Friday, 16 June 2017

The Lament of Asherah, Creation Goddess, Bride of Yahweh

A lament from Asherah, bride of Yahweh.  Free-written in a writing group in a Newcastle cafe on June 13th.  Do any of you wish to follow her call?

Image saved from

I am the forgotten one.
I am the one who walks in the fields;
Leaving behind her the trails of trees,
Creating the life-springs, homes for my birds,
The smile sanctuaries of squirrels and sloths.
I am the springer of springs,
The overflow of life in a thousand rivers
And a billion glasses of iconic crystal clarity.

I am the forgotten one.
I am the obscurity who once was worshipped.
Where people sheltered under my shade protection
They now strike me down in rain-forest deaths.
I am still here: Earth protector, restorer,
The pattern for the turning of worlds.

I am the forgotten one.
I am your Asherah, the rejected goddess,
The impulse of compassion lingering in the
Religions of men.  Monotonal without my feminine.
I'm Diana, Luna, I ride the fire as Hecate,
Waltz as Demeter, and I sprinkle wisdom dew
Each morning, longing to hear again the name
Of Astarte or Isis on the lips of the bold.

I am the forgotten one.
I am the one whose altars were destroyed in hate
By those who replaced my free spirit
With a god they could only present as jealous.
The religious slaughtered me through time and space
Breaking themselves apart in the killing
I wept for the sons of men but they beheld
Only a manly touch in the spreading of rainbows.

I am the forgotten one.
I wait for you, my child, my lover
To embrace my joy, cherish your footprints
And rest again under the holy greenwood tree.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

A Letter To The Telegraph About Autism and Special Interests

A letter to The Daily Telegraph.  I'll explain it afterwards.

Image taken from the page mentioned below

Dear Sirs,

I read with interest your article of June 12th regarding the difficulties of being autistic.  I note that the article was written by someone who is not themselves autistic and am dismayed to see that his portrayal of the autistic experience was overwhelmingly negative.  I am writing to you as a happy autistic woman in order to correct this portrayal by focusing on a positive aspect of being autistic.

Being autistic is a trial.  No doubt about it.  You wouldn't ever look at us and say, "Wow!  I wish I was autistic too."  Not with everything we go through.  Your article was right.  The autistic experience can be excruciatingly difficult.

But it can be a great joy too.  People talk of autistic ecstasy and that's a thing.  It's real.  For me at least, and I choose to focus on the joy.  When I can.  Sometimes that overwhelming overloading collapse of everything within takes over.

I'm not going to list the joys and the total fun I have.  I just want to tell you about one aspect of it.  You see, we autistic people tend to focus in on things.  When we find that particular thing our brains scream out, "Wow! Wow! This is for me!" and then we don't ever let go of it and seek to find an everlasting corridor filled with more and more and more of it.  It's not an obsession.  Oh no.  Not quite.  We call these things our special interests.

We all have them and we discuss them too.  Join an autism group and inevitably the subject will arise many times because we like our special interests and there's always this part of us wondering why everyone doesn't share them with us and why they switch off when we infodump at them.

So.  Imagine the online conversation.  Me?  I don't have to imaging.  It's already happened.

New member:  Just out of interest, what are everyone's special interests?

Old members:  Trains.  Helicopters.  Tapestry.  My Little Pony.  Or, and these are all common, Nazis.  Serial Killers.  Murder.  And darkest of all, weather forecasting.

They read about these things.  They know everything.  Collect ponies.  Become meteorologists.  They don't actually become serial killers of course.

Then it's my turn.  They ask me, "What are your special interests?"

Me:  Fraud, bigamy, and highway robbery.

You read that right.  I should explain though, clarify a little.  Because while fraud and bigamy are true and perfect special interests, robbery is just a hobby.  It makes me happy.  After a hard day, when autism has given me problems and my brain feels like it's going to implode and explode at the same time, after those days there's nothing better than popping out for a bit of highway robbery.

Being outside helps me.  Under the bare black night sky when the rushing clouds call to me or the stars send messages that it's all going to be okay.  I'd be out there anyway, even without the robbery.

And I say all this in the groups.  Explain how I get a thrill from all the logical steps you need to successfully get away with fraud.

I talk too about how you need to be very careful when indulging in a spot of bigamy.  Or biandry.  Polyandry really because right now I have four husbands on the go.  James is alright.  But the other three are complete shits.  I'm looking forward to divorcing them but it's a complicated business and I have to follow all the logical plan perfectly.  I love logical plans.  They make me tingle inside.  It's hard to get a worthwhile divorce settlement from your rich shit of a husband when you're not legally hitched in the first place.

Sometimes the things I say produce less than positive reactions, even in an autism group.  I don't know why.  I mean, trains and My Little Pony?  How dull can you get?  But I don't moan when people are into weird things.  Some of those people don't grant me the same respect when I'm sharing my happy things.

Fraud, bigamy and highway robbery.

Talk about autistic ecstasy!

Pointing a pistol at a tourist and demanding their cash and valuables.  Now that's ecstasy.  You wouldn't understand it.  Unless you're autistic too.  I would ask therefore that all future articles you publish about autism would be more positive than the one I read this week in order to reflect the deep wonder we can find in this world.

Yours Faithfully.

Ann Meders

On June 13th I attended a writers' group.  The subject of the morning was female highwaymen, or highwaywomen depending on your preference.

During the course of the session an article was read about several of these women.  If you care to read it you can find it here.  One of the sentences reads, "Alongside highway robbery, Ann Meders born in 1643, made fraud and bigamy her special interests."

That was enough for me.  Out of all these women, the bored and the desperate, out of all their deeds, I couldn't leave that sentence behind.  Hence the above letter.  It was actually free written in the cafe as a monologue.  I've altered it a little to make it a letter, but only as far as necessary.  Ann Meders was hung at the age of thirty.  I think my fictional autistic Ann would get into trouble too after sending that letter.

I will stress that while I have my special interests, and while special interests do get discussed sometimes in groups, I do not share the interests of Ann Meders and I haven't seen Ann's interests raised.  I've seen all the others she mentions in her letters.  They're real.  But I haven't seen anyone plotting how to defraud their illegal husbands.  I also have no good reason to claim Ann as an autistic woman or to place a seventeenth century highway robber in the position of being able to join online autism groups. 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

This Transgender Woman Says, "I Am A Woman. Don't You Ever Tell Me I'm Not."

I feel sorry for my friends sometimes.  Because when my head really focuses on something it REALLY focuses.  Conversely when it doesn't focus it REALLY doesn't focus.
A case in point today.  I was out walking today and as I sat and had lunch I got to thinking.  Maybe being misgendered again by an old friend affected me more than a null amount.  Maybe I'd taken in more about some transphobic abuse recently than I thought.  And maybe reading this morning about the suicide of another abused transgender person made me more sad than I'd realised.
But I got to thinking.  This thought.
Thoughts that sprang up as I sat by a field today. They're quite long. Sorry about that.

There are phrases I refuse to use and really hate to hear used about me:

Clare identifies as female.

Clare identifies as a woman.

Why this refusal, when these things are of course a part of my identity?

Simple. It's because a cisgender woman would never be told they "identify" as a woman. They would just be seen as a woman. Full stop.

So no, I don't just "identify" as female, as a woman.

I AM female.

I AM a woman.

Full stop.

A woman, just like any other woman. I just happen to be a woman with a penis. But my genitals don't define me.

To insist on saying I "identify" is to place my womanhood in a different category to that of a cisgender woman. It's a belittling of my womanhood. Almost a denial. It leaves room for doubt a place for saying "Well it's all very well her identifying that way but ..." Or worse - him. Yeah, I got misgendered on Facebook only yesterday. Which stinks but in this particular case I forgive the offender.

I AM a woman. I AM female. Full stop.

Accept it. Because anything less than your acceptance of this truth is unacceptable to me.

I know most of you are fine with this. For most of you there's not a doubt in your head that I'm just as much a woman as your own mother is or was. I am safe with most of you and know that, even if we have arguments and massive disagreements, you will treat me as the woman I am.

If you don't accept this truth - that I am she, woman, female - then feel free to unfriend me because I really haven't got time or energy to waste on people who can't or won't accept such basics about me.
And if there happens to be anyone reading this who would ever dream of deliberately calling me "he" then just go. Please go. My life will be richer without you.
I posted my thought on Facebook.  Responses happened.  They included this one:
Like most people, your spirit is female, your mind is male and your body... well, you can't really argue with that can you? Well you can... You can argue until you're blue in the face, but it doesn't really change the world or stop poverty and homelessness now does it? I quite often feel like a man trapped in a woman's body, but I expect most normal women feel that way depending on their mood and men the same. It is NORMAL!!!! Going on and on about gender just feeds and breeds sexism and gender stereotypes. Sexism causes arguments and repression so give it a rest eh? Right, time to do the washing up.
And that's where I start to feel sorry for my friends.  Because I couldn't let it go.  Not at all.  My little autistic brain collided with my transgender nature.  Pow.  Pow.  Explosions.  Fire.
And this happened.  The tone police may be in contact with me very soon: 
What evidence do you have that most people's minds are male and spirits female? My mind feels pretty female to me thanks. And my body is mine. Since I'm a woman it must be a woman's body. QED. It's quite simple really. It's mine so it's a woman's. Just one that happens to have a penis attached. Which has made for a much harder life. Much, much harder.

Try to understand just how much harder it is to be transgender. And then you'll undoubtedly decide you're not in a position to tell us how it is. You'll be happy to not kick us from your social position above us.

I don't go on about gender much. I mean, you're the one who went on last weekend about how you were telling your child that I used to be a man and then quizzed me about what my name used to be (which is none of anyone's business whatsoever unless I voluntarily share that information). I didn't bring up my gender. I didn't think about sharing with your child that I'm transgender. You did. Not me.

And why the hell did you want to know my old name anyway? Why did you think that was your business? What does it matter to you?

I don't go on about it much. But it gets thrown at me:

Every time I'm treated as not a proper woman. Every time I get called he or stared and glared at or called shocking or an abomination. Every time some shit comedian makes a joke in which trans people are the joke. Every time someone wants my old name. Every time I'm misgendered to my face. Which hasn't happened to me since, oh when was it? Ah yes, it was yesterday.

Every time the person doing it tries to justify why it's okay to do it. Every time someone asks about whether I've had "the op" YET. Every time I get some dumb ass - often from the US military - sending me messages on Facebook because ooh they fancy "trannies". That time I was told I was shocking or that time a guy threatened to set me on their child because I was such a monster. Every time I'm told I'm not welcome in a space because it's for women. Every time I'm told I'm not as much of a woman as one with a vagina but the man who sexually assaulted me didn't seem to care about that did he?

Through all the days and years of fighting just to be me. Fighting to get my own gender on my own passport. And I needed a psychiatrist's letter for that. Have you ever needed psychiatrist's letters in order to convince organisations that you're a woman? I have.

And every time I hear about another abused and bullied trans person committing suicide. Which I haven't heard about since, oh when was it. Ah yes, it was today.

All we want is acceptance (never just toleration) as who and what we are. That's all. Acceptance. Full acceptance.

And we're not ever going to bow down to anyone who tells us to shut up about it and give it a rest. Not until we have that full acceptance. Not until people aren't disowned by their families for being trans. Not until people aren't bullied and abused in the street by strangers.

Not until people stop telling trans women they've got men's bodies and trans men that they've got women's bodies.

Not until we have a legal system in which we can define our own gender without it needing cash, boards of psychiatrists and supporting evidence from medical professionals.

And fuck it. And I don't in any way apologise for my language. I know that trans people being accepted isn't going to solve world homelessness. So bloody what? What the sodding hell does that have to do with it? I'll tell you. Nothing. At all. But what it will solve is the agony and pain and everything else that trans people suffer. And that's got to be worth it.

And guess what. There are plenty of people who have been chucked out of their homes for being transgender. Plenty more who have been chucked out for being gay, bi, lesbian. In fact about a quarter of young homeless people are homeless because they've been rejected.

So yeah, actually, talking about this and fighting for acceptance will solve some of the problem of homelessness. Because one day we hope to see a country in which no young person is chucked onto the streets because of sexuality and gender. Let's keep talking. Let's contribute to solving this thing.

And fuck it again. Do you really think we would have got as far as we have on this road to acceptance if people hadn't talked about it? Lots. We wouldn't. We'd still be back where we were decades ago when being trans was seen as a mental illness and when people tried their best to cure so many of us - just as they did to gay people.

We talk about it because talk changes things. It creates the better future that we want to live in.

And damn it again you. What do you mean "most normal women?" Are you in that category? Am I? Damn you if you think I'm not a "normal woman" when I'm a woman. You know what? If you believe that then feel free to unfriend me. Don't just feel free. Just do it. Please.

Because I am in no way a "woman trapped in a man's body."

I can't help what you feel. But me, I'm just a woman.

Thanks for listening.
Yes.  I feel sorry for my friends sometimes.

Monday, 5 June 2017

The Jehovah's Witnesses Ask "Is The Bible Really From God?"

Warning:  This post is a self-indugent trip into one of my special interests.
Yesterday I accepted the Jehovah's Witness offer of a publication.  "Awake!"  It asks the question, "Is the Bible Really From God?"

If you happen to want to read it you can find it here.  I link to it because otherwise commenting about it as I have below would not be fair.  The magazine contents do not reflect my own opinions.

I believe the article to be almost hilarious in the points it makes.  They are points that really ought not to be made in any serious study of any ancient text, religious or secular.

The article begins by claiming the Bible (which incidentally says the sun was created after life on Earth) is scientifically accurate and therefore should be believed. As if it's meant to be science.  The writer asks the reader to "Consider examples from the fields of meteorology and genetics."  Okay, I'm game.  I'll consider them.  I'm absolutely shattered this afternoon and my head's not up to much more than playing with its continuing obsession with all things God!

Meteorology - Formation of Rain
The writer of the article claims that the writer of Job shows a creator who "does understand the rain cycle and saw to it that a human writer would include the facts accurately in the Bible."
It makes the claim based on Job 36:27-28.  My English Standard Version renders this as
For he draws up the drops of water;
    they distill his mist in rain,
which the skies pour down
     and drop on mankind abundantly.
The writer of the publication claims this shows a perfect picture of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation such as we all learn in school.  That could be an impressive thing to find in an ancient text although by the time Job was written, probably in the sixth century BCE, scholars were speculating and often understanding that rain originates from the water below being drawn up.  How could this information be included in the Bible?  It doesn't need to be some kind of prescience of science.  It can just be an idea that the writer had already encountered.

It becomes even less impressive when we realise that the words commonly translated "draws up" don't mean that at all.  Not at all.  They actually mean "draw away".  The picture here probably isn't of a properly understood water cycle at all.  In reality it probably mirrors an idea that the clouds and the rain are drawn away from a great mass of water above.
So it's probably not scientifically accurate.  And even if is broadly accurate it could just be reflecting a known idea.
It might also be fun to respond to the Witness that the words in the Bible were put into the mouth of Elihu, one of Job's friends.  God's response to his words begins, "Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?"  Or that God's response in chapter 38 mentions "the springs of the sea" - echoing that idea commonly held then and for many centuries afterwards that the water on earth was also replenished by percolation.

And yet it doesn't matter.  The whole conversation is poetry not science.  As poetry it's very beautiful and the imagery is stupendous.  As science it stinks.  It's okay that it stinks.  Poetry books tend to stink as science and science books make for awful poetry.

I'd recommend reading Job.  Considering the story and playing with the concepts.  Delving into the images and ideas and being amazed at this ancient work of literature.  I say that as someone who no longer believes in the personal God the writer inspires us to follow and trust.

Genetics - Development of the Human Embryo

It quotes a verse which my Bible reads as "Your eyes saw my unformed substance," translates it as "embryo" and tries to prove from that single verse that the psalmist was well schooled in genetics! Accurate science.  The article writer admits it's poetic language but then tries to say King David, to whom the psalm is traditionally attributed, was being accurate about the human genetic code.

I think that's crazy but the Jehovah's Witness who talked to me about it yesterday until I had to rush for my bus took it totally seriously.  I used to take similar things just as serious.  When you're stuck in a dogmatic religion and believe it is the only way to truth and salvation then it's almost impossible to see through things like this.  People can gaze on open mouthed and apply reason and you won't be able to see it.  I look back at some things I used to believe and wonder how on earth I - with an IQ above 150 - ever managed to believe such unreasonable things wholeheartedly and call them reasonable.

For some reason the article writer doesn't quote the previous verse: "When I was being ... intricately woven in the depths of the earth."  I'm not sure they could claim that one as being scientifically accurate.  No geneticist says that we humans are woven in the depths of the earth.
It's not scientifically accurate.  Of course it isn't.  Again, it doesn't matter.  Not one bit.  Because it's poetry.  And poetry written by someone living thousands of years ago with a very different view of the world and the universe than the one we have now.
Part of that poetry was very important to me when I came out as transgender.  It's a part that's been important to many LGBT christians.  Verse 14 is a wonderful thing to hold onto when you've been hurt by churches for being who you are.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
      My soul knows it very well.
It was very reassuring to me at the time.  I'm transgender.  God made me this way.  And that's just as wonderful as if he/she/they had made me cisgender.   I held that verse close to my heart and mind and wrote about it too.

Less important to me though were later verses in the psalm:

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
   O men of blood depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent:
   your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
   And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
   I count them as my enemies.

Those verses are rarely quoted.  They're not in hymns.  When the psalm was read in my old church (Metropolitan Community Church) we missed those verses out.  They are persona non grata.  We don't follow those ones.  It's just as well we don't or we might set out to be like King David and conquer and kill all the neighbouring nations who don't follow our God.  It was a different time.  If we raised up those verses we'd quickly become a Christian version of ISIS - who raise up such verses from the Qu'ran.

Those hate verses are followed by a final verse.  We read that one.  Everyone does.  It's in hymns and choruses.  We like it.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
   Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
   And lead me in the way everlasting.
Nowadays of course we'd say "Yes, there's a grievous way in you David.  You hate people with a different religion to you."  But let's ignore that for today.   Let's also ignore that the Hebrew word and idea could sometimes mean something very different to the word in English translation and usage - and that Jesus didn't really tell us to hate our parents even though our English Bibles tell us he did.

The poetry of the Psalms can be amazing.  With or without faith it's an amazing body of literature.  Yes, it's got those hate verses but every single ancient work has things that we would now refuse to make a part of our life.  Ancient writers, the wisest of their day, say cultural things we would now reject.  That's okay.  They are from another culture and age and there's no need to rip up the books.

The mistake made in this Jehovah's Witness publication - as in many conservative Christian or Bible-based publications - is to attempt to turn an ancient book of faith into something that it was never meant to be:  Science.

In doing so they've turned something that's often stunningly beautiful into something that deserves only to be laughed at, ridiculed and rejected.  Yes, they turn their God into a laughing stock.

I'm going to stop at that point.  I'm not going to examine the article's claim that the Bible accurately predicts the future.  I'm not going to examine the claim that the Bible answers life's big questions.  It does.  That's a given.  The scriptures of all religions answer life's big questions.  They just disagree in places on what the answer is.

I'm also not going to answer the question that's been on your lips for your entire life.  "The Sea Otter's Fur:  Was It Designed?"  The magazine doesn't answer the question either.  Disappointing!
You've probably been very bored reading what I've just written.  I had fun with it.  That's the nature of my obsession, my special interest.

My sadness is that some people will encounter the ludicrous scientific claims about meteorology and genetics, be amazed by them, and be one step along the way to becoming a Jehovah's Witness.  A group that wouldn't agree with what I said about LGBT Christians.  Not in the slightest.  A group that is monolithic, dogmatic and exclusivist.  Much as they smile at me in the street as they hold out their publications I would not be safe in their midst.  Not for long.  A 2014 survey showed that the Jehovah's Witnesses are the most homophobic of all major religious groups in the USA.  The best article I've found about it online is this one, simply because it quotes so many primary sources.  They've told me in the street that I'm fine, that I'd be welcome, that God loves me, that I'd be safe there.  It's a lie.  Their own writings demonstrate it to be so.

My gladness is that the Jehovah's Witnesses were not the only people offering something on the street of central Newcastle yesterday.  I took the plunge and joined a group with an offering that condemned nobody, welcomed everyone, and truly spread some love totally free from dogma and judgement.

We offered hugs.  Free hugs.  And for those who didn't want a hug a smile or a kind word.

Someone tried to offer me money.  Because they found it hard to believe people would just stand there offering something and expecting nothing, preaching nothing, embracing everyone.

That's what we did and it was an excellent time.  I say that as someone, autistic, who happens to have problems hugging people.  I'm usually a non-hugger.  But I went out hugging and it brought smiles to people and reassurance to people too the day after another terrorist attack.

I still have hug issues.  But I'd join those people and give out free hugs again in an instant.  It was like a perfect expression of love.  A piece of Biblical excellence because "perfect love casts out all fear."  Others gave a perfect expression later in the day.  I rushed for my bus to get to a community festival.  500 people attended and received something beautiful in the west end of Newcastle.  This time I was on the receiving end.

It was a fabulous day.  I saw lots of saints.  They might have a religious faith.  They might not.  It doesn't matter.  To me they are saints.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Remembering The Day My Pastor Called Me An Abomination

This weekend it is four years since I first addressed myself without guilt as Clare. It's my re-birthday tomorrow.

Just been thinking of my experiences in a church that meets in a city centre location in Newcastle.**

They were decidedly unpleasant and the things said to me in a three hour private talk with the pastor were nothing short of disgusting - that I'm an abomination, that there's no way at all I could possibly have been a Christian unless I at least want to repent of being transgender. He said lots more too.

I remembered this because of a discussion elsewhere in which Jewish tradition was mentioned positively. I referred to Jewish tradition and teaching in my talk with that pastor. He said "Well the Jews will say anything won't they" and told me not to refer to Jewish tradition or teaching because, after all, they rejected Jesus.

I was shocked by so much of what was said. I guess I was a bit stupid to be shocked because these attitudes aren't uncommon in conservative Christian circles.

I was wounded too. So wounded that I went home and wrote a poem about it. It became one of my first blog posts.  Here it is.  Under this link.
I was also saddened.  The church that planted the one in the city centre location** states on their website that God does not discriminate over matters of sexuality or gender.  It turned out that their version of God very much does discriminate.
Had things been different I might have acted too.  If I'd known how.

Should I have alerted the people who run the city centre location** that I had been treated so appallingly by an organisation they hire their premises to?

Perhaps.  Perhaps I should have made waves - just as, had I known how and had the mental health for it, I should have made a police complaint against the city centre gym that told me I wouldn't be allowed to change in the changing room and would have to use a toilet cubicle.

Perhaps I should complain more.  Not for my sake.  But for the sake of other transgender people.  Another transgender person might be crushed by that church.  And we all know that transphobic abuse leads in some cases to suicide.

Three and a half years have passed since that day.  I haven't been back to the church.  I've seen that man again.  Been in the same room as him.  But I haven't spoken to him.

Maybe I should.  The next time I see him.  Tell him I forgive him.  He's a bigot.  He doesn't know it but he is.  An interpretation of a religious text does not exempt anyone from bigotry - it didn't exempt me either when I followed similar interpretations of the same book.  He's a transphobic man who treats people like me like shit.  I worry for any transgender person who ever comes into contact with the church he runs or, heaven forbid, is forced to grow up there full of enforced self hatred.

And yet ... he would tell me he was only speaking to me out of love for me.  That's almost more sad than the words he spoke to me.
The church still meets in that room.
Unless things have changed, a blatantly transphobic organisation - with a touch of anti-semitism - still meets in that city centre location**.

Perhaps even now, after all this time, I should mention it to them.


**I originally stated where the city centre location was.  I've removed this information.  I realise that, since I don't have proof of what was said to me, it's possible that I'd be sued at some time in the future.  I don't want to leave myself open to that possibility.