Homosexuality in the Heartland
by, 17th May 2012 at 08:10 PM (479 Views)
I grew up in the "Midwest" of the United States. I live on the outskirts of the suburbs of Detroit, my town being an eclectic mix of suburbia and farmland. I can walk fifteen minutes to get to the nearest fast food place, and fifteen minutes to the nearest cornfield.
It's a nice little town, with a Main Street and small local-owned shops tucked away on side-roads, and on Thursday mornings in the summer and fall you can go to the farmer's market. Before the film tax cuts were removed, several movies were filmed here whenever the director wanted to add a bit of Americana.
But Americana has never been associated with progressive politics, or acceptance for that matter. My hometown consists of the stereotypical homogeneity associated with Americana: white, heterosexual, and Christian people. And so my town is very conservative.
I never really fit in. I mean, I thought I did. But I didn't. I've been liberal (by American standards) for as long as I can remember, I'm agnostic, and I'm gay. (I didn't know the last one until after I left, but I'm getting there.) I remember voting for Bush in the mock election in '04 because I was afraid of being picked on for being liberal. One of the worst insults you could be called in middle school and high school was being called gay. It wasn't a very welcoming environment.
But it was the environment I'd known, and I became accustomed to it. I figured out how to operate within it, express myself in the ways I could, and I was content. I grew older, I made friends, I had a fairly typical American childhood. I graduated, and packed my bags and went off to college.
And, suddenly, all of those things that had previously constrained me were gone. Suddenly no one cared if I wasn't Christian or if I was liberal or if I was gay. And in the absence of all of those pressures, I finally learned who I was. I came out to myself, then to my friends, and then to my parents. I relaxed, and I enjoyed life like I never had before.
But summer came and I didn't have a job at school so I packed up my stuff and came back home. I spend much of my time on the internet because many of my high school friends weren't really friends and the ones who are live far enough away to make hanging out a large expenditure.
My little brother's class had a concert today, and like the good brother that I am, I decided to go. And ugggh did I immediately regret it. I found myself surrounded by not only the people that I had enjoyed being away from so much, but their parents. The sort of obnoxious heterosexuality that they exude drove me nuts. They were all kind and courteous, but I couldn't help wonder what would've happened if I had gone with a boyfriend or something. I doubt it would've been the same.
So I have to sit through this concert of my brother's, surrounded by the stuffy, privilege-denying folks of the upper class, and the scrawny-bearded, wife-beater-wearing rednecks that my town is comprised of, trying not to stand up and leave. Meanwhile, the only distraction that I have is my brother's choir, which was oddly reminiscent of a church choir, which reminded me of church policies, and... ugh.
I don't remember much of how it ended. I walked out in posthaste, eyes down, feeling judged for something that is entirely out of my control.
The LGBTQ community has made a couple important steps in the past couple steps -- Obama became the first sitting president to support marriage equality, and many, many politicians shifted to align with him. But what is needed the most is not necessarily legal protections (although I do really want them, and they do not need to take a back seat to anything), but social acceptance, and not just in the big cities. I want to be able to have a boyfriend, and be able to hold his hand as we walk down a street without having any insults or dirty looks. I want to be able to adopt kids, marry who I want, and live a normal life without being judged. I want to be able to be myself in my hometown.
I don't really know why I wrote this. All I know is that I never want to have to feel that again. But it's not the first time it's happened.
And it's certainly not the last.
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