Yesterday I had tremendous fun performing my poetry at a Brighton venue called Minge Fringe.
The night before I had amazing dances with women at my usual Five Rhythms class.
On Monday I went out to eat, talk, and share a wonderful concert with my former wife.
And a close friend has noticed that our friendship has really changed for the better.
I have moved on.
I think I know myself so much better than I did before all this gender stuff really kicked off the need to do something. I am also aware of the sheer drain and strain it has placed on me and everyone around me. I am watching people I know, go through what will very soon be my final stage of dependency, but now it is right there, in my grasp, it feels different. I have forced myself to confront the potential misdirection, being swept up in the ‘right thing to do’ by the company I have kept, and I am quite clear that it is the proper outcome for me, which will only anchor my past in the past. It’s raised the issue of who I am, whether I have, or what has, changed – or whether I have simply been released to fulfil my identity, my sense of self, at last.
Why do I now stop strangers to ask directions? Why do I dance so freely? Why do I have total confidence whilst surrounded by sculptures and paintings of vulvas? Why do I not even stop to excuse myself any more, explaining that ‘if you haven’t guessed, I’m transsexual’? Why do I hold hands tenderly and mingle sweat with people I hardly know? Why do I feel so part of life?
And how can I now meet my former wife (I’m really trying hard to stop saying ex) with understanding, familiarity, real fondness and with past grief? People always say, as if it’s a truism, that time is a great healer. I know what they mean, but I don’t actually think it’s true. Time, of itself is inactive. Over time we forget, we let go, we simply give up, weary of repetitions. But time also does not always wipe away people’s bitterness, or insecurity, fear or trauma. Feuds persist across generations, bigotry can increase, religious fervour can burn stronger and breed hatred and supremacy.
Time is a herbal healer
I am not a great one for time as a healer. Time has nothing much to do with it. All time is, is a space or span within which to learn and grow. Time does not heal grief, it can only assist and give strength to natural processes, boosting what is naturally there to be more effective, like a herbal remedy. It gives space to learn to live with grief – the ‘unlosable gift’ that ‘finds its place to wear’, when the wind blows. And time will not heal my wounds after surgery; the biggest help will be the wisdom in knowing what not to do, as much of taking the active care. I know that part of that process will be understanding my body afresh, learning that it really is different. Without that I could be healed without being whole. Maybe I need to go back to Minge Fringe and mould some clay vulvas.
(Strange as it sounds, I do love this ownership of the vagina, that it is there for yourself, not as a receptacle for others, that it is private because precious, not from shame, and therefore shareable entirely on your own terms.)
Time is an opportunity, rather, to learn a bit of wisdom: hence this title, partly sage, Rosemary and time (because in my case, there really was a Rosemary who was instrumental in my becoming an honest poet, and in finding myself as a woman).
Little these days touches me as personally and as deeply as my dance, and the encounters it brings. I apologised at the end of Friday’s dance, for my sweat-dripping face, horribly aware that I am the wettest dancer in the whole group. I was reassured that no, we were both sweaty and that sharing it is OK. And there we were, head against head, damp hair on damp hair, holding hands close to our bodies, hearing each other’s breath, having shared movement, a kind of empathy and understanding that could not have been spoken if we’d tried, scripted only by the emotions we were feeling. This, if anything is the meaning of being alive.
The space I walked into the following afternoon was equally unscripted, with the most amazing artistic talent expressed for free. And just like the dance, it was a safe space, where people depend on trust, on humanity, including unanimously asking a rather inebriated person to leave because he couldn’t shut up. I was completely liberated to perform with sensuality, to draw people in, to open people up, to share what it means to love and be lonely, and alive.
And the previous Monday? Kletz Mahler at the Brighton Festival was an utter feast of musicianship at its best, fast and furious Yiddish East European wedding music. Things done with clarinets that didn’t ought to be done with clarinets … Music without the stays, vibrant, alive. And of course, the strange experience of meeting someone I shared so many years with in complete intimacy, with a sense of all those things we perhaps never knew about each other. How might we use the remedies of time, learn a new wisdom, find in each other new and maybe unexpected things that could give us a new sense of what it is to be alive?
That, of course will take, partly, sage and time. With thanks to Rosemary for showing me along the way to where I am now.