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Claire Leal

Clair Leal

Quakerly Mind Your Business

Who am I?

Coming from a small town, I arrived in Campo Grande, Brazil, in 1986 determined to go to university. I had tried Belém do Pará and Recife before, which at the time scared me to death with their large population, urban violence and sharp social inequality. In Belém, at age 19, I attempted to settle, however I was ambushed by a group of men who beat me horrifically. I was unable to report the unmotivated attack. There were no witnesses, and I was unable to identify the individuals involved.

My life had always been marked by violence incited by my androgyny and my female behaviour as I was born slightly affected with a condition known as genital ambiguity. This small hormonal disturbance in my foetal stage, which despite having prevented my genitalia to form fully, allowed it to develop enough so that my male sex was easily determined according to my XY chromosomes.

Therefore, I was pigeonholed a transsexual, label I did not like because of its stigma and stereotype associated with it that generates prejudice. People think of me as a man of homosexual orientation who, having been convinced that he was born in the wrong body, then "decided" to "choose" to be a woman, and they condemn him for it. The reality is, however, there was no choice to be made. I love my naturally feminine body. On the contrary of what Simone de Beauvoir claims that “a woman is not born a woman but is educated to be one,” I was raised to be a man without respite. However, dressing me in men’s clothes and forcing me to use men’s toilet was so brutally torturing and traumatizing by inflicting constant risk on me that my hands tremble at the thought.

I always sought a genital reconstruction that would allow suiting my genitals to the female gender that manifested itself very early in my psychological and behavioural development. I was born with the wrong genitalia. I had no support from anyone until I was thirty years old, when the shyness and introspection, which had always been part of my personality, converted into chronically morbid depression. My weight fell well below the minimum acceptable. The food seemed to have no flavour and even its smell was repulsive to me. It was as if my body had decided to die independently of my will.

I was close to death when I met the psychiatrist who referred me to the gender clinic in São Paulo two years later. At the time, the genital reconstruction surgery that they offered was still experimental with high rates of death, complications and sequels. So I preferred to sell everything I had and go to England where, after a long wait due to the British rigors, I received a perfect surgery both aesthetically and functionally with excellent results. It was worth the wait and every penny employed. During the time I lived in the UK, I met an English prince I fell in love with and now we talk of getting married. So I flew back to Brazil to have my birth certificate rectified.

The process has dragged on for over a year. This has prevented me from working and having a normal life. Nobody wants to employ me in Brazil despite my impeccable CV, my extensive professional experience of twelve years of living in England and my native-like English. So I applied for a place as a graduate student at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul, expecting it would make things easier for me. However, what followed was quite the contrary. The university had no sensitivity and wisdom in dealing with my case despite my request for secrecy handed in along with my application request. Due to this negative exposure, everyone on campus sees me as a transvestite. The constant verbal abuse swelled to the point of a materialized threat. The group of students, author of the threat, has been identified but I could not take the case to court for fear that it would delay the process of birth certificate rectification. I now feel unable to finish the course and may give up university.

Nevertheless, unemployment and the lack of financial support drew me into setting up my own small business in hospitality. It was named after the legendary Earl of Mercia, AElfgar. The rented property that I call AElfgar Hotel, a kind of bed and breakfast, can accommodate up to three guests at a time. So far, it features a single apartment with contemporary furnishings, very comfortable bedding and basic amenities such as completely smoke free environment, daily continental breakfast, wireless internet access, daily housekeeping service, laundry area, hairdryer, complimentary parking, iron and ironing board, refrigerator and electric fan. It is an apartment within a residential condominium. Normal fees per night are 100BRL per two people unless a promotion is made. This includes Wi-Fi and free parking.

What do I know?

I am emphatically against the use of air conditioning which emits heat in the atmosphere, produces noise pollution and burns fossil fuel in thermal power plants. I support sustainable tourism, which is why I use more economical electric fans. The walls of the apartment fail to catch the west solar radiation anyway. Also, in Campo Grande, most nights tend to be cool even in the summer.

Sustainability has become my main focus since I met the Quakers, despite my traditions not being a hundred per cent Quaker. I suggest this because the Quaker tradition is still very much rooted in Christianity, however, I believe it has an open window to the unknown, and I was drawn trough that very window.

By rejecting conventionalised rituals, doctrines and preaching, Quakers very wisely approach the mystical legacy of Christ’s philosophy, which is my belief too. To begin with, Christ’s writings did not reach us because they are very likely to have been destroyed around the time of his death. Why would a rabbi like Jesus not leave a written scroll? I would argue that the Gospels were written by self-proclaimed Christians and their interpretation of Christ’s teachings was an attempt to convince themselves that Christ fulfilled the messiah prophecy.

The self-proclaimed Christian Quakers appear not to understand, and I feel compelled to inform them, that they are making the same mistakes as Christians. In basing their belief system on the illusionary grounds of truth and faith, when there is nothing more meaningless than "true faith." Faith is a pagan concept alien to Christ’s language as it did not exist in the Hebrew tongue. Consequently up to this time, the legal term "bona fide" is the evidence. Fide – the Latinised version of Greek for faith - was borrowed from Greek by whoever wrote the Gospels nearly a century after Christ’s death. How could Christ have ever used this word if no correspondent term existed in his language? Then it is also likely that the empty abstraction “spirit” was created to camouflage the fact that the authors of the Gospels could not have witnessed Christ’s teachings.

Quakers do not seem to know either, but again it is my duty to inform them, that the terms “love” and “liberty” have the same origin, and therefore they are synonyms. Love, de facto, means freedom. However, there does not seem to be any love, or freedom, in having a "domestic" slave (dom= lord, domesticus= belonging to a lord or owner); as there does not seem to be any love, or freedom, in having a friend. This happens because non-Latin words become empty shells as they translate Latin. Some end up becoming empty abstractions as a result of the power of Latinism. The pair "friend" and "free" have the same origin, and therefore they are synonyms. The empty shells of "love" and "friend" were then respectively filled with the Latin borrowings of "Amor" and "amicus." Amor - love - is the naughty godson of the goddess of beauty, Venus, or Aphrodite in Greek, and therefore to love is to worship such god. In turn, amicus (amo= master, amicus= lover), literally means "one who loves their master". Notice that it is a unilateral, or non-reciprocal, form of love. In fact, amicus - friend - was coined to designate a domestic slave - literally enslaved Slavic people - the sort of one that had an overt sexual relationship with their masters.

In spite of all my criticism, I still love my friends with a capital F and meeting them was, perhaps, the icing on the cake of my blissful life in England. I was very proud to have associated myself with them. Of all their principles, the ones that I most associated myself with are honesty, peace and above all simplicity. My business stands on these principles and thanks to them it is among those that survive the first year.

What do I do?

I suppose the success of a business enterprise depends on three key elements: be customer focused, stay ahead of competitors and do what you advertise.

In my understanding, the Quaker principle of Honesty - Justice and Integrity - in all personal relationships corresponds to the first key element of being customer-centred. As an altruistic business person, I place myself in my customer’s shoes. This helps me to figure out what exactly they are looking for. It is the most difficult thing to achieve. People are all different; however they are only there for one thing, to be served. For instance, my hotel customers demand immaculate towels, but they will leave them unrecognisably soiled. All they want is to be treated like kings and queens. That is the whole point in staying at a hotel or having a private tutor. Most of them will not consider my feelings. This striking realisation helped me to arrive at the conclusion that Mrs Thatcher was absolutely right about the Good Samaritan. Had he no money, would they still remember his good intentions?

In a similar fashion the Quaker principle of Simplicity relates to the second key element in business, staying ahead of competitors. Austerity forced me to minimize costs and thereby focusing my attention towards making profits. I am a sole trader struggling to get my business off the ground without any capital as I am still to make a profit. Despite this, I do celebrate the fact that my business is still competitive during and after its first year. I have achieved all this with the only weapons that I possess, which are my language and math skills. This opened my eyes to realise that Karl Marx was correct when he claimed that the only way to make money is by exploiting low-paid workers.

Finally, the Quaker principle of Peace matches perfectly the third key principle of business - do what you advertise - is the perfect way to accommodate an alliance with the consumer market. I have tried very hard to deliver what my business advertises in order to avoid bad customer reviews. In my experience, customers will never be completely satisfied. This occurs because their satisfaction is subject to a number of variables such as their mood, biorhythm, possible jet lag, weather, learning skills and so on. Some of my customers will undoubtedly blame me for things I have no control over, which is why I surrender and offer diplomacy as the way forward.