Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Out Here

For those of us LGBTs who live away from the mainstream gay culture(s), which is usually urban-centric and often somewhat myopic, it can be a struggle to have to keep answering the question, “Why the *bleep* do you live out there?!” Translation: Why do you not desire with all your might to live amongst the LGBT ghettos of the big cities, where the hippest, latest, fashion-driven swirls of cultural creativity happen on the cutting edge?

Well, no.

The cutting edge can be a two-edged blade that cuts the hand that wields it.

For me, the faster pace of urban life is overrated. Sure, it gives you a rush, a thrill, even the delicious thrill of fear, of drama. But I need time to stop, slow down, sit and stare into space and cogitate. I prefer the slower pace of small-town or rural life, where cycles of time remain connected to the turn of the seasons through the year. I’ve lived in big cities, in small towns, in foreign lands, and many other elsewheres, only to discover that I seem to be happiest living in a small rural town.

The price of living on the cutting edge, in the urban swirl of rapid change, is that it can be superficial, if no one ever takes time to sit down and contemplate their lives. There’s a risk of becoming completely disconnected from the earth, from everything that made us who we are. We flit between zones of attraction without making a home in any of them. Of course, some flee that earthly connection because all it ever brought them was pain, and so the urban social whirl may seem for a time to be a balm.

The peer pressure to live only “among one’s own people” can be tribal conformism at its most shallow. If every gay ghetto were consciously aware of the power they create by banding together in common purpose, it would be different—but such awareness is sporadic, ephemeral. We may be too diverse to permanently unify and organize.

The urban LGBT ghetto’s misconception is that there’s no culture at all, Out Here. As though we had no television, no radio worth listening to, no internet, no libraries, no books to read. As if our lives were lives of deprivation and loss, lacking all that makes a culture “gay.” As if there were no movies, no music, no opportunities to gather socially. As though we were cut off from all that matters, with no avenues of connection.

Perhaps our networks Out Here are indeed a little more cobwebby, ventilated by gaps and voids in the social fabric. But they can be as strong as spidersilk, which is strong indeed relative to its size. We may not have as many social contacts as can be found in the urban centers, or as many opportunities to make new social networks, but those we do make are durable and deep.

Are rural people inherently more conservative than urban folk? Are rural gays typically more conservative, too? Maybe. But I’ve met more than a few anarchists Out Here. What conservatism Out Here might be is a rooted connection to the earth’s time-cycles, which deepens a person, makes you grow up in ways unique to rural life. A kind of quiet refusal to be swayed by the faster winds of change.

Cultural change happens everywhere, just not at the same rate. I was cheered by hearing that the Iowa Supreme Court has declared that the state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. If corn-fed Iowa gets it, how far behind can the rest of the country be? Of course, there will still be turbulence and battles: it takes awhile for the dinosaur to realize it’s already dead.

So a stereotype still exists as a mythic narrative: If you’re LGBT, you must move to one of the gay ghettos in one of the big cities, to be with “your own people.” Those of us who live in small towns, rural areas, and further down those unpaved two-lane roads, know it isn’t so. We’re all still out here, and here many of us stay.

Or return. I’m one of the latter. Or, more accurately, a semi-nomadic settler who escaped from big city life to end up, almost by accident but with few regrets, Out Here.

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