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Realisations

  • Posted on July 8, 2014 at 10:57 pm

There is never a choice, but only many choices
never a coming out, rather many revelations

and never a realisation, just one after another again –
as a morning veil withdrawn across the sky

with that natal, waking, feeling of something new,
like the wonderful unfolding of flowers.

***

She waits quietly in a place she has made her own
able only to be what dawnings have revealed

and through the choices, the constant revelations
the realisations, the makings of herself

one thing holds true: the bud, the early flower, dew
were never seen – the morning but a dream.

***

Now never more real, never more ready for life, one
single sadness: she has never been loved.

Not taken, not possessed, not seduced, persuaded or
taken home – but met, embraced and wanted –

even desired, simply for who she is, without sense
of being tainted, but rather, perfumed by her love.

 

2012 © Andie Davidson

From the book, Realisations

Show, not tell

  • Posted on April 18, 2014 at 8:56 am

It’s Easter. Two years ago I dug around the story, and was reminded today by a Facebook image doing the rounds saying that Easter comes from the goddess Ishtar. I knew this to be wrong, because I’d dug around Eostre instead. The poem is here, if you already need a digression!

At the time I felt the poem may be a little obscure, because most people were still just starting to realise that my transition was something real, and my objective in writing poetry was to lead not push. I could write prose, which is why I started this blog, but some people don’t like to be told, because they come head to head with their idea against mine, and that’s uncomfortable. Poetry that just ‘says it’ can be boring. A picture of a witch is just a picture, take it or leave it. But that familiar optical illusion that can switch mentally from being a drawing of an old woman in furs, to a witch’s head, is fascinating.

Sometimes we just can’t take being told

This week I took my poem Unspoken to a workshop, and resisted the temptation to say what it was about. I had dared to read it on local radio last year, but revisiting it, I still felt I needed reassurance and feedback. It still means something real and deep to me, it is still relevant, but it is all ‘show not tell’, and it is precisely about those things you can’t say because they could undo everything in an instant.

This reminded me very much of the whole business of coming out, of learning and speaking my truth. It felt subversive (something I like about poetry, but which felt uncomfortable to live out). I am not alone in the way I behaved, and I suspect this is a feature of many trans* people’s lives when they are working out how to tell the world that things need to change.

So this blog is for people coming out, for their friends and families. You can’t just be told, you need to realise a few things first to prepare you for understanding. For anyone to transition may be to find peace and authenticity, but it is one of the hardest things to do, because you know it won’t be understood.

And this is why we start wearing bits of the ‘wrong’ clothing, jewellery or make-up, begin to soften in our ways, and why things appear in our wardrobes that ‘shouldn’t be there’. For people transitioning female to male, that may be a lot less obvious, rather ‘why don’t you like doing that any more?’ It may not be the best way to do this! But what many of us are trying to do is introduce new ideas about ourselves, new ways of seeing us, new understandings of being the same person looking different, feeling better. You might just se this as weird or even disturbing. It may not be what you want. But what we are trying to show is that we have to change, we want you to notice, and we need you to ask, so we can be open without thrusting it on you. This conversation can lead to shared understanding and travelling forward together, or it may lead to separation and loss. We don’t intend to hurt anyone by coming out. After all, we are only being true to ourselves.

To you it probably seems like deception. We are writing poetry in our lives, and you want the classic story with a happy ending.

Deception was an unfortunate keynote in the divorce petition against me. It was felt necessary, it wasn’t a grudge. But it was there; it was the remembered thing. Shoes were in the wardrobe, and that meant I was going out. Without permission. How embarrassing. My gender dysphoria was an unacceptable behaviour. (Popular link to my page on behaviour, here.) But I remember wanting desperately to be discovered from hints so that a legitimate enquiry could be made, for me to explain. There were things left sometimes accidentally, sometimes deliberately, stuck in a drawer, trapped in wardrobe doors. Nail varnish left on, beads worn with my old clothes, new mannerisms, books and leaflets on trans* issues; all sorts.

My ‘Unspoken’ poem obviously spoke, because my fellow poets in Brighton picked up on the emotions, the situation and the meaning of the poem quite easily. I still feel embarrassed about my hints before coming out. So I wrote another poem:

Show not tell

Was I really learning the art,
poet in the making, risk averse?

A skirt caught in closet doors,
an obvious symbol without reason.

Without rhyme, hoping to scan as
pent… something, I am… bic

in hand, but blocked, right as
blocked, wrong to be spoken.

So the coloured skirt, in draft
as a chill wind stirring flowers

invisible but spoken, my self
trying to show, not tell.

Once again, this is a poem where the sounds of the words and how they join, really matter. Find the words that carry two meanings. It’s just another way of saying that when we communicate in a way that invites enquiry, it can be because we have something to say that we can’t just speak out on. We need your wanting to understand.

So if your spouse, or sibling, or child, or parent or friend is acting strangely, and you know something isn’t right any more, ask what they are trying to show you so that you can see, not so that an explanation and justification can be given and things go ‘back to normal’.

Shocking

  • Posted on February 23, 2014 at 8:57 am

This poem is from my book Realisations, which I still feel is an important chapter for my life and those involved with coming to terms with being trans*, or a partner emerging as trans*. I’ve added it now because it’s an elegant expression in context of my thoughts on relationships, more than ten years on from this event.

Whose?
The accusing angle of her finger
suspends distaste – and a stocking.
No relief wrapped in a reply
can change this gift,
this poison present.

Her fear.
Two answers hang
neither the better truth
she doesn’t want to know
the other woman
whose lace-edged discovery
invades her home.

His delight
slips from her finger
curls foetal on the floor
its elegance as lost as words.
Its lie even worse.
He wills it to rise and run,
be unfound before she speaks
or fear to anger springs tears.

His faithfulness
so complete, so safe,
worthless as any words.
‘It’s mine.’

 

2011 © Andie Davidson

Bloody complicated!

  • Posted on February 22, 2014 at 8:43 am

I want to move into talking about personal relationships on this blog, for several reasons. One is that this is the area most fraught with difficulties for trans people. During transition many of us feel our lives are too baffling for others to deal with, we ourselves are dealing with a liberation as well as a transformation, being the same, but being different to everyone else. It is a time of life-on-hold, and everything takes too long. And it’s lonely. Another reason is that others need to understand that relating to us need not be confusing, that the confusion isn’t in us, but in them too. Cis people need to learn that trans people are as loving and feeling as they are, not strange and to be distanced. A third reason is that relationships are like confetti thrown to the wind, and lots of questions are raised that we prefer not to have to examine anyway.

Hearts are broken all the time. Human beings change their preferences: someone turns up who is more attractive, more sexy, more exciting, reinvigorating. Your partner seems boring, inattentive, disinterested in you. Your significant other thinks it’s OK to have sex with someone else, you do not. You meet a soulmate while either or both of you are in a long-term relationship. What do you do? Stuff happens, people are hurt.

‘If only I’d got it right first time’, many would say. ‘Now I’m lumbered or I leave.’

I am old-fashioned. Yes, really. I took lifelong commitment seriously, I only had sex with the person I married, and I stuck with it – out of love as it happens, for over 30 years. And yet I too got hurt.

Fixed or fluid?

Of course I understand. Your sexuality is as likely in your genes as is your gender. It is a fixed identity, isn’t it? The truth is, I just don’t know. Don’t ask me! I used to say just that, when people asked my opinion ‘from a man’s point of view’. I still say it. When you have lived as I have, in both binary camps, nothing is clear cut any more. Everyone I knew was happy with me living ‘as a man’, thoroughly convinced, and enough were finding me desirable. They knew what I was; only they didn’t. I know enough older women who have taken to female partners after marriage, to know that sexuality is a bit more fluid than we would like to believe.

I, like many trans* people, wonder what my life would have been like, if when I started to realise I wasn’t like other boys, I had been free to be one of the other kinds in a wholly accepted way. What if I had been a desirable person and partner, not for appearing to be a man? What if I had entered marriage as I really was? What if I’d never had to be binary?

And what now? I have made, and experienced, such changes, and met such a wide variety of people, that I feel there is a fluidity in all of us, surrounded with sea walls so strong that the tides change nothing. Take away the social sea walls, and I suspect there would be a lot more freedom of expression in both gender and sexuality than we see.

But then you can’t ask me, because I cannot unsee what you may never have seen, and my view of the world is very different from that of the average cis hetero person, who simply doesn’t need to go beyond a binary view of life that fits adequately. I can no longer see the world as you do; it has changed dramatically. Would you like to see the world as I do? Or is it just fine enough to see it as it is to you?

Maybe we ask too much that you should stand in our shoes, even walk a mile in them too. I mean, why should you? Is it scary, to open up the possibilities? And why does it matter?

Relationships make us what we want to be

Relationships are complex things, begun, fostered and ended for many reasons. But all along we compromise hugely in order to create them; we need them. The trouble is, we find it easier to see a relationship in terms of what it gives us, than in the balance of what we can also give. Relationships help to make us what we want to be. They are props and acquisitions in many ways.

That sounds selfish doesn’t it? I think it probably is. And it means that not all relationships are right, to be maintained at all costs, because to be fair and creative and productive, they do need to be fully reciprocal. An article in The Guardian newspaper recently remarked that modern marriages are for more than food on the table and a shared roof: they are to enable us to explore ourselves and grow as people. Now that is scary. What if your dream girl or hunk (or lovely sensitive man) does grow, expand, develop and become more real? Is that what you want? Your dream girl has a brilliant career that brings here a strong social standing of her own, or your sensitive man ‘becomes’ a woman, or androgynous, or queer? Does that leave you dispossessed, as with a gadget that no longer works? (Is it still under guarantee? Can I take it back?)

So you bought the pepper mill that doesn’t grind too well, and you see the one that (at least when new) works a lot better for you …

We all have choices, and they are our own. We can see relationships in many ways. I’m not saying that we should not be honestly utilitarian, only that we should be honest. So here’s an everyday conundrum: two married people meet and fall in love. They want commitment, and feel that being together is where they should have been from the beginning. Which of them wants to be committed to another who plainly is (now) not committed, but ready to have an affair, even split and join them? I married you because you cheated (with me) … can I trust you, or are we simply agreed that we are happy cheaters together?

It’s funny how love can make you think more flexibly. If you want to. I just want to invite you to think about what you love, as well as who, in a relationship, and which matters most? And when you have decided that, whether you are prepared to say that to each other. Understand what you mean by ‘love’ and be clear that it is conditional. And be content that you can expect nothing better in return.

Is your kind of love a deal, or do you want something deeper?

Next: What to do with a trans* partner

Live poetry

  • Posted on January 18, 2013 at 11:07 pm

Red Roaster: Brighton and Hove Stanza of the Poetry SocietyLast night was wonderful hassle. Leaving work early to get home so I could get something to eat before going out to Brighton. I wasn’t feeling too well, rather wobbly in fact, but determined, and couldn’t decide if soup would keep me going or the final spag bol decision would finish me off. Then parking near enough to walk to the Red Roaster without getting frozen on the way back. Gawping at what I had forgotten about Brighton parking: you need 6 pound coins if you want to stay even slightly over one hour, and it was 6:50pm until free parking at 8. I risked it, hoping some jobsworth wasn’t taking delight in a last patrol at 7:55. I’m sure I wasn’t looking my best either.

But once there and warming up, and talking with friends from the Brighton and Hove Stanza of the Poetry Society, I was at home. That was except when I was feeling faint and hoping I wouldn’t embarrass myself by keeling over. I actually relish the opportunity to read my poetry. You can only read it one way, so you lose the neat, deliberate ambiguity of the written word (‘peeling is a tearing … all lies in pieces after tears’ – Cooking with onions; ‘With intent I listen/ there is no rhythm in the rain’ – Intent is an image under canvas). The compensation is that you show how it feels and runs.

What a lovely evening; consistent but very varied poetry, all to a really high standard, and very individual. All as worthy of publication as the big names, in my opinion. But what touched me most was the number of people who made a point of coming to me to say how much, or why, they had enjoyed my pieces. Yes, I had been open in explaining the origin of some of my work in being transsexual. I’d rather people heard the words than spent time trying to work out my gender, and it is the heartbeat of much of what I write, even when it isn’t explicit. So to learn that I had evoked deep feelings of childbirth in a mum of two, felt almost an honour. There’s something quite moving about your words reaching some deep place in another, not because you’ve thrust your words on them, but because someone has just received them and taken them in, where they have resonated. That’s much more of a meeting than a handshake and hello.

Writing for me is an imperative, even though I do it all day as a job too. Cooking with onions was a line in my head ten days ago, when I woke up one morning, and evolved in my mind on the journey to work, where I captured enough on paper to remind me later, and the allusions multiplied. That’s how it is, and somehow it really works.

Here are the poems I read, in case you were there and want to read them again, or missed them:

I hope you like them.