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Monday, Sep 16, 2019

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What I mean to say is....
A rural kind of Gay
by Beau Burriola - SGN Foreign Correspondent

I took a deep breath when I opened the car door. I didn't really know anything about the place I was at, I only knew it was small enough to never have been heard of or considered in all my twenty-eight years of life on earth; yet here I was looking for a job and a place to call home.

When I left my comfortable, super liberal Gay life Seattle, I never thought I'd end up in a place like Greenville, North Carolina - not exactly. Sometimes riding the chaotic winds of change means you'll be carried off to someplace you never expected. I knew I wanted something simpler than the saturated Gay life I've lead for ten years, in a Gay city with Gay everything all around me. I had had too much. Sure, I was always comfortable being a Gay man in Seattle, but there was always something else, too. As great as all the "Gay" life was, it didn't feel completely real.

"You really should make up your mind," Matty complained to me on the phone when I called him on the highway, noting little places along the way I might like to live in. "One year ago, you were playing the activist, in the thick of it all, doing the Gay chorus, your column, some weird Gay bowling thing, and now you are - where are you? North Carolina? Come on."

He made sense, of course. I was on a bizarre trip for reasons I didn't completely understand, searching for something I didn't know how to recognize. But, to be fair, I never felt much like the activist in Seattle. Sure, I joined the protests and marched in the parades for this and that sort of good Gay cause, but that didn't feel much like being an activist. Everything around me in Seattle was Gay. The people with me, the people with them, even a lot of the people I railed against for this or that cause were Gay or Gay friendly. That wasn't being an activist. There was no fight. It was a cop-out. I got tired of the notion that Gay people have to stay in our designated Gay places to be happy.

Really, the front line in the fight for equality isn't in our "Gay communities," it's out here in places that Gay people run away from. The front line is here. It's in small towns where kids get thrown out of their houses for being Gay, where support for people who test HIV-positive is non-existent, where Gay people are shunned by whole neighborhoods, and where even just being yourself makes you a magnet for criticism. Is this what I'm searching for? To feel what it is like to be a Gay man in the "real world?" I don't think it's as simple as that. I know what the real world is like, I just want to feel like I'm really helping the real world to understand who I am.

When I stepped out of the car and into Greenville, I saw what simpler was going to be for me. Next to the large, corporate box of a building I had an appointment at, was a wide open field. Next to that field was one almost the same. Next to that, a small greasy spoon diner with large trucks parked out front. It isn't a tiny town, not at all, but it isn't huge. It just under 200,000 people, just enough to feel right. Comfortable? No. Real? Yes.

I still find it hard to explain to my Gay friends in Seattle why I'm doing all this. Part of the problem is that the folks I'm trying to explain it to are still there, still living comfortable Gay lives so happily that they can't see why anyone would leave. Part of the problem is that I'm not sure myself. Another part of the problem is that I'm not sure yet where I belong.

What I do know is that I came from a rural area and wished there were more Gay people; so for now, I'm going to be that Gay person.

"Know from whence you came. If you know from whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go." -- Gay author James Baldwin

Beau Burriola is a writer yielding to the eternal quest to find the right place - not the comfortable place, not the unreal place, not the foreign place - but the right place to "be." beaubrent@gmail.com
visit Beau at www.beaubrent.com


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