Boys, erased
June 6, 2017 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Being Gay Vs Being Southern: A False Choice By Brandon Taylor at LitHub
posted by The Whelk (5 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for this. It's heartbreaking, and I'm going to check out these guys' work.

I'm not a lesbian but I was largely assumed to be one as a kid, just because that is what Mississippi school life was like for anyone mildly gender-nonconforming. How gay people live, and whether they can live, has been important to me ever since I learned what that meant.

(How I learned what that meant was that I saw a clip of a gay protest march on the news at age eight or so, while I was staying with my grandparents. I asked my grandfather to tell me what that meant and he said, "I think that's something your parents had better tell you about." It sounded like somebody's dog had died. After several rounds of "c'mon, please," my grandfather, an extremely kind and gentle but naturally conservative man, finally told me, "It's when, say ... women ... like to go out on dates ... with other women." And this, in its essence, is as good as any answer I have heard to give to a young child.)
posted by Countess Elena at 10:13 AM on June 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

I didn't grow up particularly religious, but I did grow up gay and in the rural south. Which at the very least means you're going to grow up with the language of a particular kind of religion all around you. I was fortunate, though, in that desegregation was the policy guiding who went to which school from fourth grade through high school graduation, and that meant I got to leave my little town in the boonies every morning at 6:30 for the 90 minute bus ride to a public school magnet program in my state's capital city. I, in effect, got to choose between my hometown's small school (of about 100 students, kindergarten through seniors all in one tiny little building) and backward homeliness for the big brainy, arty school that had AP classes and foreign languages and real science labs and a 80/10 black/white demographic and hmong, gujarati, pinoy students. Maybe most importantly, I also met me first out gay friend there, who, bless him, became my shepherd into loving my surroundings by discovering all the queerness that my little hometown couldn't display.

Good timing on this post, too, because I just got in the mail yesterday a book called The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South (2010). We've got a lot of work to do to preserve the stories of the queer south in the pre-marriage era, because the people who have those stories to tell have an awful lot to get on the record.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:29 AM on June 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

Whew. Can't read this now. I had stop stop when I got the passage about the terror of his first orgasm. That hits way to close to home and I'm not sure ever seen it articulated so powerfully.
posted by treepour at 10:46 AM on June 6, 2017

Teared up at the third paragraph. gotta come back to this later. But wow.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 12:24 PM on June 6, 2017

I was so relieved this was not a longer piece; I'm not sure I could've taken it right now. There is such a deep source of hurt and rage and panic at the collision of gay and god and south. It would take endless essays and books to plumb the depths of the harm that well-meaning (and less-than-well-meaning) family and preachers and sunday-school teachers have caused us.

It is such a particular and individual and isolating harm, an abuse designed especially for you, that underlies Taylor's description of "the disastrous consequences of running across that story in someone else’s hands, the curious and dysmorphic sensation of seeing yourself in strange mirrors."

How does anyone ever survive these childhoods?
posted by mittens at 1:46 PM on June 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

« Older Boom-click, they smack when I stride   |   A possum must be himself, and being himself he is... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments