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“And so each venture is a new beginning …”

T S Eliot, throughout his ‘Four Quartets’ has some pretty deep things to say about experience as a sentient being within time, and many of them can only be grasped when the rational part of the mind is allowed to give way to the visual, imaginative capacity we all have somewhere within us.

Gender transition can make good use of those same qualities – in fact they are probably essential if we are to release the authentic expression of self that incongruence stifles. (The World Health Organisation are now supporting the use of the word “incongruence” instead of “dysphoria” with its medical associations, to reflect the reality that for most transgender people, the social aspect of transition is in itself a new beginning)

Not before time. With opposition and backlash still distressingly and dangerously common, there is much yet to do in normalising the notion that not fitting into a binary concept of gender presentation is nothing to really get worked up about.

As a trainee minister in the Church of England I have been fortunate to have had very little apparent negative response, but as well as some physical advantages (hairless limbs and being relatively short) I was also blessed with the ability and willingness to ‘blend’ in many different environments throughout an amazingly varied and mostly fulfilling working life. A healthy sense of humour has helped hugely.

I also find myself to be naturally relaxed about how others see me, and almost a decade into being ‘the real me’ it is more often the case that I don’t even mention what I still suppose must be obvious.

In fact, it amazes me that this is frequently and genuinely not the case. Even if it is (or becomes) apparent, I can relish some very interesting conversations.

Shortly after joining a church a few years ago, I was sitting in the congregation with one of a small group who had been particularly welcoming. Things went something like this.

“Ashley – what sort of cancer did you have?”

“Well, Tracy – before I can tell you that, I need to tell you something else.” (I had prostate cancer.) “Actually, Ashley, I don’t think you do need to say anything else.”

Another very recent example was chatting to another attendee at a lecture on feminism, when I was asked …

“We have all been on a journey to arrive at our perspectives … [pause] … might I be right in thinking you have been on two journeys?”

That the paths those journeys have involved following now seem to be meeting, just in time for me to start service through ministry and thus expressing myself in the distinctive way God always invited me to discover and discern, life again has all the qualities of a ‘new beginning’. I look forward to many more.


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