Monday, June 13, 2016

The Orlando Shootings and the Current Climate of Hate

Every day that morally minded people express their hatred of gay, lesbian, bi and trans people, the fuel for extreme acts piles up unattended.  'It's not right', 'they're peverted', 'it's an offence against God', 'we need to protect our children'....the list goes on.  Every comment adds another fluid ounce of gasoline to an ever increasing lake, evaporating it's highly volatile essence into the air. 

It's fine. We take precautions. Religious extremism might be tolerable in a free society as long as it's confined to the political arena.  Politically expressed hatred may be safe enough in a politically stable climate too.  A lone match stuck in its box won't ignite anything. Guns in locked cabinets don't kill people. But by peddling hate and indignation we create the fuel for attacks, shootings, brutal beatings and horror. 

If we continue to hate we provide the gun, the bullets and the motive to anyone who is ideoligally motivated to pull a trigger or toss a match into that gasoline. Let's end hate. It doesn't kill people but it gives oxygen and fuel to those who do.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Facing my Worst Nightmares and Living my Dreams

I have been dreaming a lot recently.  As I shift from one chapter of my life to a new one, there has been much reflection.  A good deal emerges in your sleep.  There are dreams and then there are nightmares.  There are semi lucid nightmares too where you flip back and forth between control to helplessness.

You know that dream where you a running down a long corridor searching for the way out? You see it and make for the exit, your enemies in hot pursuit.  You know you can make it. You can see the outside world.  Then suddenly you are back in the corridor again.  Panic sets in. The very walls begin to surround and trap you. 

If I'm lucky it ends quickly. I wake and realise that it's just a bad dream. I turn over, rest my head on my husband's shoulder and he cuddles and protects me.

This Friday I am quitting my job in education in order to start my own business.  The decision has been a long time coming.  I realise that I pass well and go under the radar so much of the time.  It has its advantages and disadvantages.  You get to feel like everyone else, most of the time.  Some people however never forget.  

Those childhood experiences of being forced to be someone you are not, revisit you again.  In the grown up world of work there are still those who wish to send you back where you came from; deny your right to use a bathroom or even worse your right to be. In education you are often seen as less than worthy; someone who is likely to cause harm; unduly influence others by 'promoting a lifestyle choice' or not adhering to professional standards.  These standards are likely to get adjusted to deliberately exclude you if they do not already do so. You find that although a thin tolerance is practiced, there is never genuine acceptance.

So many of us try very hard to combat this. These days we've got quite good at dealing with the easy stuff. Overt transphobia is relatively straightforward to cope with.  You have right on your side and quite often it appears to go away.  But it returns. From then on it works subtly and quietly in blocks, fault finding, rumour spreading and worse. This is much harder to deal with.  

Fighting covert transphobia is like fighting an invisible, shape changing enemy. One that switches to a different mode of attack the second it is exposed.  If you are really unfortunate, it works its way like a disease, even higher in the organisation where you work. The behaviour becomes institutionalised and enters the walls and fabric all around you.  Before long it is everywhere as those who don't have an opinion take on that of the bigots. Even when you sleep you have nightmares about it.

Sadly, this is not paranoia.  I wish it was.  You can treat that. Instead, this is the reality that so many of us deal with year in year out.  I used to think ignoring it and walking away was the answer but if you leave it unchecked it just seems to get worse. Sometimes you just have to make a stand.  That may mean outing yourself or being outed. I suspect that the more of us who do this, the less we will live in fear.

Well now I'm replacing my nightmares with my waking dreams.  This Friday At 4pm I walk away to become my own boss.  In time, as my business grows, I hope to employ others.  If and when I do, I promise to make it a workplace where no one need fear because they are different.


Jane xx

Friday, May 20, 2016

Counselling, Coffee and the Future Mrs W.

I write this as a come towards the end of my first year as a trainee counsellor.  

A few weeks ago, I took the bold step of quitting my job as a TA in College. I'm now planning a new business which will involve, among other things, bringing decent, uplifting coffees to customers at events and markets. I'm on the verge of something refreshing, invigorating and new. It's time to pause, breathe and take stock of things. 

As a child, my fave story was Cinderella.  It had a special significance and I hung on to reading that battered picture book way into my teens. It was a comfort blanket. Winnicott (if you're a counsellor) would call it a transition object.  

Without a doubt, Cinderella happened. Last year I married Prince Charming in a Fairytale Palace.  My beloved Manchester doesn't have one but the Britannia Hotel, Portland St. is a copy of the Fondaco dei Turchi Palazzo in Venice and will more than do. My husband, Mart Williams is TOTALLY Prince Charming.  I'm a 'transhistoried' woman and an Encore Bride, I've dated a string of total A* holes and I know a true Prince when I see one! 

There is a danger however in spending your life living in fairytales. You can miss enjoying it and worst of all, miss being the leading lady for real. The truth is, fairytales are encapsulates of all our experiences; commonalities relevant to us all.  

A few weeks since I woke up abruptly realising I'd been Sleeping Beauty.  Working as a TA for 19 years was not dissimilar to 100 years sleep.  Wide awake now I'm aware that my talent for making someone's day and giving them insight is stranded through my life like a silver thread.  It shone out occasionally in the classroom but got so muffled.  It is difficult for people to forget your trans history.  For some I would always be what they thought I once was.  I grew to understand that tolerance was about a hundred million miles away from acceptance. As I grew disillusioned, I clung on to my job with my fingernails but also became a student again. I accepted less disposable income but began a process of winding my life back to where I could relive it as I needed to.

I love my fellow students. The first year of our Counselling Diploma course has given us all superpowers whether we chose to recognise it or not; the ability to read minds and reflect the contents back to others. I could use that power for good or evil, without a doubt. Whether I spend the next few years serving lattes to my world weary customers at 6.30 am or listening to their woes as a therapist, I will at least have (belatedly) woken up to using my superpowers for good as opposed to scarcely using them at all.

Becoming a counsellor and a barista are much the same thing.  They both involve extracting the bitterness and creating something worthy and uplifting in the here and now. Here's to a new grind and changing people's lives with coffee and unconditional positive regard.


Jane xx