Into the Lion’s Den

“The less common type of friendship is also more valuable. It’s the kind that doesn’t depend upon anything shared, though much will be shared. Instead, these friends know and love each other for who they are in themselves. In some moments they become one soul in two bodies, another self to each other. Together they can withstand the pains of life. They reflect one another, and so learn from each other.”

Above quote from Pity poor Prince George – discouraged from having a best friend at school.

Copyright © www.theguardian.com, September 2017 – by Mark Vernon

I had a really strange and very surreal experience a while ago. This was to discuss with my representative in Parliament my thoughts about how trans people are treated by society and the sense we are an easy target to be stepped upon, ridiculed, vilified. In the United States, trans women of colour are routinely murdered just because they are trans, as though their life has less value.

My reason for requesting an interview was largely to ask him to challenge the reduction in funding for the NHS and to bring more compassion for those who are finding life difficult through illness, circumstance, their own lack of funds, and to help them live a life where they can thrive and prosper rather than being beaten down at every turn.

The suicide rate amongst trans youth is huge. 80% have thoughts about suicide, 50% attempt and 40% succeed. In the general population this is around 2% although rates of self-harm and suicide are increasing. The trans experience is not a good one as people choose not to understand, choose not to empathise, choose not to allow us to live as we would want to live, and continue to treat us with a disrespect reserved only for the most hated. Religious groups think of trans people and gay people as an abomination.

Although there is more awareness of trans issues now due to the internet and the media, and a more restrained acceptance, there’s still a long journey before we are allowed to live our lives without the constant threat of bullying blighting our existence.

I had heard, and seen for myself, the lack of humanity in the Conservative doctrine and in the people themselves but was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I was sorely mistaken. The longer the interview progressed the more I could see I was wasting my time. It actually turned into a surreal and quite bizarre therapy session with me at the centre. I expected to be treated with respect and empathy but what I experienced was the complete opposite.

When I arrived at the appointment, I felt like I had actually walked into the lion’s den. The three people there were very closed. The masks they were wearing were like cement supplemented with razor wire, and the walls they stood behind were so high and so cold it seemed like I’d arrived at the Wall from Game of Thrones. I could never be the Ice Dragon so had no chance in demolishing that Wall to get my points across.

I am naturally empathic and can see through the rhetoric to see their pain but I was surprised at the level of blankness in their demeanour. Even the lady sitting next to him was like a clone; feisty, unsympathetic and ready to challenge rather than listen. He did not introduce me to the ‘team’ which gave me the sense I was living a strange re-creation of the Inquisition. Perhaps I was.

He sat there with his arms folded and gave the impression he was completely uninterested in what I had to say. My sense of him was that he was there because he had to be and not because he is our representative in Parliament ready to assist in our struggle against the powers that be.

As I voiced my concerns about the trans youth of today, and my experiences of bullying during my childhood, their replies surprised me. Perhaps shocked would be a better description. It came across that I was to blame because I was bullied at school and at work. There was no sense they really understood the effects that continued bullying has on one’s self-image and self-belief. They were choosing to do the very same things I had experienced for over 40 years.

Rather than listen, they challenged at every turn, finding it easier to ridicule than unearth ways to support me in discovering a route to help the youth of today not to experience the level of pain I had endured. I had spent a few days preparing for the interview and printed out some of my articles explaining gender issues and specifically an article about listening which described the selective deafness in society today. It seems I was right.

The experience of the interview imprinted a feeling of deflation and rejection in equal measure. They both said there is more understanding these days, and in this they are correct, but there is still a long way to go before a proper shift occurs. The impression they broadcast to me was that they have no understanding of the issues faced by trans people nor did they seem interested to learn.

My sense is they were struggling with their own feelings about me and the trans community. They were deflecting and trying to ignore their own thoughts and their own phobias, choosing instead to divert the conversation to more comfortable areas of thought so they felt safer; a typical response for most people unless they are willing to turn and look intently at their own emotions.

I generally don’t label people as it’s not nice to be singled out for derision. I do though have to make an exception in this case. It’s sad to say but my MP is one of the most obnoxious and repellent people I have ever had the misfortune to meet. My sense of him is that he’s in politics to strengthen his own position rather than helping the vulnerable and those in need of support to strengthen their corner. He is deaf to any and all people who are not like him. He appears to have no compassion and is so obviously motivated by financial riches rather than the good of the people he serves. Trying to get any sensible answers from him was like pulling teeth without anaesthetic.

I can’t really blame him directly as we are all subject to the experiences of our upbringing. The beliefs we hold as individuals colour the view of ourselves as much as the paint we choose to colour other people with. These broad brush strokes define other people, usually incorrectly, as unimportant, as trivial and inconsequential. If we see them as less than ourselves, it’s ok to ignore them. And, as its ok to ignore them, this gives us a sense of superiority.

The Conservative mantra about being the best and being the elite has the side effect that damns them into losing any sense of compassion for another person. The schools they attend are breeding grounds for conflict as a means of resolution, and in some schools they are told that having close friends will be their downfall. Once you stop the communion with another person, how do you learn to walk a mile in their shoes and how do you understand them? Once you stop communication with another person you forget they are human and this opens up the possibility of being inhuman and treating them inhumanely.

Because of the teaching methods and environment they are subjected to, Conservative children learn to barrier themselves from the emotional pain they experience from the loss of parental closeness and the bullying they receive from older pupils who have already been taught to shut down compassion and who it seems prosper under the survival of the fittest mentality.

The schools they attend may be academically excellent but the cost is considerably more than financial. The cost is their sense of self and their individuality, and their ability to feel compassion for others. And once you lose the ability to feel compassion, you become a drain on society by using people to service your agenda. Society then becomes less than it could be, more unstable and more polarised, forcing neighbour against neighbour.

To help another human being shift beyond their limits is what politicians are there for. It requires a conversation to really understand and not a 15 minute opportunity which is just a drop in an ocean of ideological mantras no longer fit for purpose.

His role as a Member of Parliament is to serve his constituents and not himself. I wonder if he is incapable of listening to anything outside his echo chambered existence. By not being willing to listen to me he is simply choosing to ignore his duty to serve. He could have quite easily put me at ease and hear the issues I was bringing to him for support and resolution. He chose not to do this.

I really hope his attitude is not indicative of the rest of his party as I fear the country is in even bigger trouble than just Brexit.

As part of the LGBT community, is asking for compassion and equality, understanding and love simply beyond the realms of possibility?

Is asking to be free to express ourselves without any barriers to that expression outside society’s gift?

Why do we have to ask permission to be our natural selves?

Why does society pressure everyone to adhere to narrowly defined stereotypes?

Why cannot we all be individuals, and appreciated for that individuality?

Hurt people, hurt people. Not because they are inherently bad but due to their upbringing by dislocated adults who indoctrinate, programme and brainwash, resulting in beliefs that frame others as less worthy and so are considered less important. Hurt people, hurt people; unless they choose otherwise.

Having challenged my inner self-hate and damaging self-belief, I can now taste freedom, emotion and feeling and can feel compassion for others as well as for myself. My compassion is greatest for those who cannot feel compassion and love or are not shown compassion and love. Those who cannot break down the walls they erected around them as protection are limited to a life without that communion with others. And that experience lessens their humanity.

Life is about communication and expression, openness and authenticity. Without those in your life, life is meaningless and empty, an emptiness that cannot be filled with trinkets and coins.

Resources

Articles from www.theguardian.com

School of hard knocks: the dark underside to boarding school books – Alex Renton

Private anguish of the public school survivors – Letters

Stiff Upper Lip by Alex Renton review – the damage boarding schools have done

Pity poor Prince George – discouraged from having a best friend at school – Mark Vernon

Stiff Upper Lip: Secrets, Crimes and the Schooling of a Ruling Class – review