Today is the 122nd Corps day of the Royal Army medical corps. (RAMC), having been formed by royal warrant in 1898. This sunny, somewhat quiet day finds me in an introspective mood.
I wore the beret of the RAMC from 1994- 2004. 4 years Longer than the subsequent Nursing Corps one. Its hardly surprising then that the corps and its motto "in arduis fidelis" has had a lasting impression upon my life.
So it's probably even less surprising that on days like today I get a little introspective. Had I stayed with the medics until the present day I would have served 19 years in the regular forces. Instead life had other plans for me and I find myself engaged in other battles. Its weird you might think, being sat here in 2020 writing about events that exist now only in memory, looking at my beret and stable belt that sit in the corner of my office and the signed picture of the guys and girls from the JNCO cadre that I still have on my wall.
Yet, sometimes we find ourselves forged by efforts and events long past. Their impact not truly recognised until years later. We carry with us the regret for poor decisions mixed with pride in having been places and done stuff that was different, difficult and challenging. All done in the name of serving a purpose bigger than ourselves. Yes of course, for me thats tinged with a little annoyance at the betrayals and injustices that ultimately lead to where I am today, but in life, you make ya choices and you have to live with them.
Decisions Decisions And what of those choices? In recognising my own sense of self as a trans person I made some pretty big ones. You dont just wake up one morning and find you've gone through a gender transition. (Though many might wish it so) You make choices, you go through stages, processes & learning. It's messy, complex, disorganised and disorientating, and not without pain and consequence. Conflicting ideas and opinions, some qualified, others not so much, about how and why that learning needs to be done and what it should look like are all around. As the saying goes, "opinions are like arseholes, we all have one" and in the gender culture wars that are currently raging you will find many of both. Not everyone will be right of course. and eventually societies will navigate their course through current dilemmas and disagreements. I hope they do so in a way that minimises individual and systemic injustices to those most at risk.
In the mean time I'll continue to fight for my 'Colours' until I run out of energy, bandages or ammo. However the first rule of being a medic, and one of the very first things I was told all those years ago after walking through the doors of Fenham barracks is: "don't get shot, cos if the medic goes down were all fucked"
Getting a little R&R
Whilst I left the military, it never really left me. (abandoned yes, but left, no) I found philosophy and stoicism, which resonated somewhat. But then what is a stoic resolve if not to be "steadfast in adversity"? The very motto I wore for a decade. 'Being me' isn't something I can just take a break from, just like signing the rifle back into the armoury and going on leave doesn't mean you stop 'being a soldier'. In these current culture wars where existence is resistance, how then does one find a little peace and some rest and recuperation?
Many in my position chose literal solitude, since they're content with themselves and it is the barrage of 'opinion' from others that causes injury. Others just hide, whether that be in a closet of self denial or under the cloak of stealthy 'existence'. Still others simply deny that there is a conflict at all, suggesting all is well with the world. Unsurprisingly there is also strength in numbers, so some may find support and strength in the company of others. like minded and similarly driven. But theres the catch. "like minded" A walking contradiction such as myself rarely finds like minded souls. And if they ever do, recognition of them is hindered by complications of history etc. After all there probably aint all that many ex military leftie SJW former nurses who are lesbian women with a trans history now are there? (and how many of those have trust issues the size of the hoover dam?) In nursing we used to talk about viewing people "holistically" and not as merely their condition, disorder or injury. Yet 'being me' is to 'be' trans, and 'know' myself as such. So how do we get some down time from the constant 'being' of that which is both freedom and prison?
Simply by remembering, on days such as today, Who we are, not what. And why we fight.
Someone once told me "I am a lover not a fighter" At the time I didn't realise the false dichotomy in those words. However today it is starkly apparent.
Todays fights are tomorrow's rights. Our current struggles against the UK and US governments, and entrenched racial and gendered biases need to continue so that those who come after us have no need to repeat the same battles in the same ways.
What does the soldier fight for? Sure flag and ideals and all that, but they fight for their brothers in arms. Their sisters, lovers, fathers, mothers and others. for those beside them in the field and back home.
In 1916 John Maxwell Edwards wrote the words heard at every remembrance parade:
"When you go home tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today"
I have come to realise that the conflict I find myself current engaged in will consume my today and all the tomorrows I have left. It awards no medals, and heralds no citations. It aint no hero gig either, merely necessary. Having but one parade a year that is more protest march than celebration is proof that refusing to be a victim is not the same as ignoring victimisation. Letting go of the past to live in the present is all well and good. but on occasion our past is the very reason for us inhabiting our present as it exists. And that present, for me at least, is in effect, a Cold War.
One where words are repurposed and weaponised to divide those on the margins of society and allow the injustices inherent in the status quo to persist. Because of who I am, I cannot let that stand unchallenged. I fear there is much adversity ahead for LGBTQIA+ and BAME people. We will all need to be steadfast.
So rest up.
till next time.