On their facebook page today, Out on the Town Magazine asked a question of their readers regarding the status of equality for LGBT people in the South. Their post said, “a lot of comments on these stories place blame on gay Southerners for choosing to live in such an intolerant place. How do you respond to people who believe its “your fault” for being discriminated against in a region we consider our home?”.
Such comments regarding LGBT people in the South are not an anomaly, for I have also noticed, on both LGBT and non-LGBT blogs and news articles, comments that have the same tone. To these commentators, many of whom live in more progressive states like New York and California, it is incomprehensible that LGBT people would willingly subject themselves to the overt discrimination that exists in the states of the South. They can’t understand why we won’t pick up and move to places where we won’t be fired because of our sexual orientation or gender identity; and they can’t understand why we stay in states where religious leaders and politicians are able to spew vitriol, lies, and hatred openly about our community.
Though I am not from the South originally (I hail from Illinois), I consider Tennessee more of my home state than where I grew up, and thus, it is quite discouraging for me to read many of these anti-Southern comments. Yes, it is known that the South has a long way to go when it comes to equality for its LGBT citizens, but is “retreat” the answer to the hatred that we face? Should we allow the people and the states of the South to continue in their persecution of LGBT children and adults, yet offer no rebuttal or fight? Does that not make us cowards and undeserving of equality, when we won’t even fight against our oppressors and instead capitulate to their hatred by leaving for greener pastures?
The attitude that LGBT people should just leave states that are not welcoming, whether they are in the South or not, also fails to recognize that LGBT adults are not the only ones who live in these states. Many times, LGBT children are not given the option, or even have the resources, to pick up and leave these oppressive environments. Are we to sacrifice their well-being so that we adults might feel more equal? If all the LGBT adults are gone, who will be there to fight for anti-bullying legislation? Who will be there to offer support and guidance to these children when they experience discrimination and persecution in their lives? Yes, there will be straight allies, and God knows I love them, but these children need role models who have experienced the same persecution, yet have overcome it.
Those who say to us, “come to the welcoming states, why would you want to live in the South” want us to take the easy way out. Though they might not realize it, by asking why any LGBT person would want to live in a bigoted society, what they are truly saying is that such societies are too far gone to be of any use to our community. I reject this notion, for I see the South as having the potential to be a haven for LGBT people, and I am thankful that are people in my life who have stuck it out, fought the good fight against the constant barrage of hatred and discrimination, and who strive to make an impact for our community each and every day.