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Performance and poetry

  • Posted on October 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Andie Davidson, Polari, October 2012When I began my journey away from anger at aspects of myself and hatred of what felt so wrong about being me, I came to appreciate that just saying what I felt wasn’t really helpful. I say this, you say that, we disagree. I feel this, you feel that and we are hitting each other emotionally. I was not being fact, I was not being statement; I was being something inexpressible, I was being the emotion of self-realisation. We don’t have to go there much, do we? Life works, we sit tight. How could I say what was going on, and why it was becoming so important, so urgent? Poetry for me was a subversion of logic, the unspeakable, said with elegance, read until you realised your answers had already been undercut, and yet the playfulness of the language had strung you along. Maybe I overstate what I was doing. But I’m not so sure.

Last night I had been invited to present some of my poetry at a Polari evening at the Royal Festival Hall. No, not the big one! Just the 100-seater function room overlooking the London Eye, into which some musical performance and applause occasionally wafted. Anyhow, it took me back to my poetry collection RealIsations to select some key pieces along with some new ones. For me the book was a chapter now closed, and interesting to reopen after being left to rest.

The fears, as well as all the hopes, are long gone. I transitioned and began life exclusively as a woman seven months ago, and before that for a year, I had been doing so less and less covertly for at least three days a week. So I was recalling emotions largely dealt with, and able to appreciate the artistry I had achieved in the writing. I couldn’t just stand there and read this stuff: it was laden. But at least now I could get to the end of the poems without tearing up. I am quite new to poetry in many ways. I have written all my life, sporadically, and often wanted to read expressively to convey the intent. And so I am used to thinking about how I read, and how to carry meaning best when, at least in a lot of my work, there are many layers.

My lounge has become accustomed to dance, so without cats to embarrass, I could practice moving towards performance in my poetry. Polari is a somewhat flamboyant context, so all I knew was that this was something I desperately wanted to do, and do well. Did I? It was exciting. It was amazing. To be me as I now am, in this place, with these well-established, award-winning authors, doing this, and hitting the right buttons.

I am sure I can improve; there isn’t much one gets right first time in the creative arts, but it was such a powerful experience for me, I know I really must do this again. I loved it. This was me, reaching my best as a writer, at last, in a place where literature is appreciated, where being transsexual, if not understood, is at least recognised as an accepted minority identity. Other people might use a phrase such as ‘it blew my mind’, but I am less extravagant. It was another piece of self-understanding, that this is actually an important part of who I am.

It has taken me 24 hours so far to try and come down from the high, and I am back at work in the morning working on technical writing and operator manuals and the mechanisms of keeping them well maintained. A world away. But inside here, my heart is beating with the thrill of everyone who showed their personal appreciation of what was, to date, the performance of my life.

Commitment; a celebration

  • Posted on October 27, 2012 at 5:59 pm

This journey has been described often enough as a roller-coaster, because there really are big ups and downs, certainties and fears, permissions and blockages. It’s inevitable, because you really can’t understand this except from the inside, so people get you wrong all the time, even when they’re doing their best.

This week was a case in point, but more than that, made me think seriously in a way I haven’t had to since transitioning. That’s right, transition. I have done everything that I can do on my own. Just one thing remains that I cannot do for myself.

But first, there I was in the office, surrounded by colleagues including a new starter (with a gorgeous pick-tinted ponytail), and I was accidentally referred to as a man by someone who has never seen me as a man. Woops! Accident, and great embarrassment (not mine). ‘Aaargh! Sorry! I’m always doing that!’

I said the first thing that came into my head, to be reassuring: ‘No, you’re not. You’re doing really well.’ and smiled at him and our new joiner. And got on with it. I guess if it happened much I would get a bit upset. After all it reveals what people really think I am underneath. They don’t naturally think of me as a woman. Yet.

I wasn’t down, or even cross. Just saddened. I have lost everything to become the most authentic I have ever been. I feel fantastic about it, but I can’t put everything right by myself. If it’s good enough to cost me everything, why isn’t it convincing enough at work, where I have never presented as anything else than this?

Then a friend, who returned their forms to the gender clinic on the same day as I did, received their first appointment (only four months waiting!). Grrr. I decided to call yet again about my change of address, and asked ‘I don’t suppose …?’ And knock me down with a feather – a letter had been posted (to my old address). Suddenly my horizon was visible again. What I really needed was to give someone a great big hug. Never mind!

Do you remember the queue for the water flume? Or the rollercoaster? The joking, the sense of bravery, dispelling thoughts of being scared or sick! Then you’re in. It’s a smooth flat ride. You’re doing fine. Then the ratchet picks your car up with a click and the rumbling starts. Now you are being driven, hauled up and there is a real sense of commitment. What you face, you must face now. It’s serious. That’s what it feels like to have that vital appointment. When I walk in, a woman who transitioned 9 months ago, on illicit hormones and working full-time, I don’t expect a refusal or a doubt, but it is a hurdle to clear. And so I feel I am on track for the one thing I can’t do for myself, with disruption, risk, pain, discomfort, and finally the peace of being complete and right. It certainly focuses the mind.

But it is so very much what I want. I know – from the deep envy I felt when a friend had her surgery this week.

Content

  • Posted on October 27, 2012 at 5:06 pm
content

It just occurred to me since I completed rearranging all that emerged from cardboard boxes, that there is significance in what came with me here, what did not, and how I arranged it. The one piece of furniture left in this place was a shelf unit with glazed sections. Not my cup of tea quite, I thought. I have no family silver, trophies or cut glass to be illuminated from above, through the glass shelves with an air of prestige. Then I started to put things together that I had brought. What deserved display, to be seen, even picked up…

With my body

  • Posted on October 20, 2012 at 8:33 am

She was infatuated; in love. He adored her. Life was out of this world: made in heaven. They loved, they played, they rolled, they eventually decided. One day, as he was filing her birth certificate, it hit him. This was not her 25th birthday coming up. It was her 23rd, eight years since they first ….

 

They met at a ball. It was a charity do for people who had missing pasts. Children placed in care, often with troubled childhoods, so they had a lot in common. But something, just something, drew them together and they instantly connected. Cautiously, over years, they began to trust, learned to be vulnerable again. Their love was deep, if watchful, so some years later they decided to marry, and work together in the meantime to find their families, or at least their mothers. What a coincidence in the end that they had the same maternal surname. Even born within a year of each other in the same town. The same street.

 

She stared out of the window on an incongruously bright and calm morning. Hints had become games, games had become serious. Not the sex in woods, on hilltops, the lounge floor, at the kitchen sink, to which she had not merely consented but colluded. No. This morning he had gone to work after the most awful weekend. She reckoned up five thousand, maybe more – times they had had sex together. And now he had gone right over the edge and told her that there was no other description for it. He was, in truth, a woman. Wrong body. Same heart and soul, but wrong body. And he, she, was going to start putting it right. What had he known? What might she have known or guessed, in what he asked for, the way he was? Except that if she had known, five thousand time she would not have given her consent.

 

With my body, I honour you

The simplest and most heartfelt of the marriage promises. Right at the centre of nurture, commitment and fidelity. I think I did. In fact I think I did it well, and having heard how others have fared, often better than most. I was honourable in all my loving and cherishing all through, all the way to the very last time. But like the other two stories, it raises the question, not altogether philosophical, of legality. How should each story end? With under-age sex? With incest? With rape?

‘If I had known …’ Of course. And the verdict at this point with each may very well be that, between the consenting parties, no further action need be taken about the past. They are not so different, especially if I am so certain about what I am. But what of the present? How many times was the infringement done? When did one party knowingly act illegally? Is it for any third party to bring charges? A parent? A keen lawyer? And if one party were to be famous, perhaps a journalist should uncover it – in the public interest, of course.

What a dawning realisation it was to me. It’s OK, I have gone through the no-blame bit of counselling, I’ve explained that for 40 years I simply did not know how to describe or understand myself, and until rather late in the day I could always demonstrate doubt, or at least plead duality. But in the case of all three stories, you cannot unknow the truth. ‘If I had known, I would not have consented.’

With my body, I dishonour you

The new truth is that as a woman, everything I feel, desire, do as I always did, thousands of times, had switched instantly from honour (even the old word, worship) to defilement. The welcome of what I offered from my heart, the expression of my soul, the ultimate vulnerability shared, the desire – had become repugnant. I understand. Of course I do (and haven’t I a hundred times mentally switched the roles to imagine how I would feel?) and of course I must, because in the end, if it isn’t my fault, it is my cause.

When you are the one turned off, repelled, when your love evaporates in a moment, when you realise and shrink from ever doing again what you once did so urgently, the decision is very straightforward and unequivocal, and you can never again imagine the awfulness of repeating it with the new knowledge.

When you are the one against whom those gates slam, and through which you can still see, it is altogether different, and I cannot expect anyone to know how it feels.

Don’t misunderstand; I do not blame. I just still stand, somewhat bewildered, because all my intent, always, was honourable. It just became inappropriate. It was just wrong. And this is my problem; not guilt, not being let off the hook, but still being the same person: same heart and soul, same eyes and hands, same love and kindness, same need to give.

And I just can’t imagine how life can ever be the same again with this new knowledge. My birth certificate isn’t right. I was born in the same street to the same mother. And I always made love in my heart as a woman. And I want to be made honourable again.

 

In poetry: Losing my touch.

One day

  • Posted on October 15, 2012 at 12:01 am

One day you will say:
I was married.
To a man who could do anything.
He could draw, paint and make things.
He even made our bed and everything
was fixed.

He was kind.
He wouldn’t even argue properly.
There was no drinking, no mates
to lead him astray on Friday nights.
And no woman to delight him
more than me.

He taught me
that my body could be wonderful.
He worshipped at my fount and gladly
gave without taking in return.
We shared everything and learned
what life was.

He was mine.
And I thought I knew him so well.
Someone who had a mind about life
who knew what was important.
And who would fight a cause just
because it was right.

One day you will say:
I was married.
To a man who loved me simply
for who I am, and who never gave up.
But I had to bury his love and leave
everything behind.

He was kind.
He taught me and he was mine.
But inside he was a woman, like me.
And I cannot love a woman who fixes
everything, makes beds, worships me,
is not a man.

I have learned
the importance of a man who cannot
do everything, fix anything, has mates and
who will forget me Friday night, shun causes,
love me for what I am—and will allow me to be
the woman.

2012 © Andie Davidson