My friend Anne-May is staying in the Inner Temple. This is an ancient place, woven about with the church, the Templars, the Rosicrucians, the holy blood, the San Graal. And lawyers. Huge ancient religious stoneworks, with inexplicable symbolism connected via impenetrable manuscripts to obscure ideas and vague histories supported and maintained by pleasant baffled old men and set about with populist scholarship regarding all sorts. Early banks, Illuminati, assassinations, the location of the holy grail if only we knew or cared whether it was a cup or a womb or a bloodline or a vague excuse to tell stories about secrets and foment exclusive conspiracies that simultaneously unite and divide. Joseph of Arimathea. Mary Magdalene. Resurrected Jesus. It’s one of the convergence points of the Judao/Christian mythos in London.
It’s peaceful here, despite the conflicting stories. Right now I’m stuck inside the Inner Temple.
I’m probably being hunted by monks who are actually lizardgods. I’ve got my bike so I can outrun them downhill. I’ve tried a few options that way to no avail, but I know that if I go uphill I can let myself out of a door in a huge black fence. I did an acting job here a few years ago and they told me it’s the only way out late. I’ll make my way there before long. Although what if that acting job was the lizardgods preparing me for tonight’s ritual?
If I don’t show up tomorrow morning, it’s because I’ve been caught and used as the virgin in some ancient ceremony involving goats, old men in hats and crap Latin.
For now I’m sitting writing this and it’s beautiful in the dusk. Nobody has come near me. I can cycle home once I’m done.
I’m thinking about gender, after seeing Rotterdam at The Arts Theatre. Go and see it. It’s wonderful. Any piece of art that helps us start to deconstruct binary gender is a useful piece of art. And this is a brilliant piece of theatre. It’s a love story, expertly told, and it deals with sexual identity and gender identity sensitively and thoughtfully. It opens a dialogue, and people talk animatedly after the show is over. It does that while being a tight piece of theatre. This is not a tubthumping reactionary piece. It’s a human story with some deep questions at heart about self identity, tolerance and traditional love. It’s hard to properly understand something we cannot feel ourselves. It’s also very easy to dismiss feelings that make us uncomfortable, within ourselves or perceived in others. This show is an empathy mouthpiece. I have enough people in my life that are not reactionary in general but that honestly and simply know that their sexual and gender identities are unusual. I understand it to be a deep, nuanced issue. I also feel how it can seem like a terrific privilege to even be able to worry about these matters in this country – although they’re life and death in others, and have been here in living memory. I know my own gender identity to be broadly cis but I still spent much of my childhood honestly feeling that I was supposed to have been a gay woman. That was connected to a deeply learned and fully understood distaste for the men I was surrounded by when I was pubescent.
I suspect most of us have complications if we are baseline honest and sift through the shit we condition ourselves with. But for most of us we settle into a calm understanding of our own desires and what they mean.
As I sit here surrounded by the monolith of thousands of years of patriarchy, I’m feeling very peaceful. Nobody has moved me on despite the fact I’m probably being observed through cameras. I’m a white male in a collared white shirt and glasses. I historically belong here. How lucky I am to be able to sit in this gorgeous Inner Temple surrounded by powerful architecture and landscaping, placidly wondering if maybe I’m supposed to be a woman while people have died and are dying for just such thoughts across the world right now.
As if on cue, Ishmael showed up. He’d been watching me on CCTV and was worried I’d passed out. He moved me on, respectfully. He asked me if I was a member, and I lied yes, but he couldn’t fathom my decision to sit on the floor when there were lots of visible benches. “Sit on a bench!” “It’s alright. I’m heading home. I’ve been thinking about gender…” He was up for the discussion. We talked a long while. I’m home now but it’s late. Night porter is a pretty dry job. Good on you, Ishmael. On the surface a very traditional God-fearing man, but able to think outside the frame enough to deliberately pursue a line of thinking he initially found uncomfortable.
I’m so glad to have seen Rotterdam again, in the West End this time after it netted an Olivier for the team. It’s a great blend of story and question. It’s fun, it gently pokes at our gender and sexuality assumptions and it’s produced by Brian who most of you will know by now is a total fucking legend. Here’s the link.