Place: Compulsory Cosmo-Queers
Young gays these days seem to have a common narrative: grow up angst ridden in a small town in the closet, endure tortuous years in Jr. High and High School and then flee. Flee the oppression of small town America for a gay Mecca found in the urban centers of the world. Gay ghettos await the arrival of these newly hatched gay chickens after they graduate from high school or college looking for the new gay experience. Acceptance, beautiful gay men as far as the eye can see, and gay culture all await the newly hatched gay when they enter the US gay meccas of New York, LA, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago.
This urban gay narrative is so persuasive that as a newly graduated college student I, too, fled Small town Henderson, Kentucky for the city: Washington, D.C., our nation’s capital. For the first time I had a dating life. I went on dates with random dudes that chatted me up at the bookstore I worked, shared parting glances on the sidewalk and had a feeling of belonging in a city where being gay put you in a majority (in the gay ghetto at least) where it was odd to see a straight couple. Holding hands or kissing your boyfriend on the sidewalk was a part of life. No surprise this gay chicken found acceptance, peace, and sexual exploration in urban America.
It makes sense, the gay flocking towards cities. Security in numbers, progressive urban ideas of equality, and a larger dating pool. But I think the flocking of gays to cities begs a question: in fleeing the far flung rural parts of the U.S. aren’t we relegating our life to a virtual closet? An urban closet where we can retreat to and hide from the “other (as Sarah Palin would put it) America?”
Another gay narrative is the gay as an urban pioneer. When other yuppies are timid and not willing to invest in real estate in edgy transitional neighborhoods, guppies move in, buy up victorian houses in the former ghetto and transform the neighborhood into a new gay hood. Gays are those that are willing to inhabit what other consider (whispered) “dangerous” neighborhoods.
So I have often wondered who were the gay pioneers of the past. We all know Christopher Columbus plundered the new world and conceived lots of children. So maybe he wasn’t a gay pioneer. But what propels a pioneer spirit? And why is the gay narrative one of compulsory-cosmo-queers? Where are all the rural queer pioneers?
In today’s increasingly urbanized America, the next frontier is rural America. The urban narrative has become banal, predictable, and commodified. Instead of being frontiersman and on the cutting edge, we have donned the hetero-normative desire to settle, paint white picket fences and don the urban comoflauge of the neighborhood association. We are gay- we blend in well!
Now my call to arms: We must queer rural America and come out of the compulsory-cosmo-queer closet. Our rural landscapes are becoming blighted with rural decay and flight— all things that attract those urban gays to the ghettos of US cities. Rural America is begging for a gentrification of a pink tint.
I left the city for a different challenge. I imagine a rural landscape with pink fields and a flair that could lure a young chicken just as the urban gay meccas do now.
Gays have always presented a new different perspective on the world; we are the visionaries of the world, outcast with new ideas. Let’s use our marginalization and transform the rest of rural America to be a welcoming place for all. Let us not be locked in the closet of compulsory-cosmo queerness. We owe it to ourself to step out of the urban closet and embrace all that it means to be a gay pioneer.
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