Friday, March 29, 2013

Where gays disappear: Franklin Cty, MS

You know, it's easy for a lot of us--relatively speaking. Sure, we can't (yet) marry in more than a handful of states, and the Fed refuses to recognize those marriages from the states that allow it. But for many of us, we can still be open and out. I have my wife's photo on my desk at work, I don't have to pretend to be interested in men. I don't have to fend off the questions about why I don't have a boyfriend, and all the other stuff that comes from the closet. But imagine being gay not in a major city, but in the Bible belt. THOSE people are heros. They refuse to be driven out of their homes. I don't know how they do it. From CNN:
Statistically speaking, Franklin County should be straighter than John Wayne eating Chick-fil-A. The middle-of-nowhere rectangle in southwest Mississippi -- known for its pine forests, hog hunting and an infamous hate crime -- is home to exactly zero same-sex couples, according to an analysis of census data. In other words: It's a place where gays don't exist. 
At least not on paper. 
Before I visited Franklin County, I figured there must be gay people living in Straight County USA. But I didn't expect anyone to be open about it -- and with good reason. As part of this op-ed project, I recently ranked the Hospitality State as one of the least hospitable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, based on its lack of legal protections. In addition to allowing gays and lesbians to be fired because of who they are, Mississippi is also gracious enough to let landlords evict gay residents. 
Those are great incentives for a gay person to become invisible. And being invisible, of course, could mean avoiding census workers. I drove to this place of rolling hills and misty valleys with a few questions on my mind: Can there really be such a thing as an all-straight county? If so, what is it like to be someone who never has met a gay person? Do you just watch "Glee" and figure it out? If there are gay people in Franklin County, what keeps them hidden?
Read the whole thing, as the writer finds the hidden gays of Franklin County.

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