Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Monday night we were sitting outside a restaurant in Clapham eating curry when a group of loud drunken australian girls took a table beside us.
They were brash, arrogant, very opinionated, very noisy, and they made me very anxious: I felt they would undoubtedly say something very offensive about me if they noticed who i was.
After they left, full of curry, much less obstreperous, a man sitting at the neighbouring table started to apologise for their behaviour. It turned out he was Australian too, and they embarrassed him.
He noticed i was trans, and made a point of celebrating me and offering me his support. "Go girl and be who you want to be", I think were his words.
He had a certain difficulty working out our relationships with each other.
The fact that i was sitting with my woman lover and my daughter's boyfriend seemed to throw him somewhat.
But it turned out he was a publisher, and worked for Pan McMillan.
My daughter, quite correctly, has been giving me a somewhat hard time for my incompetence with PR and my general reluctance to get involved in the business of promoting myself: and the weirdness of the coincidence in the fact that I am looking for a published (for JESUS the book) and and had unexpectedly bumped into one made me mention my plans.
He asked for an outline of the book.
In the business course I attended last year they kept insisting on the importance of having a "lift pitch" - a succinct and persuasive summary of your project that you could convince someone you met of the viability of your project.
Predictably i was taken by surprise; equally predictably, i could feel myself becoming less and less persuasive by the minute.
I don't think I managed to communicate anything of what the book might be about; because his advice was that "I tell my story straight" without embellishments or convoluted, "dramatic" ways of putting it.
And immediately i felt myself feeling the way i have felt so often before about my creative projects - that they were wrong, ridiculous, unworthy of serious consideration.
Which of course it really isn't.
But tonight, reflecting on all this, i find myself mentally preparing my pitch...


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last Sunday we were in a London park.
Around bout 3 most of the men left it to the women and the children.
There was a strange kind of silence in the air.
Then we heard one excited collective scream.
Then silence again.
And the next day the papers were full of abuse.
Some columnist said that if "the few" had defended as badly as the English football team we would all be speaking German.
And when we caught the tube this morning the carriage was snowed under with more abusive newsprint.
And all over an event that in itself has no significance whatsoever.
Perhaps that is what makes it so useful a device for projection.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The next stage of Gender Recognition is to amend your birth certificate.
the draft documents have come through with amazing speed and today i was looking at a draft version of my birth certificate:
in which "Robert John" has been replaced by "Jo" and "Boy" has been replaced by "girl".
An eerie feeling.
i wish my mum and dad were here to see it.
I wish we could talk it over with each other.
I know they wanted a girl; and have a strong sense they were disappointed to have me instead.
Although they did all they could to love me as I was.
Would that certificate, would my present identity make them happy?
I feel an odd reluctance to wipe out "Robert John" from the record.
I'm proud of him: proud of what he, I, achieved as a husband, as a writer, above all as a father.
Proud of the journey I've made to get to where and who I am now.
Have a feeling I want an official record of that, somehow.
I take comfort in the fact that the original will be preserved, in some secret location i think.
And certainly in my heart, in my family, and my daughters.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm sorting out my books. Forgotten treasures are coming to light. One of them is Winifred Rushforth's autobiography, "Ten Decades of Happenings".
I met her in the last couple of years of her life, and was a member of one of her dream groups.
Soon afterwards I found my voice as a playwright: I am convinced this has to do with her.
It's beautiful to re-discover her story.
She tells of how when her sons was small, he did something "naughty" and she smacked his hand.
Quick as thought, she says, he smacked her back.
According to the standards of her time, she should then have smacked him - harder - and the common dreary cycle of unhappiness and repression would have resulted.
Instead, she says, "in a blessed moment" she hugged and kissed him.
And peace was immediately restored.

Moving moment on the News tonight which showed the relatives of each of the demonstrators killed in Bloody Sunday, whose innocence has been finally vindicated taking centre stage in a public meeting in Derry, reading out their loved one's name, and declaring his innocence.
There is talk of prosecution of the soldiers involved.
I hope it comes to nothing.
Retribution of this kind is so much than useless.


Monday, June 14, 2010

Yesterday the church service was led by a student minister.
It may have been the first time he'd led the service; he's a sweet man, very committed, very sincere, very knowledgeable, and I like him a lot.
He's also very shy. He's making very courageous attempts to overcome this; and maybe it was because the business of taking a service scared him that he took refuge in the traditional forms he is most familiar with.
So we found ourselves confessing our sins.
Something completely absent from the normal run of services.
And with good reason.
I could not help being struck by how utterly useless it was.
My awareness of this is probably sharpened by an awareness of having lived all my life under a shadow of guilt and shame.
Which did nothing for me.
Which didn't even motivate me to improve my lot.
And listening on Sunday I was struck by how little help such notions are.
Or the one that Jesus somehow 'redeems' us in our sinful state.
The thing that is profoundly dismaying is that such nonsense underpins so many of our ideas of child-rearing; and our systems of so called 'justice'.
There is so much work to be done...


Saturday, June 12, 2010

12th June 2010
The document is printed on green paper with an EIIR watermark and is headed
Name: Jo Clifford.
Gender: Female
Date of Issue: 11 June 2010.
And underneath it says:
"The above mentioned person is, from the date of issue, of the gender shown".
It came this morning in the middle of my bath.
I cried and cried, and dripped all over the bedroom floor.
It's such a vindication of that secret self I had to hide all those years.
An honouring of that self who was so ashamed.
An empowering of that self who was so afraid.
It's all strangely low key because also one of the most important things that has ever happened to me.
I am so amazingly fortunate to live in a place and a time where such things are possible:
and all the more determined to do what I can to make what this certificate signifies available to everyone who has the right to it.


Friday, June 04, 2010

When I was at St Andrews university, there was a group of obnoxious right wing students who founded the Adam Smith Institute - a noxious organisation that has been doing a great deal of damage ever since.
Consequently I have always reviled the name of Adam Smith; but lately I have discovered that he had views on the importance of "sympathy", or fellow feeling, in the structure of human society that are very akin to mine.
And then last sunday i met a fascinating woman called Deirdre McCloskey, an economist who reveres Smith and who has written books in his defence.
And in defence of what she calls bourgeois values.
Which I wanted to read.
So I went to Edinburgh University library on leaving the office. My institute has given me a staff card which gives me access; I remember obtaining a lifetime "General Council" card soon after I left St Andrews; and how the long long quiet stacks always gave me huge pleasure.
And the lovely desks by the windows that overlook the Meadows.
It was a pleasure to be back and look for and find Deirdre's book.
The woman at the Issues desk was remarkably pleasant and helpful and on an impulse I asked her if I could replace my life time ticket (the one I presently have is temporary)
Soon after they diagnosed Susie's brain tumour, my daughters forbade me to cycle.
They thought in my distraction and grief I would be a danger to myself and told me I had to go everywhere by bus.
They were probably right, because soon afterwards I lost two purses in quick succession.
And my library pass in the process.
After much searching we tracked down my library record, under my old name "Robert John" and the librarian was cheerful and pleasant and helpful and completely referred to me using the right gender and it turns out I can get a replacement whenever i want.
Very humane, very rational, very liberal.
Hume would certainly have approved.
Then I cycled home in the beautiful evening, and children were swimming in the ponds by the parliament, and a huge group of Japanese tourists smiled at me most delightfully as I entered the courtyard and got home.
And soon afterwards found myself watching a documentary - Unreported World, Channel four - on child labour in the Bolivian silver mines.
In Potosi.
The so-called "cerro rico" which drew the conquistadors there and which must have caused more poverty and suffering and financed more warfare than almost any other place on earth.
Where children as young as 13 work in the danger and the darkness because they cannot afford to go to school.
An old woman weeping because her grandson has to go down the mine and she cannot prevent or protect him.
The same grandson watching his uncle fighting for breath as he slowly dies of silicosis after working in the mine.
This is how the young boy will die.
Assuming he is not killed by a rockfall first.
And the price of silver is going up, and the yield from the land is going down, so many many people are abandoning the land to come to work in the mines.
Market forces.
Not civilised. Not liberal. Not humane.

None of which prevents me from looking forward to the book...

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]