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July 18, 2005


Important point, James.

Not really a comment on--just a comment. But one of my favorite places to live was in SLC, UT (yup). Sure, it was wingnuttia incarnate and I had to threaten the missionaries every once in a while. But on any given Sunday I'd have an entire mountain to myself. More importantly, I found the community around 9th and 9th (which included the gay community, but also many of the straight non-mormon progressives) really warm. I found the people at 9th and 9th in many ways more active in protecting their rights (and the rights of UT--this was when Clinton was fighting with Leavit over Southern UT) than the people I had just lived with in SF. And the folks there--again, gay and straight--were always a lot better about matching their words and their deeds to protect/support others in the community.

I've heard a lot of good things about Salt Lake City and their mayor. Some bad things to of course (their city council recently rejected a domestic partner plan), but many good things.

You make an important point. There is a good tactical reason for gay people to stay in "Red" America: I have read that people who claim to actually know a gay person are much more likely to support gay rights, no matter what their usual politics are. However, I think it is a big thing to ask people who are being mentally, physically, or legislatively abused to stand and fight, put themselves and their happiness at greater risk, when there are relatively safer and more friendly places they could go. Even downtown Salt Lake City is better than some godforsaken small town. People who stay and fight (as opposed to stay and stay hidden in the closet) are true heroes, but you're right . . . we could stall stand to be more heroic, no matter where we are.

David, that's why I said that people who are in serious danger should leave. But my point was that more and more in America there is no safe haven. For instance, if the amendment passes in California next year, gay couples will have no more legal protections in California than they do in Kentucky. Meanwhile, there are many states like Idaho that are torn between being moderate and being overtaken by lunatic theocrats, and every dollar or vote could help make a difference.

I think that when gay men or lesbians move to a big city some of them assume they will become happier and more fulfilled, and that is sometimes not the case. There is so much class warfare, peer pressure, rejection based on appearance or on race, etc. If someone is moving to a big city because of a great job, because they have found love, because their lives are in danger, then I can't blame them for going. If they are going because they think moving to a big gay ghetto will automatically give them happiness or be safe, then I think they may be setting themselves up for disappointment.

As usual, another thoughtful, thought full post James.

I do have to say that, as I say to my oldest friend from life, going back to kindergarten, who is gay in Dallas - are you an IDIOT??

But then one remembers that only two years ago a gay man in West Hollywood was beaten with baseball bats so badly his acting career is gone and he now has to depend on his family for care and a place to live. And the Los Angeles Jury deadlocked on hate crimes charges. So the "gay ghettos" aren't all that safe.

Four years ago, my writing partner and I (both straight, he's been married to the same woman for 30 years now) went out to an Italian restaurant while his wife was traveling on business. As with any good restaurant, it's run by gays in a neighborhood of LA that is "tolerant." As we walked out to go to our car, a carload of teenage morons from San Bernardino (Red California) drove past and gave us some "anti-gay verbal abuse". We were laughing/sad/outraged at the same time. Laughing that they were such white trash morons, sad that it was happening in our part of town which should be a "no-go" zone to those morons, outraged that this bullshit was happening to friends of ours.

The little dipshits were lucky the light changed when it did, so the rock I threw only bounced off the trunk rather than going through the rear window.

How I would have loved to kick the ass of whichever one of the morons had gotten out.

I guess my story pretty much proves the accuracy of everything you said.

A very thoughtful post (as always), James. As one of those queer folks living in a Purplish state (NC), I live in a very Blue, progressive city and love it. You are right, where there is an out gay community in these states in flux, the tolerance begins to fan out into the suburbs, out into the counties. Having lived in NYC and Durham, I find a sense of community here that is more relaxed and personally open; it's a Southern thing.

You have to win people over one at a time, on a personal level. That is the only way to counter what these people hear in bigoted churches, and in local watering holes, and in the right-wing media. It's a constant political battle though, working to keep allies in office and the balance of wingnuts in check. Inattention to voting and the issues by gay folks and their allies can mean the difference between a marriage amendment/adoption rights bill/domestic partners legislation (name your civil rights issue) passing or not.

In a deep Red state, however, I really don't know what to advise people; there's only so much open hostility you can take. My wife Kate is from Alabama, and that state is definitely not going to turn purple any time soon. I visited Birmingham recently, and that a good portion of that queer population is scared, closeted and know they are marginalized. And that's a city multiple times larger than Durham, NC. (See my post, Is Alabama really the worst place to be a gay person in Bush's America?)

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