Country gays doing okay
I have filled these pages with the potential perils of being country gays, with all the optimism of a Falcons fan, but it would be folly of me to not express some of the quirky aspects of this sparsely populated, gun-heavy, beardtastic and truck-dense milieu.
Although we express often that we live near Covington, we don’t actually. It is just the nearest place anyone will know. Anyone from small- or no-town America has likely had to reference the nearest big city, much in the manner of how many before Amal a certain woman may have fucked George Clooney. In actual fact, our closest town of note is the thriving metropolis of Jackson, Georgia, in Butts County, where the restaurant of choice is Lucky’s Italian. On our first visit there, two men walking in and sitting at the same table were novel enough to warrant a unanimous stare from the elderly patrons, and more than a small part of me was terrified we were not going to be served. By the end of the entree, our waitress was telling us about her gay friend who watched her child while she was working. By the end of dessert we knew she was going back to school, we had seen multiple pictures of her daughter in myriad dress-up clothing (the real upside of having a child, no?), and we knew she left college early to get married. There is either a very short list of acceptable company in Jackson, or the ice-breaker—her proving she had no issues with gays—was a slippery slope to substituting conversation we intended with each other, to conversation among our brothers, we may hear messages like “you must be disease free.”
There is joy of course. I have had some absolutely transformative experiences, beautiful memories, among black gay men. There are painful memories too, but I believe for us to have more resilience in our movement work, we have to name the beautiful parts and the difficult parts.
Our tribe of artists, poets, actors, organizers, nonprofit workers, academics, and cultural workers is particularly vulnerable to depression and other poor mental health outcomes. Being on the frontline fighting injustice is brutal. In the nonprofit and academic world where most of us find ourselves, we are often faced with severe institutional violence that contributes to our despair.
You get it from the senior and executive leaders. There is always pressure to assimilate and make your beautiful parts blander. with a woman carrying both her second child and the chicken Parmesan.
This extended to our vet, also in Jackson, who looked after our very sick dog in the final weeks of his life. It meant the vets saw real relationship moments between two men, including a lot of insatiable wailing that was delivered almost unanimously across each others’ shoulders. And here, in the land of Jody Hice, where Jesus is the top celebrity, just beating out the Duck people, and one needs to dodge deer and bunnies while driving, we were totally acknowledged and treated like a couple.
This is not to say I don’t feel paranoia about our safety out here.
But there is enough evidence to show that a fair number of Americans (who do not hold
You also get it from the communities you serve. If a meeting starts a little late, or if you forget to call on someone in a discussion group. If the free food isn’t to the liking of the people you are assembling. If they don’t understand the point you are trying to make. Or if you are fat or fem or otherwise don’t measure up to the ideal of how a black gay leader should look, you may be antagonized.
So we get fed up. We may say things like “I am no longer going to work with black gay men ever again.” When we arrive to the belief that freedom is not among our brothers, but apart from them, we enter a very dangerous path. A few ideas for a path forward:
Stakeholders must come together to develop a research and advocacy agenda for black gay men’s mental health justice. elective office) do not care enough to worry about many in the LGBT+ community. They may not like it, and they may not be familiar with it, and when it comes to the civil institution of marriage they may feel like their deity’s nose is being put out of joint, but they don’t reject our existence out of hand.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you’re always going to be safe. But with the privilege that being two 6-foot white men entails, we’ve been able to be ourselves in more situations than many of our peers. And forcing people to acknowledge we’re a gay couple has been a good thing. There are a sprinkling of people in Jackson that now know that gay people show the same pain when it comes to dead pets, the same joy when it comes to Italian food.