Saturday, 25 October 2014

Greenbelt Short talk: How To Be Trans

In case you missed this short video, 'How To Be Trans':

I suspect I 'get away' with the two 'poems' on offer here. 'Get away' because they both need a lot of work to get them to be where I want them (as 'page poems')  especially the first. 'Checklist for a Trans Person Entering Church' might yet work as a list poem, but I haven't had the energy to do anything with it since GB. 'Coming Out' is now significantly different, especially the closing section (Though every part has been sharpened up and shaped). I think that what matters about these pieces as you find them here is the rhetorical force rather than the craft. Performance is an odd thing. Jean Sprackland said to me recently that sometimes we might need different versions of the same poem for different settings. At GB I felt like I had a particular point about trans and church, so maybe these words aren't too bad.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Health Update: Not Defeated Yet!

I don’t usually use this blog for health updates, but this seemed the simplest, quickest way to tell the many kind friends and supporters who’ve asked about where things are up to. I’ll try and keep it brief!

On Friday 17th October I went to Manchester Royal Infirmary for an attempt to dilate a narrowed section of my ileum. As many of you will know I have Crohn’s and that led to the removal of my large intestine/colon in 2008 and the formation of a permanent ileostomy. Ongoing active Crohn’s has led to further damage in my remaining bowel, including a 15cm long severe stricture about 80cm proximal to my ileostomy. The stricture is c. 5mm wide which leads to pain and discomfort. My hope was that by stretching the bowel some relief might be had and I could get back to a more normal approach to eating. (Running alongside this plan has been an increase in the drug regimes that I’m on in the hope that my active Crohn’s Disease would be brought under control.)

I went to hospital with what I would call 'measured hope'. My consultant, Dr Rob Willerts is a regionally and nationally respected specialist and the one chap in the North West who combines the endoscopic skills and, more importantly, judgment to decide 'to dilate or not dilate' a stricture. If anyone was going to deal with the challenges, well, he’s the man. But I also knew that this procedure was exploratory – until the scope was inside the bowel, no one could be sure about the precise state of the stricture/s. Crucially, a balloon dilatation would only happen if they comprised scar tissue rather than active, ulcerating Crohn’s.

Alas, things have not gone quite as I’d hoped. When Rob and his team got to the stricture it was clear that the narrowing is full of active Crohn’s. As he explained afterwards, as soon as the scope touched the stricture it bled. That, however, is not the worst of it.

Rob did manage to get the scope through the stricture to take a look further up. Sadly there is further ulceration behind the stricture and it looks nasty, circumferential and active. At this point the team decided to end the procedure. It was not realistic to dilate the multiple problems.

In addition, there may be some Upper G.I. issues – apparently my scans show the possibility of a narrowing in the duodenal area. This is, of course, a wee bit worrying.

Where does this leave me? Well, it is a bit deflating. Despite being on high doses of advanced treatments for Crohn’s the disease has not been brought under control. It’s a reminder that my Crohn’s is of a complex variety.

I will be sent back to my team at Salford Royal and the hope is that the increase in some of my drugs will – over time – bring the active disease under control. There is a new Crohn’s drug Vedolizumab now coming on-line and that might be worth exploring. Obviously, drug treatments bring with them constant issues about side-effects, but I’ve been dealing with these for years and I’ve not been defeated yet! There is, of course, the shadow of surgery as well, but – given the fact that my previous, extensive adventures under the knife make that the very last resort – that will need to be considered with a calm and measured mind.

Those of you who know me best know that I am not easily deflated or knocked-back. I continue to try to be sensible with my energies and resources and, more often than not, end up acting like an idiot. I shall attempt to process this new info with sense and prayerful discernment. God, in my experience, is incredibly gracious and good, even in the midst of (quite literally) shit. I remain hopeful of a way ahead that is life-giving and flourishing.

I remain so energized by the opportunities ministry, the arts and, well, life throw my way. I actually believe that God is often most creative in the midst of the most troubling challenges life can throw at us. Until such time as I cannot, I shall just keep on keeping on. And in the meantime 'good news' will emerge, good news that is not predicated on some childish and easy myth of what 'good health' looks like. 

Thank you for all your love, good vibes/prayers/crossed fingers/etc and support. It means so much. You’re wonderful. xx

Saturday, 11 October 2014

National 'Coming Out' Day

Perhaps ‘Coming Out’ shouldn’t matter. Perhaps we should live in a world where saying one is LGBT* is no more significant than saying one is ‘coming out’ as straight. But it does matter because we still live in a heteronormative world, especially in the church.

Yesterday I spoke at an Inter-Diocesan ‘Mental Health’ Day. I welcomed the opportunity to help people reflect on how both Church and Society can be places which have deleterious effects on the well-being of LGBT folk. Sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, the Church creates environments in which LGBT people are encouraged to stay so far in the closet they’re stuck in a Narnia where Christmas never comes.

Being able to be safely congruent with friends, neighbours and society is one of the ways human flourishing works. This is one of the reasons why ‘coming out’ matters. And if you think there is too much ‘look at me’ in ‘coming out’ stories I invite you to take a good look at yourself. Heterosexuality and heteronormativity have their own ‘coming out’ narratives and we are expected to celebrate them. We call them things like ‘getting engaged’ and ‘getting marriage’. And, yes, these are things worth celebrating; it is just that they are so much part of the habitus of our lives that they conceal their nature as ‘coming out’ events. Being out is not about showing off; it’s about being congruent and being real. And for a lot of LGBT people it is still incredibly costly.

Earlier I was thinking about how tricky it is to come out, especially in the Church. This will be the case for the foreseeable future. I know people find it hard enough in liberal church contexts like those reasonably common in a diocese like Manchester. How much more so in less diverse church settings?

As I thought about these issues I concluded how extraordinary it would be to hear some messages of support from those in authority in the church for those who are using this day to ‘come out’.

Maybe I’m a fool, but I like to imagine a day when on social media and such like, you will be able to read a whole load of messages from bishops and archdeacons and, hey, even a few more lowly vicars like me saying, ‘Love, prayers and support for all coming out today.’ Of course it would signal an extraordinary shift in the fabric of the church and perhaps such a shift is impossible. But as long as the church and its leadership remains committed to a vision of human flourishing predicated on being our true selves in the reality of God, such a shift is surely possible. For the shalom of God can never based on living a lie, but on being honest to God, self and community.