Encounters at Buddhafield

campsite

After a hot and sweaty ceilidh,Tara I am standing outside the marquee with my wig in my hand, and a small girl approaches me. She could not be more than six.

-Is that a wig? I say, yes, it is.
-Why do you wear a wig? I show my pate- very little hair grows there.

“Put it on,” she says, definitely, imperatively. “Now, a boy might kiss you.” She turned away, leaving me, well, awestruck.

“41 is a prime number” announced a high, clear voice. How old is he? I asked his aunt Lucy, whose tent was near mine. I had approached her for a chat, and we had chatted easily of life and stuff. She spent days cycling here. “Five in three months’ time,” she said. “His father’s a mathematician.”

When I told that to R, she disapproved: we pump children so full of information, nowadays. Though she was reading very early. I was impressed at his ability to take in such a complex concept. Earlier I had watched him climb onto the canvas of the bell tent, stretching the guy ropes. Initially he was leaning on the guy, then straddling it, then finally climbing on the canvas, looking over at Lucy and me, three yards away. When he was lying on the canvas, feet off the ground, she told him authoritatively not to climb on it. She explained she needed to sleep there, and did not want the tent pulled down. And when he reached out to touch the guy rope, later, looking over at her, she told him not to. “I wasn’t climbing on it,” he said. No, but we need to sleep there.

Boundaries tested, boundaries stated, all beautifully done. How difficult to raise a child! I still don’t feel ready for that effort. It feels that my emotions would be too quickly engaged in the No. As I had breakfast at my tent, I listened to a man tell his son The Truth, addressing him as “Son”- the fatherly fount of wisdom- and then saw that the boy had indeed gone to lie in the sleeping-place as threatened, and the father had to tell his wife The Truth. And she told him The Truth.

Then there was Finch, whom I saw in his sling, and wondered at how small he is; then we knelt in the women’s space tent for a workshop, and cooed over him. Hands! Toes! Face! He was seven days old when the camp started. So tiny! He was eight pounds when he was born, a good weight- but babies grow so quickly, one rarely sees one that young.

They’re all boy, aren’t they? I said, admiring, and we talked of how difficult that can be. In a workshop, the facilitator referred once to choosing a partner and working with “him or her”. At the end, when she asked for “challenges”, I said this challenged me, as it excluded me. I am both, and neither. We talked of it, after. I think I let her off too lightly- gender binary is all-pervasive in our culture, and I was at pains to point out that it was not her I objected to, but the cultural assumption, and that her workshop was wonderful. I did not make clear enough that dividing people into “man” and “woman” oppresses both, and that anyone may choose to distance self from it.

Neither

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/9d/Assortment_at_Mount_Misery_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1500914.jpgI am neither man nor woman, and it hurts. It hurts Now.

On Saturday, it was too hot to dance with my wig on. Even before we started dancing, the school was too warm- so I took my wig off, and tied a scarf round my head- and it was too hot for that. People I had never met before got to see the male pattern baldness. It is one thing to be read as trans, but that- is as if I am not really trying to appear female. Which I am. I do not want to look like a man half dressed up.

Lots of women want to “look their best” and the sense that they do not is cruel to them- and it is particularly cruel to me. I have seen the fear on the faces of women who have not got their foundation on.

And lots of people feel they “do not fit in”, and I really, really don’t. I wanted more to fit in with my mother’s expectations, her conservative ideas, than my peers at school. Usually a child picks up his accent from his classmates, but I got mine from my mother. (Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, raised in England, is another example.) My sister spoke a different accent at home from at school, and when I visited her in Edinburgh and she met me at the bus station a nursing student friend said, “S, you’ve got your English accent on,” the one she used to phone her parents.

So I created a Shell, a rationalist persona to fithttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/Thomas_Gainsborough_-_Mary%2C_Countess_of_Howe_-_WGA08407.jpg in, and held my rage and terror out of consciousness.

“Why is my life so hard?” sang Paul Simon. Yes, yes, I know. And- “Who will be my r√īle model?” Always difficult, but the obvious ones for me were men, and they did not fit at all. I hated many people, for they were¬†wrong too. It still feels a bit weird picking a female role model. I was aware of other transvestites in my twenties, and they were furtive and persecuted, and rightly so for they were disgusting. Chief Constable James Anderton had them arrested, when they went out in public. Watching telly together, in our teens, I said, “Oh look, a man in a dress. What do you think of that?” And my sister said, “I can’t imagine anything more disgusting. That turns me right off.”

I am neither.

I am terrified.

Lana Wachowski is that role-model, for younger lesbian! TSs, hat tip to Mindy.

There is a negotiated path, of transition. It takes determination and courage, and two years or so after taking the plunge one is awarded with a Gender Recognition Certificate, which says “The above named person is, from the date of issue, of the gender shown”. So if I “marry” it has to be a man, I could make a “civil partnership” with a woman, and those M-Fs old enough to have a different retirement age get the woman’s. And if people object to me in the women’s loos, the law is on my side. And- being a “woman” does not entirely fit me either, though it is a great deal more comfortable than being a “man”. I am neither.

Dancing in the Shadows

Harald Giersing, Danserinde, 1918I cycled in to the office, and went to chat to the other volunteers. Having cycled, I was a bit sweaty in shorts and vest, and had taken off my pink helmet. As I went to change into  a more suitable top and skirt, Les came to talk to me about it. There had been complaints.

Les skirted around the dodgy ground- “Is it becoz I is Trans?” and said the objection was to me appearing without my wig. I could have pressed it- would there be any objection to my appearing without a wig, if I were not trans? S takes great care to make her thin hair appear to best advantage- do you think she should cover her head? And- I did not. So if I cycle in and want the sweat to evaporate a bit before changing, I must hide away in the other room. But he said, “It is as if you want to shock. Do you?”

I have been asked this before, by an Episcopalian priest who was on the Community Building in Britain Facilitator Training Group, around the time I joined it. I joined the FTG only just before I decided I would transition, so first attended dressed male. It was appearing female that shocked the priest. Do I want to shock? Well, yes. Or, if this shocks you then I want to shock you; or if the choice is appearing male or shocking you, then I want to shock you.

And Philip, also on the FTG, commented that I seemed to be seeking to blend in, in the most eye-catching way possible. I was in drab colours; not dressed fashionably, because I did not have the eye for it; and not sexily, because I wanted to get away from the transvestite stereotype, the ugly, beefy bloke in a mini, tight top, and huge falsies- but I was dressed dramatically.

I want to hide away, and not attract attention, and I want to be on stage, the centre of attention. The hiding comes from past hurts. I have wondered if the dancing does too, an attempt to placate others, to be accepted because I entertain- no, it is what I want for itself. It is just so exciting.

I have been cavalier about going wigless, in part because I think I get read anyway: but as John thought me normal female until he saw me wigless, perhaps I should keep it on. I commented on the new hairstyle of the woman on the checkout. She changes it often, she told me. So I lifted my wig an inch, grinned at her, and said so do I. Yes, I do like to shock, provoke, destabilise, challenge. I like to take a contrarian view in argument. And, I am hiding away.

Magic train

After a weekend of blessing after blessing, I took the train home.

The boy could just reach the grab rail above the door of the tube train, and was hanging off it. His mother was a little embarrassed. I hung from the bar, knees bent, and did a pull-up. That started a conversation, and he tried a pull-up himself. We spoke of exercise: who needs gyms?

Getting to St Pancras, I was pleased to see I was late for my train. There is another in half an hour, and I could go and play the piano. I had seen one on the station when I arrived on Friday, pink with “Play me, I’m yours” on the open lid, and I fancied a try. There was a woman strumming at the keys, so I stood to listen. We agreed it had a lovely mellow tone, and I sat down to Giorni Dispari, then walked unhurriedly through the hot station to my train. John tells me he does not know where the pianos come from, but they are popping up all over the place. He meant London.

On the train, I sat beside a woman and across the table from her ten year old daughter, Isobella.
-May I sit here?
-It’s not reserved. She talks all the time.
-Well, actually, I like to talk on trains.
I felt tolerated by the mother in my chattiness rather than openly and entirely welcomed, but I do not think I irritated her too much. As it was too hot, I took off my wig and she asked me how my hair-loss had happened, which raises the possibility that she had not read me as TS. Oh, nobody knows, nothing can be done. Wigs are alright. It means I can have different hairstyles, I have a blonde one in my bag. Later, Isobella tried it on, and her mother (who knows my first name) failed to take a photo with her new iPhone.

Isobella is a precocious child whose role model is Karen on Outnumbered– she makes me watch it, said the mother. She is so bright, it is difficult, sometimes. Delightful problems, I think, and she agreed ruefully.
-If I win a million pounds on the lottery-
-The only way you will get a million pounds is if you make it, her mother rebuked gently.
-I persuaded my secretary not to play the lottery so much by saying how glad I was she played, cos it meant that next time I went to the Opera the seats would be cheaper.

Isobella¬†has just got her first iPad, and when I asked she showed me Angry Birds, and then her other free Apps, which are better than the paid for apps. One is¬†“Talking Tom”, an animated cat which repeats what you say in a higher voice- so I made my squeakiest voice, and it still managed to go higher. You¬†touch a button on the side, and a baseball bat appears and whacks his head. Or you tap his nose a few times, and it is like a punch, a few taps knocks him on his back, where he lies a few moments before getting up.

-Can you tickle his tummy?
I reach out and rub my finger on the screen, and Talking Tom starts to purr.

I phoned Ahmed, an independent taxi-driver, to take me home from the station as the bus does not go on Sundays. He charged me 75% of the charge if I had just found him on the station rank. He came, even though Sunday was Eid al Fitr, the end of Ramadan and a feast day: I am sorry that he has to work so hard. I had not thought of it when I called him.

Bravery games

I swam from the lock to the second bridge. It is over ¬ĺ of a mile. The current definitely helped.

S told me I might catch something, and that rather put me off, but a bloke told me he had learned to swim here sixty years ago, and when I saw the teenagers leaping from the bridge and climbing out a few yards down stream I envied them. It is so beautiful, walking down by the river, and it was around 25¬į, so I fancied it. No skinny-dipping, alas, too many people about.

What to do? I could just swim in the pool by the ford, or downstream of the lock, but I wanted to swim to that bridge. I put an old wig on. At the lock, there is a narrowboat just coming through, going downstream, and by the ford there are a couple of swans. In Loch Fyne, once, I could not swim because when I got to the rocks a swan chased me off- wings beating the water, head stretched out towards me hissing. A swan broke the farm-hand’s leg. Perhaps they are tougher than freshwater swans: these, with no cygnets, swam ahead of me downstream and soon outpaced me.

I slipped in the mud by the ford, and sat in the water. Right. I am committed. With all the rain, the river is still much higher than usual for July, though about¬†3′ lower than its highest point, when it flooded over the concrete mooring. Off I go, under the willow. The water is muddy. I can see my hands in front of me, and reflected in the surface of the water (No Swallowing!!) but not much further. At times, the reeds caress me as I swim along, and then the water is too deep to touch bottom. The left bank is a thicket: brambles and nettles, some of them 5′ tall, so not easy to get out, but the steep muddy right bank should be OK. The boat is through the lock, and peeps his horn twice: when the river widens, he overtakes and I wave to him. The water is as warm as I would want a swimming pool to be. “No fishing, no swimming” say the signs by the outdoor centre. Ha.

Oh, I am glad to see the cornfield. Nearly there. Round the corner, and there is the bridge, again with teenagers on it: two queans and four lads. I wave to them. They wanted to know where I had swum from. The lock. “I think you’re awesome!” shouts¬†the blonde¬†girl. “Oh! You’ve got your shoes on!” Well, I have to walk home. I take a few strokes on my back¬†against the current, midstream, to stay in the same place.¬†Well, I wanted to jump from that bridge, so I climb out and walk onto it, and they give way. Over the parapet. “Do a back flip!” shouts one- no, do a pencil-drop. I had never heard the word, but it is a good descriptive word. A moment of indecision, and then down I go. Under the water, I did not realise, immediately, that my wig had come off. The stream took it away. I walk over the bridge, and the teenagers ignore me. One shows off his first tattoo, a CND symbol 2″ high on his side, just above the waist. “Has it started to scab yet?” asked his friend.

I felt a bit self-conscious walking the near-1¬Ĺ miles home.¬†On the path at the edge of¬†the field, there were two men and a woman. I caught a fragment of conversation- “In America? That’s shite”- but they evince no curiosity at the bald, damp¬†androgyne. In the street, there is the sound of a ball: two children play together on a side road, and carry on their game as I walk past.

I shower, wash my shorts and vest, and pop upstairs to boast to Jan of my epic exploit. She wants to tell me about Fifty Shades of GreyРyes, I have heard of it. This was a challenge for me, I am really pleased that I have done it, and I got eleven likes and three comments on my Facebook status update. If I do it again, I will use another old wig.

Next day, I went down to the river to illustrate my exploit, and was fortunate to find the boat on the lock. The boatman, who lives on it, was happy to be photographed- how did you get into that, then? Oh, my friend gave me the camera as a Christmas present. The man on the bridge over the ford wanted to tell me how slippery it was. Well, if I fall in I will damage my camera and my dignity, I am taking care, I assure you. It is no more than five foot deep down there. How do I know? I swam it, yesterday. You do know about the sewage works upstream, don’t you. Merde, no I didn’t. Well, it is a sewage works, it is supposed to digest the waste. I kept my mouth shut, apart from breathing.

Memories, dreams, reflections

I wanted to arrive in the blonde wig, as it is prettier, so I changed into it in the Tube.¬†(This was the night before¬†U’s party.) I noticed no-one staring, and what if anyone had? People mind¬†their own business on the Tube. I felt powerful, as if anything could happen. On to the HAI gathering. Here, we caress each others’ faces and hands, as well as hug a lot and make soft eye contact. Previously, I have taken off the wig, in order to feel the touch, better; now I keep the wig on, to be seen as female.

File:Jung 1910-cropped.jpg

Insomniac after the party, I go to the bookshelves, and find Beginner’s Guide to Jungian Psychology by Robin Robertson.¬†Aha, a synchronicity! I have borrowed it. A book from 1992 is perhaps not the best guide, as understanding moves on, but it will do for now: it clearly explains the complexity of the thought.

I wanted a Spiritual understanding of life, so that Spiritual healing might be more than mere placebo, and perhaps the Collective Unconscious will do it for me. Here, I find a Spiritual quote:

At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the season. There is nothing in the Tower that has not grown into its own form over the decades, nothing with which I am not linked. Here everything has its history and mine; here is space for the spaceless kingdom of the world’s and the psyche’s hinterland.

However, that is not the intent of the book: instead, it anchors Jung’s thought within scientific materialism:

There is good reason for supposing that the archetypes are the unconscious images of the instincts themselves, in other words, that they are patterns of instinctual behaviours… The hypothesis of the collective unconscious is, therefore, no more daring than to assume that there are instincts… The question is simply this: are there or are there not unconscious universal forms of this kind? If they exist, then there is a region of the psyche which one can call the collective unconscious.

As I have read elsewhere, the brain may be seen as a core shared with reptiles, where the most basic instincts reside; a higher area shared with mammals, and a highest area shared with other primates. Reptiles show signs of primitive dreaming; mammals dream.

The Archetypes, centres of those accretions of thoughts and memories which form Complexes, are shared because they are instinctual ways of behaving hard-wired into the brain. Just as kittens play-fight together, learning the chase and honing their skills, so people respond instinctively to a wide variety of situations. Dreaming helps us to consider such situations beforehand, as with the wet dreams preceding sexual activity, and to adjust our responses to the particular situation. We have more complex instincts than reptiles, and a better way of adapting our responses, but the origin can be seen in the reptiles. And then, as well as our dreams, we have conscious analysis to help us adapt further. But we are not that consciousness alone, but the underlying instincts and responses. We are hard-wired to learn language, for example.

This does not refute a Spiritual reality behind matter, or the flow of Qi, but it provides a materialist basis for some apparently Spiritual experience. Using my intuition to empathise with another, I do not need a psychic link: I can simply access those instincts we share.

The brain, according to this book, is more powerful than I had imagined. Memories are held throughout it rather than being recorded in a particular area. Perhaps all sense-impressions are recorded permanently: our recognition of images is “essentially perfect” (p32).

The author leaves room for a spiritual explanation, quoting Rupert Sheldrake’s theories. And he supports the possibility of spiritual work:

Once we record and interact with our dreams, a bridge begins to form between consciousness and the unconscious. With more rapid access between them, growth and change accelerates. Once we become aware of them, our dreams react to our awareness.

A pity I do not generally recall my dreams. I have not finished the book, and will return to this. Paradoxically, a materialist underpinning of spirituality enables me to respect and trust it more: all except refreshing my Qi from the energy of the Universe by particular hand movements. But then, if I want to do those hand movements, and they make me feel better, why ever not?

Trannies

before

Andy lacked one quality essential in a pastor: discretion. Wrongfully, he told me that one woman, prominent in the community and whose transition memoir I had read, had told him “I’m a gay man trapped in a woman’s body”.

When Henrietta left Edinburgh for Manchester, the Edinburgh MCC sent our church a “good luck” card. Henrietta self-identified as transsexual. She had had a job earning about ¬£10,000, and fraudulently applied for multiple credit cards, then gone on a spree: travelling across the country, staying in hotels, she had maxed out her cards, gone bankrupt, and told me that all she had to show for it was one bottle of perfume. She thought she had Prader-Willi syndrome, an inability to sense that ones stomach is full: she could eat a tin of golden syrup as a light snack. She did not have a positive diagnosis of this. James told me that she might ignore cooking instructions, putting a chicken into an oven at 200¬į, say, for the requisite time, but not giving the oven time to heat up first. “Don’t eat with her”, he said. The sausages she cooked for me were unappetising. I watched her put on her tights, just stick her foot in and pull; predictably make a hole in them; and then pull down a loose handful to cover the hole. Andy told me he had been down Canal St with her when a drag queen had pulled her wig off her head, put it back on the right way round, and started back-combing it.

Another masculine apparition who wanted us to address her as “Mother”, from Glasgow, had stuck a perspex vase to the wall with bluetack, and put a lighted candle in it, then gone to sleep. She woke to find the candle, still alight, had fallen onto the television. So she poured a bucket of water on it to put it out, and set the television alight. She then panicked and ran out, leaving all the doors open. This was the second council flat she had burned out.

James’ hobby was rescuing such folk. He said one had phoned him at four am talking of suicide, so he had driven over to console him. The fourth time he phoned like that, James had replied, “Well, do it then” and left the phone off the hook. James, a sensible man who had had a good job with the council, and divorced when he could no longer deny he was gay, was lonely.

Morag, 5′ 16″ with a deep baritone, talked of staying with various friends leading me to draw the conclusion that they were rescuing her in a similar way. When I told her of the supportive community of MCC Manchester, she evinced interest. I later found that Andy had managed to persuade her not to move there. James told me that MCC Manchester was more of a first aid station than a church community: people would join, get patched up, reconcile their faith with their homosexuality, and move on. Andy had to stop the extempore prayer segment of worship, because of the people who used it to moan about what an awful week they had had.

Sandra had transitioned and worked as a nurse, but when she had to move back with her parents they insisted that she present male. She had taken her credit card, in her female name, to Next, and when she could not use it there had made such a scene that she was sectioned. She got a commission-only job selling ¬£1000 vacuum cleaners- wonderful things, but not appropriate for Oldham’s terraced houses- and her enthusiasm increased until she was sectioned again. She introduced me to the electrologist who dealt with my facial hair problem.

I only went in the old, 19th century “Bottom Block” once, its long corridor with a 6″ wide floral border pasted to the wall would have made me desperate had I not known when I could get out. But Sandra preferred it to the all new Parklands House- individual rooms for the patients, they could even lock their doors- because Parklands had no exercise equipment, so being locked in for weeks drove you up the wall. Not even table-tennis.

We do what we can.

 ‚ô•‚ô•‚ô•

That was then, this is now. At karate this morning, I take a moment before we start to become Present, in the moment. The fire door is open, as it is sunny, and I am with the fence outside. It is sharp, hard, cold, straight, erect, unyielding, unbending, pointed, effective,  fitting. I find that part of me which is in the Fence. I relate to it. Here, and elsewhere, I need to be these things: it is good to access these things in me. I dance with the spirit of the fence.

In karate, we practise combinations: make it flow, not one move after another but one moving naturally into the next. Not, block, then think, what next- blockstrike, blockstrike.

Then there is that wonderful leaping kick. From short fighting stance, jump forward, lifting the back leg up into a half-kick which is a feint, landing on that foot and kicking forward with the other. With practice, one could be a yard forward, forcing a block which goes the wrong way, and kicking through the person.

More practice kicking, then hold the foot in the air for a moment after, then place it down. The body is always under control.

Party wear

I wanted to dress like a whore. Well, not quite.

I went to U’s party on 31 December, the memorable night she got together with D. Last night was her birthday party, and next week she will move in with him. At Hogmanay, I wore a mini skirt and a rather demure top. Yesterday I went shopping with my hostess S down Kilburn High St and got¬†a lace front human hair wig for ¬£35, (amazing) and a black thing of lace, beads and sequins loosely tied between the breasts, showing off flesh around the navel, and a lace pair of shorts. Worn without a bra, it is not something to wear on the Tube if travelling alone. ¬†Alas, no photographs.

I wanted to be out there. I wanted to celebrate myself as a sexual being. I wanted to show off my bare legs, and my midriff, because women tell me my legs are a good feature, and women are the people I want to attract. I do not want to hide myself away. I also wanted to experiment with this: it is just not the way I have dressed, before, even at tranny dos.¬†N thought I looked as if I were trying too hard (she really dislikes my usual wig, too). U, whose long skirt beautifully shows shifting impressions of her legs,¬†appreciated me, and leant me a chunky silver necklace, more suited than my Moonstone to the ensemble. “The bedroom is the place to be,” she said. “No, the place to be is the room I am in,” I replied.

It is a summer party, starting about five pm, and most people are dressed fairly casually. There are about 25 of us in the flat, about half of whom I know. Bloke in shirt and slacks comes up to me and says, “Hello, I’m Tim.” I’m Clare. “So, you’re trans then.” I was astounded, and not in a good way.

Later, I am chatting to Paul, a DJ with Jazz FM. “I’m Paul, by the way.” I’m Clare. “So, why did you choose that name, then?”

I was irked at that. Second mention, and I wonder if it has something to do with my way of self-presenting. He refused to admit that he had realised I had changed my name because I am trans. He started telling me that a lot of black people of his generation had changed their names from slave owners’ names to African names. I was so irked that I did not point out I am white- he can see that, after all. He says he interviews people. Monica, his seven-year girlfriend, joins us.

Third conversation: S¬†tells me how she had a girlfriend 16 years older, twenty years ago. After they had been together for a year, she was looking through one of her partner’s books and a photo fell out of it. They fought over the photo but she ran with it to the bathroom, and there realised that it was her partner, presenting male before transition. S had not realised until then that she was TS. S found this a dealbreaker, thinking her partner had been dishonest, but the partner explained she had been advised by her therapist to put “her male life” completely behind her and live in the present moment. S left her. This shows that passing to¬†an amazing extent- for a year in a lesbian relationship- is possible, making me feel worse.

Paul said I should have said to Tim, “No”, or, “What do you mean by that?” Well, I was a bit surprised when he said it. “What did you say?” I could not remember. Why should it matter, anyway? Because it is loaded. It means most to me, it is my life, but it means things to others as well. And he put me in a box.

Don't define me before you have even talked to me!

The day before, someone had chosen to unburden himself to me about his cross-dressing experiences. I tried to encourage him, saying it was alright, no big deal, if that is how you want to relax you go ahead- jumping to conclusions, really. Responding too quickly out of my stuff. His tone of voice had given some indication that was appropriate, but he might have wanted to celebrate it.

Around eleven, there is a mellow late evening feel. Eva comes with her friend Michael, a musician with a keyboard, and we jam, two guitars, a flute, and some of the rest of us singing voicelessly.

Energy returns. I dance close with U, and then with Jack. I feel wide open, and weep. The weeping helps me get into the present moment. Jack sees this. I feel he is giving me something beautiful, the space to seek to dance spontaneously in his arms, following not leading, rather than play-acting, assessing and judging how I am dancing and thinking through, intellectually, what I should do. This is an animal, feeling-based activity.  I am almost there- I weep again, in frustration.

Not quite a whore- a whore would wear a skirt rather than shorts. As N pointed out. If not all of it gave me pleasure, the party certainly gave me a worthwhile challenge.

_____________________________________________________________

What do I want from such¬†a conversation. “So, you’re trans, then?” It is not safe to assume that this is a man to whom I can unload my own angst and be comforted, or even explain so that he will understand and affirm me. It would be easier if I had really internalised that being transsexual is a blessing. I do not want a sterile verbal joust, trying to get the other to state a position and then challenging it, but I would like to make it an exploration of his Stuff: “What do you mean by that? What do you think of that?” And be prepared to withdraw if necessary.

Midsummer Camp

Despite some initial problems with the venue, Midsummer Camp is on for 2012, Daniel tells me. Hurrah.

I was putting up my tent¬†when a voice from behind asked if I wanted help. I turned, smiled and said yes, and A. realised suddenly¬†that he had something else to do somewhere else, and left. I am far too ready to jump to the conclusion that “it is because I am trans” but perhaps it was, in this case: the quite beautiful A. cast a spell over at least two women there, climbed into their hearts and went whistling on his way.

Cooking over wood fires is a serious risk for wigs, I have ruined two with sparks, so I was in an old wig, no makeup, jeans, shapeless raincoat- and a child said, “Mummy, is that a man?” Then Mummy explained that some men want to be women, so have¬†a sex change, which is not how I would put it. Later, J., who is seven, said to me, “You look like a man”, which got to me a bit.

Then, later in the week, I passed him on my way to the dancing tent and he said to me, “you look like a woman now”, which six months later still makes me smile in joy. And I think of that child, whatever Sins of the Fathers were visited on his mother, it seems she is not passing them on to him. Cycles can be broken.

We were camping, in four circles, cooking communally over fire, dancing, doing comedy improv, singing together, with sharing circles each night. We built community.¬†We had a Midsummer’s night ceremony, dressing up, singing and dancing round a fire and burning things which we wished to get rid of. I wrote “Negativity” on a piece of paper and burned that, and ten days later was plunged into my War.

For my US readers, you could come to the Edinburgh Festival, over 2000 shows in three weeks with international orchestras, theatre and opera companies; or perhaps do London, the historic sites, galleries and theatres- or you could come to Midsummer Camp, and meet the people. Live with us, and find in what ways we are different, and what the same.

I became aware that some of us there are Jewish. We had a Shabbas meal at sunset on Friday night. Which made me think of integration, and difference, and equality, and acceptance- celebration- of distinctiveness. In Recherche, Bloch is a Jew, introduced with this disgusting speech:

You can’t walk ten yards without stepping on one! Not that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool enemy of the chosen people, but hereabouts there’s a glut of them.

The Jews are separate, with their own snobberies and hierarchies, and¬†now Bloch, a snob, attempts to get in with the Marquis de Saint-Loup, Marcel’s friend. St-Loup, who effortlessly manifests yet¬†despises aristocratic manners, thinks himself a Socialist and reads Proudhon, is¬†mortified at Bloch’s social solecisms, and blushes sympathetically on Bloch’s behalf.¬†One of these is to refer to the lift in the hotel as a “lyfte”- he knows he should use the English word, but¬†does not know the correct pronunciation. From such tiny things is Otherness established. No wonder Bloch hates it, and tries to deny it! But I do not like Proust’s portrayals of Jews: they are ridiculous, and their Jewishness is part of their ridiculousness, and their unpleasantness. Yes, Proust makes aristocratic origins ridiculous too, but it is not the same.

I do not know what to make of Hugo Rifkind, a Jew, journalist, and the son of¬†a former Conservative Foreign Secretary, remarking in The Times¬†on the Jewishness of¬†Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Opposition, as a thing setting him apart from¬†the strata of British society now. Rifkind¬†claims he is¬†a part of that society himself. For me, the absolute moral imperative is to think of Us, always Us and never¬†“Us and Them”, and to celebrate diversity and difference within the in group.

What do people think?

I met a man who had a weeping birthmark covering half his head. He told me that as he passed two teenage girls in the street, they stared at him, then¬†one turned to the other and said, “Yeughh”. Appearance matters.

Then again, what is my reaction, to, say, a woman who has lost her hair through recent chemotherapy? I am trying to cut down on pity, and replace it with respect and equality: pity looks down on someone, takes control, and says I want to help in my way, now, where in my own loss I want only the help I want, whether it be listening, practical help, or a distraction. I seek to show respect and hope my first impression can take in more than hair loss.

I think this respect reaction is commoner than the judging reaction. What do people think? They do not look down on me, not usually. Perhaps they take me at my own estimation.

As you know, we are “brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous” (this attribution informs me¬†the quote has¬†nothing to do with Nelson Mandela). I feel that if I can walk in my own dignity, my carriage showing that dignity, then I can go with my head bare. And, in public, I cannot, yet, not without a hat at least, usually a wig. I need the prop. I will still be afraid when I see the son of the living one. I still have something to hide.