Coun­try gays do­ing okay

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

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.

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