The Reverend Jide Macauley, my friend Jide, is a great and lovely man, so honest in his heart it blows me away. After all he has been through – being a gay Nigerian Christian in a country that punishes LGBT+ people, being black in a white world in the UK, being openly HIV+, being rejected by his father and country, having to flee Nigeria, on and on, he has transcended all to become full of compassion, empathy and self-love which inspires me deeply.

Listening to our conversation before posting it, I was deeply inspired by his courage, deep Christian faith and love. Listen to this man, he is open and real and inspiring. Love to you, Jide.

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.

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.

This was supposed to be the first episode, in which I gave some idea of what The Masks of Gender podcast was all about. Claire Doran came to ask me some questions to get the show on the road, and added to the whole thing with her clear mind, her own identity issues – which box do I tick when none of them are me? – her easy understanding of the complexities and realities of gender identities, and more. I think I hesitated to post this episode because I quickly found that this whole concept was far deeper and wider than I imagined, so I left it to see what I said still made sense some time later. It does, so here it is.

Just before I started to publish this podcast, The Masks of Gender, I thought it might be useful to begin with me talking to someone who knew me well, asking me about my intentions, my inspirations, my hopes and dreams, what I value, what are my ways of seeing, and so on.

Fortune favoured me; Claire Doran agreed to be that person who held the conversation with me that inspired me to tell it all, or as much as I knew at the time. She works for the RSA, the Royal Society of Arts, of which I am a fellow, and she supports this podcast both personally and professionally, which I feel privileged to receive.

For reasons I’m unsure of, I didn’t put it up first, even though in the beginning of the recording I lead with a welcome to the whole series. Perhaps I wondered if I had to create some conversations before I really knew what I was doing. In fact, when I listened to it again, and although I’ve definitely learned a lot about my podcast game, the content holds up well, and I think it’s a good time to post it.

Claire really is a wonder; clear, open, sharp, with a wonderful background to bring her own particular insights into identity, gender and more. She agreed to be the contributor to her own episode, it’s in the recording, and I am going to chase her to talk to us all soon.

I don’t have the right picture of Claire as yet. When I do I’ll insert it. The image shown is of a small part of a garden sculpture I made some years ago, when I was a garden designer and maker. Another identity which has come and gone, as they do. Podcaster; there’s another.

Mariam is a bright spark of individual life, quirky, fast and sharp with a high femme presentation and a logical, some may say masculine mind within it. To me she is yet another way of expressing the power that comes with combining the two primal aspects of humanity in one person, the contradictions that make us who we are.

I am very much at home with this merging of the masculine and feminine. It’s something we all do; in the Jungian sense of every woman having their animus, every man having his anima, but some perform this essence of human existence more openly than others. Maybe that’s why Mariam and myself are such good friends.

But, of course, gender is just a part of any of us, and on top of this primal identity are all the rest of the identities we assemble to live our lives. Mariam talks about gender, race, power which affects countless millions around this human world, and so much more from her wide life, so she talks for many.