At home in ru­ral Ge­or­gia

GA Voice - - Out­spo­ken -

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.

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