Saturday, 1 November 2014

An Unexpectedly Depressing Exhibition

Something rather surprising happened this afternoon.  Sarada and I went to the Leicester LGBT history exhibition at Newarke Houses Museum.  Now before I say anything else I want to stress that there was nothing wrong with the exhibition itself, although apparently it's a scaled-down version of the one at the LGBT Centre so there were bits missing.  Even so, as we were looking around it, I found myself getting rather depressed, and when I came to sign the visitors' book all I did was that, which is unusual for me because as you will realise if you read this, I'm very bad at brevity, which is why NaNo has proven to be so easy so far and why I'm actually blogging right now even though I said I wouldn't during November.  What happened then?

At first I just put it down to fatigue and low blood sugar.  I think I had four hours sleep last night and my breakfast was quite small by my standards, so that would make sense and I'm not denying it was a factor, but there was more to it than that.  Two things happened really.  One of them was that Sarada said I should contribute to the oral history project, which by the way is here should you want to contribute to it, on the grounds that I clearly have a lot to say on the matter.  She then cited this blog as an example of that.  That in itself is rather depressing, so it would've been enough on its own.  It's depressing because in fact I regard me paying attention to my possible gender dysphoria as an unhealthy obsession and if she sees me as predominantly blogging about that, it's probably true but I really try hard not to, and apparently fail.  The problems I have with brevity are also something I find really embarrassing because they seem to be like someone constantly muttering to herself because of major organic brain pathology.  I can write loads, easily, just as I am orally voluble, but it's not a good thing and I want to stop doing it.  It's just that I can't.  Therefore there are two things there which are problematic and in my view pathological, both excessive and obsessive-compulsive, but unfortunately nobody seems willing to help me stop writing or obsessing about trans.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the non-judgementalism and positivity towards me but I do constantly try to stop doing it and it's really hard, and clearly I'm failing although NaNo will probably help a bit.

Leaving all that aside though, try as I might I cannot think of anything worthwhile I could contribute on LGBT history in Leicester.  How could I?  I have hardly participated at all in any of it except as an ally, and an ally is just that, not someone in the thick of it.  I can't make sense of my life in that way at all.  I came to Leicester, pined after two unrequited loves for a few years, had a one night stand, went out with two people and got married, over twenty years ago.  I did of course also acquire a certain nickname due to something someone found out, left a series of religious groups because of their homophobia (who wouldn't?), lived platonically with a few gay guys around the place, and then I went around calling myself Ruth and - well, there were a few things, but none of it seems to have anything to do with LGBT stuff to me more than most other allies' lives would be.  I've only ever been on the margins.  I'm really sad about David's death and that still haunts me, but that's a personal thing and I'm sure a lot of his other friends are too.  I have also been threatened and shouted and sworn at a lot, and occasionally mildly assaulted and physically harrassed, but to be honest that probably happens to everyone for all sorts of reasons.  They happened to be about how I presented myself gender-wise, but if they hadn't been about that they would've been about something else.

Sarada's suggestion that I contribute, I suppose, makes me sad.  Over much of my time in Leicester I wasn't out about this as such, although that was mainly because it seemed so obvious that I was gender dysphoric that it wasn't worth mentioning, and it was also something I was ashamed of.  I would never have discussed it with anyone in the LGBT community because I would have expected them to ostracise me if I came out about it and if they didn't, I would probably have concluded they were being politically naive and allowing themselves to compromise because I was a nice person or someone to be pitied rather than despised, not because I'm not despicable but because I'm so pathetic that it actually trumps even that.  So no, I have nothing to say to the LGBT oral history project because I've contributed nothing and wasted my time instead.  Moreover, my perception of the situation over almost all of that time was that I was a traitor to LGBT causes because of how I've lived my life, and leaving off the T, even more of a traitor because of the T, and recognised as such by others.

All of that is rather depressing.

Unfortunately, there's a whole different set of reasons why it's depressing.  It might be interesting to have an exhibition on left-handedness and the history of prejudice against that.  Fascinating in fact. However, on the whole the idea of handedness is not considered significant enough, at least by right-handed people nowadays, for it to be a specific issue.  The day when my headmaster was at school and caned for drawing someone sawing with his left hand, and my mother was rapped across the knuckles for writing left-handedly, are long gone, and incomprehensible to the contemporary mind.  I'm sure handedness is still an issue in many ways and realise that being cross-dominant I'm not in a position to comment, so correct me if I'm wrong but my impression is that nowadays left-handedness is mainly just a variant and doesn't make people think there's something wrong with you.  As a result, you don't see many exhibitions on left-handedness.  Maybe there should be, I'm not sure.

Anyway, so there's an exhibition in 2014 on the history of LGBT stuff in Leicester.  This bothers me because we shouldn't still be in a situation where it's considered remarkable.  Just on the sexual orientation issue, that should be irrelevant nowadays.  It might be interesting to look into it and tell people about it, and right now it's still important to do it, but really it's a scandal that it is important.  Then again, I'm asexual so maybe I don't get it.

Another source of my downheartedness, then, was the fact that such an exhibition is still interesting enough to be put on.  It should be considered such a humdrum and prosaic issue that it's merely of historical interest, like the history of attitudes to left-handedness.  It shouldn't still be a live issue.  The fact that it is makes it depressingly necessary.