Tuesday, February 24, 2009

24th February 2009

I'm just home from dancing.

It was such a joyful affair, because I had my hair done today, cut in a new way, and then straightened.. and one of the many joys of my new life just now is to be able to experiment with how I look!

And everyone said such lovely things about how I look and I just loved it!

The usual dance teacher was away: and for the very first time there were two new teachers to replace her.
There was something so moving and wonderful about this. Our usual teacher, and all of us, really, have had such a struggle to get Biodanza established here in Edinburgh. We've been through some hard times together: and the presence of these two new fabulous women teachers was such a testimony, such amazing incontrovertible evidence, that all that hard work is bearing fruit.

They taught so beautifully, too: I went through the teacher training course with them and I could see how good they've become. How beautifully they demonstrated, how elegantly and profoundly they explained.
But above all else, perhaps, how delightfully they were themselves.
There was nothing forced or artificial about what they were doing: they were communicating a wisdom very deep in themselves.

I felt so good in my new haircut; and I couldn't help but remember how scared I was when I first came, still living as man, still trying to recover from the terror of my breakdown.

How different I feel now; how much more confident; how much I have become my own dear self.

I was aware of not such good things, too: how my knees have got sore, how my heart, so wounded by its illness and surgery, does not allow me to be so vigourous and lively as I would wish.

At one point I definitely did too much: and I felt a sharp pain in my chest.

These reminders of mortality do not scare me as much as they used to - and really it would not be so terrible to die dancing!

There was a kind of appropriateness to them, too: today is the anniversary of dear Susie's dying.

I thought of her then, as I think of her always, with such deep gratitude it is almost painful.

We're accustomed to say, when we think of the dead, "May they rest in peace".

But I would not wish that for Susie. She spent her life working & struggling & studying & striving to understand. Laughing & taking pleasure & loving.

And I so hope that is what she is doing now.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday, 22 February 2009
Last night I saw “The Mystery of Irma Vep” at a theatre I love, perfrormed by actors and a direcfor I totally respect.
Yet i found myself hating every minute of it.
It was a show I found didn’t possess a single redeeming feature.
Charles Ludlam is a writer whose work I’ve wanted to see for so long; to see this disaster was such a huge disappointment. Yet apparently in 1991 this play was the most performed work in the whole of the United States.
I thought one of the problems with the production - for all the skill of the performers - was that they were all straight. At least as far as I know. And they played it as if it was panto: as if it was a ridiculous story, just a bit of fluff, just something silly, without meaning or significance to it at all.
As if there is something straightforwardly funny about seeing a man in a dress.
Which was one reason why i found myself so totally affronted by it.
I suppose one of my deepest fears is precisely that: of being ridiculous. Being a grotesque. Being fit for nothing but ridicule.
And the performance of those two men in their frocks, squarely in the ‘dame’ tradition, totally reinforced these awful fears.
And in trashing drag, they also trashed so much else besides: bereavement, mourning, poetry, the possibility of love. And the act of creating theatre and the possibilities of imagination and make believe.
So it trashed everything I hold most dear: and in a cheap, lowest common denominator, unthinking kind of way that seemed to hold the script itself in deep contempt.
I couldn’t help thinking afterwards that it would have been far better if they’d taken the opposite line and treated it all very very seriously.
Supposing the rather silly storyline of the play on the surface was a kind of metaphor for a really deep, and perhaps even tragic, love affair between the two performers...?
And so all the dangers they went through, all the rapid changes of character and costume were actually images of the way the protagonists in a deep love affair do actually change in a really bewilderingly rapid kind of way. And so the werewolves and the mummies and the undead vampires would work on that level too - because the person we love does actually suddenly change into a scarey monster sometimes...
And perhaps if it had been played perfectly straight then it would also have ended up being much funnier...
So it was very reassuring, somehow, to discover that Ludlam called his theatre “ridiculous” in order to confront the prejudice under which he suffered and that he did, in fact, play his plays straight: "Our slant was actually to take things very seriously, especially focusing on those things held in low esteem by society and revaluing them, giving them new meaning, new worth, by changing their context".
Not only that, but in the original production he played Lady Enid; and the other part was played by Everett Quinton, his lover.
I wish the production I had seen had taken all that on board. Maybe then it would have been a show worth seeing.


Friday, February 13, 2009

13th feb 2009

I remember how I used to make all these resolutions to keep a diary during the rehearsal process.
Resolutions I never kept, because the whole experience was so crowded and intense, and me so exhausted at the end of the day, that I simply could not even begin to keep track of it all.
My whole life is rather like that now...
Perhaps I should just think about one thing at a time.
Wednesday I was talking at a conference organised by Stonewall Scotland on transgender rights in the workplace.
I was supposed to be there at 9.15, so I laid out the clothes I was going to wear, and changed my mind three times, and dressed and undressed as many times, and swore at the whole process, and decided this M to F malarkey was just too complicated, and yes, i was speaking in a business environment, but no, I would not wear a business uniform.. and ended up in black trousers, black jacket, red top and boots.. rushed through my hair, rushed through my make-up... all the classic 'I haven't got a thing to wear' kind of stuff.. and maybe I needed to go through all that to get my nervousness out of the way.
Because when the time came, I felt very calm.
There were, I guess a hundred people there, couldn't tell for sure, in the usual corporate meeting place.. chairs in rows, a desk at the front behind which the speakers were supposed to sit, and to the side, in a terrible position, a lectern kind of thing with a stand for your computer.
And a huge gap between you, the speaker, and your audience.
As one of the speakers admitted, this was not about being in the best place to cmmunicate. This was about being able to hide behind something, and hold onto something, to shield you from fear.
I wasn't having any of it.
When my name was announced, I got up very slowly and walked to the table. I poured myself some water, turned to face them, and rank the water in silence as I looked them up and down.
I was trying to judge the acoustic and the sightlines; judged my voice would carry; and began to speak.
My voice, like my presence, seems to have strengthened.
I felt powerful, I felt at home, I took great pleasure in speaking to them.
This strength sems to have come from transition.
The other wek I was in Glasgow, in a crowded bar, trying to get a drink. There was only one bar person on duty, totally overwhelmed by the demand.
I so remember when being a man how this kind of situation would always intimidate me and fill me with the greatest anxiety.
And at that time, the idea of standing at the bar of a Glasgow pub, dressed as a woman, waiting to be served, would have just seemed unbearably frightening.
And yet there I was, feeling very calm; and radiating something that enabled a lovely woman standing next to me to engage me in pleasurable conversation.
And get served.
And suddenly as I think about my life now, which I was so frightened would be closing down, is actually opening up in the strangest ways....


Sunday, February 08, 2009

8th February 2009

Last night me and my daughters went out together.
These reunions are rare these days, and I treasure them.
We had a meal at a Chinese restaurant near Haymarket which we all love; and then went to the theatre.

Katie and Bex both love Arthur Miller plays; they were performing his The Man Who Had All the Luck at the Lyceum.

I'd bought our seats in a grand circle box.
Watching a play in a box is one of those treats we'd always meant to give ourselves , but never had.
I hadn't told them about it in advance; it was a surprise; we all got giggly and excited.
The box worked its magic; even though the sightlines were terrible, it still felt amazing special.

We had such a happy night; afterwards I bumped into a lovely person who worked with me on Faust as a stage manager. She has since become a gardener, and I had a sudden impulse to ask her to give her number so I could ask her to sort out the wee garden area at the back of the house.

It's behind me, here, as I right this: the space Susie turned so proudly into a rockery in the months before she fell ill.
I realised yesterday that while I have transformed the rest of the house, it's as if all the grief has got concentrated into this area just out the back of it.

And I still can't bear to go there. I avoid taking clothes up to the washing line, even on the best drying days, because it hurts to walk through this sad, neglected, grief-filled space.

And so there is this week's washing, right to the left of me at this desk. Drying a bit squalidly on a plastic drying rack.

It would be good to sort out that garden space, so I can enjoy it.
I was thinking all this as I walked home. That walk still reminds me of the dreadful lonely walk home after the first night of Anna Karenina just after Susie had died.

And then tonight I had one of those dreams in which Susie's dying and death has all just been a gigantic painful mistake, and we can be together again, and we run to meet each other... I've had such dreams quite often, but never, I think, with quite such incredible vividness and intensity: running to embrace each other in such incredible excitement and joy.

Waking up after this always feels like such cruelty.
I couldn't wake: I felt heavy and tired.
I just wanted to go back to the land of sleep: where I had been so happy.


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