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.


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