Living outside a big city and being gay is fine, isn’t it? Just as long as you’re:
- “Not in people’s face about it”
- “Not flaming”
- “Not flaunting it”
- “Careful about when and where you are gay”
- “Using common sense about how gay you look”
- “Not forcing it down people’s throats”
All these things can be helpfully summed up as: “I know that what I am is shameful so I won’t burden you with having to see it.” And even if that comes naturally, hiding parts of you is exhausting.
A recent documentary on ABC showed what it can be like when you confront a country town’s homophobia. Gaycrashers follows Joel Creasey and Rhys Nicholson who returns to Colac where Joel had been run out of town by a mob.
This piece by Radio National about the remote north of Western Australia resembles a lot of other research, comment, and experiences. It says there’s “acceptance that goes beyond tolerance, freedom that goes beyond tokenism, understanding that celebrates difference and diversity”. There are a lot of really great, accepting people outside the urban. The reporter adds, “Above all, I found beautiful, humane, vital men who are living with courage and generosity in a community which can, for the most part, live and let live” (emphasis added).
And there’s the rub, ‘for the most part’. I’m sorry (not sorry) but that’s not good enough anymore (not that it ever was). We have created gay ghettos where this is less of a problem. And we like it. Reading through experiences in country areas the common theme is, ‘[insert homophobic incident] but you get that everywhere’. No. You really don’t get it everywhere and some places are, even if just slightly, better than others.
Here’s the story of a counsellor who advised his country town patients not to come out because they’re not living in the city where it would be advisable.
There might be just as many bigots in the inner city as there are in the rest of the country, but they feel entitled to be bigots in the country. Because masculinity, ‘real’ Australia, etc, etc.
Hats off to those gays who will live out ‘there’ and spend time explaining to every idiot they come across that ‘no, it’s not a choice’, reliving childhood trauma as they do.
This report from the Australia Institute (summary in the media here) found regional areas in Queensland to be the most homophobic and inner city areas to be the least homophobic. The two least urbanised states, Queensland and Tasmania, were also found to be the most homophobic.
In some ways, homophobic discrimination and abuse are the least of the problems with being gay in the country. It’s a crushing hetero-normative environment that can slowly eat away at people. Daily.