Over the last few months I’ve heard Jane speak more than once with clear intelligence, wisdom and wit that I just knew she was prime for this podcast. How right I was. She’s clear, very smart, informed and is full of informed insight. And, as she said, far too clever when she was a girl.

She has a name in Brighton for her oral histories of older lesbian women, her own kind, which are truly fascinating, particularly in terms of the lives these woman led when they lived that infamous closet. As I’m round her age, I know from my own experience what a different world we live in, as society shifts and changes round us. Where are we going next?

So here, with me in my studio bedroom, where sound is pretty good (large bed, thick carpet, curtains and open wardrobe to cut sound bounce), we talked as two older women with our own perspectives on identity, gender, this shifting world, our chemical selves, the safety of the closet and more.

Jane is a gem, and I’m delighted to help give voice to her valuable contribution to this podcast. The wisdom of the elder. You know what? I’m getting to love doing this, deep talking and sharing the depths of great people with you.

This conversation was recorded at a friend’s house, a fine Edwardian pile between the New Forest and the sea. It was a second go – our first conversation was at the RSA iin London and I made a technical error with my little recorder. It was a good excuse to spend more time with Ayla, her beauty, sharp wisdom, good nature and truthfulness.

We looked out of a bedroom over the splendid garden, bursting with flowers, and went deeper and deeper into ourselves, ending up in a very sweet state of being indeed. It’s all here with you in this conversation, which fulfils a major aim of this podcast – to introduce anyone and everyone to the fine, profound people we trans folk are.

When I started this conversation with Wayne, the last thing expected was for him to open with these words; ‘let’s begin with race.’ But OK, let’s, and so we hear something of the inner experience of Wayne Mertins-Brown as he walks his walk through his world through the lens of his identity and experience. It’s very powerful, almost shocking, but also has some resonance with my own experience as a trans woman. Race and gender; two ways to classify and diminish others.

This is yet another profound insight into the world we live in, so full and rich and complete that, for a moment, I wondered if there was anywhere else to go.

So we began with race, one of the most powerful intersections with gender that keeps on emerging in The Masks of Gender, and end with the sweetness of self-recognition, the sense of knowing who we are at our deepest depths.

What a wonderful man, and Friend, is Wayne, what a privilege we have to hear his wisdom, good heartedness and truth.

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.

So many times I wonder, as I am recording another of these fine conversations that are this podcast, if this person I am talking to is just the best of all. This happened a couple of days ago when I spoke to Jess and was confirmed when I listened to it before I give it out to the world. I just loved talking to Jess in this deep way, penetrating into the heart of our experience, and me having the joy of learning from her insights.

I feel that here we have true wisdom, profundity of awareness, practised over years into a compassionate maturity, working with young people, and the young person we all still are – as she does. Here is evidence of the wisdom that lies within all of us, when we have the good fortune to live from Presence.

What more can I write? It’s all in what has been spoken. This, folks, is what The Masks of Gender is all about. How deep can we go? Who knows, I’ve only just begun.

?You can see more of the remarkable Jess, more about the artist, the painter, at jesswoodpainter.co.uk

Since I started creating The Masks of Gender podcast, I’ve spent hours in deep conversation with a range of remarkable people, none of them rich and famous, all of them profound and real.

My first object in creating the podcast was to tell another narrative about gender and its zillion variations. I intended to give voice to real people, not just giving them space to tell their story, their past, although this has real value, but in their insights, their wisdom and experience.

This was not just for trans people like myself, though the focus on my community is often there, but on everyone who has, or has had, or might have had a gender, and thereby suffered from its limitations. And we trans people need to be known for the remarkable people we are, so distinct from the ghastly narrative being told about a fiction of horror that has us as fictional demons. How this hurts us, in the same way that the narrative about women, or gay men, or black women, or disabled trans women hurts.

I’m keeping these comment post short and accessible. Please comment, in this way the conversation will grow wider.

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