Sunday, 29 May 2016

Self-Care and Being Sustained

I know I was going to post another couple of cis partner of a trans person posts but just to let you know at the moment they are on hold. I recently read the book of The Danish Girl, (which is very readable and quite different to the film) and for reasons I don’t quite get I found it a personally hard read in places.

That together with life being very, very busy at the moment means I am planning on pausing the series and posts on that topic. One of the important things for us all, whatever our situation, is knowing when we need to take a bit of self-care in order to be able to support others more fully. Sometimes it seems it's not possible but often it is….just by thinking about small things like do we need to alter our social media engagement for a short while or sometimes for a longer season.

At the moment I’m in a place where I need to learn to still my mind and let myself recharge in bites. I’m finding adult colouring so useful for this and a great way to pray. I find it hard to totally just stop but adult colouring enables you to still the mind whilst still doing something with your hands. The change of colours also, if I am using it as a prayer activity, allows me to pray for one thing (whilst colouring in that shade) and then move to another topic or theme when I swap the pencil.

Sometimes (infact quite often) I don’t finish my colouring in one go but that’s ok, I find in leaving the picture unfinished I am able to leave my prayer in a present continuous state.

I guess, ironically, that in seeking not to address the questions I was looking at I have actually jumped to question 3 “what sustains you?”

Well as you can see creative prayer is part of what sustains me. Besides colouring I find using music (secular or “Christian”) really useful in sustaining me. One of my favourite songs for using to come into God’s presence is Nirvana’s Come As You Are. My mind subverts the lyrics to let me know God is already here, but in prayer I choose to acknowledge coming into his presence and he invites me to do that just as I am.

I also find reading a great way to remove myself from whatever I am worrying about, stressing about. My favourite places to read are in coffee shops, gardens or beaches. In Birmingham I have discovered Winterbourne House and Garden……it’s a wonderful place with quite a nice tea room too. Grabbing a pot of earl grey and toasted tea cake, whilst escaping the world with a book is something I use to sustain myself and provide a touch of self-care.

I could go on but that would be counterproductive. I will be back on this topic and probably other random things in between but in the meantime go well.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

This is my body - C. Beardsley & M. O'Brien Ed's Reviewed

This is my body: Hearing the theology of transgender Christians edited by Christina Beardsley and Michelle O’Brien is a collection of contributions by people connected with the Christian trans group Sibyls.

The introduction to the book acknowledges the lack of voices from trans men and younger people. I think the lack of a voice from cis partners of trans people is also a loss in a book like this which is not exclusively trans, containing the voices of allies as well. It is not that young and f to m Christians don’t exist, rather I think they are more likely to access different networks (often for LGBTQ+ Christians now LGB Christian groups are becoming more welcoming to T members). Something touched upon in relation to secular f to m groups by the editors as they seek to give an explanation.

The book is a hybrid of academic articles and personal stories. This works to some extent, as does the decision to include all contributions to the stories, however brief. However, I do think that the disjuncture between academic or pseudo-academic articles and many of the stories is such that a book and a pamphlet would have been more helpful. Additionally a couple of the contributions are so brief one does wonder if it would have been more helpful not to include them if something more could not have been coaxed out of the writers.

The first main chapter by the editors talking about The Sybils Gender, Sexuality and Spirituality workshop was particularly strong. Within it there was interesting use of labelling theory and it’s bringing into focus of intersectionality. We all have a sexuality of some kind (even if that is not binary or is a sexual orientation linked to a lack of attraction) and a gender (again even if that is non-binary). This workshop seeks to look at how these factors intersect and how they further relate to our spirituality. The way people have responded to this workshop was also interesting to read.

The next chapter; Acting like a man-playing the woman: gender in performance which is solely authored by Beardsley uses historical analysis of theatre and performance in order to rebuff some of the assertions made by Oliver O’Donovan (a theologian whose work has put forward a range of unhelpful and incorrect notions regarding gender). This was one of the parts of the book which appealed to the social historian within me.

Jasmine Wooley put together a chapter on the social construct of gender which was useful in the way it explained the way that people’s understanding of being trans is often linked to their role as social actors. This is not to suggest that being trans is a choice, rather it highlights as the symbolic interactionists do the way in which we “perform” in relation to the “other” and form our identities around what is expected of us and the fears of what will happen if we deviate from that. Whilst the discussion around legislation was helpful and positive I was disappointed that the discussion of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act (2013) did not acknowledge the negative aspect of that legislation for trans people and their partners who are within a civil partnership. There was a really interesting short section towards the end of this chapter on the challenges presented by the medical model, I was disappointed this had not been slightly longer. However, the chapter covered a lot of ground.

Michelle O’Brien’s chapter on Intersex was particularly interesting and moving. It wove together personal testimony with research. This was the chapter I learnt most from.

This first part of the book for me was the strongest. The chapters became more academic as they moved onto the Theology and Trans chapters. Mercia McMahon sought to reflect on the way in which queer and feminist theologies can help in developing a trans theology. In doing this she also sought to think about how the untimely death of Althaus-Reed, a former professor of divinity in Edinburgh, put back the development of a trans theology. Whilst this chapter did do some useful thinking I think there was an issue in not bringing into play other liberation theologies such as womanism.

Beardsley put together a second solely authored chapter which engaged with the Church of England document “Some Issues in Human Sexuality”. It was a useful update of an earlier article and was interesting in that it gave some of the background to where the current discussions are coming from. This was followed by a chapter looking at a group discussion on the issues within the paper on Issues in Human Sexuality. It ended with some useful recommendations for churches.

Section Three was Scientific and Other Perspectives. This part of the book was the one which I found most difficult to engage with, particularly as a non-scientist. The first chapter by Terry Reed of GIRES was interesting and I was able to follow it. It dealt particularly well with non-binary identity.

Then came Chris Dowd’s chapter Five things cis folk don’t know about Trans folk because it isn’t on trashy TV – my right of reply. Chris is a  URC minister  and ally who came from a MCC background. This paper was based upon his PhD paper. Now, I have to admit a lot of my reaction to this chapter came from the persistent use of the word “folk” which annoys me. To me “folk” is a type of music and the only time I hear it used in relation to people is by Christians. Aside from that it is not a bad chapter which highlights the misconceptions many people have about trans people.

Susan Gilchrist’s paper sought to mix history, science and theology in what was essentially a psychology paper. As a non-scientist I found it overly academic and the least helpful chapter within the first part of this book.

The second part of the book, as I say contained personal stories. The historical ones of these were enjoyable and informative. It was interesting reading these to reflect upon how they were from a particular generation and I did wonder how they would contrast with younger people’s stories had they been in there.

Cross dressing was discussed and I think the most interesting and useful was a self-interview with Elaine Sommers.

The saddest chapter came from well-known trans activist Helen Belcher whose story told of her move to atheism, in part as a result of the awful treatment she had received from the church.

These stories were the most important part of the book to me in many ways because they highlighted what bad practice in the church can look like, as well as what better practice is like. The stories of partners were also touched upon, although as I say I think it would be useful for them to have been told by the partners themselves.

With regard to the contribution by allies I found them interesting and at points offensive. How, even in inverted commas the T word got into the book I have no idea. It would be like writing a piece about ethnicity and using the N word to talk about when you first met a black person.

So would I recommend the book? Yes, if you want to understand more about the experience about older trans people or if you want to explore some of the historical or theological issues involved. If you want a quicker and easier read that just tells you about somebody’s experience of being trans and Christian I would recommend Rachel Mann’s Dazzling Darkness.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Initial feelings of being a partner of a trans person

In doing the thinking out loud as I put together paper for the Twilight People Symposium on Trans and Faith last week I am aware it got a bit academic.

I want to see if I can put together some posts which might be a bit more useful for those people actually going through the journey too. I also want to eventually get to looking at this using some biblical material to help people of faith think it through that way.

In terms of doing this I am going to keep to the three questions that arise from Jake Lever’s excellent art work The Blue, The Gold and The Dim:

1.    What does your journey feel like?

2.    How has your journey been different to what you expected?

3.    What sustains you as you travel in your boat?

Today I’m going to look at what does your journey feel like? As I do this I need to explain we are now several years into the process of my husband’s transition. He has been through process of coming out, accessing the medical services, having his top surgery and is due to have his hysterectomy in the summer.

It’s been a scary journey, especially in the early stages. I didn’t really understand what was going on and was scared. I was scared about what the person I loved was saying. Even though I had identified before he said anything something of what was going on it messed with my head. I live in a world when it’s much easier to think in terms of the binary (i.e. male and female).

I was scared by how scared he was. There were a lot of tears and I knew he was really hurting inside. I also had an awareness that a lot of trans people end up taking their own lives and that scared me lots. I was worried that he wouldn’t make it through.

I was scared about how other people would react to him. He had talked about fears of being attacked and that got me really scared. As time went on that fear subsided but I was upset that he got aggro, especially one morning when he went to the loo in a coffee shop. This was overcome a bit when we worked out where had the gender neutral toilets and were able to plan things like where we did coffee around this.

I was scared that he would never understand how I felt about it. I was supportive but I was supportive because I saw it as being like a disability. The transition was about fixing something that had gone wrong. I know this annoyed him because he doesn’t see it like that, but it is the only way that I can understand it.

I was scared that because I was gay I wouldn’t be able to stay with him when he transitioned and if we did things would never be the same in the bedroom.

Then I was scared about the impact of surgery and if it would all go ok.

I was scared about how you talk about it and when.

I was scared that the church might reject us both and I was scared that his employers might not be great.

I was scared it might damage what felt like a fragile relationship with his parents.

There was a lot of fear around as you can see. But as my journey has gone on my journey, our journey, has felt a lot different to expected.

Where I expected him to face rejection by the church and work he has on the whole experienced love. That’s not to say there haven’t been people who have used the bible to be transphobic, but on the whole there has been love. People tend to be much more loving and understanding then we often give them credit for.

Where I expected our relationship to fall apart it nearly did, but we got through that largely by hugs. We found a way to talk about things….somehow…and we cried lots but we didn’t let this destroy us.

Where I expected him to fall apart he actually began to blossom. As he stopped repressing things he actually became a much happier person and that made life easier.

In terms of the reactions of others they weren’t as bad as expected and when he did get hassle we learnt how to handle it, as I say primarily by identifying the safe toilets.

We learnt to stop living in fear and to enjoy each day much more.

His parents did struggle and that was an interesting one. I listened and made sure I used the right pronouns as I affirmed I understood some of the things they were saying about how they felt.

One strategy I found really useful was to ensure we went out to eat when he had had a medical appointment. It was easier to talk about it over dinner because it was less likely to end up in an argument or misunderstanding. I guess in a public setting you just ask the questions you need to know like “how long?” “what next?” and so on. You both have to keep your emotions under control as you discuss scary things.

I found it useful to go clothes shopping with my husband and whilst he developed his style I was able to help discuss what I thought would work. This also helped me know his style so if I were shopping alone for him I would be more likely to get it right (e.g. at Christmas).

If I were putting forward a resource to help trans people and their partners I would put the following questions together as things to talk about:

1.    What are you scares you about your partner transitioning?

2.    Which of these things do you think you can control?

3.    Which of these are the really hard things you won’t be able to control?

4.    What relates to your partner and what relates to your feelings about yourself?

5.    Who do you know who it will be safe to talk about these fears with?

6.    How would I like my partner’s life to be if they are transitioning?

7.    How can I help them blossom whilst ensuring I don’t wither?

8.    How do I understand the process of transition?

9.    Is there any more information I need to get about what’s involved and if so where do I get that information?

10. Where my safe place is and what am I going to do when it all seems overwhelming?

At that point it will be useful to know of some support groups and good sources of information. Note the list is not exhaustive and I would suggest if there is a LGBT centre or organisation near you that you get hold of them in the first instance to find out about local groups:




DiverseChurch (for 18-30 year old Christians)


For Parents:


          DiverseChurch Parents (Group for Christian parents)

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Identity (Partners Story....A Narrative of Loss? 5)

This post is the one where I was going to look at how my journey has been different to how I expected it to be. It is the one which deals with my identity and how I see myself but before I get to that I need to get something off my chest.

There is a hidden body of work which I have come across this week, doing my research for the talk, which would have been so useful if I had come across it some time ago.

Some of it I have been able to access because I happen to have an academic email account, other parts have come through putting fragments of things together and coming up with gold.

One of the most important documents I have found is a 2012 thesis by Claire Jenkins whose PhD work was “Straddling the scalpel of identity: a critical study of transsexual transition in a familial context”. This was not found via your standard key word Google search. Rather I read a chapter in the Inclusive Church book Sexuality, (Cornwell, 2014) and the introduction to that chapter sent me on a search of the institution, topic and first name.

Then there is the wealth of useful stuff on Canadian professor Elspeth Brown’s website which specifically relates to the partners of Trans Men. It was there I found the link to Nicola R. Brown, "TheSexual Relationships of Sexual-Minority Women Partnered with Trans Men: AQualitative Study", Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol.39 No.2, 2010, pp.561-572. 

This latter article has helped me more than any other in working out how to describe my identity now & I only found it yesterday! Having another scan through Rachel Mann's excellent book Dazzling Darkness didn't hurt either.

Previous to the last 24 hours if asked to describe my relationship and identity I would have said that I was gay in a relationship beyond categorization.  However, I realized reading Brown’s article that whilst there are only a relatively small number of people in the same situation the relationship is not without categorization. It is simply a queer relationship.

Now I am of an age where I relate the word queer to slightly odd and I think that is one reason why I have been resistant. However, I think there has also been a huge desire to hold on to my own sexual orientation particularly as the law has not allowed me to (as I have had to move from civil partnership to marriage in order for my husband to be in a position where he can apply for his Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC)).

Yet, our relationship has been based on negotiation through the transition and a working together to ensure that the essential parts of our relationship which is based on far more than primary or secondary sex characteristics is not lost. If we adopt the word queer and say we are in a queer relationship it reflects the reality of what is going on, particularly as my husband is a man but one who is aware of the risks of genital reconstruction and so is not taking that route through transition.
The world may see it as straight and that is fine, (it is far easier than when my partner gets mis-gendered because they see two people of a similar height together) however, we know there is more than that going on. Embracing the word queer allows the whole situation to be embraced.

You might wonder why it has taken me so much time to get here…..well in part because somebody wise at the beginning of the journey said it was the loss of identity and issues around that which were most likely to see us not make it through. Thus it is an area I have sought at times to avoid really thinking about.

Having sat and thought it through though I think it helps that I am find intellectual attraction stronger than physical attraction and so the physical change has not been so difficult for me. Also the decisions regarding which surgery to have and not have my partner has made for safety reasons have also helped.

In terms of how you help people through the discussions and worries they have in this area it is a difficult one. This is an area where fear can be huge and where the worries of others are perhaps most likely to be voiced, (that was certainly my experience).

I think it is helpful to discuss the question but not in terms of “but you’re….. and how will that work now they’re……”

Sometimes it is easiest to let go of the labels and let people simply be people.

Monday, 2 May 2016

The Naming Cermony (The Partners Story....A Narrative of Loss?4)

As I write these blog posts I am aware that I am reflecting in part on my own experience but when I have done that, and perhaps in part through that I need to help be part of those people who produce resources for others navigating this journey.

Churches need to think through the challenges of providing pastoral care for the trans community and also their families and friends much more specifically. Whilst this is not new I believe it will become much more common, as it already has been. As already indicated in the posts that have preceded this I think the territory around naming ceremonies will be an increasingly important area for faith communities.

Naming ceremonies provide a specific set of challenges because they may have very different meanings for some of those present. As I have previously said whilst my husband viewed his naming ceremony as a celebration and recommitment I viewed it in many ways as a funeral. This was not easy for either of us and I am sure it was also not easy for the very understanding and skilled minister leading the occasion who was aware of the variety of feelings held by those in attendance at the evening service that night (which the naming ceremony occurred within).

To understand what the issues are for the partners, etc. one has to revisit the theme of loss. As I said in my last post what the type of loss experienced by the partner or family member/ close friend of the trans person is what Boss calls ambiguous loss. Within the classification system she uses I would argue that it is a variation on the two types of ambiguous loss discussed because there is a physical presence and element of psychological absence but the physical presence presents differently and requires a different set of language to be used to previously. The type of loss experienced is also similar yet different from that experienced during divorce or the realisation you are in an empty shell marriage for various reasons.

The similarities come in a range of forms which I found it useful to explore through the lense of Carol Lee’s Good Grief Experiencing Loss (1994) Forth Estate, London:

The first is the impact on the sense of identity (something I will discuss in more detail in the next post). Just as for the divorced person the sense of identity the partner has is often dependent upon their relationship with the trans person. They will have described their own identity in gendered terms often. The naming ceremony formally marks the end of their being able to describe their relationship in those terms.

For those who are giving pastoral care the person needs to be encouraged to see their identity in different terms ones which are not purely related to their partner.

Whilst I did not feel that there had been a deception I know many partners of trans people do feel this and this can be the second similarity. I think the extent to which this is the case often depends upon the age at which the trans person comes out. As my partner and I had been together a relatively short time in the scheme of things and he was quite young it was a very different situation to those who have been together decades face. Additionally, the coming out to me occurred when I realised something was being repressed. Therefore, I felt more sadness than deception. Many older people (particularly if their partners do come out when children have left home or they have retired) do feel similar feelings of deception to those who find out their partners have had an affair. This can also lead to a huge loss of trust. Thus, anger is an emotion often associated with the grief and those providing pastoral care need to recognise this. Allowing a separate opportunity prayer for healing and confession prior to the naming service may be useful to help the acknowledgement of some of these feelings.

What I think is an almost universal feeling amongst the partners of trans people is grief through the loss of knowledge of another person and the loss of the certainty of who the person is. This is where the greatest level of dissonance occurs and is something I believe is at the centre of the issues around the naming ceremony. It is another similarity with the experience of some divorced people.

The naming ceremony is a way to celebrate and allow the trans person to recommit themselves before God as they truly are. In doing this there is an implicit formal acknowledgement of who they are not. It is this “who they are not” that the partner initially got to know and fall in love with. It can be very difficult for the partner to get to the stage of feeling that those things were all secondary and the primary, ontological person remains the same. It is this final aspect which gets to the root of why I think it feels like a funeral service for the person who has been lost at the same time of being a celebration for the trans person of who they truly are. (For those interested in a liturgy for a naming ceremony Karl amended the one linked to from Nadiz Boltz-Weber for his)

I have come to best describe it as being the moment where the butterfly comes out of the chrysalis. The partner is morning the caterpillar who went into the chrysalis whilst the trans person is rejoicing in being the butterfly.

So how do we help people work with this? Well I think it is useful to help people acknowledge these feelings and – space to grieve needs to be built in.

There needs to be work to develop understanding between the trans person and others what those feelings are and for the trans person to give permission to allow others to give voice to their loss. One vicar in Lee’s research said, “within grieving there are creative processes at work, which are vital to healing.: ‘if we don’t grieve we don’t find that healing and we don’t repair ourselves” (p66). Using art and creative practices are useful here.
Karl and I have found it useful to have a money box with the very hungry caterpillar on placed next to the tv. It reminds us that he is now a beautiful butterfly whilst acknowledging he came from the caterpillar. For me it is a powerful symbol that whilst I may not understand what happens in the chrysalis what has emerged is more happy and beautiful.

Finally, again using Lee’s work on grieving I think it is important that in planning such ceremonies we understand context is everything. Whilst it will be useful to have authorised ceremonies in our service books (something I think we are sadly lacking), we will need to use these as liturgies with flexibility that can be amended to suit the individuals involved and their feelings. 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

A Partner's Story....The Narrative of Loss? 3

What does your journey feel like? That is the first question I suggest might be explored with the partners, relatives or others close to trans people, using Jake Lever’s work on spirituality as a tool for discussion.

My own answer would be one of loss, confusion and then a gradually emerging sense of contentment and happiness.

The more I read the clearer it becomes that feelings of loss for partners and others close to the trans person are normal. This has been something in preparing for next weeks paper that I have become even more aware of. Over the last week I have found it is something that support sites such as TG Pals identify. It is something that trans people writing their autobiographies have identified. A good example is Mark Rees 1996 autobiography which sets out something of the development of societies understanding of trans in the late 20th century through the telling of his own story. He talks, briefly on page 88 of the sense of loss his mother had. Then there is the academic work. The most useful I have found is that of Dr.Kristen Norwood who is based at Fontbonne University. Her work has included Grieving gender: Trans-identities, transition, and ambiguous loss. Communication Monographs, 80 (2013). Tina Livingstone’s work has also been useful.

The loss hasn’t felt simple. It involves what Norwood describes as ambiguous loss,(a theme she has developed from Dr. Pauline Boss). That is it is a complex feeling which is based upon situations where there are feelings of loss but the normal markers are not there. With those close to trans people Norwood notes that the cognitive struggle going on is because the trans person seems to be simultaneously there and not there, constant and changed.

This cognitive confusion is one which I can very much relate to. There was a clear cognitive dissonance between who my partner was saying he was and who I knew him to be.

We were lucky that within my overall life journey I have gained a knowledge of social theory. It gave myself and my husband a tool to use when we knew our meanings were so different we were struggling to come to anything like a shared understanding. Norwood talks of this failure to come to a shared meaning relational dialectics theory. Whilst that is a linguistic tool it seems to have some aspects in common with the symbolic interactionist and the post-modern theoretical models which my husband and I used. We used those sociological tools to identify (i) we were talking across each other and failing to find any kind of shared meaning, (ii) we were limited by the language we had and (iii) identity was not fixed but it was something core in terms of how we saw ourselves and saw others.

Now I know most people don’t have this kind of map easily available to them……but between the hugs, tears and screaming at each other it was what we found meant we could learn to communicate with each other.

So this raises the question…..where most people don’t have that level of cultural capital to fall back on how do we help them through this minefield where meanings aren’t and can’t be shared? I mean in the mist of a crisis Howard Becker and Foucault don't easily creep in to conversation. How do we help people find ways to communicate each other, sometimes about things we don’t even have adequate language for? I don’t know….but any suggestions would be helpfully received as I believe if we could find an answer to this one it would help so many people who are in relationship with trans people.

With regard to Boss’ work on ambiguous loss theory one thing she says on her website is one of the problematic features is there is “no mourning ritual” which is part of what allows one to say goodbye. Thus, the confusion is prolonged.

On my journey it did feel like I have that point of what could be regarded as a mourning ritual, although for all others involved it was intended to be an act of celebration.  This is what I am going to look at in my next post when I discuss the significance of the naming ceremony.
Also just a note to say the reason why I am putting so many blogs on the topic up so quickly is that the first paper/ presentation I am giving on this topic is going to be on Thursday at the trans and faith symposium. The blog posts, as I indicated, are part of how I am doing my thinking for this. They are also, perhaps, my attempt (however clumsy) at trying to contribute a little piece to the jigsaw which is people's wider understanding of trans people, their families and particularly their partners.  This is something a few people have been encouraging me to start thinking about doing of late.

A Partners Story.....A Narrative of Loss? 2

How do you even begin to have the conversations around being the partner or close relative of a trans person?

This question is hard enough because of the subject matter and the range of feelings that the partner or relative of the trans person might have but there are some things which make it even more difficult.

The first is that what the partner or relative is saying or wanting to say may conflict with the trans person’s understanding of themselves and of their support needs. The partner or relative may be struggling with the name or more often the pronouns. The articulation of their feelings of loss may also heighten feelings and fears of rejection in the trans person.

The second reason it is difficult and one of the things I found most difficult was what appeared to be the dominant view amongst medical professionals. My husband had several tell him that I would not hang around, especially after transition. This view of the professionals also makes things difficult because the partner is excluded from the medical conversations and so has to rely on second hand information from the partner (at best) or internet searching for information on where they are up to (at worst).

This dominant view is also problematic because it means trans can become the dominant factor medical professionals look at with regard to feelings of stress the partner may be experiencing. As an example when I went to the doctor with stress related issues which happened to coincide with my husband’s mastectomy the doctor was adamant I had unresolved issues around his transition. The subsequent counselling I underwent quickly dispelled this and made clear that I had no such issues, rather it was work related issues which were the root cause.

The third and final reason it is so hard is because of the attitudes of the wider trans community and particularly trans activists. There are many people who have had negative experiences and indeed it is those negative experiences which have resulted in the spousal veto….a painful part of legislation. However, the greater problem is that as identified earlier the partners of trans people and those closest to them have a different narrative to the one which the trans community is needing to put forward to the general public.

The trans community is needing to show that there is no choice and that the person is the same person, it was the previous gender marker and body presentation which was wrong. The narrative of loss which those closest feel disrupts and confuses this story. Thus when the partner or parents voice is heard it can, in the worst cases, be met by anger and formal complaints from trans activists….as with a recent anonymous letter from the parent of a trans person which was in the Guardian.

So how do we move forward? Well, obviously some of these things will need structural changes in attitude by professionals. However, other conversations can be started more easily and readily.

In thinking about how conversations can start in non-counselling settings work on spirituality gives us a good set of tools, particularly if we are in faith settings. Some of you may have seen Jake Lever’s work The Blue and The Dim and The Gold at Greenbelt a few years ago. It is a beautiful piece of art work which has a boat hidden within it. It has projected next to it a set of questions which ask people to reflect on their personal journeys through three questions:

1.    What does your journey feel like?

2.    Has the journey been different to what you expected?

3.    What sustains you as you travel in your boat?

When I saw it recently at Aston University as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations and I was thinking where do I start with the paper I’m giving I realised these questions may help us. Jake has kindly given me permission to use pictures of his work  within my presentation and so these are what I am going to be using to structure my paper.

Similarly giving people a set of pictures to choose from and structuring questions around these could help people articulate feelings that can be difficult, especially if you were looking at these topics in mixed groups of trans people and others seeking to develop understanding. They could then be used to allow other questions and conversations to develop.

The point is the conversations need to happen. In the next few posts I be using these three questions to reflect on my own experience and how this fits with the experience of others. The second question will specifically include the answer to how I see my own identity with regard to my own sexual orientation.

I will also be putting in a post in response to a question asked about how do you deal with the loss others may feel whilst trying to support the trans person as well.