Friday, October 21, 2011

Southern Discomfort: A Queer Yankee in the Queen City

What the fuck?
As I forge a new life for myself and my little family here in the Charlotte area, I can't help but feel a little bit like I've stepped through the looking glass into an alternate universe. Everything seems familiar but slightly off. Kind of like Canada, but warmer and without the silly accent.

I've moved at least 19 times in my life and lived in four states and the District of Columbia. I like to think I'm adaptable. I can get along with just about anybody from socialites to rednecks and career women to soccer moms. I have friends of every race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and socio-economic background, so why do I feel so off balance here in North Carolina? 

The neighborhood is very nice and the homes are well kept, but every now and then you catch sight of something unfamiliar. There are trees and birds I've never seen before and the tea is too damned sweet. That must be why all the cashiers at the Bi-Lo supermarket call you either sugar, honey or sweetie. Yes, I know, the name "Bi-Lo" itself sounds like code for married guys that like a little dick on the side, but what are you gonna do?

Restaurant food here seems to be limited to two choices of preparation: deep fried or smoked. They have something here that they call "liver mush" or "liver pudding" that I really don't want to know anything about.

As I learn my way around the unfamiliar streets of my new habitat, I find that people here either drive waaaay to slow or waaaay too fast. If you ask someone for directions, they feel the need to tell you the three or four different ways to get there. God help you if there are two or more people involved in the conversation, because they'll have a twenty minute argument over which way is best. "Thanks for your help, but I really just need one route, hopefully the most direct and with the fewest turns." In the time it takes to get directions, I could have found my way there and back on foot three times, mowed my lawn, done my laundry and collected social security.

Speaking of social security, have I mentioned that we're now living next to my partner's folks? To keep it simple, I refer to them as my in-laws, not to their faces, mind you. That would be too confusing for them. They're very nice people and they've been incredibly supportive and welcoming to me, even though they never say the "G" word. According to some unwritten and unspoken law, I am also forbidden to say the word in their presence as well, which means I can't discuss my blogging and activism with them or in front of them. I figure they'll work it out for themselves when they see me on the evening news at an LGBT rights rally. It's a little like "Everybody Loves Raymond" meets "Sordid Lives". While they "try" to respect our privacy and let us live independent lives, we are ever mindful that our every move is being closely monitored from across the driveway. 

Curiously enough, Charlotte is called The Queen City and yes, there are signs of gay life here in the Tar Heel State.  (What the hell is a "tar heel" anyway?) There is a group forming with he help of HRC and Equality NC to be called Equality Charlotte. They have already held their first rally in response to the upcoming anti-gay marriage equality ballot measure. I've been to a couple of their planning meetings at the LGBT center and met several of the organizers. Some very talented and intelligent people are involved. I look forward to doing what I can to help. A web site is in the works. I'll post a link as soon as it's up.

So, as I proceed gayly forward into the uncharted territory of the latest chapter of my life, I promise to keep you posted. I've got some ideas for revising this here blog thingy, which may include a new name and a new look, but you have my word that I will continue to be my same old smart-ass self. As for my new Carolina neighbors, to borrow a line from Jack Nicholson as The Joker, "Wait 'til they get a load o' me."  

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