poem: when you were only seven

we were kindred once

though we did not know how fragile

were the bonds that bound us then;

for you were only seven, and i was only ten,

 

and when we danced,

you would always spin too fast

and i would catch you then –

when you were only seven, and i was only ten

 

we built a castle and commanded

armies loyal to our cause

and we sang to knock the clouds across the heavens  –

when i was ten, and you were only seven

 

and fast you ran, to scare the fiery dragons

far away –  then you’d wish them back.

that fast again we’d play, but then –

you were only seven, and you would not be again

 

the years advanced upon our armies,

wiping them away – and though it broke your heart

i never heard you say, but you kept a peace and offered it to heaven

that somewhere, you would be forever seven

 

and heaven has you now, and tho its too far to see

the destroyers of  our armies could not take thee from me –

and one day we’ll play together once again.

like we did when you were seven, and i was ten.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s a Jungle Out There: Learning the Language of Danger (or, Don’t Dismiss ‘Feminine Intuition’) cn/tw

I’ve been reflecting recently, after meeting up again with an old friend, on how my perceptions of relationships have both evolved and changed: I first knew my friend when I was 18 and she was 3 or 4 years younger, and our families knew each other well. As it happened I was going out withan older member of her family, though it was a less than healthy relationship, for all sorts of reasons.

My then partner was abusive – but so were his friends. More than one or two of them, at one time or another, tried awkwardly, drunkenly or aggressively to shove their tongues down the back of my throat whilst trying to tune my breasts in to Radio Caroline by the magic of using my nipples for dials – and I was 18, and in an abusive relationship. Some nights, my nightmares were made of dozens of free floating hands.

It was a working class environment, but no, that doesn’t make domestic violence more likely. The violence, control or assault which comes from the more privileged social backgrounds just has a slightly different costume, and a mildly altered script. But [usually] LBTQIA/cis/BAME/disabled working class women are more likely to depend on social assistance from local government, to be able to extricate themselves from the violence. These were the women who were the core of my friendship group – they were hard working and house proud (rightfully so): they make sure the money stretches (less easy now), and get creative when need demands. Long before ‘upcycling’, LBTQIA/cis/BAME/disabled women knew how make the clothes, the furniture, or that old tub in the shed into something that felt like you had something new, and special.

The trope of the slovenly single parent on a council estate, given flesh via Thatcher’s hardening rhetoric in the ’80’s – and later ‘Little Britain’s’ grotesque cartoon of an over painted child in a pink tracksuit – jars in me, then as now. My family lived on a middle class suburban estate, very nuclear but my Dad’s lower management job was the first of the rungs of management to go in a number of large London-based corporations as they geared up for Thatchers first big privatisation push (so I had comparative but nevertheless very real privilege). But I had gone to a council estate Comprehensive school, and spent most of my early social life on that estate (a whole other story). And then spent the two years I was in that abusive relationship living on another- and I have to tell you (and if I do have to tell you, then considered yourself in receipt of a look), that every single one of those tropes about (usually working class) single mothers was, and is, a long, long way from the truth.

Whilst there weren’t less hands as I got older, I learned to navigate … all that stuff (insert gesticulating hands to indicate unwanted male attention) better. Okay, no, I didn’t: I just accepted I was happier and healthier learning not to be ashamed of being ‘the introverted one’** – so it would be more accurate to say that I’ve therefore spent less time in situations where …unwanted advances might be a possibility.

And no, that’s not the same thing as hiding. Though it is also true that even when you’re disabled, you’re not safer – in fact it’s more likely. A confident introvert doesn’t need to be a dichotomy.

But I also trust my instinct now, sometimes even before the evidence of my eye. My instinct is my instinct for reasons, and I don’t argue with it. If a person gives me certain vibes, that person and I aren’t likely to be developing any sort of relationship. And whilst I will own to being hyper vigilant (and chronically anxious), the reasons my instincts are my instincts, are because they learnt what I was slow to trust.

Contrary to what the patriarchal/masculine/western/christianised tropes will tell you, ‘instinct’ is nothing more or less than a subconscious learning of patterns of behaviour, the identification of trigger points, the body language, the tells – you know, those little signs of trouble; learning the language of danger, and of warning. It’s perfectly logical, and y’all loved Tim Roth doing it in Lie to Me.*** Memory is a muscle too.

There’s also the other face of the coin that comes with the extra vulnerability to coercive control, domestic violence and assault as a disabled woman – that we are simultaneously assumed to be sexless, absent of desire, and undesirable.  (And whilst I love my queer community – no, y’all are no more inclusive than able bodied communities a lot of the time, but that’s a whole other conversation).

So it’s no less a jungle now, than when I was 18, though I’ve through passed from Tropical Forest through to Tropical Savannah (and once, by accident, through a saltwater swamp, though this may be a slur upon saltwater swamps). Also, I’m not alone in sharing that whilst most predators are usually straight cis men, sometimes they are not****, so if you ever feel a bit Lost in a Scrub and Thornbush Savannah with that one I believe you.

* we used to call it ‘going out with’ when I was – well, younger. ‘Dating’ certainly wasn’t a term used within 20 parsecs of where I was spending my youth. I’m also apparently now of an age where I note these things. There’s probably no hope for me to be honest.

** I am the product of an introvert (who did a lot of pretending to be an extrovert) parent, and an extrovert parent, (they’re divorced, and happily so).  And it is possible for an extrovert parent to accept that no amount of cajoling is going to change said introverted child. 

***I once had a knock-down-drag-out with a friend who was one-of-those-screaming-misogynists-with-extra-mummy-issues (who thought of himself as a forward looking and progressive man – and yeah, I know), who insisted that ‘feminine intuition’ (grrrrr) was a nonsense, compared to the slightly dodgy, rather glossy pseudo science, that was the staple of Lie to Me’s 2(?) seasons – slightly dodgy, rather glossy pseudo science being apparently more acceptable than ‘feminine intuition’.  Because of course <insert rolling eye emoji>

**** Yes, women are capable of reproducing patriarchal violence.

 

 

Why the #Genderquake Debate Must Never Happen Again (cn)

I wonder if – at the meeting where the #Genderquake debate was first pitched – anyone took a moment to ask “will this meet the remit of the agreement we made to responsibly eradicate transphobia and represent trans people respectfully?” As far as quite a lot of the trans community are concerned today – and has already been noted by Trans Advocate – the answer to that question is no. Indeed it wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest that Channel 4 have harmed, perhaps beyond repair, the trust of one of our most marginalised communities.  What happens next will define if Tuesday night’s debacle was a turning point toward the end of unchecked transphobia in our media, or the start of an even greater saturation of it.

Everything that was wrong with the premise of the format was put on blast when – on national television – a small clique of white women hurled verbal transphobic abuse at a black trans woman. Producers then failed to remove those responsible for the verbal abuse, despite Munroe Bergdorf requesting that those who were abusing her be removed. Grown women were allowed to shout ‘you have a penis’ and ‘you’re a man’ at a trans woman. A last minute chastisement came from the host and chair of the programme, Cathy Newman, as the credits were about to roll – but by then it looked like the lip service it was to Channel 4’s commitment to “..ensuring that transgender people … are treated with the same respect as non-transgender people.”

It was probably the worst of it, but there were several points where the lazy journalism that propped up the ‘debate’ made it difficult for Munroe, Caitlyn Jenner, Jen Powell,  Kenny Jones and Ash Sarkar to address the tropes, myths and flat out lies that Germaine Greer and Sarah Ditum were able to drop-and-run into the ‘conversation’. The myth of the desistance rate of trans children wasn’t picked up on for example; Greer was allowed to get away with the anti-Semitic dog whistle claim that there’s a shadowy group of people making lots of money out of ‘transing’ people; and trans men were described as frustrated girls trying to become men as a ‘way out of their oppression’ – in front of a trans man. To put it bluntly, Cathy Newman had no authority in the room, and it showed.

This was particularly obvious almost mid way through the programme – Cathy Newman asked Germaine Greer about one of the many transphobic statements she has made. I’ll be honest: it came across as if the first part of the debate was set up to lead to that moment – Greer’s rampant transphobia exposed on live television, and a defence demanded.

First, and despite her (frankly half-arsed) denial, yes: Greer really did say ‘lopping your dick off and wearing a dress doesn’t make you a woman’.  I for one, certainly think we can respect an 80 year old woman enough to hold her responsible for what she said when she was 76. Greer has a long history of vocally demonising trans people, and most often trans women:

“On the day that The Female Eunuch was issued in America, a person in flapping draperies rushed up to me and grabbed my hand. ‘Thank you so much for all you’ve done for us girls!’ I smirked and nodded and stepped backwards, trying to extricate my hand from the enormous, knuckly, hairy, be-ringed paw that clutched it… Against the bony ribs that could be counted through its flimsy scarf dress swung a polished steel women’s liberation emblem. I should have said, ‘You’re a man. The Female Eunuch has done less than nothing for you. Piss off.’ The transvestite [sic] held me in a rapist’s grip.” – Germaine Greer in The Independent: ‘On why sex change is a lie’, 22nd July 1989

But I digress.

I would imagine – given Greer’s track record – that the production team hadn’t factored in Greer attempting to deny that she had said what she had, in fact, said. It would have been helpful if Cathy Newman included the fact of when Greer had said it, but that’s perhaps the wisdom of hindsight: it gave Greer the opportunity of a poor denial, and the ‘gotcha’ moment that Newman and Channel 4 were clearly expecting slipped out of their grasp, along with any vestige of authority Newman might have had – the heckling of Munroe Bergdorf came in the wake of that.

Were the audience encouraged to heckle (or ‘interact’)? I would imagine – it was a live television event, and audiences listening to the panel respectfully wasn’t going to make for dramatic tension. Or viewing figures.

But the failure to own the goal that the C4 team were likely expecting to score exacerbated a situation which led to a black trans woman being verbally abused by a white woman, on live television – a situation which had been made likely enough already, due to the format of the show, and it was obvious how difficult, uncomfortable and frightening it must have become for the trans and non-binary panellists’.

Were women silenced on Tuesday night? You betcha. But it wasn’t the women who were shouting about penis’ who were silenced. It’s the trans girls, (and trans boys, and non binary children), and trans women (and trans men and non binary people) who were too frightened to come out before that programme aired, and for whom there will be precious little evidence that its safe to come out now: who heard Sarah Ditum make false claims of high desistance rates among trans children (again), and heard her (again) compare trans women and girls to violent predatory males, something which she does any time she’s given a platform to do so.

Channel 4 owe the trans community an apology, because it allowed trans people to be verbally abused and did nothing to stop it; and it owes them more than that – it owes them a renewed, and thorough, re-commitment to the promises that they so spectacularly failed to keep to on Tuesday night.

 

  • Eliminating transphobia in the media
  • Ending the provision of misinformation about transgender people in the media
  • Increasing positive, well informed representations of transgender people in the media
  • Ensuring that transgender people working in or with the media are treated with the same respect as non-transgender people in equivalent positions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to My Sisters and Comrades in the Labour Party: We Must Have ZERO Tolerance For Transphobia.

Dear Sisters

The years of Tory Austerity have been hard on us, and as our election manifesto in June made clear, it is our BAME, LBTQIAA, working class, single parent, disabled, older and refugee sisters, who have borne the worst of the ferocity of that fiscal ideology.  The body count we can barley comprehend – in domestic abuse victims who might have got out sooner, had there been enough refuges – and their children, whose lives have yet to bear the bitter fruit of abuse; in disabled women and WASPI women whose bodies have been worked to within inches of their graves; in refugee women and asylum seekers, criminalised without trial and locked into a brutal prison-like system such as we see at Yarls Wood; in our LBTQI youth, in their homelessness and isolation.

These are just some of those who desperately need an end to Tory austerity, its patronising lip service to feminism. Poverty is sexist, and the Tory party declared war on the poor a long time ago.

We desperately need refuges so that victims of domestic violence can get away from fatal violence safely. We urgently need a properly resourced, properly funded NHS to address issues like the lack of resources for people with chronic illness’ such as MeCFS, Fibromyalgia and Lupus, which disproportionately affect women – and pre and post natal care that leaves those with post-natal depression so isolated. Womens’ basic, simple needs are actively being removed, leaving an ever growing list of need and damage in its wake.

We need humane responses for women refugees; we need to tackle the sexism and abelism that is systemic in our responses to disabled women and the financial poverty that is killing them.  We need to respond to the sexism and homophobia that LBT girls face, and talk about why the suicide rate for teenage girls is up. WASPI women deserve and need pension equality.

For women vulnerable for infinite reasons, and suffering much of the worst austerity has to offer, there is already so much work to be done, to roll back the damage and the violence of Tory policies. And yes, many of those women, who need some of these things too, and more, are trans.

Some of us believe that proposed amendments to the GRA – which would make the process of self-identification easier for trans people – is bad for women. So virulently do some believe this, that trans inclusivity is leading to a small but vocal minority among us, to go so far as to leave the Labour Party and work with more Conservative/conservative politicians to prevent those amendments going through, and to encourage the same from other women. Previous alliances with conservative press saw a barrage of anti-trans hit pieces in the Times and the Daily Mail.

Maybe you have never had to consider the needs of a trans person – or never needed to think about it. Maybe you look at these ‘identity’ wars and think that it has no bearing on everyday life. Perhaps even, hopefully, you see the active inclusivity of trans people that the Labour Party is modelling (often imperfectly, and we must be prepared to own to those times), is simply the humane, socialist, obvious thing to do.

Or maybe you really do believe that we should pathologize and ‘other’ trans people; maybe you really do believe a ‘trans cult’ is ‘transing our children’, and believe trans children should be subject to conversion therapy, to ‘re-train’ them to a more hetronormative identity.  But do you really believe that so much, that you would be willing to actively prevent women from having a government that would seek to redress some of the very great harm that Tory austerity has done us? Just because some of those sisters helped out of poverty are trans?

I am sorry to see that some think just that – so strongly, even, that they would advocate working with those whose political ideology is actively harmful to women.  What price then, that hate?

Let us always stand in solidarity with each other: cis or trans gendered, Black, brown, white, Muslim, Christian, atheist, gender non-conforming, gender fluid – we are varied, we are limitless, and we are women: and we are always much stronger in solidarity together, than we are apart.

Let us always have zero tolerance for all forms of hate, and reject any narrative that would demand us be afraid of some of our sisters.

We have more that unites us, and we are for the many, and not the few.

Thank you.

 

 

Poem: cister, sister

You say hello to someone

and they say hello to you

You ask them what their name is

– and they tell you.

Why do you shake your head and say

“No I refuse to use that name,

I think I have a better name for you”.

 

Excuse me whilst I say this

But that’s really very rude,

for I’m sure that you would much dislike

the same thing done to you.

 

 

Now captors language you do speak

and most often too, repeat

when you justify the right

to segregate these ones from you –

“separate but equal” is fake news;

why choose you, now, to disbelieve

that this indeed, was always true?

 

It has always been identity –

seeking dominance and primacy –

that drove us, as it drives us

to the depths of cruel brutality,

White toxic patriarchy with which

we sought equality;

and now the captors tools are gripped,

tight gripped by both our hands –

this is not where we should be,

or where truth stands.

 

Though you would have some of

my sisters be transgressing nasty misters

and some brothers be

some poor unthinking fools to be relieved –

 

I’ll not keep my hand

where this harm be left to stand,

nor seek to keep

that separate state

we seek to leave;

 

No, saviour I am not

and will not be,

but liberations’ maiden I’ll embrace –

and fear not to speak loves name

or show God’s grace.

 

 

 

Rejecting the Narrative of Fear In Trans Exclusionary Feminism And Christianity

Because the woman that I am is, amongst other things, a Christian, a feminist, a socialist, and bi (for all of those things play a part in making me the woman that I am), and because I am also very well aware of the wealth of information there is to support the lived experiences of trans people, I have no doubt at all that trans women are women, and that trans men are men. I believe them.

This acceptance is not universal in feminism – or Christianity; and as the pace of change in the improvements of trans peoples rights seeks to push forward, the old maxims about equal and opposite reactions ring true with conservative mainstream media outlets (as well as the more ‘liberal’), offering national platforms to feminists whose praxis is trans exclusionary.

This is about domination.

Trans exclusionary praxis seeks the right to debate trans peoples existence, because this is about domination within community; a forced debate in order that trans women are excluded and trans men are reclaimed en masse as butch lesbians, even if there is no consent from trans men for that. It is by definition therefore, about existence – because life becomes (or is maintained as) merely existence if you cannot, are prevented from, and actively oppressed from, articulating your identity.

That is not what liberation looks like.

That is what makes white supremacy so dangerous, because it is about the domination of identity. And in seeking a similar domination of (cis normative) identity, this wound we repeatedly inflict on trans people (and ourselves, though that is less the point) is, by definition, violence. Part of the praxis of white supremacy is that it, too, is trans exclusionary.

This is not what justice looks like.

Trans children are depicted as in thrall to a cult, their naked bodies used without consent in pursuit of that narrative. Crude caricatures of bearded men in floral frilly dresses are spun into the narrative – to describe other women in clearly derisory terms, as part of the dismissal of trans women’s identity as women, or to populate fearful, direful tales describing terrifying scenario’s, each more frightening than the last.  How do cries for the right to consent to what happens to our bodies, become warped into the justifying of the commodification of children’s bodies, and the assumption that our children’s sexualities are ours to decide?

This goes beyond a difference of opinion. For fear is to do with punishment: we punish children whose bodies and realities transgress some arbitrary norm. Conversion therapy becomes an acceptable option because our children frighten us, and fear is also to do with control. Trans men who refuse an identity they do not want are punished with banishment to a purgatory ‘non-state’; trans women who refuse to be labelled delusional are punished endlessly, with some feminists spending their entire energies on seeking them out to actively deride them, in accordance with the very standards of ‘femaleness’ that they have rejected for themselves. Because that which seeks to dominate, seeks to control.

When the foundation on which patriarchy was laid – (that females made the babies and must therefore be controlled) – is being defended, in order to exclude trans people, I wonder what people think liberation looks like. When non-conformists become heretics, and the pious claim dissenters will lead you from the one pure truth that will save you – claiming ‘it is the other guy’  keeps us all in a weary, endless dance, where the melody of freedom is replaced with discordant notes that sing of the lure of dominant jubilation.

Liberation doesn’t stand ready with a padlock and key, waiting to shut the door on those who haven’t made the list – a list which protects the conservative,  for the appeasement of the status quo and in service of the already powerful.

When you are looking at a trans person, what are you seeing? Another human being? Or are you thinking about those caricatures, gross in their dripping pathologizing grimness, urging you to mock – or urging you to fear? When the fears that trauma left you with are leveraged, to verbally portray trans women with same urge of exaggeration that is seen in anti-semitic and racist imagery we once thought part of our past – are we using real trauma to justify the blood lust that such narratives tempt? Should feminism becomes another prop that keeps the gates up – or the means by which we tear down the gates? Is equality only defined in terms of equal ownership to the keys to the gates? Because do not forget, those gates are the means by which we are kept shut in, as well the means by which we shut others, out.

Fear is to do with punishment. Liberation is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem: I Know Thee, Fear

I know thee, Fear

 

You that stalks my halls like the sweetest of traitors

keeping me from my king,

(with most earnest and well meant intention) –

yet you look at me, as if offended that I should speak mention;

 

as if I forget myself,

as if I have broken some pact or some treaty

I did not sign;

am I supposed to be quiet? but I am too tired

not to speak.

 

Maybe I am incomplete

not yet, or not enough or weak

do not speak of days when I have not praise

but bitter tears

 

Yes, I am not brave.

 

But there are days

when I know that even though

I am the helpless fish

in your coarse hands

 

you will sometime grip too tightly

and I will slip

quickly, quietly –

– oh let this stream swift carry me away!

 

I know thee, Fear

 

though I would have you

be a stranger to me.

 

Poem: We Are The Bodies That Tell – a poem for #CripTheVoteUK

We are the bodies that tell

Of the lies to us all you would sell;

We are the price, we are told,

Both hostage and ransom

The flesh and the blood,

Yet silence can never be bought, or be sold.

We are the bodies that speak

No matter how seemingly lowly or weak

you perceive, or have beaten us down to become

Our stories are many

And often unsung

Of our dead, we count and sing out, every one.

We are the bodies that value

What truly cannot be bought;

We are the bodies that love and support,

Creating and giving, reaching

stretching, though never quite meeting the end,

Yet still with the strength to stand up, and defend.

We are the bodies that tell

Of a far better truth than the lie you would sell;

We’re not the blame, or the shame, or the guilty –

We’re the flesh and the blood that pay for austerity,

And we’ll give voice even when we cant sing,

We are the bodies, no matter how broken, that never ever give in.

 

Deep Fried Mars Bars Pt 4: The Strangers in My Head [CN/TW]

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:10 (NIV)

This post discusses intrusive thoughts associated with PTSD. Intrusive thoughts are also associated with other mental health issues including (but not limited to) OCD,  Body Dysmorphic Disorder, depression and ADHD.  

It has been a really difficult couple of weeks dealing with a bombardment of Intrusive thoughts.  It started a couple of weekends ago at work – a comment made by a customer on the telephone: a nasty, unnecessary comment which maybe some people would be able to ignore, and which I don’t doubt some people would excuse or justify in some way.

It was enough though. More than enough, and it is only in the last day or so that the severity of them has started to lessen again.

It is hard to describe what it’s like. The best analogy I have found so far is that it is like waking up in the morning to find a stranger in your kitchen, offering you a cup of coffee and an image of some appalling awful thing happening to someone you love. Worse, this stranger is telling you that this awful thing is something you are going to do. (No, it does not help to know that you would never do it).

Then you find another stranger in your bathroom, and this one offers a different image of something really horrible, being done to you by someone you love.  (And no, it doesn’t help to know that the person you love would never ever do such a thing).

And as you walk around your home you find that your house is full of strangers, all offering up different grotesque, vile images until there is nowhere you can go; even closing your eyes and pulling the duvet up over your head does nothing except make you feel totally alone with all these strangers, who seem to really really want these awful things to happen, because they wont shut up about it.

Those strangers steal everything: energy, emotion, sense of self, feeling, words – until inevitably, you break down, melt down, screaming and crying in a desperate effort to purge yourself of these … well, for want of a better word, demons running around your head and your house wreaking havoc.

Which, of course, doesn’t work, and all the demons are still sat around your table, eating your food, making a mess and plastering those horrid images everywhere you look.

******************************************************************************

Those images – all of them, every single last one of them – are lies. Black, twisted ugly lies whose power is rooted, not in their falsehood, but in the veneer of truth that they steal from the past trauma(s) which have given birth to them.  These lies are not just meant to rob me of life, and of love: they are meant to steal those things away from the ones I love too.

For if I were to believe those lies, (and sometimes it is very hard not to), then I would tell my children I could not be their mother. I would tell my family I could not be their daughter, sister, niece, aunt. I would tell my friends that I was no good for them, I would tell my lovers that I am bad and a waste of time. I would live my life in hiding – and in fear.

I would (and sometimes have) push my friends, my family and my lovers, as far from myself as I possibly could, because the single biggest lie those intrusive thoughts tell me is that pushing them away from me is the only way to protect them.

But of course, by pushing them away, I am doing the very opposite of protecting them.

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Some days, most days, faith is all there is: not even religious faith – just a basic, hanging-by-a-thread-faith, that somehow, one day, or one little step at a time, there will be one less screeching demon with its vile images running around my head tomorrow.

Music helps – if music be the food of love, the play on (and on, and on please). Books don’t help (I love to read but simply can’t focus), but writing can – not poetry though: I need a quiet head for that. Increasingly, looking at paintings and photography helps. Anything really, that takes me out of my own head and takes focus off the thoughts and images that so belittle and undermine me.

Anything that stops me being so afraid to love.

Christmas reflection: In the Bleak Midwinter

It always seems just that little more unjust when a terrible tragedy occurs near to Christmas; it seems to bite that little bit deeper that when – as we are being told that this is the season to be jolly, to gather with our family and friends and give thanks – some sorrow dims the bright colourful lights we surround ourselves with.

Any day that a loved done is ripped from us unjustly, prematurely – is  a day that is burnt in to the heart like a brand, whether it is a bright summers day with the skylarks dipping in and out of the blue skies and summer bugs; or a grey midwinter whose only previous duty had been to provide at least enough daylight to get the chores of the day done.

But the enticing presents we are encouraged to buy, that extra rich food we want to treat ourselves and our loved ones to, the constant reminder that this is the time we give special thought to those dearest to us – this is also the season that for those whose grief is fresh and raw; those whose hearts are still heavy with a grief they cannot shake; those whose lives are left discarded and forgotten.. these enticing gifts, colourful lights and glittering decorations serve to throw light on the deepest and darkest of sorrows.

When the days are too short, too cold, too dark, too forgotten we may out of guilt cast a glance in their direction, perhaps given a donation or two, and tell ourselves that – for another year – we have done our duty and given thought enough. But then we forget again – we forget that even the warmest day wont make the cardboard box any more comfortable for the homeless person. We forget that the grief of losing a child does not cut less deeply when the decorations have been put away for another year. We try not to remember that poverty, loneliness, illness’, isolation, exclusion, oppression and violence don’t melt away with the ice in the bottom of the drink at the party.

Winter has always been a time of hibernation, a time of death: the days are too short, the wind bites the cheeks and we reach for the light. But in our reaching – for hope, for even the merest flicker of the slightest flame – for the promise of the renewal that will follow, eventually, we grasp only long enough to warm ourselves against it enough to tide us over. We don’t think to pick up the light and carry it – carefully, thoughtfully, generously – so that others can share in its comfort.

Instead we put it down again, or pack it away with that present you don’t really like from the relative you tolerate for the sake of a quiet life.

The Christ child is born – but for the mother who has just miscarried the longed for child, the sight of such a precious and vulnerable blessing may resemble not happiness but grief.

The Christ child is given – but for the homeless person who sees the bright lights coming from the church at night and knows they would not be welcome, there is no generous joy.

The Christ child is incarnate – but for the trans woman who is treated with disdain and suspicion because how she presents her body is viewed with enmity,  there is only a hollow story that serves her only ill.

Sometimes our human hands hold that tender light too roughly – sometimes we even expend a lot of time and energy into stamping out the spark.

And yet the Christ child is born, the Christ child is given, the Christ child is incarnate: the slightest flicker of a flame, a barely smouldering wick, the slenderest and most vulnerable spark, here for the oppressed, the captives, the prisoners, the weak, the sick; those considered the very least by men, yet raised to speak truth to those same men by God.

In the bleak midwinter, keep tenderly the light

And may the peace of Christs Mass, be with you on this night.