Oh dear. When dinner parties and activism collide….
I think there are three strands to this story.
Over there is a thin strand, the one that has to do with the life I had before I transitioned; it contains people whom I knew socially, the sort you count as ‘friends’ in the sense that you’re always meeting them at other people’s houses and pubs and parties. These are the people I walked away from, because they didn’t really want to come with me where I was going.
Right here is my very own ‘me’ strand, a bit ragged in places but fairly strong these days, bimbling along in a generally muddled but optimistic sort of way, and, in the case of Thursday evening, driving down Gloucester Road having just picked young Katie up from her friend’s house. It had been a long day and I’d done Useful Stuff with it. So I figured I’d get a bottle of wine.
The new Sainsbury’s Central was full of students, and its shelves were stacked with things that students like. Red wine and Chinese ready meals and fizzy cider and oven chips and stuff. I grabbed a bottle of wine and took my place in the checkout queue behind the girl who had been installed in the queue while her friends went and collected their purchases before joining her in the queue. I tried not to be irritated at their modern ways.
Someone I used to know long ago appeared, and we both did double takes and then said hello and so on. I was being cautious because we’d once had a difference of opinion about the levels of fidelity and honesty needed in relationships, and I’d told someone something I thought they should know, and that had really annoyed some people and especially her… I was also being cautious because the last time we’d met was in Waitrose, not long after my Employment Tribunal, and she’d asked about it. Questions like, “Did you go looking like that?” -as in, you know, dressed like a woman.
These are the sort of reasons that I am cautious about connecting with people from my past.
On the other hand, I noticed that she had embraced change and modern ways herself, to the extent that she had installed her daughter in the queue ahead of the girl in front of me, while she had gone to get her shopping.
So I advanced to join her. And we chatted until we parted, she to the self-service till and me to the cashier.
So that was useful, anyway.
Those two strands met on another occasion last week, because I’d been invited to dinner by someone whom I’ve only known a short while, but who has friends who are either connected with or part of that group of people in the first strand. It was a really fraught evening, because I was constantly misgendered throughout the evening.
This is not the sort of thing that happens to me usually, with new acquaintances. I guess that part of the reason it happened on this occasion is that the people in Strand 1 have constructed a model of me that they are happy with, and don’t feel the need to wonder if it is the right or best model. After all, it suits them. They are nice, middle class, professional types. The sort of people I would once have expected to be intelligent and liberal, before I got to know any nice middle class professional people. I guess I was a bit of a hippy meliorist, let’s face it.
Anyway, it didn’t seem like the sort of occasion to make a big thing about it, so I said nothing and consoled myself with the thought that the evening would end and then I could go home and be much more careful about accepting invitations in future.
Oh yes, I said there were three strands to this story.
Because I was at the dinner party, I couldn’t get to a meeting of the Bristol LGB Forum, where they were going to discuss and vote on the inclusion of T in the forum.
That’s the third strand. The political stuff. Because sometimes just being yourself can be a political act. Not necessarily because you want it that way, but sometimes because other people make it that way.
It’s a bit of a hot potato, this business of the relationship between T and LGB. (Sorry, if you don’t know, that’s T as in Transgender and LGB as in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual). And it’s especially hot at the moment, because of Stonewall acting a bit silly over a few things. I’ve talked about them over on my old blog, most recently here. Stonewall are insistent that ‘there ain’t no T in the LGB’ and that they are specifically an LGB pressure group. This is fair enough, up to a point. But they then demonstrate their cluelessness about T issues by nominating a journalist for an award despite their partner organisation, Stonewall Scotland, identifying his writing as an example of transphobia. And distributing a DVD to schools which apparently condones the use of ‘tranny’ as a description of trans people. And then they talk to government departments in an advisory capacity on trans issues.
All a bit annoying, really. It’s a moot point as to whether they’re being mischievous or daft. But they make me more convinced that there should be a T in LGB. Not least because I really think that we have many common causes, and are natural allies. But also, in some cases, because I think that you should keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
Which is more important and interesting than talking about property prices over pudding.