I am.

Another moral lesson to broaden out: I do not forgive my mother as that would be impertinent or patronising. It would not be treating her as an equal. She always did her best and loved me as she could. Judge not, that ye be not judged. In the same way, the road is near and the traffic noise loud. It is impertinent to resent it as a loud, mechanical noise, or decide to love it as the sound of my civilisation, powerfully pursuing its goals. It simply is.

I am here. This is. I am.

The grass is as soft as the breast of doves,
And shivering sweet to the touch, I think to myself, reaching out. Oops, not those immature seeds. Possibly the poet meant a different species. That leaf is. I pause to look at a red fly, with an orange abdomen. It is a centimetre long, and hovers.

I am here, again! I have gone round the circle, and am back on the tail of my walk, going back up the hill. And it is different, this time. There is some metal barrier-fencing, by the side of the path and I strum on it, enjoying the reverberations. Then I pick up a flattened can to strum on it louder. Then I cut myself on the can.

If Monet had painted the colour of that wheat, I would have thought he was exaggerating.

I am just walking, now. Climbing the hill is an effort. And the practice of holding concentration pleases me. I was there, and aware of it. This is a spiritual experience, and the deliberate attempt to create it is called worship. I stopped several times to contemplate the beauty.

Defer!

I am not going to get off the path. It is a stone path across a patch of grass, and there is a bend in it. I will move to the edge of the path, and beyond that the person coming towards me can get out of my way. This has led a man to physically threaten me- he read me as male, and was rebuked by a passer-by who read me as female. I left them expostulating at each other.

The barber at Tarbert was indignant with American service personnel at Dunoon. They expect you to get off the pavement for them. He would not walk in the gutter for anyone. This might just have been one incident, even one incident which he had heard of rather than experienced, and here am I telling you forty years later, one small piece of evidence of American arrogance and why we should not tolerate their bases here.

It seems we sometimes move equally, and sometimes one person defers to the other; and we judge each other to see which should defer, as strangers, in an instant. At St Pancras station a tall, beautiful, and beautifully dressed woman said “What is Wrong with you!?” when I did not move aside for her. I was irked about something else, and suddenly could not be bothered stepping aside- had she not, I would have walked into her. I dislike her rudeness, and love her self-confidence.

Once, I moved towards a wall to pass a man, he went towards the same wall. It was a bend in the corridor, the person closer to the wall would walk less far, so arguably the person further from the wall would be deferring. We stopped about a foot apart, blocking each others’ way, and though either could have stepped aside neither wanted to. We said nothing. I was perplexed, perhaps he was amused. I had been working on a poem, and got out my notebook to consider possible wording, but he looked at what I was writing so I put it away. Eventually I stepped about a foot aside and pushed past, pressing him against the wall with my shoulder.

Are you judging me for this? Oh! What a horrible person! I am uncomfortable about the memory, I would like to imagine I was not quite that petty.

Instant judgement. How can I show I am the higher status animal, and they should get out of my way? Clothes are a big part of this, and I am in an old cheap nylon jacket, comfortable for cycling but not presentable. I may be more educated than they are, and have a greater general knowledge- this is important- but you can’t really show it in the second you have, under judgment.

I could glare at them, like the world number one starer and six times world champion S. Spasky- particularly dramatic moment at 1.47 in this video

Or I could catch their eyes and smile. That might work.

Mindfulness II

There are things I should do. The most important is walking in the sunshine; but first a phone call to the Samaritans. This time, she gave me an hour and I ended feeling satisfied of progress. I need to think about that job, but I called because I was crying over that.

I want to be Normal!
-What would normal look like?

A fair question. It has varied. At one time I would have been a solicitor in Edinburgh with a wife and two or three children: the eldest would have graduated by now. Now, I suppose I would have a job, which though it would have a share of drudgery, tedium and stress, would also have moments of pleasure, either in human contact or a feeling of having achieved something; a partner, so  I would not be so lonely, and a sufficient income.

The oil-seed rape is fading to green as the flowers turn to pods. It is still overwhelming as I walk though it, as some is neck-height and the path is through a slight decline.

Sunshine. Bird-song. Engine noise, not enough to bother me at any time.

Where a tiny stream drains over the path, some effort has been made to make it passable. Logs are dug in to make raised steps, and old planks go round the edge. Water is flowing though it has been dry; it would not be easy in a wet March.

Several times I stop to watch a bird fly overhead.

The borage is spreading. Is it overwhelming those nettles, or the other way about? No camera, of course, but here is a picture I took last year:

butterfly 4

That distinctive leaf. Sycamore? Oak, Google images tells me now, I am not good at identifying anything. Still, it has my attention.

At one time “normal” would have been a heavy mask, clasped to my face with tight steel bands, with bits of Real Me, or shadow, oozing out from behind- visible to everyone but me, subject to my desperate denial and feeling of utter inadequacy. From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit moves…

This ecosystem is 3.5 or 4 billion years old- I don’t keep up with the journals, I don’t know the latest understanding- and it has produced this wonderful creature, her soft, yielding femininity, her gentle kindness, her heart full of Love. It is so beautiful, even though oligarchical capitalism might be hard put to set a value on it.

Two or three years ago, the wardens built a den here out of willow cuttings. Well watered, the cuttings took root and their branches are woven together. The path suits someone under ten, but I enter, as I want the experience, once- I stand surrounded by the willow, leaning in but not quite domed over me.

A woman stands off the path, holding her black spaniel back. “Thank you,” I say, then notice the milky discs. “Oh! Its eyes-”

Yes, he’s blind, she confirms, smiling. She is a few years older than I. I love her loving care for her friend.

Oh! This awful life! Yet, no- it has wonderful moments, and is bearable for me. The main difficulty of it is my fears for the future, and my desires.

In part this is inspired by Louise. Her lovely account of some frustrations and tensions in, well, being normal- marrying and having children- and the way the family works together- brought a moment’s resentment, as so often I hate being queer. I do want to be normal. I would have blathered on about how my great-grandparents’ families have produced so few in the generation below me, as some sort of excuse, or rueful exercise on the way to Acceptance…

-childlessness is just one of my failures-

Going, I held my arms bent, above the rape-plants. Returning through that field, I relax them and let the plants brush them.

This creature is beautiful. This experience- yes, all of it- is beautiful.

Trust III

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3c/August_Macke_045.jpg/454px-August_Macke_045.jpgWe learn to walk by falling over, and we continue to walk by falling: I fall forward and catch myself with my other leg. I trust myself, and I trust the world. Walking on ice, you might fall. You put your foot forward, your heel skites away from under you, and your backside hits the ground. So, to be safe walking on ice, or wet mud, you can walk like a penguin: the leg going forward is placed down vertically.

The other leg has to push your weight forward, abnormally, so this will develop your calf muscles unless you are a habitual cyclist. You will look funny, shuffling forward, though it is more humiliating to cowp over.

In the park, I met some pensioners with Nordic walking sticks: two sticks like ski-poles, with changeable rubber or pointy tips for grass or asphalt. You push yourself forward, left arm with right foot. Since taking them up, one has not had knee or ankle problems, and it is a workout for the upper body as well as the legs. They walk a little faster than normal, in what their tutor calls “first gear”- there are different techniques which can go faster. The sticks have straps for the wrist, and a woman offers me her sticks and straps them on my wrists. In one technique she has not yet mastered, you throw away the stick then grab the handle again. Quickly I get the basics of first gear, after a moment thinking which arm goes with which leg. I would improve with practice and as much tuition as I could open myself to.

Mmm. That is, I stopped them and asked, and they were happy to talk about their sticks. And- I cower like a beaten dog, expecting a cuff or a kick not a stroke, from anyone.

That fall, which stops me from walking on ice though I walked so far on ice unscathed, looms so large in my mind, because every failure is a disaster, showing I am worthless. So. Cognitive Behavioural techniques. That was unrequited love, and that was a battle, and then I was right and they were wrong but they still had all the power, and- on the news I read of government (and opposition) by fools, and bribery and corruption, and-

I actually experience pleasant decency from people. Dwell on that. And, there are other times when I have made a mistake, and my world has not come crashing down. I am still alive. There is good to see. Think on these things.

I find I wrote a year ago on trust, in much the same way, slightly more optimistically. Mmm. If you spend enough time here, it all comes round again, and for a “Spiritual growth” blog you might crave a wheen more growth. Um. I want it to be easy. I know how difficult it is.

August_Macke_045

Walking

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/66/Bosch%2C_Hieronymus_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights%2C_right_panel_-_Detail_disk_of_tree_man.jpg/868px-Bosch%2C_Hieronymus_-_The_Garden_of_Earthly_Delights%2C_right_panel_-_Detail_disk_of_tree_man.jpgI don’t know how to walk. I don’t know how to stand.

I am taking conscious incompetence to its extreme. Anything may be improved. Also, it makes walking meditative to be aware of it: as I can concentrate on my breathing while kneeling in my ritual space, so I can be aware of the movements of feet, ankles, calves, thighs, arms torso and neck in walking. That relaxed open awareness. But chiefly, I am aware of how and who I am, and how I express myself, even in walking. I have learned two and a half times before, and I want to finish off the third time.

The first time I was a baby. What an achievement that is, over months to go from lying helpless, not knowing how the desires fit the bodily movements so that we have to wave our legs many times before we realise that movement is that; and soon toddling. I used this as encouragement- “You have done difficult things before: you learned how to walk and talk!” until an untransitioned trans woman quavered at me, “My mother told me I was very late walking”.

The second time was in my teens. I thought of how I wanted to walk, and showed my mother. She did not want me walking like that because it looked “homosexual”. And I thought of my walking, and removed anything expressive from it. Walking in rain I noticed how water flicked from my toe across my path, so I worked on pointing my foot forwards throughout the movement.

Then I was out with Carol, about 1999, and she commented how prognathous my walking was. Jaw sticking forward. Neanderthal. So male. Well, it had to be. And now, I can walk hurriedly, not noticing people around me.

I am so tense and anxious. I have managed to expunge stress from my life, for the moment, as much as anyone can by her own efforts, and I am tense.

H’s dog Jess walked around with her tail clamped firmly down, and I thonght, that covers the anus and vagina. Like that, it is more difficult for other dogs to smell her. That is tense, and low-status, for a high status dog does not care who smells where it is.

It seems to me these things are linked. I stand with my buttocks clenched and my back tense, and though I do not expect anyone to smell me, I stand and walk with a cringe, in a low-status pose. I do not want to be noticed. I am fearful. Still. If I relax as I walk, and walk as if the World is mine, and I am not afraid, people might notice that: another way in which the law of attraction concept of “vibrating” might work. Though I want a feminine walk, not a male swagger.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/38/Jheronimus_Bosch_023.jpg/1280px-Jheronimus_Bosch_023.jpg