Sunday, 9 December 2012

Gay Marriage and Making a Difference

The issue of “Gay Marriage” is back in the news in the UK.

It saddens me the way that people seem to misrepresent the facts and each other when they argue about this.

But, it seems that it is possible to change some little things at least.

A few days ago I noticed an article in the Daily Mail. The article itself is here.

On December 7th, the headline for the article was:

Churches to hold gay weddings as 'arrogant' David Cameron vows to defy Tory MPs to force changes through Parliament

I left a comment on 7th December at 17:37 that reads as follows:

The headline for this article says: “Churches to hold gay weddings as 'arrogant' David Cameron vows to defy Tory MPs to force changes through Parliament.”

Within the article, David Cameron is quoted as saying: “But let me be absolutely 100% clear, if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesn't want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it. 'That is absolutely clear in the legislation. Also let me make clear, this is a free vote for Members of Parliament but personally I will be supporting it.”

To me, the headline isn't a fair reflection of what David Cameron is suggesting at all.

Today, December 9th, the headline reads:

Gay marriage to be allowed in church: Religious groups can choose whether to host same-sex weddings

I have no way of knowing if my comment influenced the decision to change the headline. But perhaps it did. Either way, it’s good that it was changed, but not so good that the first version of it ever existed in the first place.

Sally, my wife, says that I am a cynic. I prefer to think of myself as a realist. But whatever I am, I feel a sense of sadness in reading a lot of the other comments made by people in response to this article.

One interesting thing about the whole issue is that there are people with very different political backgrounds – right, left and centre – that are supporting the changes that are likely to be proposed by new legislation. Having said that, the main opposition seems likely to be from the right rather than the left. An article in the Daily Telegraph suggests that there is likely to be even more opposition from the House of Lords – the un-elected side of UK politics.

As I’ve mentioned before, I hope that it gets passed.

Between now and the vote I’ll write to my Member of Parliament (MP), Adam Afriyie, and ask if he will vote in favour of it.

If you live in the UK and have an MP and feel strongly about this the please take the time to write to them as well. You can get contact details here.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Surrey Swans and what Laura did

There was a Surrey Swans meeting last Sunday (October 28th).

I enjoyed the evening a lot. Here I am with Laura. You can just see Emma in the background.

P1060532_800x600

There are some more pictures on the Surrey Swans blog page here.

During the evening I chatted a while with Laura, who recounted this tale of recent events:

I (that is Laura) was hanging out some washing outside my flat. Dressed in an unusually short skirt, stockings and heels, amongst other things.

Whilst doing this I heard someone putting some rubbish in the bin, just round the corner out of sight.

I thought nothing of it until I got to the communal back door. Whoever had been emptying the rubbish had found the door open and not noticing me hanging out the washing had closed the door and bolted it.

There I was. A shorter than usual skirt, heels, stockings and things.

And I couldn’t get in.

Gulp.

I (Andrea) am not sure how unusually short the skirt was. But, in the circumstances, I might well have gulped a little as well. As it was, the thought just made me smile.

“I looked up at the fence round the back yard”, she told me.

“How high is it … maybe 5 feet?” I asked.

“It’s taller than me, even in heels” says Laura. “Well above my head.”

That might make it almost 7 feet tall.

“I thought about climbing over it” says she.

“That would be a sight worth vide-recording” says I, thinking of the sight of Laura in a shorter than usual skirt, stockings and heels climbing a 7 feet high fence.

“But then, I spotted a guy at the window of one of the flats and signalled him and asked him if he could let me in. And he did.”

And so Laura managed to get back in again without climbing any fences at all.

The moral of the story is, of course:

if you see a door that is left open …

and if you decide to close it and bolt it without checking if anyone is going to be locked out …

then please let me (Andrea) know so that I can get out the video recorder and capture the moment of anyone in an unusually short skirt, stockings and heels that is attempting to climb over a 7 feet high fence

Thanks for sharing the story Laura … the thought still makes me smile Smile

Oh … and hello Elina. You know who you are and you are a sweetie!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

A very special Wedding and a little making up and telling

Friday July 20th was a great family day – the wedding day of Sarah (my eldest daughter) to Paul.

Sarah told Paul about Andrea a few months ago. She told me they were having a conversation about little known things about each others families. She had wanted to tell Paul for a while, but the opportunity hadn’t arisen. So this seemed like an opportunity. She opened a page of this blog and said … that’s my dad.

image

Sarah said that she thinks Paul didn’t think she could tell him anything that was surprising. But he was … well … surprised. I don’t know if Paul will ever want to meet Andrea … that’s up to him completely … but it’s good that he knows that Andrea exists and that he isn’t totally mind blown by the concept.

Sarah and my wife Sally had done pretty much all of the organising of wedding things with a lot of help from friends and family and even some from myself and Paul.

And, just as it should have been, it was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. Pretty much every moment went smoothly, and even the weather took a turn for the better.

In amongst all of the regular things that happen during the run-up to the occasion and on the day itself, there were a few not-quite-so regular things happened.

Tatyana, one of Sarah’s closest friends, and also a great family friend and a bridesmaid was staying with us.

She volunteers to take care of the camera and take pictures over the coming few days.

Thursday morning we ferry things from home to the venue of the wedding reception. It’s at Beaumont in Old Windsor.

Beaumont is now a hotel, conference centre and venue for events such as wedding receptions. In the not-too-distant past it was a venue for IT (Information Technology)training courses courses and I spent about 21 years of my working life there teaching things ranging from COBOL in the late seventies and early eighties through to database management and XML in the early part of the 21st century, so the place.

Before being an IT training college the building was a school run by the Jesuits.

In the days of IT training, the school chapel housed mainframe computers and had false floors and ceilings hiding the architectural beauty of the building. These days, the interior chapel building is visible again and used for events such as wedding receptions.

On arrival we moved things to Tudor 2ready for the staff there to put onto tables in the chapel the next morning.

Flower vases are unpacked and candles assembled.

The candles have a mind of their own. However carefully and firmly we press them into the adhesive in the candelabra, they insist on leaning over at all kinds of crazy angles as soon as you turn your back on them.

P1050850_1280x960

Jars are filled with sweets (candy) and boxes of cigars are set out. Little blackboards are decorated … one for the sweets and one for cigars.

Sarah points out that the cigars that I’ve drawn on the blackboard look a bit like willies.P1050853_1280x960

A photograph of each guest is attached to a small stand.

Paul and his mum and dad arrive, having driven down from the north west of England.

A little later we head for Windsor and a rehearsal for the service at Windsor parish church and meet up with bridesmaids, ushers, best man and priest.

The rehearsal goes smoothly.

Sarah and two of the three bridesmaids head off for a session of nail polishing at a nearby salon. Sally and I head off to help ferry the wedding cake from a friends house to the reception venue.

P1060031_1280x960

Later in the afternoon, Sally decides she’d like to wear some nail polish, though she doesn’t usually. We’d already talked about this possibility a while back and since Andrea has the largest selection of polishes in the household, I’m asked to provide the polish and to do the painting.

My own recommendation was red … I like the colour, it applies easily and seems to dry faster than a lot of other colours.

Sally’s preference was something more dark pink than red. So in the end Rimmel Pure Sin was the selection. Two coats.

Tatyana has some really nice shiny, sparkly red nail polish. Somehow or other I’m asked if I could paint her nails as well. So, with a certain amount of trepidation on my part, it’s two coats of red for Tatyana. So far as we know, Tatyana doesn’t know about Andrea … only that I have unusual expertise in nail polish.

P1050881_1280x960

On the morning of the wedding people arrive to do makeup for Sarah, and also her hair.

The makeup lady has even more makeup brushes than me.

P1050920_1280x960

Just hair for Sally, Katie and Tatyana.

The doorbell sounds. It must be the photographer.

But no … a man to replace a cracked window. This is a bit of a surprise and I explain it’s not a very convenient moment. Sally chats with him a while and in he comes and gets the job done without any hassle and in a very short time.

A glass of champagne and strawberries.

Sally asks what eye shadow I have … and so one of my biggest jobs for the morning include applying shadow and mascara to Sally’s eyes. And then helping finish off applying shadow to Tatyana’s.

sally blinks a lot when having mascara applied … so I’m glad that I have plenty of cotton wool buds.

We come to an amicable agreement not to even attempt doing the lower lashes.

Katie and Tatyana also borrow some of makeup brushes and Tatyana borrows my eyelash curlers.

Sally’s nails needed a third coat.

It was a little surreal. My guess is that most father’s of the bride don’t spend quite so much of their time painting the ladies nails and eyes.

I have to say, though, that it was great fun to do. Much more enjoyable than the earlier job that I’d been given of cutting the grass on the front lawn.

The photographer arrives and begins snapping things.

Katie helps Sarah into the dress.

The car arrives.

Tatyana takes a lot of lovely pictures of Sarah and bridesmaids in the back of the car.P1050954_720x960

The bridesmaids get into the taxi and head for the church.

Sarah and I relax in the back of the car. We wait a few minutes and the driver sets off.

A few people wave as we pass them and in almost no time there we are, walking down the church aisle.

Hymns, a short message on selfless love, readings, songs, rings, registry signing, vows and there they are … Mr and Mrs and a chance to begin to say hello to everyone.

A short walk and then some photographs near Windsor Castle.

Then to the reception.

P1060006_1280x960

Drinks. Canapés. Photographs. Chats.

Introductions. Speeches. Food and wine.

Coffee. Cheese. Dancing and chatting.

The candles have survived.

P1060077_1280x960

And Katie enjoys the sweets.

P1060122_1280x960

The chapel windows are enchanting and change as the lighting changes.

P1060137_1280x960

 

P1060138_1280x960

 

P1060139_1280x960

Part way through the evening Sally says that she hopes that I don’t mind, but that she mentioned the Andrea part of me to a close friend of ours, Rose.

Rose and her husband Brian are amongst our very closest friends. We’ve known them for more than all of our married lives. Rose and Brian introduced Sally and I to each other.

When Sally first found out about Andrea, I said that she was free to tell anyone that she wanted to, and so no, I didn’t mind.

We’d actually been thinking about telling both Rose and Brian for a long time.

The challenge, though, as ever, is never being sure how people will react. Of not wanting to risk a deep and dear friendship.

Sally says that Rose was surprised.

Later in the evening, talking with Brian I mention that I’m a transvestite.

He’s surprised. But I don’t think appalled.

We talk quite a bit about things.

It’s not an easy thing. But as always, being able to talk about things is one more little burden in life less to carry.

Our friendship remains.

For Brian, I understand that there are challenges in all of this. His Christian faith will, I think make it challenging.

We talked about this a little.

I shared some of the things that I find difficult with some aspects of Christian beliefs in some, though not all, parts of the Christian Church.

Things like the idea that maybe almost everyone that ever lived could be destined for an eternity in hell.

The view that gender is a fixed thing … male or female … with no shades of both and no transition between the two.

The subjective way that everyone interprets the Bible.

The way that same sex relationships are viewed to be wrong. Even where people love each other in a deeper and more genuine way than do some heterosexual couples.

That maybe it’s ok to be gay or lesbian and have a partner so long as there is no sex.

That it’s often ok for women to talk in church these days even though once it wasn’t.

The possibility that one day it will be possible for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to be honest about themselves in church without people in the Church feeling that such people need to be healed from some kind of an abomination.

We talk a little about what my gender means to me. About The Listening Project interview that I’d done with Katie.

Brian mentions that at one time a transgendered person came along to a church home-group that he led and also along to their church.

It was nice to know that that could happen.

Although, there was a sense that the hope of the people at the church was that the person would be healed from a whole series of hurts that they had experienced in life and also from their gender dysphoria.

I mention Brian McLaren and the book A New Kind of Christianity.

I’m glad that there’s been an opportunity to share all of this. Maybe there is something about weddings … this is the second family wedding where I’ve found myself in a similar kind of conversation.

Later in the evening I sit outside with my brothers and we discover the doors have been locked, so we walk back to the main reception to get in and then chat a while with a group of guys that are there for a wedding the next day. And then it’s time to sleep.

Saturday and we meet people at breakfast and say hello to the newly weds.

Back home we prepare for a barbecue. It’s great to see people from our families again for a few more hours.

As the day progresses we say g’bye as people leave.

My brother Pete and his wife Mary, his son and his son’s wife (Paul and Jenni) spend the night so it’s great to see a bit more of them.

A wonderful, wonderful few days.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Sparkle 2012 - thoughts, feelings, pictures and video

Sparkle 2012 has been and gone.

As ever, it was great.

Tina and I travelled up to Manchester together last Friday. We set off  a little after 9:30 am from Windsor.

Eddie Stobart truck name spotting is an affliction that I acquired in July 2012 … and it’s all Tina’s fault. We saw Nicole (don’t remember her second name) and Beatrice Ann … and several others as well. Still no sign of an Andrea or a Tina.

The traffic was pretty reasonable. We stopped for a coffee en-route and arrived at the Premier Inn on Portland Street in Manchester a little after 1:30 pm. The weather was grey and wet most of the way.

The traffic got a lot worse not much after we had passed the M5 / M6 junction … a few people we met spent a few hours in traffic jams.

All the staff at the Premier Inn on Portland Street that I’ve met in the past several Sparkle’s have been really helpful and friendly. It’s a great place to stay and is very TV (transvestite) friendly.

We checked in, dropped off the luggage and parked the car.

At round about 2:00 pm we began the process of of getting made up and dressing.

Round about 3:30 we called into the hotel bar to meet up with Veronica, who Tina had chatted a little with on TV Chix.

Veronica was chatting with Maxine who she’d bumped into while having a ciggy break outside the hotel, though Maxine was currently in male mode. Emma was also there, and currently also in male mode.

Here’s Veronica with Tina:

P1050806_1280x960

And Veronica with me:

P1050807_1280x960

We had a drink and then went for a walk round the corner to the Paramount Weatherspoons pub on Oxford Street.

Just in case you are interested … here’s a picture of the Gentlemen’s toilets taken from the web site … I don’t know if they were really like that though, having only ever visited the Ladies:

Here’s Tina in the pub:

P1050808_1280x960

And here am I:

 

P1050809_1280x960

The only not-nice incident of the weekend occurred here.

Veronica visited the Ladies and a guy that was very much the worse for wear in terms of excessive alcohol consumption … began to bad-mouth her. For no good reason.

There was a member of the Weatherspoon’s staff close by at the time who called a security guard over and the man was escorted from the premises.

When we left, the guy was still outside the building with a few of his friends.

He was abusive to everyone and if it hadn’t been for the efforts of his friends in holding him back, I guess all kinds of things could have happened.

Incidents like this have different effects on different people.

My own feelings are varied.

It didn’t bother me much … I try, though not always successfully, to not allow the behaviour of bigots, idiots and drunkards to upset me … and the guy seemed to fall into all three of these categories.

It was good that his friends could see the unreasonableness of his attitude and behaviour and that they were prepared to calm him down.

However, a part of me would have been happy to hunt down a police officer to explain to the drunken man the unacceptable nature of his behaviour.

Really, I don’t intend to offend or upset people.

At the same time, I am who I am … and the law agrees that I have the right to be myself. And so do Veronica and Tina.

A song called Second Time Around by Amy Ray includes the following words:

Here's what I've learned about compromise--
Don't do it if it hurts inside
'Cause either way you're screwed.
Eventually you'll find
You may as well feel good.
You may as well have some pride.

And I think that kind of attitude is a fair one for transgendered people to take.

Next stop, a change of clothing. Something shorter for the evening. Without shoes:

P1050812_1280x960

And with some pink ones:

 

P1050815_1280x960

Then back to the bar at the Premier Inn for a meet with Veronica, Emma, Tina and Maxine … all girls this time:

P1050818_1280x960 - Copy

And then out for a meal.

We ate at the Red Chilli restaurant which is a short walk down Portland Street. The food and service were excellent.

And then for a night on the town. Mainly in the the Via bar on Canal Street.

We hadn’t been there long when Nikki and Rachel showed up:

P1050819_720x960

We knew they were around somewhere, but hadn’t been in contact … only minutes before they arrived Tina had said, wouldn’t if be funny if they showed up here. And, het presto!

We chatted and danced.

Later in the evening we dropped by Eden and sat and talked for a little while longer. It was getting close to 2:00 am when we headed back to the hotel.

Next morning Tina and I went for a wander along Canal Street and had a coffee at the Via Bar and a little walk around Sackville Gardens where the main Sparkle stage and stalls are.

And then we met up with Sarah, my eldest daughter, at Weatherspoon’s for lunch. The prices are good, and there’s a great selection of beers.

Next stop is a re-visit to Sackville Gardens.

We listen to the Burlesque Boys:

P1050822_1280x960

There are a few strange animal passers by:

P1050825_1280x960

 

P1050826_1280x960

And a nice mix of folk all around:

 

P1050827_720x960

P1050828_720x960

And we have a chat with a few of the police support personnel.

P1050829_1280x960

Then a short walk to the Lesbian and Gay Foundation on Richmond Street where some of the people featured on the Channel 4 documentary  My Transsexual Summer are interviewed … Karen, Donna, Lewis and Fox. I’d watched the TV (television) series and it was really interesting to hear a little more from them.

And then, Sackville Gardens again to hear Elouise

P1050831_1280x960

And admire the Pink Punter Bus … the biggest, gayest bus in the world:

P1050832_1280x960

And see Miss Sparkle being crowned.

Here’s a taste of it:

Another change of clothing and tidying up of makeup and Tina and I head for Eden. I’m wearing four and a half inch stiletto heels, so it’s a slow walk.

We have a bite to eat. It’s busy but not overcrowded and the food is great.

Later on in the evening … Sunday morning to be more precise … a girl comes over and says she loves the way that we look and can she have a picture taken with us. She’s with her mum and her girlfriend (all are gg’s rather than tg’s, ts’s or tv’s). She very sweetly says that she had to try hard talking her girlfriend into taking a picture because she was so jealous … so cute.

And here’s a picture or her mom and me:

P1050838_1280x960

They’re really lovely people.

And then back to the hotel. A passing girls makes us smile as she says “you look really great girls”.

As we go through the door we meet Emma in male mode and have a chat. (S)he’s headed outside for a smoke and we arrange to meet in the bar in a few.

The bar is surprisingly busy for 2:00 am.

We sit and chat and drink Stella Artois.

Emma keeps apologising for being really drunk and for swearing. But is good fun talk with.

Eventually its time to sleep again.

10:00 am on Sunday morning and time to get ready for the day.

Tina gets made up. I’m in guy mode. Sarah is getting married on Friday and we’re planning on calling on her to collect things to take down to Windsor ready for the wedding. Her fiancé knows about Andrea, but doesn’t feel ready to meet her, so I’ll visit as a guy.

We leave bags in the luggage store at the hotel , have breakfast and then wander around the Arndale shopping centre for a while and have a cup of coffee.

Collect the car and luggage.

Visit Sarah to collect the wedding things.

The drive back home.

The traffic is moving pretty well and we see a few girl trucks.

Another really good weekend.

Roll on Sparkle 2013.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

TV Dinners, Pictures and Sparkle

Last night was the occasion of one of the monthly TV (as in Transvestite) dinners at Billie and Kathie’s.

I actually managed to get there a little on the early side, for a change.

It was good to catch up with people a little.

Antonia had spent a short spell in hospital, but is looking really well now.

Laura is cool, as always. We talked a bit about music and about The Listening Project. She asked about the full length version of this … so if you make it this far, Laura, you can hear the whole thing by clicking here.

Kathie is busy knitting a pretty big blanket from lots of tiny squares.

Billie ran a half marathon not so long ago, but is taking a break from the running at the moment.

Tina has a nice tan … just back from a holiday in Italy.

Susan is maybe looking at a job involving training.

Jan has a new wardrobe.

Katie was explaining how people that phone her to ask about the dressing service that she offers ask some very odd questions. Like … whereabouts in Birmingham are you … when the advertisement mentions junction 6 of the M4 … which is quite a long way from Birmingham.

Adrianne arrived a bit late … first time visit … and took a wrong turn.

Carol had written to Farmers Weekly to talk about the woes of Internet access outside of cities.

On getting back home, just before taking of all of the makeup, I thought I’d try taking a few pictures. I take off makeup in the bathroom … hence the surroundings look a bit like … well … a bathroom.

P1050795_323x600

P1050800_357x600

I bought the dress at New Look a long time ago, but hadn’t gotten round to wearing it before.

Friday is the beginning of Sparkle 2012.

Tina and I are driving up on Friday morning.

I’m looking forwards to it a lot.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

June 24 2012 at Surrey Swans

There were about a dozen girls at the Surrey Swans meeting on June 24th.

As always it was really nice to chat and catch up on news.

The alternative t Surrey Swans on the day, was the England football match against Italy in the European championships. Early in the evening Sophie quipped she was glad to be be able to get along to the Swans as a good excuse not to suffer the agony of watching England play. How right she was … it was painful enough to hear what was happening during the penalty shoot out via mobile phones.

Here are a few pictures of people that were there.

First is Rozz, who has the extremely important role of taking orders for drinks and food. She’s served at the bar for quite a few months now. Her actual name begins with a U, but she says it’s really hard to pronounce. The necklace was a prize included in the raffle that we’d held earlier.

P1050740_1280x960

The raffle took a surprisingly long time … people kept winning second, even a third, prize and re-donating the prize for a re-draw. It went on and on …

Here’s Adrianne:

P1050742_1280x960

And Chelle and Linda:

P1050744a_1280x960

And Christina who was visiting the Swans for the first time:

clip_image001

Monday, 18 June 2012

My dad is a transvestite …

The condensed version of the Listening Project interview that I mentioned here was broadcast on BBC Radio Berkshire (the Andrew Peach show) and BBC Radio Oxford (the Phil Gayle show) at about 7:50 am on Friday June 15th 2012. The whole thing is a little over four minutes long. The Radio Berkshire version of it is below if you’d like to listen. It provides some insight on how I told my daughter Katie about my being a transvestite and how she felt and feels about it. 

Katie talks with Andrea

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A girlie kind of weekend

My wife, Sally, was away for the weekend, and so was Tina’s wife so we Tina and I planned a girlie weekend.

Arrived at home at about 6:15 pm on Friday to begin preparations before getting prepared. Washing dishes, feeding cats, printing out a driving route.

Phone plays its tune. Katie, my daughter, asks what I’m doing over the weekend. I mention Candygirls. She asks about Sunday and the possibility of visiting her on Fathers day. She’s busy, busy, busy revising for exams at the moment and Hammersmith isn’t far away. We plan a visit.

Phone plays again. Tina is setting off and will be here in half an hour.

Now the real preparations.

Almost 8:00 pm. Makeup is finished and I’m ready. Foundation. Silver and bronze shadow, black liner and mascara, red lips, pink rouge. Long polka dot dress.

Food. A trip to yell.com for a phone number. The man at The Blossoms of Windsor answers.

Sweet and sour chicken, chilli shredded beef, egg fried rice and prawn crackers.

Five minutes later we drive to The Blossoms to collect the food.

Soon after 9:00 pm I change … a shorter black dress. I pick up a bottle of wine and we’re on the road to Candygirls.

About 30 minutes later we’re there. Reception is deserted. Everyone’s watching football (England .v. Sweden).

We pay and head upstairs. Depositing the wine at the bar we have a small glass each. Quoting the number 33 later will provide us with refills.

The bar area is sparsely populated at first, but fills up once the football match is over.

Of course, we’re unable to avoid the lure of the dungeon. It took an amazingly long time to work out how the buckles on those wristbands worked. I checked the area for the absence of whips and paddles and hung around long enough for Tina to take the picture and unbind me.

P1050720_720x960 

Time flies.

2:00 am and it’s time for home.

Saturday is a trip to Pink Punters. Tina has volunteered to drive there and back … the Campanile hotel rooms are double the normal cost for some reason and Tina needs to head for the South coast early on Sunday. 

Tina arrives at about 6:00 pm. We get made up and changed and head out for a meal at Cafe Rouge in Windsor. Parking at the local library is free for local residents in the evening. As I collect a ticket from the pay and display machine the man behind me expresses his amazement that the machine is actually working. As ever, the staff at Cafe Rouge are charming. We order Saumon à la Niçoise and Boeuf Bourguignon, a glass of Merlot and a bottle of Hoegaarden. And I only just now discovered, that to visit the Hoegaarden web site you must be of legal drinking age … so i guess you had better not click the link if you’re not.

Then Coupe Rouge and Crème Brûlée.

A little before 9:00 pm it’s back home to change into another of those little black dresses and we head for Pink Punters.

A308, A332, M4, M25, M1, A5, a little over 50 miles and we’re there.

A lot has changed since last time we were there. The entrance has moved and there are walls and doors were there used to be no walls and doors.

It’s a quiet kind of evening … well, except for the music Smile

Upstairs there are new facilities, including a unisex toilet area. The sign makes me smile.

image

We smile at a tgirl dressed in not a lot more than tape with the words ‘crime scene do not enter’.

Talk a while with a tgirl from Wellingborough.

Dance bit.

A girl almost trips over a step close to where we’re sitting and has a little conversation with us both. Admiring dresses and expressing frustration about steps.

A party of people head down the stairs towards the dance floor. A girl smiles and waves. I smile and wave back. It’s her birthday she says, pointing ahead at someone who is part way down the stairs. I smile. Come for a dance she says and blows a kiss.

And it’s 2:00 am.

At the exit a girl tells me that I have great legs and makes me smile.

A kinda quiet, but very pleasant evening.

Surrey Swans next Sunday and Sparkle is only a few weeks away.

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Listening Project Interview

As I mentioned here, my daughter Katie interviewed me at the BBC Radio Berkshire studios as part of The Listening Project.
A few days ago I received a CD from Graham McKechnie, who recorded the interview and also a couple of pictures that he took just after the interview was finished.
 berkshire-wright-katie wright-andrea2_800x532
berkshire-wright-katie wright-andrea1_800x532
The interview itself is quite long. The questions range from things from what life was like during my childhood through to what it means to me to be a tranny and how Katie and her friends feel about the idea of a dad that also likes to be a girl. If you have the time then you can listen to the whole thing then here it is:


The abbreviated version that was broadcast by BBC Radio Berkshire is here:

 

Friday, 11 May 2012

Tell people what you think about same sex marriage

I received another letter from Care over the issue of same sex marriages. I wrote about a similar letter here.

I’ve read the words. And there was a time when I would have agreed with them. But not any more. I guess that I’ve either seen the light or been blinded by it.

Here’s the text of the letter:

May 2012
A Call to Action

The Government Equalities Office has launched a consultation on changing the law to permit same-sex couples to marry. CARE is part of the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) and is encouraging Christians to express their views to MPs. If you share our concern about government plans to redefine marriage, the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others, we need your urgent help which can be given in the following ways:
• Please respond to the consultation. Submissions are invited from individuals and organisations by 14 June. In addition, your church leadership can submit views on behalf of your church. The best way to do this is to complete the online form, and you will find advice on how to do this overleaf.
• Please contact your MP Local MPs do pay attention to the views of their constituents — particularly if they have a slim majority! Handwritten letters are taken more seriously than emails, but both are valuable. It is also very effective to meet face to face at the MP’s surgery. You might like to take someone with you and explain why you are opposed to the redefinition of marriage.
• Please sign the Coalition for Marriage petition if you have not already done so. It currently stands at nearly 500,000 signatures but we are hoping for a million or more! Do encourage others to sign, either online at www.c4m.org.uk or by using a printed copy available from CARE.
• Please pray. Our prayer resource is available at www.care.org.uk/marriage
If nothing is done now, we are concerned that churches may be required to conduct same-sex marriages in the future. On the same day that Home Secretary Theresa May gave a reassurance that this will not happen, Equalities Minister Lynn Featherstone said she believed full gay marriage in churches may come back another day’. This is a very serious matter and now is the time to make your views known!
Thank you so much for your help in this.

Yours sincerely

Nola Leach
Chief Executive and Head of Public Affairs

Redefining Marriage
• CARE is very concerned about the Government’s intention to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. This would change something that has been at the heart of our society for centuries.
• Marriage has always been the natural context in which to raise children, as fathers and mothers give complementary role models to children. Marriage safeguards them and also supports the wider family across the generations.
• Marriage was recognised in law in 1866 as ‘the voluntary union of one man and one woman for life, to the exclusion of all others’. The issue is not about equality for same-sex relationships; that has already been achieved by civil partnerships.
• Research confirms that compared with every other kind of relationship, marriage is more stable and beneficial for couples, families and the whole of society. Same-sex marriage is an unproven and experimental social model.
• Marriage is the only legal union which can naturally lead to the birth of children. Although same-sex couples can become parents, this leads to confusion about biological, social and family identity.
• Redefining marriage was neither in the Coalition Agreement nor in either the Conservative or Liberal Democrat manifestos. Although they have no public mandate, the Government is adamant that it is a question of when and how, not if. It would be very costly and involve extensive amendments to hundreds of legal documents.
• There would be knock-on effects for educators, religious groups and parents who may be stigmatised for disagreeing with the proposals. It could lead to faith-based discrimination if same-sex couples were refused the right to ‘marry’ in church.
• As we have seen elsewhere, same-sex marriage could be followed by other relationship variations, such as polygamy.
How to get involved:
RESPOND
to the Government’s Equal Civil Marriage consultation. The best way to do this is via the online form at: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage  
Alternatively, you can email your response to the questions to: equalcivilmarriage@geo.gsi.gov.uk or send a letter to: Government Equalities Office, 3rd Floor Fry, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1 P 4DF.
If you are short of time, you need only answer Question 1 as well as Questions 2 and 16 which give the opportunity to state your opinions. Please respond before 14 June!
NB. Email public.affairs@care.org.uk for an expanded briefing with further in formation and statistics to help you submit an in formed response. There is also a briefing paper at www.c4m.org.uk
CONTACT your MP, either in writing or by visiting them at their constituency surgery. You will find practical advice on how to do so at www.writetothem.com
SIGN the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) petition at www.c4m.org.uk
PRAY using CARE’s new resource at www.care.org.uk/marriage
CARE
53 Romney Street Tel. 020 7233 0455 Executive Chairman: Rev Lyndon Bowring
London Fax. 020 7233 0983 Chief Executive: Nola Leach
CARE is a registered charity: Charity No.1066963;
SW1 P 3RF mail@care.org.uk Scottish Charity No. SC03891 1, and a company
www.care.org.uk limited by Guarantee No. 3481417

I’ve completed the online form at www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage and have made it clear that I am in favour changes that would allow same sex marriages and have already signed the petition at http://www.c4em.org.uk/

The Home Office web page makes the following points:

The key proposals of the consultation are:

  • to enable same-sex couples to have a civil marriage i.e. only civil ceremonies in a register office or approved premises (like a hotel)
  • to make no changes to religious marriages. No religious organisation will be forced to conduct same-sex religious marriages as a result of these proposals
  • to retain civil partnerships for same-sex couples and allow couples already in a civil partnership to convert this into a marriage
  • civil partnership registrations on religious premises will continue as is currently possible i.e. on a voluntary basis for faith groups and with no religious content
  • individuals will, for the first time, be able legally to change their gender without having to end their marriage

Current legislation allows same-sex couples to enter into a civil partnership, but not civil marriage.

The full details of the consultation are included in the pdf version of the consultation document, which is available to download below

The consultation document (Equal civil marriage consultation (PDF file - 196kb) explicitly states the following:

We have listened to those religious organisations that raised concerns about the redefinition of religious marriage. We are aware that some religious organisations that solemnize marriages through a religious ceremony believe that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That is why this consultation is limited to consideration of civil marriage and makes no proposals to change the way that religious marriages are solemnized. It will not be legally possible under these proposals for religious organisations to solemnize religious marriages for same-sex couples. There will therefore be no obligation or requirement for religious organisations or ministers of religion to do this. It will also not be possible for a same-sex couple to have a civil marriage ceremony on religious premises. Marriages of any sort on religious premises would still only be legally possible between a man and a woman.

The Government is committed to building a fairer society and ensuring fair treatment and equal opportunities for all, including people of all religions. As we are only seeking to lift the ban on same-sex couples getting married through a civil ceremony, we would ensure that any subsequent legislation on equal civil marriage is clear that marriages conducted according to religious rites and on religious premises could not be between a same-sex couple. This would mean that no religious organisation, premises, or leader would face a successful legal challenge for failing to perform a marriage for a same-sex couple, whether or not the religious organisation, premises or leader involved performs marriages for opposite-sex couples. Any changes to the legislation as a result of this consultation will not, legally, enable same-sex couples to have a marriage through a religious ceremony and on religious premises.

We are also aware that the doctrines of many faiths hold the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and this belief is contained within the teachings of their faith. We are clear that no one should face successful legal action for hate speech or discrimination if they preach their belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

There are many things that I find myself in disagreement with when it comes to Government policy and proposals, but this is one that I think that they have right. And what’s worse, I believe that the letter from Care is misleading and that it misrepresents what the Government is intending. If people at Care have read the consultation document, then they seem to either be telling deliberate lies about what the Government intend to do, or are accusing the Government of telling lies.

If you have the time then please tell your Member of Parliament what you think about it. Fill out the online form. Sign the petition. But I hope that you’ll be encouraging the Government to go through with the changes rather than taking the stance suggested by Care.

Monday, 7 May 2012

The Listening Project

Back in March I was contacted by Claire at BBC Radio Berkshire to ask if I was interested in taking part in The Listening Project. She knew of the interview that I’d done with Bill Buckley back in March.

The Listening Project is about “capturing the nation in conversation to build a unique picture of our lives today and preserve it for future generations”. There’s more info on it here. As Claire summarised it:

In a nutshell, we get two people who are close to each other (friends, family, loved ones) into a studio and record a conversation/interview of about 40 minutes in length. One person acts more as the interviewer but it’s more natural and casual than a formal interview. We, as journalists, don’t get too involved, we can help guide the conversation but we let you set the agenda.

This audio will then be archived and put in the British Library for people to use for research in the future. It’s an opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

The audio is also cut into a shorter piece and played on the BBC Radio Berkshire and on Radio 4 as part of this exciting new project starting at the end of the month.

I asked Sally, my wife, if she liked the idea, but she was a little nervous about it. Both my daughters were interested though. In the end it was easier for Katie to take part … so long as it could be fitted in around her exam schedule.

It took a little organising to come up with a date that worked, but we eventually managed to make a recording on Saturday May 5th.

We arranged to be at the BBC Berkshire studios at 9:00 am. Graham McKechnie, the producer of the project at BBC Berkshire, needed to be commentating at a London Irish rugby match later in the day, hence the early start.

Actually, 9:00 am isn’t so early except that Katie needed to travel by train from London to home first, and I needed to spend a while applying makeup Smile

The day went something like this:

6:30 am and the alarm on my phone sounds.

6:30 + a few seconds, the alarm on the radio sounds.

I get up and make tea (for Sally) and coffee (for me).

6:45 shower.

Having already decided what to wear the previous night, collecting things from the wardrobe only takes a couple of minutes.

Deodorant. Shave. Teeth. Moisturiser. Underwear. Tights (stockings and suspenders are tricky to do at the moment, my thumb is still on the sensitive side). Perfume. Foundation. Powder. Shadow.

7:15 and Sally sets off to collect Katie from Heathrow Terminal 2. The rail service from London to Windsor isn’t fully operational this weekend, so it’s easier for Katie to get to Heathrow, which is about 20 minutes from home).

Eye liner. Mascara. Blush. Lips.

Dress. Necklace. Hair. Rings. Watch. Bracelet. Earrings.

Handbag.

8:00 and ready to roll.

Makes me smile, thinking how much extra sleep I could have had if this had been in drab (dressed as a bloke).

Waiting for Katie and Sally I take a few pictures for posterity.

P1050593_800x600

 

P1050595_800x600

8:20 and they arrive.

Katie heads for the loo.

I head for the car and prepare the Sat Nav.

8:25 and Katie re-appears. She’d been at a birthday party the previous evening which went on until 3:00 am, so she’s had a lot less sleep than me.

The journey to Caversham is uneventful, though I did miss the same left turn that I missed the last time that I drove there.

8:57 I press the button at the entrance … “Andrea and Katie Wright here for an interview with BBC Berkshire.” The barrier is lowered.

We park and walk towards reception.

A car pulls up beside us, window down.

“Hello, are you Andrea?”.

“Yes. Graham?”

And it is.

Graham parks and catches us up. I introduce him to Katie.

We sign in at reception.

Graham heads off to collect some paperwork.

When he gets back he explains a little more about the Listening Project and tells us a bit about the work that he does and how it all works.

We feel relaxed and welcome.

The paperwork is filled in.

Katie offers up the name Katherine, which makes me smile.

“Would you prefer Katie?” asks Graham.

So Katie it is.

On to me.

Andrea.

“Gender?”.

“Male”, I respond. Makes me smile to be asked.

Then into the studio.

Microphones and coffee.

Sound level testing.

“What did you have for breakfast?”

“Nothing” says Katie. A late night, early morning and travelling from London.

“Me neither” says Andrea. Preoccupied with the makeup.

And then we begin.

We talk of parents. Grandparents. Childhood.

Of my gender identity. How people have handled it. How they have felt about it. How I feel about it. How Katie feels about it. Sally. Sarah. Extended family. Friends. Where it came from. Where it is going.

Graham asks if he can suggest a few questions … making it clear we’re free to ignore him if we prefer.

We talk about the difference that being TV has made to me. To Katie.

Fifty minutes have flown by. And I’ve learned a lot.

A few photos.

And time to go.

We both enjoyed the experience a lot and learned things about each other.

When I receive a copy of the recording I’ll post that if Katie is ok with it, together with the pictures.

And many thanks Claire for the time given up in organising it all and to Graham for the time to record it, for making us feel so relaxed and for the really helpful advice, interest and questions.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Why I have long nails

Today I visited the hospital to have my thumb checked out.

Just a short wait and the nurse called me in to see the consultant.

He asked if he could look at my hand and compared the left thumb with the right one. Asked if there was any pain and declared that there’s no sign of infection and that the nail will re-grow.

“I noticed that your nails are quite long. Do you always keep them like that?” he asked.

“Yes, they are pretty long, and yes pretty much always.”
“Do you mind if I ask why?”

“No, not at all. It’s just that I’m a transvestite and I like them that way.”

“Ah. Ok.” says he and the nurse nods.

The nice thing these days, compared with not so long ago, it doesn’t bother anyone at all.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Repentance from the perspective of a transvestite

The third chapter of Matthew’s gospel says a lot about John the Baptist.

It sounds as though he was a guy that said thins pretty straight as he believed them to be. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily make him right about everything.

People flocked to him and confessed their sins and repented and were baptised in the river Jordan.

There’s a whole lot of stuff packed into the words sin and repent.

What is sin? There’s a whole article about it here. It says for example:

Sin is the breaking of God's law. If God says "Do not lie" and you lie, then you have broken His law and sinned.

This, though, seems a very black and white view of life in a world which is full of colour.

Is there such a thing as a white lie?

  • Is telling the truth always better than not telling the truth?
  • Should doctors always tell people everything … regardless of the individual persons needs at that moment in time?
  • Is knowingly withholding the truth the same as a lie?

I think, I’m not certain, but I think, that anyone that has the idea that it’s easy to define what sin is, really is over simplifying things.

The article also says:

The Old Testament contains the Law of God. It is a perfect standard because it is God's standard.

And this leaves me stupefied. The law as dictated by the Old Testament ranges from the reasonably sounding Ten Commandments to quite a lot of not quite so reasonably sounding stuff. There’s a lot of this recorded here … the tone of which is over-aggressive for me and demonstrates what I think, is a misunderstanding of what Christianity is. The author has some big problems. But it illustrates the point that working out what’s right and wrong can be a tricky business.

And still … I remember back in early 1973 when someone asked me if I thought I had ever sinned. Even by my own subjective definition of right and wrong … I knew I’d done things that I was ashamed of. I remembered people at school that we’d teased and made fun of. Horrendously. For no good reason.

And sneaking a peak ahead into chapter 20 of Matthew’s gospel, the following story is recounted:

… a teacher of the Law, tried to trap him [Jesus] with a question.
"Teacher," he asked, "which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus answered, " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
This is the greatest and the most important commandment.
The second most important commandment is like it: 'Love your neighbour as you love yourself.'
The whole Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets depend on these two commandments."

 

The first of these is difficult for an agnostic or an atheist to understand, let alone to put into practise.

But the second could provide a starting point for anyone.

But even then it’s complex. I’ve heard it said that we have to learn how to love ourselves before we can really learn to love other people. And that fits in pretty well with what Jesus said. If a person doesn’t love his or her self, then it makes no sense at all to love other people in the same way.

Maybe the main thing is to not do things that hurt yourself or hurt other people. And major on things that are good for you and for others.

Maybe any kind of commandment that doesn’t influence these things is something that doesn’t really matter. And any command that goes against these isn’t really a commandment at all.

It gives a starting point for definitions of what’s right and wrong.

And also hints at the possibility that what might sometimes be right in some circumstances and for some people, might be wrong in other circumstances for other people.

Then there is repentance. I think this means accepting and understanding what you’ve done that is wrong and committing yourself to change, be different and not do it again.

And so … even in the agnostic world that I inhabit these days … if I define sin as the things that I’m uncomfortable about doing because I feel that they are wrong … maybe because they aren’t good for me or for someone else … repentance seems like the right thing to do. It makes sense.

There’s some nasty sounding stuff in Matthew chapter 3.

Every tree not producing good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire

He [Jesus] will clean up his threshing floor and gather his grain into the barn, but he will burn the chaff with inextinguishable fire.

It sounds bad for trees that don’t produce the fruit and for the chaff.

Some interpret this as meaning that people that do bad things end up in hell. Or maybe it’s people that don’t do good things.

I’m not at all sure about heaven and hell.

Then, John baptises Jesus and it says:

When Jesus had been baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Suddenly the heavens opened up for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. 

Then a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with him!"

If I could believe in God, it would mean a lot to me. There was a time when it did.

Even for an agnostic transvestite, though, there is something of meaning in this chapter.

  • An encouragement to think about what I feel is right and wrong and why I feel that way about things.
  • A call to repentance … which I think just means to live honestly with my own feelings. To try to not do stuff that I feel is wrong, and to do the stuff that I think is right

That makes sense to me. It doesn’t seem unreasonable.

In the past when I tried this it was within the constraints of an evangelical Christian view of right and wrong. And this included a lot more than loving other people as I loved myself. And it relied on a subjective understanding of the Bible … as all understandings of the Bible inevitably are.

And I failed.

Over and over.

And some of the failure had to be kept secret. I didn’t understand the part of me that is feminine. Actually, I still don’t. But I don’t need to understand. I am learning to accept and enjoy. I don’t have to repent from being a transvestite. I don’t have to deny my femininity or my masculinity. I don’t have to deny the person that I am. I can love myself.

There was a time when I needed some kind of a totally objective view of right and wrong.

These days I think it’s not so easy as that. There’s an element of subjectivity in everyone’s views. I’m happy to start again with an aim at working towards loving other people as I love myself.

So, the positive thing I’m taking from Matthew 3, with a bit of help from Matthew 22, is that the idea of repenting from a subjective kind of badness … which seems somehow more possible and sensible than anything I’ve tried before, and it’s something that I can work on.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Tragedy, TV Dinners and Born Beautiful

There are times when I feel life is complex and full of difficult decisions.

The things that get reported on the news bring things back into focus.

Today there was news of the coach crash in Switzerland were so many people, mostly schoolchildren, were killed.

It makes all the difficult decisions seem so trivial in comparison.

There is a song by Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls) called The Philosophy of Loss which comes to mind. It includes the following:

Whatever has happened to anyone else
Could happen to you and to me
And the end of my youth was the possible truth
That it all happens randomly

And my youth ends, again.

Last night was a TV dinner at Billie & Kathie’s. The food and company was excellent as ever.

We discovered that Billie & Kathie were married for three years before they told almost anyone … only the registrar and a couple of witnesses knew. It was a revelation, and really funny as well, to hear of the pseudo-wedding that they had for friends and family after three years after the real thing.

It was quite a giggle as well to see Laura passing one of her puppies around. There were sensible kind of reasons for this … but I don’t remember what they were.

Laura mentioned that she had sent an email to The Coalition for Marriage to explain that she disagreed with them. That was really cool. She also signed the petition at The Coalition for Equal Marriage.

It was good, as well, to catch up a little with Nikki, while I hadn’t seen for a while, and also with Tina.

Last week I also discovered that Fiona Floyd is about to re-begin Born Beautiful. That was really great news. Back in 2007 Fiona was the person that first ever met Andrea. So Fiona is a really special person to me. Fiona has mentioned me as well on her testimonials page. I’m looking forwards to booking an appointment!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Marriage … what is it all about?

Today I read that:

The Catholic Church today told worshippers they have a ‘duty’ to resist Government plans on gay marriage.

A letter from two senior archbishops, read in 2,500 parish churches during Mass, argued changes would reduce the significance of marriage

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2113429/Catholic-Church-steps-war-gay-marriage-letter-worshippers-warning-profoundly-radical-step.html#ixzz1op7z8okr

The Guardian mentions it here.

The Washington Post here.

And the BBC here.

There are hundreds of articles from different sources that have appeared within the past 24 hours.

The text of the letter is here. In case it disappears from that link I’ve copied it here.

I don’t know how the people that have heard the letter being read out to them have felt about it.

In looking around a little I did come across some refreshing places.

Queering the Church  which has also led me to the Coalition for Equal Marriage which has a petition with the following wording:

I support the right of two people in love to get married, regardless of gender. It's only fair 

I’ve just signed it. It’s worth reading the thoughts they have about the uniqueness of marriage and the consequences of changing the legal definition of marriage.

The content at Queering the Church here and here is especially heartening, somehow.

I also found Press for Change which has some interesting stuff relating particularly to trans-gendered people.

The text of the letter from the Bishops is here. I’ve interlaced it with some of my own thoughts in italics. And a lot of people have similar thoughts.


A Letter on Marriage from the President and Vice-President of the Bishops’ Conference of
England and Wales

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

This week the Coalition Government is expected to present its consultation paper on the proposed change in the legal definition of marriage so as to open the institution of marriage to same-sex partnerships.

Today we want to put before you the Catholic vision of marriage and the light it casts on the importance of marriage for our society.

I’ve seen it expressed, by Catholic’s, that what follows is the vision of some Bishops and church leaders. Rather than being the Catholic vision.

I believe that not all Catholics share this vision.

However, I don’t know enough about leadership, church structure and authority in the Catholic church to be sure about what difference this actually makes.

I know, from experience, that in some churches, if the leaders say this the way it is, then if you think it is some other way you have to go and join a different church.

The roots of the institution of marriage lie in our nature. Male and female we have been created, and written into our nature is this pattern of complementarity and fertility. This pattern is, of course, affirmed by many other religious traditions. Christian teaching fills out this pattern and reveals its deepest meaning, but neither the
Church nor the State has the power to change this fundamental understanding of marriage itself. Nor is this simply a matter of public opinion.

I’m not sure anyone really knows where the roots of the institution of marriage lie. It’s quite a mish-mash

I have a feeling, though, that it’s more about love and commitment than it is about gender.

We are human … and built into us there seems to be a need to both give and to receive love. I don’t see that gender needs to be the main issue in this.

A man and a woman can complement each other … but so can two men or two women.

The natural reproductive pattern of the human species is about gender. But does marriage necessarily include reproduction? Heterosexual partners don’t usually have to make marriage vows that include reproduction. There are promises to accept and love children but not usually to procreate. At least that’s how this reads to me.

Nature itself is a contradictory kind of thing. I don’t believe that marriage is an institution with laws that are governed and dictated by nature.

Contrarily, I suspect that religions and societies developed the concept of marriage to define a structure in which stable , loving and committed relationships could develop and flourish.

Because of this I think that it’s fair enough to redefine it if the redefinition serves to extend this stability to other people.

Understood as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman, and for the creation and upbringing of children, marriage is an expression of our fundamental humanity. Its status in law is the prudent fruit of experience, for the good of the spouses and the good of the family. In this way society esteems the married couple as the source and guardians of the next generation. As an institution marriage is at the foundation of our society.

People understand that the ideal of marriage is a lifelong commitment. No one that I know of plans on redefining this.

My own feelings, though, are that it is a commitment to do things like:

- to accept children lovingly 

- to be true in good times and bad, sickness and health

- to love and to honour

It’s not about promising to reproduce. Nor does it necessarily have to be a commitment between a man and a woman, unless we choose to make it that way.

Love and commitment are the things at the foundation of society.

Marriage provides a way for people to promise openly that they will love each other and commit themselves to that love and to each other.

Marriage actually guarantees nothing.

It’s the love and commitment that do the work.

Marriage is a vehicle through which the love and commitment can be expressed.

If the definition of marriage is changed so that people who happen to be of the same sex can make the same promises of love and commitment doesn’t that have the power to strengthen society rather than weaken it?

 

There are many reasons why people get married. For most couples, there is an instinctive understanding that  the stability of a marriage provides the best context for the flourishing of their relationship and for bringing up their children. Society recognises marriage as an important institution for these same reasons: to enhance stability in society and to respect and support parents in the crucial task of having children and bringing them up as well as possible.

I don’t have a problem with this, other than to say it represents an ideal. An ideal that is sometimes impossible to achieve.

In the real world parents die, wars happen and families break.

In the real world some children would be better living well outside their natural families.

And some children would even be better outside of the institutions that have pledged to take care of them when they have no family.

Stable relationships are a good thing. I think most people accept this. But I don’t see that stability necessarily involves reproduction and child rearing. It involves love and commitment.

The Church starts from this appreciation that marriage is a natural institution, and indeed the Church recognises civil marriage. The Catholic understanding of marriage, however, raises this to a new level. As the Catechism says: ‘The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a  partnership of the whole of life, by its nature is ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the
dignity of a sacrament.’

These rather abstract words are reflected however imperfectly in the experience of married couples. We know that at the heart of a good marriage is a relationship of astonishing power and richness, for the couple, their children, their wider circle of friends and relations and society. As a Sacrament, this is a place where divine grace flows. Indeed, marriage is a sharing in the mystery of God’s own life: the unending and perfect flow of love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We know, too, that just as God’s love is creative, so too the love of husband and wife is creative of new life. It is open, in its essence, to welcoming new life, ready to love and nurture that life to its fullness, not only here on earth but also into eternity.

This is a high and noble vision, for marriage is a high and noble vocation. It is not easily followed. But we are sure that Christ is at the heart of marriage, for his presence is a sure gift of the God who is Love, who wants nothing more than for the love of husband and wife to find its fulfilment. So the daily effort that marriage requires, the many ways in which family living breaks and reshapes us, is a sharing in the mission of Christ, that of making visible in the world the creative and forgiving love of God.

In these ways we understand marriage to be a call to holiness for a husband and wife, with children recognised and loved as the gift of God, with fidelity and permanence as the boundaries which create its
sacred space. Marriage is also a crucial witness in our society, contributing to its stability, its capacity for compassion and forgiveness and its future, in a way that no other institution can.

In putting before you these thoughts about why marriage is so important, we also want to recognise the experience of those who have suffered the pain of bereavement or relationship breakdown and their contribution to the Church and society. Many provide a remarkable example of courage and fidelity. Many strive to make the best out of difficult and complex situations. We hope that they are always welcomed and helped to feel valued members of our parish communities.

The reasons given by our government for wanting to change the definition of marriage are those of equality and discrimination. But our present law does not discriminate unjustly when it requires both a man and a woman for marriage. It simply recognises and protects the distinctive nature of marriage.

Changing the legal definition of marriage would be a profoundly radical step. Its consequences should be taken seriously now. The law helps to shape and form social and cultural values. A change in the law would gradually and inevitably transform society’s understanding of the purpose of marriage. It would reduce it just to
the commitment of the two people involved. There would be no recognition of the complementarity of male and female or that marriage is intended for the procreation and education of children.

We have a duty to married people today, and to those who come after us, to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.

I don’t know … it seems like the meaning of marriage here is being reduced to being all about having children.

It’s almost as though someone has sat down and though … “what is it that same sex partnerships can’t do” and then based a whole argument upon it.

My own feelings are that children are best brought up within loving and stable relationships. And that people who have children should try to make it work that way.

I can see why religions then say that people should marry before having children. As an expression of love and commitment.

But I’m not at all sure about the way it’s being twisted the other way around. Implying that you should have children if you want to be married, rather than if you want to have children you should get married.

Children … and grown ups as well … thrive best when they are loved and when they know that this love is stable and committed.

In one of the Bible passages that I like a lot (and I know, I am as picky as anyone) it says a lot about love but nowhere does it say that love is exclusively a man and a woman thing.

Changing the legal definition of marriage may have profound results.

With every blessing.

Most Reverend Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster

President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Most Reverend Peter Smith

Archbishop of Southwark

Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales



 

I know there's more than a single point of view for everything.

So, if you’re aged 16 or over and live in the UK … take a look at http://www.c4em.org.uk/ and think about it. And also take a look at http://c4m.org.uk/ to see the opposite side.

And then … be reasonable minded bout this and sign the petition at http://www.c4em.org.uk/ Smile