There are obviously two ways to interpret the word “critical.” One denotes decisive importance, according to some dictionary I found on the internet, and the other is like when we tweet furiously during the Academy Awards, for example, “Good god, why the fuck is Neil Patrick Harris in his tighty whities on stage?” (While we’re putting the visual straight into the wank bank).
The former definition is where I want to focus, as a “critical” mass is a large definer of how we live as gay people in a society not really designed for us. Because we have congregated in certain areas, we have managed to bend society our way a bit—take Midtown Atlanta, or Chermajesty’s Magnificent Protectorate of Provincetown in Summer Months—but outside our natural habitats, fabulous parts of major cities, we don’t have any power whatsoever.
Our history in America is one where we had to agitate to get the most basic of rights, the right to do with our bodies what we wished, without interference from the police or high-horsed delusional moralistic government regulation. We often failed. We had to go and find allies to beef up our numbers, and in some parts of the country, albeit the cold-ass snowy parts, we managed to do it. Surely no one believes there are less gays per 100,000 people in Alabama than New York, but, with a concentration of family in some major cities in the Northeast we managed, working harder than Anne Hathaway’s publicist, to stomp a few steps forward when it came to basic civil rights, and the recognition thereof.
Atlanta fits right into this equation. Outside I-285, the LGBT pickings are slimmer than brunch at the Paltrow house, and where recognition of our presence is akin to Martin O’Malley in Iowa. There just aren’t enough people out this way to bandy together and force some politicians into legal prohibition of discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity. We’re at a grand total of two counties on that front (Athens-Clark and Macon-Bibb), along with eight cities, all of which are basically in the Atlanta area except for Savannah and Columbus.
You saw it in Indiana and Arkansas, where religious freedom bills were vomited out of the legislatures as a knee-jerk response to the slowly creeping incidences of federal law mandating that LGBT+ people be treated humanely, and it took coalitions of our people, and those who, to an extent, support us with oodles of money and big business gravitas, to cunt-punch the genie back into the bottle. Until they were tested, no one knew such coalitions existed in the socially conservative lawmaking oubliettes of Indiana and Arkansas (where a senator said we should be grateful we aren’t being hanged in Iran).
In places like Newton County, we haven’t been tested. While one hopes that proximity to Atlanta would help sway an argument if our Board of Commissioners ever decided to strip our growing list of rights, and by growing I mean like the speed of the Downtown Connector at 8.30 a.m. (marriage is merely one right, which is, of course, spreading like microwaved Nutella). While things might seem rosy in our locales, outside the relative comfort of middle-class Atlanta, there are still serious concerns when it comes to holding a job, securing a lease, basic personal feelings of safety, or anything that muddles the gender binary.
It would be as marvelous as the arse of Channing Tatum if laws protecting our people could be introduced to places like where I live, without the massive brawl that would ensue, over which we shouldn’t necessarily expect a win. My husband’s hometown of Meadville, Pennsylvania failed spectacularly to predict the Bible-fueled resistance to a non-discrimination ordinance and tossed it away faster than a cigarette butt that fell into your lap.
But if the fight comes, we need to be ready. If Indiana and Arkansas can be slapped into shape, the potential in Georgia is perhaps more realistic than Brian Williams’ adventures in Iraq.