So, while I was clearing our little garden today, I was thinking about my life. (Spring clearing, readying, is a great time for thinking.)
I was thinking about recently explaining to a 30 year old friend how, even now, I can’t really hold Shelley’s hand in public without feeling like it’s a ‘thing’ – a statement, a gesture – even now, after 25 years together. How for so long – at only 53 – my sexuality (and my gender) have been a thing outside the mainstream, outside the welcomed and accepted norm, that it became part of me too, that being other became part of me.
And how now, most of the time in my moderately liberal, generous, London life, people are open and kind. But those many many years of feeling othered don’t just go away. They live inside me. Othered as a woman. Othered as a gay women. Othered as a woman from a working class background. And it doesn’t disappear because things are (often) nicer now, (sometimes) easier now I’m older (ageism and my breaking body aside, obv), certainly easier now I’m more established in my work – that feeling outside, that feeling apart, that feeling not welcome. Not really, not fully, not as my whole self. (And how can I be honestly me, as less than my whole self?)
Then this absurd, nasty stuff happens in North Carolina, in a state not so different to most supposedly-tolerant Western states or nations, and I realise why I still feel so other.
Because our gains are so newly won, because they are not the norm (for the whole world), because it takes so little to put the clock back, to put our lives back. It’s really really not fixed yet. Any of it. And how much more there is still to do. So much more to do.
Thinking of BAME and disabled and trans friends as well, and how we’re all supposed to be grateful for change, for improvements in EQUALITY, rather than angry that the change was ever bloody needed.
Well, I’m not. I’m pissed off that – for decades of my life – my sexuality has been a thing of concern to total strangers. I’m pissed off that – for my whole life – my gender has been lesser, relegated. I’m pissed off that in almost any discussion of LGBT issues or women’s issues we rarely hear class mentioned at all. I’m sick of it. But most of all I’m sick of behaving as if the good we have now negates the crap we went through to get here.
It does hurt.
It does make me feel differently about people who have not had to experience being othered by their entire society.
It makes me want to do more. Because it’s not fixed yet.