Monday, September 26, 2022

Small-town pride celebrations unfold — and show that LGBTQ life in America is flourishing outside cities

LGBTQ people in rural areas and small towns are often ignored in the larger conversation around gay life and culture. Despite these omissions, pride celebrations in those places are spreading across the country, often encountering initial resistance.

As a transgender person from Central Appalachia and a doctoral candidate studying rural transgender media activism, I still sometimes find myself equating metropolitan with queer, despite knowing that transgender and queer life are underrepresented. does. The day I reluctantly traveled to Pikeville Pride in eastern Kentucky, I was doing just that.

Do not get me wrong; I like myself, and I’m proud of LGBTQ people working toward self-esteem and celebrating who they are and what pride represents. The origins of Pride are a memory of the Stonewall riots in New York. In June 1969, LGBTQ fought against laws that prevented them from gathering. That said, I was bored with events of pride—the business type I knew in big cities—and somehow thought that a rural or small town pride would be the same.

It was not.

Pride in Pikeville

Before I decided to participate in Pikeville Pride in October 2019, I did not understand the difficulties faced by those who wanted to host Pride in Central Appalachia and the role of supremacist and white nationalist organizations in the struggle.

Pikeville is a town of approximately 7,750 in eastern Kentucky. About 400 people attended the first Pikeville Pride event in 2018 and more than 500 people I attended.

Pikeville Pride was held in a city park. Non-profit groups and grassroots activists set up booths. Free pizza and rainbow-colored cupcakes were offered as the band and drag queen performed center stage. Women of varying ages were positioned at the Free Mom Hugs tables and actively asked attendees if they would like a hug.

One of the sidewalk-chalk messages spread at Pikeville Pride in eastern Kentucky in the fall of 2019.
Beck Banks, Writerhandjob author provided

One of the founders of Pikeville Pride, Tonya Jones, said she did not start the program in response to a white nationalist rally held in downtown Pikeville in 2017, although other founders cite this as a reason. Rather than respond to the rally, Jones wanted to create a more welcoming space in the city.

When I attended, there were no signs of white nationalists or protesters of any kind. Jones said that only two protesters participated in the first year.

That was not the case at all in Johnson City, Tennessee, a small town about two hours away. In the same year that Pikeville Pride began, white nationalists threatened Tripride, the first pride event to include Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol. In the end, 20 protesters took part, according to Tripride’s president and founding board member Jason Willis. By the second year, the number had dropped to 10 or 12, many of whom remained in a designated area.

Willis knew the event would attract protesters. “There will always be people who don’t agree with that,” Willis said. “When white nationalists have online chatter… well, that’s a different ballgame.”

Because of white nationalist organizing on social media, state and federal law enforcement got involved, Willis says. Around 200 police officers appeared during the first incident – and a helicopter circled the surrounding area. But the number of supporters was much more than the protesters.

Pride festivals in Appalachia aren’t just happening in small-town America. Others have occurred in such remote locations as Window Rock, Arizona; Pocatello, Idaho; Starkville, Mississippi; and Stockholm, Wisconsin.

“I think they’re happening because people think they can make them do it,” Willis said. “This pride will continue to emerge in small towns. We had Black Lives Matter and women’s marches. Not that they are the same, but you can organize these cultural gatherings in smaller towns. We’re looking at it.”

the effect of rural pride

Pride in small towns is just as important to differentiate culture in America as the cosmopolitan events that take place in June.

In his 1995 article “Get Thee to a Big City”, anthropologist Cath Weston talked about the “gay hypothetical”, the idea that queer people cannot be themselves or find communities unless they move from their small towns. Don’t move to big city. Where other gay people are present.

Gender studies and English scholar Jack Halberstam expanded this concept with the phrase “metronormativity”, a rite of passage of queer people from small towns to large cities.

In short, cities are allowed to be queer places, while rural queer life is ignored, even pathetic or rejected, according to Scott Herring, a scholar who studies women, sexuality and gender. are given.

As Herring puts it, “The rural (take your pick: Idaho, North Carolina, small-town America, Hick) have been sheltered, rejected, rejected, and abandoned in favor of cosmopolitan sex cultures such as New York City, San Francisco, or Buffalo. . . . in each, the villager becomes a slur, which has morphed into a richly rich idiom.”

Those lines are reflected in news stories and mainstream storytelling. On television, queer characters leaving small towns regularly appear, from Titus Andromedon of Chickasaw County, Mississippi in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” to Elliot, a fictional Haller’s “Search Party” character in West Virginia. His background is part of the joke.

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But the feeling of belonging is no laughing matter. In Pikeville, Jones knows firsthand what his pride has done for his wife of 27 years.

“She never felt comfortable here even proudly,” Jones said. “She never thought she could be open. We raise kids too, and a lot of these kids are in foster care because they come out. We want to show them that they can have a family, and for that.” There is no need to have a blood connection.”

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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