I had a really great conversation on Monday. I have been trying to work out why I enjoyed it so much.
Who I was talking to
On Monday I spoke with Maria and Ana, two Brazilians in their mid-to-late thirties who have been living in the UK for the last six years. Maria spoke through a big, genuine smile and laughed easily. Ana was quieter but no less friendly. They were both smart and generous and a real pleasure to talk to.
We were chatting, of course, about why they want to live in a tiny house and how they are progressing with this goal.
How we met
It was Ana, the more reserved of the two, who reached out to me initially. She had discovered my instagram account and was interested in the research. She offered to help out if she could, and so we arranged a time when both she and her wife would be available for a conversation.
I think part of the reason I enjoyed this conversation so much was because Ana reached out to me first. I spend a lot of time finding participants, introducing myself and the research, building trust and confidence before arranging an interview.
Having Ana get in touch with me felt great because it is in part a validation that what I am dedicating these years of my life to is interesting and useful to people other than myself.
It feels very different when somebody comes to you and says ‘Hey! That’s interesting. Can I get involved?’
It’s like the difference between plucking up the courage to introduce yourself to someone at a party, versus them coming over to you and opening with something warm and complementary like ‘Hey! I love your outfit, tell me about your style influences.’
Feeling at home
So, we got chatting and they were both making insightful and provoking comments. I could feel how much I was enjoying the conversation and I knew it was in part because anyone enjoys insightful and thought-provoking chat, but I knew there was something else too.
I think I loved that they are wives. I’m not sure I can do justice to explaining this, but it just feels good and comforting to be around people who are in your tribe. I feel a strong sense of belonging, or maybe acceptance, or maybe safety around other queer women.
I think it made me happy to see two women in a really nice, warm relationship, living their lives, being happy together. I love that I got to peep into that for half an hour.
From hostility to safety
I didn’t ask, but I think it is possible that they might have left Brazil because of how dangerous it is there for LGBT people. I remember meeting a bisexual woman in my women studies class during my masters degree. She explained to me that she left Brazil for exactly that reason. It was really sad. And then conversely, it’s a really happy thing that Ana and Maria could leave and now live in a much nicer safer place.
This made me think that their efforts to live in a tiny house is another sort of version of that.
- Brazil = hostile
- Move to UK = safer and happier
- Traditional housing market = hostile
- Move to tiny house = safer and happier
And maybe that’s all most of us are trying to do, shuffle ourselves away from the hostile places in our lives and look for something a bit safer and a bit happier.
What gets in our way
On the surface, this is a simple mission. But our ability to do that is massively hampered by ingrained structural barriers. If Ana and Maria hadn’t of had the money to leave Brazil, what would they have done?
Suffered, probably. Like all the LGBT people currently in Brazil who cant afford to leave who are suffering. Likewise, all the people who cant afford a tiny house, or who can’t find anywhere to put it, they just have to stay in the private rental market and suffer the consequence of being there.
It just seems so odd and illogical to me that money should be the principle thing that ether keeps people in suffering or puts them in safety, since we know that the strongest predictive factor of person ‘X’ being wealthy is if their parents are wealthy. This is a terrible system.
Talking to Ana and Maria reminded me that so much progress has been made, and we still have so far to go.