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'NY Times' Op-Ed Offers Glimpse Into Being Gay Down South

Rhettbutler2I'm finally getting to the actual printed paper, so pardon if you've already seen this New York Times op-ed about being gay in the South.

Using Honey Boo Boo's surprising and welcome support for gay "poodles" as a launching pad, University of North Carolina, Charlotte professor Karen Cox's piece explains the good, the bad and what sounds like tepid tolerance that comes with being gay below the Mason-Dixon.

Here's her conclusion:

There is a limit to the acceptance. In the rural South, people love their sons and daughters and they may even break bread with the florist and his partner, but they still believe homosexuality is a sin. They draw the line at a gay pride march down Main Street, and they won’t stand for gay marriage.

Still, as Alana’s Uncle Lee has shown America, there are gays living in the rural South who don’t all set out for the big city. They lead rich lives and have families, and sometimes even communities, that love them and accept them for who they are.

Cox also notes that many Southerners avoid describing someone as gay, preferring instead to say someone is "light in the loafers" or "has sugar in his britches," the latter of which could go either way...

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  1. My in-laws are all in the south. Some of them are totally accepting of my husband's orientation, and of me. Others are very polite and welcoming to us to our faces, yet still are devout members of a church which is adamantly anti-gay . One is actually a "fire and brimstone" preacher. The church actively protests the Pride parade.
    It's the same with race... like my sister-in-law who is "not racist", yet regularly e-mails blatantly racist "jokes". It's sickening.

    Posted by: John | Oct 5, 2012 11:04:21 AM

  2. Of course, my experiences may be slightly affected by the delusional state I live in each day. You see, I'm a rather pathetic excuse for a homosexual, and I really hate black people. In fact, I hate them so much that I've invented an online persona whose father was killed by "a group of blacks" - just to justify how much I hate them. See? I actually wish that blacks had killed my father so I can have a reason to hate them. I'm pretty messed up.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 5, 2012 11:10:09 AM

  3. Well I'll start by saying I live in the southern most part of the USA, in good ole Mississippi. As I see it as a gay man living in the south it's fine if you are a florist, hair dresser, makeup artist or in some other profession deemed as gay one then you will survive with no problem. However, if you are expecting free rights for all and to walk down the street holding hands and kissing its not going to happen. Even in a large area of population say in the capital where I live.

    These views are not right and make people to stay in the closet. Which in the end is a very sad situation for everyone. Being raised here in the south it's been hard to be an out and proud gay man, but I remember that it took along time for things to change down here for other types of people and situations and for me to think it will happen over night is just silly. There is still prejudice toward African-Americans down here so we are not the only groups being targeted by bigots and hateful behavior. I just hope that one day I will be able to look back and say I was there when the world changed in Mississippi.

    Posted by: Davis | Oct 5, 2012 11:12:59 AM

  4. Hey, thanks, guys. I thought I was alone when I read this article and thought it was a joke. Oddly, there's no place to comment on it. Yeah, gays are totally accepted in the South. Everybody loves them. Except they don't want them to have any rights.

    This is my problem with religious people: I can't be friends with somebody who doesn't want me to have any rights. And frankly I find it pitiful that this poor Times writer is so happy to announce that in the South you can get lots of people who think you're a second-class citizen to come to your house for food and drink.

    Posted by: RomanHans | Oct 5, 2012 11:14:26 AM

  5. Ugh. Thanks, NYT, for offering me a glimpse of the South. Couldn't have seen it with you!

    Posted by: AdamA | Oct 5, 2012 11:17:39 AM

  6. I actually have found very little real regional difference in terms of the way people view homosexuality....and I have lived in all 4 regions of the country for significant periods of time.

    The supposed "liberals" I have worked with in places like New York, Chicago, and California I found were actually only "liberal" in "official" terms--in personal terms, they were no less homophobic on average than conservative Southerners.

    They will say all the right, politically correct things when it comes to being tolerant and accepting of gays.....but the straight men are no more likely on a personal, individual level, to socialize with you if they know you are gay than are conservative men in the Heartland.....and the women are just as likely to regard you as a "pet" the way women in the South are, someone who is not to be taken seriously as a man, but who is to be regarded as their social accessory.

    It is partly because of this experience that I realized how utterly pointless the attempts to pass laws are.

    The real issue is changing the culture. And that means re-defining masculinity.

    All these other differences, regional or otherwise, are just trivial fluff and not really worth noting.....and they don't really make much difference in terms of the way you live your life unless you are a wave-the-rainbow-flag-in-people's-faces type, which very few gay people are.

    The only purpose such exercises serve is to make New Yorkers and others feel smug about themselves, when there really is very little justification for doing so.

    Posted by: Rick | Oct 5, 2012 11:39:33 AM

  7. PLEASE disregard Lil' Canadian [AKA Little Kiwi's] obsessive compulsive habit of high jacking a posters persona to troll.

    And once again, Lil' Canadian, YES, my dad was a victim of a very violent crime and the perps were a group of young black men. I'm not going to lie or pretend otherwise in order to not offend sensitive folk like Lil' Canadian or others. Neither does it mean I'm 'Racist', Lil' Canadian. I think you project in your posts, boss.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 5, 2012 12:12:35 PM

  8. @Rick,

    I appreciate what you posted, and agree there's plenty of hypocrisy among 'Progressives' in the north and elsewhere. And you see this attitude outside the U.S. also; Euros and others who often smugly proclaim how tolerant they are, can just as often be total aholes on a personal level, and just as capable of being unkind. But in their case, they'll often point to their Democratic Socialist society, as a way of claiming they're morally and ethically superior, when they don't volunteer in their community, engage in charitable acts, are unkind to those down on their luck, or are just cold on a personal level in general.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 5, 2012 12:19:00 PM

  9. And just so we're clear, I'm wearing my Klan hood while I type this.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 5, 2012 12:26:32 PM

  10. These articles (and comments) always make me roll my eyes. I grew up on a farm in South GA. I have lived all over yhr country, and I am settled back in Atlanta (not the suburbs. The actual city). I find it amazing that people can be so sure of a culture and a place they know nothing about. If you think growing up gay is any better or worse in rural New York state than it is in rural Georgia, then you clearly need yo leave the city more often. I have often been shocked by the acceptance I've received from small town Texas, and by the discrimination I've endured in liberal California. Yes, stereotypes all come from some old truth. So do prejudices. And seriously, "sugar in his britches"? Do they play a banjo and molest their sister while saying that? Good lord, how can people be so unaware?

    Posted by: Bill | Oct 5, 2012 1:04:20 PM

  11. Interesting discussion. I live in Tennessee, and I'm openly gay, and I have had very few overt problems. It really is true that Southerners are very nice- to your face. It's after you leave the room that the problems start and what kind of "acceptance" is that? That isn't acceptance, that's being two-faced.

    But here's where the stereotype of the South is often wrong. There really is no such thing as a "red state" or a "blue state." They're all purple, because the voting is almost always in the vicinity of 50/50. Just a few percentage points either way make the difference, so they just tend a little more toward a shade more blue or red. Not that all Democrats are gay-friendly, they're not, but that there isn't just one monolithic opinion, one culture. So it's possible to find a community of educated and accepting people even in the South, at least in towns with a decent-sized population.

    Posted by: Caliban | Oct 5, 2012 2:03:02 PM

  12. "Interesting discussion. I live in Tennessee, and I'm openly gay, and I have had very few overt problems. It really is true that Southerners are very nice- to your face. It's after you leave the room that the problems start and what kind of "acceptance" is that? That isn't acceptance, that's being two-faced"

    It is also about whether you are from the South and have family connections....or whether you are an outsider, particularly since Southerners--understandably--are weary of "do-gooders" from other parts of the country coming into their space and arrogantly and disrespectfully telling them that everything about their culture is wrong and backwards and needs to be changed.

    Two things came randomly to mind as I was typing that.

    One, when Jimmy Carter was running against Ronald Reagan, I remember a Southern politician (and I cannot remember which one), justifying his support for Carter over the more conservative Reagan, being quoted as saying: "He (Carter) may be a liberal, but he is OUR liberal"....

    and two, William Faulkner, who was a strong supporter of civil rights, incurring the wrath of activists outside the South by insisting that they mind their own business and let the South solve its own problems.

    In the cases of many of these people, some of the hostility they get is due less to their being gay, even openly gay, than it is to their being disrespectful of the locals......which is not really an issue if you grew up there and have family there..

    Posted by: Rick | Oct 5, 2012 2:51:02 PM

  13. So the guy who wrote it is a Southern apologist, trying to whitewash Southern atrocities against anyone who is different (race, gender, orientation...)?

    Posted by: Colin | Oct 5, 2012 3:31:32 PM

  14. My dad was killed by blacks and Rick's dad was killed by Lady Gaga fans and that's why we're both totally screwed up.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 5, 2012 3:38:07 PM

  15. "In the cases of many of these people, some of the hostility they get is due less to their being gay, even openly gay, than it is to their being disrespectful of the locals......which is not really an issue if you grew up there and have family there..."

    Wrong. It's about going against the system, whether you're a local yokel or not. If you stand up for yourself, live an open life, act like you expect to be respected, and assert your right to equal treatment, that's when you'll get encounter resistance adn bigotry.

    I have heard EXPLICITLY, and first hand, how a gaggle of Southern church ladies referred to someone as "nice man" because he kept his "personal business" private, and didn't "throw it in everyone's face" and demand acceptance.

    I recently ended a conversation with my parents when they began making bigoted racial remarks. The hypocrisy is breathtakingly stunning because I know that they know a lot of people whom they regard as good friends, and that they think of themselves as "tolerant" and "accepting" of persons of other races. And yet they make bigoted comments, not just the use of a racial slur, but actual sweeping, derogatory observations about the cognitive abilities of an entire race, the inescapable implication being that they're not "our equals".

    I realized afterward that what was so upsetting to me was that I know my parents don't consider ME their "equal" either when it comes to marriage equality. On that count, in their eyes, I'm just as inferior as "the blacks".

    Posted by: No Illusions, No Delusions | Oct 5, 2012 4:37:38 PM


    very honest and powerful comment. Thank you.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Oct 5, 2012 4:54:45 PM

  17. At the risk of being accused of inciting divisiveness in the gay community, I must comment on the fact that this article is written from a FEMALE perspective and not a male one. The couple she used as an example were lesbians, and the person who was included in the good ole boys' hunting trips was a woman.

    Let me tell you that my experience as a gay MALE is exactly the opposite of this. Intolerance for perceived femininity or weakness in a man is legendary in the South and very real. I am not the most flamboyant of homosexuals, but I can definitely assure you I wouldn't have been invited to go shooting 'possum with the boys from the pool hall.

    Lesbians are given a "pass" in the South (for the most part) because no matter how short their hair may be or how masculine their attire, they are still seen as the "weaker sex" underneath. As wrong as it is, women exist to be protected for many red-blooded Southern men. Even gay women. What's saddens me is that I never hear lesbians discuss this very real gulf in acceptance between the genders when they start praising their small town "back home".

    Posted by: Jeff | Feb 26, 2013 8:36:57 PM

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