Sunday, December 01, 2013
Our Tribe and ma vie en rose
The plan was for us to watch a DVD of “Ma vie en rose” together.
This is a tender and beautiful film about a young child who knows he’s a girl and that all this being a boy business is actually a big mistake.
For Our Tribe to watch it together seemed like a good way to end the month of Transgender Remembrance (http://www.transgenderdor.org/) because Our Tribe is the place for LGBT people in our church (http://www.augustine.org.uk).
I love this film. It is so rare to come across any representation of our lives; and rarer still for them to be so positive and funny and affirming.
The first time I watched it I was in my usual state of isolation; watching it again with so many other trans people in the audience made it incredibly powerful.
I can’t say it represented my childhood because was astonishingly more repressed; unlike the film’s main character I had no sister and was strongly removed from all feminine contact from a young age. Including my own mother.
And denied all forms of feminine expression. Except, bizarrely, in the school plays...
But the inner life of the child in the film was most emphatically the inner life I would have had, if I had dared to.
It moved me so very deeply.
Mostly I am grateful for the person I am. Grateful to have loved as a man, grateful aboove all to have been the parent of two children. So grateful to be a grandma. Grateful to have found myself as a writer; and so grateful now to be able to live as a woman.
But watching this film I found myself possessed by the profoundest grief; by deep mourning for the young girl I never was and never now will become.
It was starting to overwhelm me.... and then the DVD broke down. I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or relieved.
It felt as though it opened a door into a part of myself that still needs exploring.
But DVD or no, we did what we needed to do.
We came together. We broke the bread. We drank the wine.
We remembered our dead.
And we celebrate our living.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Creating liturgy for an inclusive world
There’s a wee Chinese boy on the bus, who’s not been talking long from the look of him, who’s saying
“Twinkle twinkle little star”
Over and over again.
“How I wonder what you are...”
He’s taking such pleasure in the rhymes and rhythms of it
“Up above the world so high...”
As my daughters did when they were small, as my grandson is doing now as he explores all the different kinds of sounds he can make
“Like a diamond in the sky.”
As we all did, once...
Because creativity with language is part of the wider amazing and wonderful gift of creativity that belongs to all of us as our birthright.
And that gift being distorted and blocked is a huge collective source of suffering.
It breaks my heart the way language above all is so misused in our world.
The way it is habitually used as a means to humiliate and dominate and deceive and manipulate.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I began a writing workshop with asking all its members to remember and to tell of the times their creativity had been used as a means to mock them or humiliate or hurt them.
I sense we’d be still listening the next day: because all of us have suffered that way.
Which means that up to a point it’s very simple to run a writing workshop: you just have to create the conditions which allow this innate creativity to emerge.
My church (http://www.augustine.org.uk/) St Columba’s in Oxford (http://www.saintcolumbas.org/) and the City URC in Cardiff (http://cityurc.org.uk/1/) all have significant numbers of LGBTI members in their congregations and asked me to lead a writing workshop to enable them to create the kinds of prayers and services and liturgies we need.
So they hired a beautiful venue, the Windermere Centre (http://windermere.urc.org.uk/) and there we all were. Feeling apprehensive. Or at least I was.
The theory is quite simple: you have to create a sense of community. A sense of a safe space in which everyone is able to be themselves.
Then you devise a way of helping the participants evade the inner censor that will be blocking them creatively. And then you encourage them to work on the results.
It takes a certain level of energy and focus; and, as here, a fabulous group of open hearted and courageous participants.
There’s always a moment when everyone hits their fear and distress. It happened very strongly that first night; partly, I suspect, because the Christian tradition has always been to encourage its members’ sense of unworthiness and shame.
And, sad to report, it’s done so largely to bolster up the church’s authority.
All that has to change; and is changing, in these astonishing forward looking churches.
Maybe that’s why we got through.
What’s for sure is that when we came to share what had been created at the end of the evening, the results were beautiful. They created a palpable sense of the sacred.
The task the next day was to encourage everyone to let go of their own work. Hand it over to someone else so we could help each other.
It’s a scary moment, this. It leaves you feeling naked. There was such a palpable resistance to it; some people physically did not want to let go of what they’d written.
But it all ha to be faced, somehow. Faced and cried over. Or laughed over.
And we did.
And the result of all that astonished me: a whole other set of beautiful new work.
That is now being enjoyed all over again as we send it to each other and slowly assemble it as a future publication and online resource.
Something is happening. The dear star is shining.
Change is in the air....
Monday, November 25, 2013
When it comes to equal marriage, not all churches are the same...
I remember the first man who loved me. He said I had beautiful hands and he kissed them.
It was a beautiful gestures, but I could not respond because my sexuality had become tangled up in my desire to be a woman; and in my terror and shame I had repressed it.
He was ashamed and frightened too because at that time homosexuality was still illegal; he was a nurse in a young person’s psychiatric unit and afraid that if his homosexuality became public knowledge he would lose his job.
Our relationship was destroyed by our mutual guilt, fear and shame; and its destruction was sanctioned by the law.
It is extraordinary to think that although this happened a long time ago, it still happened in my lifetime.
The man’s name was Mike. Mike Whelan: and I still think of him. I hope he’s happy and well.
I think of him travelling south through Carlisle, which figured in our sad story; and I think of him because in the same week as my journey the Scottish Parliament paved the way for equal marriage.
And did so with a huge majority; and those sad so-called ‘Christian’ opponents who not so long ago could have rested secure in their prejudice and their hatred, feeling that they somehow represented the views of the majority, now find themselves isolated and on the margins.
It all represents a sea change in collective values; something that is not confined to the secular world, with the Christian churches fighting a doomed rearguard action against it.
In fact I’m travelling down because three churches who have significant numbers of LGBTI members in their congregations and understand the importance of this want to create more inclusive prayers and liturgy for their churches; and have asked me to lead a writing workshop to help enable them to write it.
Our culture is focused on technological advance and outward change; but it’s maybe these deep shifts that matter more.
Whatever it is, I’m proud to be part of it; and it fills me with hope.
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