Alban Arthan

solstice-woodSparkling nets of causality. Sometimes, I am what I like to think of as a Coincidence Magnet. By this, I mean that I have phases in my life where coincidences happen one after the other – for example, a couple of weeks of randomly running into about eight unconnected people face-to-face and online that I hadn’t seen for a couple of decades; humming a tune just before turning on the radio and it’s the next thing they play; saying a word just before someone on the telly says it; and just more generally, arrays of experiences that seem interwoven.

The thing is, I don’t really even think of all this as “coincidence” any more, because I’ve begun to realise: it’s just the way things work is that everything’s pretty inextricably intertwined. Things affect each other. Near things affect each other more. Related things affect each other more. Our orbits perturb each other’s orbits. I enjoy each mysterious juxtaposition more, even as the overarching fact of it seems less of a mystery.

Today I’ve had a little flurry of this, a small dose of delightful interweave.

As mentioned before, I’ve recently joined a trans forum that turned out to have a strong asexual flavour to it, where I’m very happy to be. They have a tradition of fiddling about with their screen names around yuletide, so I thought I’d join in. At random (yeah, sure…) I googled winter solstice in different languages, and found this Welsh phrase Alban Arthan, which means the light of winter. And which, coincidentally, fits very neatly into the middle of… well… WomAlban Arthandrogyne.

So far, so normal. But then I read up on Alban Arthan, and found that it’s associated with the death of the Holly King at the hands of his son, the Oak King – the old year and the new, linked respectively with the wren and the robin redbreast. The wren is my totem animal (whatever that means, she just is).

Then I followed a link to something called Wren Day, and discovered it’s… today.

Happy Wren Day, for those of you who prefer to think outside the boxing.

*****

Yesterday, for the first time, I spent Xmas Day on my own. I spent most of it doing what some of us Buddhists call Metta-Bhavana, the cultivation of loving kindness. This is essentially a fancy way of saying that I spent the day (in between food and the odd DVD) intentionally calling people to mind and wishing them well and happy, one by one and together. Friends, acquaintances, people I’m pissed off with, people I don’t even know… and myself of course.

I did this partly for selfish reasons (because who doesn’t love a good paradox?) – if I was going to spend Xmas on my own, I was damned if I was going to spend it feeling Culturally Obliged to feel sorry for myself for not spending That Special Time Of Year™ with loved ones blah blah. So I decided to do the love thing regardless, and it made me feel very content and connected. And it was the least stressful Xmas I’ve ever had (until I ate the 2nd helping of roast veggies…)

Anyway, whoever you are reading this, I wish you very happy. The holly wren heralds the ending of the old year, but there’s a new wren in town, and she’s in full voice.

And just for the hell of it, here are The Monkees, sweetly singing Ríu Ríu Chíu.

wren-sings

Daya, I know…

mayan-disc-thingAhem (and as the Doctor would say,
I’m really, really sorry…):

A wonderful folk were the Maya
My respect for them couldn’t be haya
But though it’s heretic
To shun the prophetic
Well, sometimes there’s smoke without faya

*****

A very happy solstice, new year, and new Mayan cycle to everybody.

Bioenvy

feedingA strange thing happened to me today.

The background to this is: I’ve been getting to know my brother’s girlfriend, whose daughter is pregnant. Last time we met, we’d been having a far-rambling conversation about families, relationships, children, and gender transition. Somewhere in there, I mentioned a drug I’d heard that some trans women take because they hope it will aid breast development, a drug which is normally prescribed to increase lactation.

Yesterday, I wrote to her to ask how they were getting on, and mentioned this drug in passing (because I’d finally remembered what it was called). She wrote back to me today about her daughter, and wound up her message by jokingly asking whether I was up for sharing the breast feeding?

I was really knocked sideways by the strong physical urge this triggered in me to do just that. I’ve never felt this before, and I didn’t (and don’t) have any plans involving lactation.

But tonight, I’ve been feeling a sad bioenvy. (I coined this word for myself, before discovering it’s also the brand name of a perfume…)

What I mean by bioenvy is envy of people who are born into the biological body their gender expects them to have. There are a whole load of experiences I’m never going to have in this lifetime, because I wasn’t born in a female body. I’m generally pretty sanguine about this, but things catch me by surprise – like a while back when I found myself mourning not menstruating.

This, though… I’m really floored by the somatic strength of the image I had of me with a baby at my breast. I’ve heard women talk about this nursing-longing.

I’m going to be content. Some women just never get to do some of the things other women get to do, that’s just life. It’s fascinating to find myself suddenly wanting things I never knew I’d want. Going through a gender transition is turning out to be something of a Buddhist Upgrade, as I’m being constantly jostled into new awarenesses of my changing self, and have to find ways to respond creatively. And with chocolate.

The other odd-but-nice part of this is that when I first met her pregnant daughter (who is dealing with ADD and anxiety issues, and is apparently usually very wary and skittish with strangers), everyone including me was really surprised by how at ease she was with me, and I feel like we connected in some way.

So to find myself imagining sharing something that intimate with her (and maybe taking some of the burden off her, as she’s maybe not going to have an easy time with being a mother) – something in me was just saying Yes! to that. This will never happen, but I actually feel like I was handed a small gift as well as a koan in having this idea put in my head. Initially I felt very sad and vulnerable, but now I feel more tender instead.

I hope I get to do some dandling, once this baby is born. I’m looking forward to getting to know all of them better.

This really didn’t end where it started. That’s why I like writing!

red lotus

The right to find arms unbearable

connecticut-shooting

In the light of what’s just happened in Connecticut (this is a photo taken at the scene of the shooting, which says it all), I have found myself in a weird online argument with gun apologists in the US.

I accept that not having grown up in a country where owning a gun is as normalised as owning a garden rake, I can’t get myself into the mindset of people for whom civilian ownership of a rapid-fire assault weapon is a “rights issue”.

And at this point, some people seem to want to get into hair-splitting in order to dodge the issue, so to make myself unambiguously clear: I define “rapid-fire assault weapon” as including any handheld gun capable of mowing down a bunch of people just by holding down the trigger and waving it around indiscriminately.

It really doesn’t matter to me that there are degrees of “rapid-fire” or “assault weapon”. Any weapon that falls under the above description is designed specifically to kill multiple people, and therefore doesn’t belong in the hands of anyone not currently fighting in an actual war (leaving aside my opinions about warfare itself).

Come on America, be selective.

*****

It’s really bothering me that in the wake of this shooting, I’m seeing a lot online of people making unwarranted assumptions about “what kind of person would do something like this” and pointing the finger at people with mental health issues in general, rather than just accept that the problem is that sometimes “apparently normal” people just crack, and then if that happens when there are assault weapons around, well, you know the rest.

When you consider the number of gun deaths that occur simply because someone loses their temper (and has access to guns), it’s the idea of the average civilian having any access to assault weapons that seems insane to me.

If home owners have these weapons around in order to “protect their home”, the likelihood that they’re going to make them hard to get at and use quickly is, let’s face it, pretty low.

Don’t stigmatise the mentally ill – anyone capable of losing their temper in the presence of guns is capable of doing something like this.

In bone, marrow

bone marrow transplantThis is going to be about love.

I wrote a love poem, once, to someone I was in love with who was in love with me, and the first line of that poem was In bone, marrow – the poem was about how we might have a hard, safe shell, but without the soft, live core it’s there to protect, that produces the red, red blood, it’s just a dead skeleton.

I don’t have this poem, because I gave it to her without making a copy, and then we broke up, and then she threw it away.

Funny how these things keep coming back to mind. Funny how you can write something one day that is an aside to something else that seems very important, and then that aside moves to the centre. I wrote in my last blog-thing, For me, love without fear means love without sex (for the foreseeable future); for some reason, that’s ringing in my head now, and the semicolon feels important (because nothing’s written in stone – well, okay, but even things that are written in stone eventually weather away).

What I want to write about here is a connexion I’m making in my mind-heart between asexuality and love.

I’m still settling into this awareness that I am in some way asexual. By asexual, I mean that I don’t really like sex, and would prefer not to have any. I still (definitely) experience attraction, but though I want everything that surrounds sex – affection, intimacy, sensuality, touch – I don’t want the sex itself. This is definitely partly because I’m afraid of it (abuse has made sure of that) but it’s there in its own right too. We’re so bombarded by the Cultural Certainty that anyone who’s normal and healthy wants sex, it’s very hard to see around that. And since abuse led me to mistake being abused for being loved, my compulsion-fear has made seeing clearly pretty much out of the question until now.

But since I began realising that I don’t actually want sex, I’ve been feeling increasingly freed up and, I don’t know, somehow “able to move” in a way I’ve never felt before. And the space I’m able to move in has something very intimately to do with love.

I’ve always had this intuition that we all have soulmates – but that we all have many more than one, no matter what the Romantic Myth tries to sell us. There are a few people in my life with whom I’m very strongly, warmly, passionately connected, who are my loves, but not my lovers. And there’s something about stepping out into this thing I’m calling asexuality that makes me free to release love hidden away in myself (protected by way too much bone) and it’s spreading out in waves.

I don’t know what more to say about this than that it feels as though there’s a slow, quiet, gorgeous bomb going off in me, that’s shattering barriers to being able to love people more generally. As I write that, I can feel myself in danger of spiritualising the experience – but I think it’s a very ordinary extraordinary, to be freer to love.

Buddhism has a strong tradition of celibacy, but I’m not assuming that’s where I’m heading. It does, though, for the first time, seem something possible in a way that’s not an austerity or a fleeing from the fearsome, but a blossoming forth of something else.

This is another of those “ah well, this is how I’m feeling right now, no matter what comes next” celebrations.

*****

It’s interesting to me that many of the people I’ve talked about this with so far have come back at me with variations on “don’t worry, one day you’ll be able to enjoy sex”, as though being asexual were some kind of treatable condition. And it’s interesting (and wholly unsurprising) to me that I can feel the pull towards assuming This Is How It’s Going To Be, because certainty and labels are very comforting badges of office. So no, I don’t know where this is going. I just feel it’s something growing, rather than something being built.

maples-leaves

Love without fear

love-without-fear-orangeI’ve done a little more digging, and come up with the goods – the book my grandfather defended as a solicitor in an obscenity trial was Love Without Fear, by Dr Eustace Chesser, which was in fact published in 1942. It sold 5,000 copies before the DPP decided to declare it obscene. Chesser was offered the option to plead guilty and be fined, but he chose to be tried by jury instead, and my grandfather’s firm helped him win the case.

Chesser wrote the book because he recognised (from working as a doctor in slum areas) that many people were very messed up about sex, and ignorant about the possibilities (especially for the pleasure of women), and that this was causing them emotional stress. He deliberately chose to go against the normal trend in those days of using Latin terms for genitalia, and kept it plain and simple.

It took the jury less than an hour to acquit him, in the end, and this proved to be a landmark trial in the history of sex education vs. obscenity laws in the UK.

My grandfather, whatever else he may have been, helped make this happen. Go, Alec.

*****

It seems very apt to me that I find out about this at the same time that I’m contemplating asexuality. For me, love without fear means love without sex (for the foreseeable future); but I like to think of this book leading to relief from fear around sex for many people, especially women.

Epithalamion (this time it’s personal)

epithalamionI just spent the weekend with my brother and his girlfriend, talking about (amongst other things) past relationships. When I got home (he lives 5 hours away from me), I found my Decree Absolute in my letter box. This means I’m officially divorced. I’m feeling a mixture of gratitude for the good things about my abortive marriage, and remorse for the things I did wrong that caused hurt. Sad and relieved. Reflective.

Meanwhile, I’m continuing my search for the answer to the following conundrum. In English divorce law, first we have the Decree Nisi, and then the Decree Absolute, and you have to apply for the former first. Once you get the Decree Nisi, this happens:

nisi-absolute
I am unable to let go of my fascination with whoever decided on this fairy-tale-logic time period. I love this six-weeks-and-a-day, but I have to know why six-weeks-and-a-day. If I solve this mystery, I’ll let you know.

Meanwhile (again), I have another mystery. My paternal grandfather was a strange blend of hero and villain in my mind, for all sorts of reasons. He survived the First World War with shell shock and deafness – and survived it partly due to anti-semitism. Everyone else except him at officer training got commissioned together (he wasn’t, because he was Jewish, and they had a “quota” system going). Then everyone except him got shipped off to France, and a week later they were all dead. What a weird tragedy. He had a couple of other near brushes with death while he was over in France, too.

He was later a drinker and a gambler, and an appalling and unthinkingly cruel father, from what I can make out. But what my brother told me this weekend is that when my grandfather was a solicitor, one of his great triumphs was foiling an obscenity case, defending a doctor who published a sex manual in the 1950s 1940s that told women how to have a good time, for once. I’m trying to find out more about this too. It’s hard to picture my grandfather as a women’s hero (though apparently he was). Everyone is such a mixture.