What a magic wonder it is to see the inner being, not just the gender but a lot more, emerge from their depths of someone’s being and become embodied to make them a new place in the wider world. Rory is one of those people that I’ve witnessed on this journey.

Now he’s a well established man of his own, with many a fine insight, keen perception and a unique way of his own, now he is living authentically as himself. The title of this episode, Authenticity is the Key, came out of his mouth as we talked, and I wrote it down quickly in case it got lost. These few words make a gem. Within them is everything I’m working to show. As it says in, I think, the Upanishads; when the unreal vanishes, the real remains.

When the acquired mask of gender is taken away – gently, I hope – then what remains is that authentic self, that we we are in our heart of hearts. This is what this transition is all about, folks, it may well be what all of our lives are about. come to think about it.

My time with Emily Brothers seems to have opened yet another door, something special for me. Her openness, determination, walking her life through her disability and trans identity into politics and activism, touched me deeply.

I am pleased to be able to give you a taste of my afternoon with her, someone I feel we can all learn something from. I find myself thinking this – you got something to complain about, Persia West? Or is it time to stop any form of whining and sense of lack of power, and make some real difference to the world around you? In this way Emily touched and inspired me; she’s so worth listening to; not just for the words but the spirit behind them.

Fox is a film-maker, an artist and a relentless advocate for trans and non binary people everywhere. It’s a tough game they play, one that I have played myself so I know how hard it can be.

In this recording Fox and I talked of being between two identities, such as gender and race, and the word that emerged more than once was gift, in terms of both what we receive and what we have to give. Within this idea is the essence of The Masks of Gender; behind the roles we play, which always diminish, is a wonder, something privileged we receive and then give. Then, towards the end of our conversation they came up with the considered words the lighter self which is, to me, a beautiful way of stating what we become, we trans people of the world. So there’s the title of the episode.

The point we are trying to put over is not that it is just people like us who have the gift, that something special within us, it’s everyone, and it lies deep within the heart of us all, behind all the limiting masks we wear.

There have been two major threads that formed the essence of the quest of my life; gender and spirituality. Gender only exists in our social world; it’s a primal form of identity, which creates relationships, then our entire social world. Spirituality lies behind the world we live in, it’s the world of the intangible, the spirit, feelings, awareness, which is all the invisible hand in the glove that creates our lives.

I have now been a meditator for almost fifty years and have come to value the awareness, the insight, sense of being that this has brought. It is my conviction that to experience who and what we are in our hidden depths some form of spiritual practice is essential. It’s also necessary to have a guide, someone who has walked the tricky paths of self awareness before us and can guide us along our own camino, our own way.

In this episode I am quoting from the Karmapa, the head of one of the great traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, because his wise, concise words from his book The Heart is Noble, precisely match my own experience, with a special quality of humility and humanity that make them truly noble.

I then comment on what he has said from my own specific gendered experience, to share my own insights that parallel the Karmapa’s.

The image on this post, by the way, is of a sculpture that greeted me as I entered De Tropen, the cafe in the Tropenmuseum – the museum of the tropics – in Amsterdam just a few days ago. I find this high art sculpture entitled ‘Rhinoceros, father and son’ to be extraordinarily beautiful and powerful; it magically brings together the spirit of the animal and the human into our shared essence, full of love, beyond gender or species. The artist was from Zimbabwe, which has a magnificent tradition of sculpture. I am searching for their name right now.

I have known Tina, the Reverend Dr Christina Beardsley, Church of England priest, since the very early 2000’s. From that beginning I was conscious of her leaning in to comfort trans people, help them with her highly developed spiritual heart, inspiring the creation of the Clare Project, which supports trans people to this day. To me she is the living goodness of heart that comes with the best of Christianity. She is also very smart, light and funny, and actually quoted me in her book; Transfaith: a transgender pastoral resource. I am honoured.

So when I began to create this podcast, The Masks of Gender, Tina was at the top of my list, and, in fact, I made the first recording of the all episodes at her flat in London last year. Always best to begin with a professional, I thought, and I was right. We talked from our own, parallel spiritual paths, which, I feel are, at the heart one and the same, what gender is, what it is to be true to ourselves, and how we can change the world, one step at a time. I hope this podcast is one of those steps.