Something that often comes up when I’m talking to other Travellers these days (LGBT+ or not) is this idea of being enough. Authentic enough, traditional enough, masculine enough etc.
There’s a notion that there’s a right way to be and the idea is we might not be fulfilling it. There’s some criteria we can never exactly grasp; we can just know we’ve fallen short. We get notions such as:
· I’ve always lived in a house so I don’t get it really, I’m not enough.
· One of my parents isn’t a traveller so I’m only half.
· I’m gay so I can’t fulfil the traditional role expected of me.
· I can’t do any of the old traditional crafts.
· I can’t speak enough Romani/Cant/whatever.
· I’m not of an ethnicity protected by the equality act but am still a Traveller but some of the “Traveller” orgs pretend I don’t exist, I must be not enough.
Bollocks. This is diversity, not inadequacy. The only people who want all travellers to be the same are too insecure to have anything about themselves challenged. Don’t lower yourself to them.
Any culture that stays stagnant dies. You can’t be the same as your great granny because you don’t live then. Human beings and cultures adapt to survive. New challenges, new techniques, new ways of being. We don’t think that Romanies from our grandparents’ generation weren’t doing enough because the variety of Romani they spoke had lost the grammatical inflections we see in Europe, but we view what we’re doing as inadequate. Why?
In my own personal experience I’ve come across this a lot. Going to events in Europe and seeing people’s lived experiences dismissed because they don’t speak Romani or aren’t dark-skinned. I’ve gone for lovely meetings with parliamentarians who have smiled sweetly at me whilst saying “But you’re not a real traveller, are you?”. I’ve come across Travellers telling me that because I got an education, or work in mental health, or don’t care about horses, that I have somehow de-travellered myself. I’ve also had “Traveller” charities invite me to events only to speak over me whenever I tried to mention my own experiences; I was only there because of my work with Irish Travellers, not my lived experience.
It’s bloody dispiriting at times, I’ll admit.
On a more positive note, there’s a lot more people I’m finding who are sick of this factionalism too and us leaning on one another when we encounter another infuriating experience like those above is what’s kept me in this game. Thanks to everyone!
In the response to our mental health survey (we’re going through the results right now, just working out how best to present it etc.) we asked whether people would engage in different mental health provisions targeted at Travellers. Among the comments, we found a high number of people saying they didn’t think they were Traveller enough for it. We found someone saying they wanted to come to pride with us but didn’t think, due to having a mixed identity and being socially conservative, that it was a space for them. This “not enough”-ness is holding us back from engaging in spaces we deserve. People are afraid of engaging in mental health support in case they’re not good enough for it!
If you’re that respondent, you’re definitely welcome; this is your space. Please feel free to reach out.
This phenomenon is also big in LGBT spaces (and is why sometimes it can feel despairing to be an LGBT+ Traveller, you don’t feel like you’re enough for anywhere). If you don’t like the right tv shows, go to the right clubnights, have the right apps etc. If you don’t perform your non-binary gender in a certain way, if you aren’t fitting into what LGBT+ is “meant to mean” then you’re not enough there.
(this, too, is bollocks)
You’re enough to belong in Traveller spaces. In LGBT spaces and to be a voice in any of them.
It’s a hard thing to come to terms with, especially if you’ve had a long time of receiving messages (especially from within the community) that you don’t count for whatever reason, but it’s a journey you’ll be glad you went on when you get to the point of realising you, of course¸ belong.
No time for divide and conquer