fox

Walking home tonight, I crossed a road, dodged a car and wandered along a footpath with a bank up its side. Walking alongside me, about four feet away was a fox. I slowed down, and so did he. We looked at each other - he looked at me, and I looked at him. While I was calm, he seemed tense - his eyes darted from me to the road, to the surrounding area. He moved behind a small bush and kept watching me - moving his head. I could see the streetlights reflected in his dark eyes. I wondered - how old was he when he first learnt that a bit of cover is a wise thing when watching something else that moves?

I wanted to stay for a lot longer. It was like watching a Mary Oliver poem unfold in front of me.

Last week, I led a reflection process for some people who wanted to find a new way to discuss LGBT lives and stories - a discussion that would veer away from predictable, unfruitful arguments in order to discover inroads of understanding. By putting coercion aside, we held a space of human encounter together - telling very real stories about our lives, and in turn, finding ourselves on territory where we asked very difficult questions of each other.

Tim Millen, Fox
Tim Millen, Fox

What was remarkable about these questions is that they contained some of the content, but none of the tone, of what often happens in polemic, didactic public exchanges. However, in the warm space of carefully tended conversation, we were able to ask difficult questions, and sit with each other while we pondered the answers. One person asked "Would you be made happier if I split up from the partner that I love?". Another person asked "How many things that I've said over the past 24 hours have been bruising to you?". Another said "I need time to think." Another said "I feel torn - my experiences say to me to publicly affirm LGBT relationships, my reading of the text seems to point to another way. I am not sure how to hold this tension."

I sit with a tension of my own in holding these conversations. I am aware of many LGBT people who live with the daily reality of the threat of unemployment, the danger of unsafety and the possibility of alienation from their family, friends and community because of inconsiderate words used in the public realm. However, the pragmatist in me says that change cannot be forced, that in order for this public conversation's tone to be raised, we LGBT people must demonstrate a graciousness that we all too often have not experienced. We must not return threat for threat. We have lived under demands of forced conformity long enough to know that such demands are undignifying and short lived. There is an urgency in me for public dialogue to be improved. That urgency is tempered by the knowledge that the most longlasting change will come about through dedicated dialogue, real human encounter, a respect for listening and time, time, time.

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I am in Glasgow this week with the Wild Geese of the WGRG. A series of events are being held - some similar in tone to the one described above. Further details are found here. Some further writings on encounters between people who read LGBT lives and stories differently can be found here.

The picture, above, is "Fox" and is my favourite painting by the ridiculously talented Tim Millen.

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