Friday, January 6, 2017

Water Under the Bridge

It’s early January 2017 and it’s over five months post Pride, Manchester Pride that is.  Pride here is a four day event in late summer. It may feel like Midwinter right now but I find the aftermath of Pride is a little like January too.  The highlight of the year seems like the end of one Queer Year and the beginning of another, a watershed. The firework display which marks the end of Pride is like a noisy, glittering full stop. Thereafter all seems quiet and a little restless. As Autumn and Winter set in, it’s been been a time for reflection on the past and thinking about the future

Not far from where I live in New Islington is a steep little bridge across the Rochdale Canal. It lies  at the end of Henry Street. So much water has quite literally gone under that bridge this year and, metaphorically, in my life: Over 14 months ago I finally got married.  It had been a long time coming:  Transhistoried women can normally only dream of life changing events like that, so seldom do they occur  Growing up with hatred and censure doesn’t exactly stop your dreams of a big white wedding but it does limit your chances. That I found happiness and a fairytale ending was a miracle; a win on the Transgender Lottery and a dream come true. 

I’ve blogged so little since my big day and said almost nothing about the wedding itself. That needs to be a post on its own I think. All you need to know for now is that my marriage to Mart, my husband, was here in Manchester.  It took place in the beautiful Britannia Hotel on Portland Street.  My childhood dream had been to marry a Prince in a palace. Well, hopeless Teen Dream box ticked. The Britannia Hotel is copied from a Venetian Palazzo, Il Fondaco di Turchi. 

Getting married in Manchester where I first went to College was also a promise to myself and my husband. A promise that one day I would return to live here again. Like my wedding dreams, I seemed to have no hope of realising that promise.  Working as a Teaching Assistant in North Wales, I did not earn enough to return; apartment rents can run at over £1,200 a month. City dwelling comes at a price; too high a price. I needed an opportunity.

Opportunities are a much misunderstood concept.  I barely understood them myself for so long.  I had the impression that they required planning, strict control, a clear vision and single minded dedication.  With hindsight the truth is somewhat different.  Opportunities aren’t created, neither do they respond well to control. They are fragile, ephemeral, slippery things that shape shift if you try to seize them too tightly. Opportunities can be surfed and ridden and in doing so, they lose nothing of their power. They are thermals to soar and climb with but they require courage and a leap of faith to follow.

Earlier this year I was in a crisis.  Since January it had become clear that my job was making me ill.  Mounting work, non-replacement of staff and an employer who seemed no longer to care, lead me downhill mentally and physically. I found myself having more and more time off work.  In addition, education is an intensely difficult profession for a transhistoried woman to work in.  Transphobia abounds in spite of policies and directives to the contrary.  Colleagues abound who see being Trans as a lifestyle choice capable of corrupting young people.  Some made my life intensely miserable. I was tolerated by others.Tolerance however should never be mistaken for acceptance. Acceptance embraces you, tolerance endures you under sufferance.

I chose a career in education because it seemed the only opportunity I would ever have to nurture and support children.  They were my substitute family and I poured all my caring and compassion into what I did. When, against the odds, I got a family, motherhood and later, a husband, I still persisted in that career, doggedly adhering to a script I had written out years ago.  I had promised myself that one day I would break free and work for myself. It was all about ‘UNTIL’, I would stick where I was until I had enough money, time, expertise and will to exploit a different opportunity. The only compensation was being busy. In a job I hated, it made me feel important even if  undervalued.

A friend wrote: ‘Stop the glorification of busy’. I wondered what on earth she meant.  I know now. Like so many things we value it is only when you relinquish ‘busy’ that you start living. Busy has little time for others, for compassion, art or pleasure. Fitting too much into too small a space isn't clever. Beautiful things get squashed in the process. It occurred to me that it was time to dispense with the 98% of useless, busy activity and do the good stuff well. Busy people are not good at surfing opportunities.  Belatedly, I realised that opportunities were actually all around. What I needed was a way to let go, launch myself on them and fly 

In April this year, events forced me into action.  A number of things happened in rapid succession.  A workplace that should have supported me, chose o do the opposite. Otherwise intelligent, right minded and respected individuals can have huge blindspots when it comes to gender variance.  It is made worse when they employ you.  Sometimes you stand and fight for what is right.  In the past I have done that time out of mind.  In the present case, when I looked around, it occurred to me that there was little of value left to fight for. It seemed better to walk away. In the end it was so easy to do. 

I spoke of a number of things.  Walking away from my job gave me courage to revive old ideas; launching my own business, working creatively, downsizing, living on a boat, working with my partner and returning to the city I love.  So many play with ideas like these but never put them into practice. I had followed a friend’s blog about boat living and running a business. I looked on with envy. I surmised I would never have the opportunity. Yet, I have previously run a business, I know boats well, I have lived simply, I’ve downsized once before, I’ve worked with a partner, all in a former life. The opportunities were already there.

Cue the Empress; a tarot card with deep relevance to me and Giovanna my new Italian friend. I’ll talk about both in my next Blog post!

Huggs, Jane xx

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