One of my primary concerns about moving to the South was...how shall I put this? I was concerned about a certain element of the population... Basically, I was worried about rednecks.
It's an unfair stereotype, I know. And it's a difficult distinction to make. Some would classify anyone living in the South as a redneck. But I don't believe that's true. I grew up in Oklahoma, so I know a thing or two about rural life. There are good people everywhere. Honest, hard-working, God-fearing, country music-listening people who may not know anything about me or my life, but also wouldn't join in a posse to hunt me down.
Before we moved here, I asked everyone we spoke to about living as an openly gay couple in the South. One fellow told us that neighbors help and look out for each other and don't care about anything else. But there was a caveat, and it's one gay people hear all the time: "as long as you're not throwing it in their faces." This is also often expressed as "as long as you're not flaunting your lifestyle." And therein lies the fear and panic. Because it's just normal behavior to me, so how do I know what will set someone off? I don't want to be helping Michael carry in the groceries one day and suddenly have angry mobs and burning crosses on my lawn.
So I guess I define a redneck as being intolerant and violent. And really, that could describe any bigot anywhere, not just in the South.
Michael and I had dinner last night with a terrific couple of guys we met way back during our karaoke bowling experience. They made some joke about "the rednecks coming down from the mountains," so I thought I would get their take on the subject and whether it was a geographical phenomenon or not. One of the guys explained that, just like in Los Angeles, there are probably some neighborhoods where you don't want to go for a walk by yourself. "You have gangs. We have rednecks," he said. His partner had a different take. "I'm glad we have rednecks," he said. "I'm glad there's a ring of them all around us. They keep the yuppies out."
I used to think it was easy to identify gang members in Los Angeles, but that was before it became fashionable for everyone to wear their jeans around their knees.
Plus, I'm not willing to try to categorize possibly hostile residents by what they're wearing. However, if someone who lived in another part of the country told me they wouldn't live in Los Angeles because of gang violence, I would probably laugh, because for the most part, you really have to go look for it. We lived in the Valley for God's sake.
None of the gay people we've talked to here have had any violent encounters with local residents. So maybe the Southern redneck is more myth than reality. Plus, I'd like to believe that as long as you're polite and friendly with people, no matter who they are or what they're wearing or where they live, you're going to be okay. They may turn around and tell a friend about the crazy fag they met that day, but they're not going to kill me.
Politics and religion are definitely big parts of it, too. Over the past eight years, people have been whipped into a frenzy and told by their own government that they need to fear and subjugate gays at all costs. So at this point, there's really no telling who might snap and try to hurt us. It could be anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Well...have a nice day!