According to Margaret!
9 – 5
Forum member Margaret Pepper gives us a glimpse of her personal story and her thoughts on everything mainstream. Disagree with anything? Why not write your own views down in an article and send it in via the contacts section of our website. Perhaps you will occupy our next blog spot!
Nigel Harris, Camden LGBT Forum’s Interim Director, has kindly asked me to contribute my thoughts about life, the universe and everything, but more specifically these items relating to the LGBT community. I am not sure that Nigel knows who is letting loose on an unsuspecting readership, but here goes…
In the early part of 2002 I “came out” officially as a Trans woman. I had briefly visited a club in 1991, but due to family pressure retreated back into the closet until the end of 2001, once all family “hindrances” has been removed. Since then, one of the major things that has become evident to me that there is a “mainstream” world, and there is an LGBT world which seem to me to co-exist quite separately. I don’t mean just in a sexual sense, though this is an important facet, but also in terms of housing and employment for LGBT people.
I think that I should explain that I grew up in what most people would describe as an extremely conventional family. My dad went to work, my mum was a housewife, but also helped my dad with his work sometimes. I had a large number of aunts and uncles who also seemed to lead very ordinary or conventional lives. This was from the 1940-5-60’s etc. As far as I am aware none of these relatives was gay or lesbian, at least I don’t think so, but then again I was too young to understand family dynamics then. In any case, I never heard the topic brought up. If you had mentioned the word “trans” they would have stared blankly not even knowing what the word meant. At school in the 1950’s, it was the same, though, of course, as 14 year old school kids we were obviously obsessed with the subject of sex. Compared with today, we seemed to grow up very slowly, not a bad thing I think in hindsight. Which brings me back to the subject of “fitting” in, especially when you are a member (in or out of the closet) to where is your place in society. I seem to meet an awful lot of people who don’t feel that they “fit” in, but they do belong to a group. There are very few people who don’t belong anywhere, i.e. complete loners. In any case, does this actually matter?
I think that it does matter if you want to succeed in the so called “conventional” society. The further you are from the “mainstream”, the harder life is. Mainstream people (it seems to me) on the whole appear to be straight, possibly married, possibly had kids, possibly have 9 to 5 jobs. (yes, a sweeping generalisation!) I would not say that it made them necessarily happy, but comfortable with others within their social circle. Doing these things certainly makes life easier. It is not meant as criticism, but an observation. Therefore the nearer to the centre you are the easier day to day living is. For anyone, in any cultural group. The thing today is that everyone says you should do your “own thing”. But what they really mean is do your own thing so long that is completely normal. When you see advertising it always (or nearly always) shows smiling happy people with 2.2 kids all living conventional lifestyles. Even when you see so called trans people, they seem to portray trans women with beards doing the ironing, which really annoys me. Funnily enough I was told that the nuclear family with 2.2 kids is an advertising creation, actually now 95% of the population do not fall within this category. Most people under 25 now live alone in rooms or bedsits, a trend likely to continue with housing costs as they are.
But back to “fitting in” to the mainstream. All my closest friends are Trans women. All are middle aged. All have been married with children. All owned their own properties. They were all people, I would say, that “fitted in” to the so-called norm, then at some point snapped, and decided that they would rather live as women. Conformity is an incredibly strong force. Fight it at your peril. Nearly everyone conforms to something. Funnily enough, all these friends form a pattern. They have all done the wife, kids, mortgage bit when much younger. To me, that’s really striking. Shows the power of conformity. Everyone you see in the public eye conforms. Even rock stars. Very true in the business world. It’s even true in the art world, where everyone claims to be an individual. We all show a face to the world. I notice in the Gay & Lesbian world, although not specifically mainstream, there is a type of conformity. This is where I think that the Gay & Lesbian world differs from the Trans world. The Trans women I know (in depth) find it easier in some respects to fit in, once transitioned. The thing is when you do the wife kids mortgage bit, it really changes you are a human being. It’s basically down to having kids. You immediately stop thinking single and think family, which means that you need a job and somewhere to live. The person you become at 50 bears no relationship to the carefree person you were at 20. I suspect it’s the same for everyone, although not so marked. Probably a simplified way at looking at and assessing an extremely complex issue, when you can’t generalise? Is there such a thing as the mainstream? In any case, does it matter if you don’t “fit in”?
Comments? Why not write your own views or experiences down in an article and send it in via the contacts section of our website. Perhaps you will occupy our next ‘view from the members’ slot! Please be aware that our member blog articles do not necessarily represent the official views of Camden LGBT Forum and are published to encourage constructive debate on matters of importance to LGBT people.