In a nation of rebels, I guess it's not surprising that rebellion can take so many forms, but is it just me, or is it typical for lesbians and gay men to live in the midst of our rebel-opposites?|
When I moved to Southern Oregon, it was a nest of lesbians, radical faeries and progressives. Over the years those at the other political pole moved to the area in droves and became very vocal and nasty. When I moved to Florida, carbon copies of the same citizens were already entrenched here.
We chose a gay realtor to help us find a house. He took us to places he thought came closest to our criteria. The first benchmark was proximity to my sweetheart's job. She'd been commuting an hour each way for years. The second was safety. I didn't want to end up in another rabid right outpost.
It wasn't the realtor's fault that, as we drove past bucolic scenes of cows and crops, we stumbled upon the front yard of a modest home where the Confederate flag was prominently displayed. Who still flew a flag that stood for some of the worst of America's sins? Who wanted to evoke a past that had brought shame to our young republic? It must be a lone kook, I thought, isolated in his chain link compound, an irritant to his neighbors.
Was I ever wrong. Half of the humungous pickups I see on Florida roads have rebel decals or are flying those flags on both sides of their cabs.
The editor of "Golden Threads," a lesbian publication, sent me an article from The Southern Poverty Law Center about the biggest Confederate flag in the entire galaxy. Where did they plant it? Way too close to where my sweetheart and I live. When did they plant it? As soon as we moved in. It's in Confederate Memorial Park, a new project of the Sons of Confederate Veterans . At the dedication, a speaker told the crowd of several hundred, "We're gong to be putting these up like toothpicks across the state of Florida."
From what I have read in the local papers, these guys (there's an organization for women called United Daughters of the Confederacy ) say they are celebrating a part of American history. According to the SPLC article, there are even African American members and the group claims that one third of their membership should be African American. The article added that one of the speakers, a black SCV member, was struck from the program after being seen with what the organization called an Obama battle flag. Ironically, their park is right off a street named Martin Luther King Boulevard.
It's true that I'm a Yankee, but that's only part of my squeamishness about this group and its symbols. Freedom of speech belongs to all Americans. I just wonder how I get into these situations where I live in the belly of the beast.
Soon, I'll be traveling to Provincetown for Women's Week. The town will be packed with hand-holding dykes doing comedy and drama and readings, crowding Commercial Street to hawk drag king shows and art exhibits and tea dances, laughing aloud in restaurants, kissing at the National Seashore. Provincetown, as a matter of fact, has always been packed with dykes and gay men doing those sorts of things. Why don't I live somewhere like that?
Ptown, Rehoboth Beach, San Francisco, Northampton, even NYC, are all good places to be gay. But safe? With the political climate the way it is today, I'm not sure there is a safe place in the U.S. - for anyone.
Flashing guns at town meetings, a Congressman calling our honestly elected president a liar, gay marriage and anti-gay rights foes organizing like their lives are at stake - this is scary civil unrest, scary like a war between the states. Not only is it unsafe to be gay, it's even unsafe to support the right to health care these days.
People For the American Way released a report titled "Religious Right Targets Maine & Marriage Equality With Money, Anti-Gay Swat Teams and Reprise of Prop. 8's False Fearmongering Strategies." House Republican leader John Boehner (R-OH), has been quoted as writing that health care reform "will require Americans to subsidize abortion with their hard-earned tax dollars," thereby playing both the anti-tax and abortion cards.
While I read and sign books during Women's Week in Provincetown, I will also celebrate that there is a town in America where I can do so. I hope there will always be places where gay and progressive Americans can recharge among ourselves, then go back home and fight the good fight.
© Lee Lynch 2009
Lee Lynch, Author of Sweet Creek from Bold Strokes Books