Growing Up Gay in a Small Town

With so many territories now making same-sex marriage legal, I’d like to think the times-they-are-a-changin’. And I guess they are, but you’ll have a hard time convincing me that we’ll ever get beyond these first baby steps in my lifetime.

I’m originally from a small town. We had two openly gay men living there at the time (I wasn’t one of them—I was too young and so in-the-closet it would have taken The Jaws of Life to get me out), and the public ridicule and physical threat they underwent was terrifying to say the least. I commend these two men for sticking to their principles, but can only imagine how difficult it must have been (I’m not sure where they are today, and I now live in a big city where being gay is virtually a non-issue.)

Read: Coming out: Pace Yourself

Flash-forward to the same small town, present day. My young nephew has formally declared he’s spent his entire life as a woman living in a man’s body. I’m so proud of him for having the courage to be honest with both himself, his family, and friends. He’s now about to start hormone treatments and trade-in the Kodiaks for heels.

But he still lives in that same small town. And word is spreading fast. Apart from his immediate circle, he’s since faced teasing, back-stabbing, and threats. There’s little doubt he’ll eventually leave his family and friends to move to the city for good. It’s awesome that, in the city, he’ll find a strong and supportive community for himself, but it’s heartbreaking that he has to leave everyone he loves in order to be who he needs to be.

I can’t vouch for every small town or community, but somehow I find it hard to believe that my hometown is an exception. We can scream for tolerance and understanding, but they still don’t hear us out in the boonies.

I’d like to encourage LGBTs to proudly be themselves no matter where they live. But I can’t bring myself to do it. Reality tells me otherwise. We’re still targets, and despite some new (and, yes, wonderful!) gay marriage laws, the risks of coming out of the closet in a small town are great.

And we should NEVER have to live in the closet. Which, until further notice, usually, and sadly, leaves us with no choice but to pack our bags and catch the next train to Toleranceville.

And how sad that makes me.

Be safe!

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