Karen Cox meant well. Her op-ed piece in the New York Times last Thursday — “We’re here, we’re queer, y’all” — was supposed to be a celebration of openly gay people in the rural South. Instead, the author and University of North Carolina at Charlotte professor presented a rather dispiriting view of Southern gay life that isn’t much better than the closeted days Cox would have you think are largely gone.
Cox builds her argument around “Uncle Poodle,” the beloved gay uncle of the improbable reality TV star Honey Boo Boo. The 7-year-old beauty queen affectionately calls gay men “poodles.” But because “Uncle Poodle,” a.k.a. Lee Thompson, is openly gay to the family, that’s taken as a sign of progress.
“[H]is appearance on the show has opened people’s eyes to something many have never considered: that you can be openly gay and accepted in the rural South,” wrote Cox. She cited other examples of rural Southern gay living that left me scratching my head.
It’s an unspoken truth that Helen and Kathleen are in a committed relationship, and yet they’re invited to social gatherings as a couple, and only a few months ago Helen gave the graduation address at the local high school. People know who they are and very likely understand the nature of their relationship, and it’s clear they value the investment that Helen and Kathleen have made in their community....
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