At home in rural Georgia
It’s about time we get to enjoy our own places.
You know, for all its drawbacks, I like living where I do.
I drive interminable distances to get to work, often feeling like Moses: wanting to give up, but knowing the Promised Land lies ahead (there’s a Delia’s near my office).
I also have to deal with Saturday and Sunday afternoons of listening to gunshots, buzzing dirt bikes and firecrackers, throughout the year, day and night. A plethora of wildlife lives in my yard, including fat squirrels that satisfy their gluttony at my bird feeders, snakes that sun themselves in the driveway, and on one occasion, a stray bat that flew in through the chimney and taught my husband and me who the man of the house is (hint: I was hiding downstairs behind a small beagle, armed with a Swiffer).
When we go into Covington or Jackson (in Butts County—giggle!) or Monticello or any other nearby town, we know to keep our hands apart, to holster our lexicographic ability to find sexual innuendo in just about anything, and to restrain assumption that we are as welcome in businesses as everyone else.
On multiple occasions I have been told that life would be easier if we moved from near-Middle Georgia. Friends in Midtown and Decatur have tried to get us to move back into town. My mother, in South Africa, wishes we would move to a liberal state like Massachusetts. We have thought about go- of being able to talk to black gay men about sexual health and social justice.
I reached out to Malik Williams, the program coordinator at the time, and asked if I could facilitate Deeper Love. He agreed, just like that. At this time, Malik was in leadership at Second Sunday, ran Deeper Love, and was a part of The Adodi Muse: A Gay Negro Ensemble. These are the shoulders I stood upon.
Why Malik accepted my assistance, I don’t know. It’s one of the great mysteries of my life. It seemed like he was taking a risk, since until then my facilitation experience was limited. But he believed in me, and that was the beginning of my relationship with the program and in many ways a defining experience in my work as an activist and organizer. ing north or west to get the potential gay hatred out of our lives and live in places that are liberal or libertarian or cosmopolitan enough to not give a shit about us being there.
This point of view is tempting when our neighbors celebrate Confederate flag day or we see the bumper sticker on our electric guy’s truck that says “I hated Obama before it was cool,” or Sen. Josh McKoon and his band of merry men wage their annual fight against things they don’t like under the guise of religious freedom legislation.
But that point of view is more wrong than Beck out-Grammying Beyoncé. It is as misguided as the one-way streets of Downtown (did they design them with spaghetti?). And I reject it like a four-inch penis.
A year or so later I was hired as an outreach worker at AID Atlanta in the Young African-American Gay Outreach (YAAGO) program. We called our office the Dreadlock Dynasty; both Naheema and Malik wore them, as did Allen Land, the outreach worker in the program before me. I never wore them myself, but they let me work there anyway. A year or two later I became the program coordinator for Deeper Love, the fifth in its history after Craig, then Anthony McWilliams, then Malik, then Nasheeda Bynes. I often say, reverently, that it’s important to stress a sense of lineage and legacy. Clinton Jolliffi is the current program coordinator.
One of my favorite memories of my time at Deeper Love is an early one, but it had implications for much that followed. Malik and Nasheeda, two of the former program
I absolutely refuse to move to one of the cold states and let my current neighbors live near people who are not me. I like the heat and the space and the sun and the lake and the quiet. Having lived in Chicago, where my balls drew up into my abdomen in December and only started to hang again in June, I know what it is like to subject our bodies to such an awful climate, and I do not wish to be buried in snow, die of hypothermia or become a reallife ice sculpture in order to be able to call my husband my husband.
I love the South. I love Georgia. We’re here, and we’re queer, and we’re staying. We’re staying until where we want to live accepts us, and a broad scope of gay rights is at least as celebrated as Confederate flag day.