Boy and I saw Pride a week or so ago. (In case you live under a rock, it’s a genuinely heartwarming comedy about the alliance between the queer community and the striking miners in the 1980s, which isn’t a bad trick to pull off, what with the general shittiness of the miners’ circumstances, the rise of AIDS, etc. With the exception of a really nasty scene where a feminist lesbian’s assertion of the validity of ‘women’s issues’ is thoroughly squashed, it’s a joy, and I would recommend everyone see it.) We both loved the film in a teary sort of way, but it set off a fairly complex train of thought, and because I *am* the kind of girl who likes to tell the world about the way she feels about herself[i], here goes.
Part of the reason I loved the London gay characters so much was they reminded me of my friends. Not just because they were queer, although a substantial number if not the majority of my friends are, but in their ideological activism and their lefty compassion and their concern for equality. And also in that big-city-sense of having left somewhere limited and limiting for a big city where they could make their own accommodation with the world, be accepted on their own terms, and find friendships and relationships and chosen families without the burden of being expected to fit others’ definitions of ‘normal’. So far, so lovely: this is very much stuff I respect and am actively choosing to involve/identify myself with.
(Side note, also part of this thought process: my friends are almost unilaterally really fucking clever, and mostly appear somewhere on the overlapping Venn diagrams of intelligent/queer/experience of mental health trauma/TCK or at least multinational. Clearly I’m drawn to people who have experience of outsider-ness in some sense, and also people who have spent lots of time questioning, considering and communicating their values and beliefs and their selfhood to an often hostile environment. This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise.)
But this is on some level an area of tension between boy and me. Although we have very similar values (and experience of self-loathing), we sort of went different ways: I moved to Big Infinitely Various Capital City and surrounded myself with creative and academics and queers and goths and geeks and weirdos and activists, he moved to a northern city and mostly became a hermit, in an environment that’s much more white and heteronormative than London, and where people police each other’s interactions in public to the extent that we’ve been interrupted crying in the supermarket by a passing lady who didn’t like our language. (You can see how Pride, with its contrasts between London queers and Welsh mining communities, might resonate, right?) He can get on with pretty much everyone, it’s his main survival skill, but for him acceptance translates as ‘turning himself into something acceptable’ or ‘projecting only acceptable facets of himself’, not ‘being accepted for who he is.’
Which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, were it not for the fact that being three hours away from one another is starting to get really frustrating. We love each other and are very functional, and have every intention of staying together indefinitely; we’ve had the marriage conversation, several times. But he hates London, it makes him feel shut in, and I appreciate that. I would love for us to be able to live together – or if not together, at least within fifteen minutes or so of one another. But I cannot and will not and don’t want to give up either my chosen family of reprobates or the ideological environment and practical activism that’s very much part of London for me, along with queer/goth/activist/academic communities that are big enough you don’t necessarily know everyone already, and access to a whole bunch of interesting cultural stuff and congenial environments that aren’t necessarily the only ones of their kind. (And practical stuff like public transport for which you can pay with card, but don’t even get me started on that.) And I don’t know how we’ll ever square that circle, because he’s the stable grownup with a house and job and car, and I’m the freelancing creative living in a tiny studio flat, and I suppose on some level I assume that I will eventually give up this creative academic nonsense and go live oop norf, but that feels very much like giving up myself.
And so we’re long distance, and I spend too much time and energy and money on trains, and it still seems to be the best solution, right now. Because to get back to Pride, although the London queers were sometimes dickish and the Welsh mining community were eventually kind and lovely and accepting, the London queers were still my people.
[i] Bonus points if you get the reference, which just happens to be in my head atm.