One of the most common refrains we hear in the post-2016 US is that Democrats lost because they are out of touch with the rest of the country, bundled up in their sanctuary welfare cities and missing out on all the trucks and guns the rest of the country enjoys with their Islam-free coal. While there is absolutely no evidence to back this claim up, it sticks to common discourse like shit to a blanket, and hides the fact that there are parts of America that claim we don’t want them while they actually go out of their ways to not interact with us.

Two weekends ago, a rodeo came to Athens and, since I am a foreigner, we decided to go as it is not something I have ever experienced. Off me and my husband trundled in flannel and boots and bolo ties, and as we sat watching be-hatted gentlemen wrestle with cows at a themed evening thanking the troops, eating chicken off a stick and sipping some of the sweetest lemonade known to mankind, we couldn’t shake the feeling we were being stared at. And eventually we noticed a group of bros who kept staring at us and laughing. Those of us who have been gaybashed during our lives will know that this is when the paranoia begins. It isn’t that we are scared of being laughed at – god knows some of the things I have worn in my life – but we are scared of being killed, because we have all experienced straight men who feel challenged by our people.

North Carolina’s bathroom laws aren’t meant to deal with the bathroom – they are meant to keep transgender people from being able to go out at all. They are to stop city governments welcoming diversity into states, which eventually spreads into non-metropolitan corners.

Supporters of religious freedom legislation here in Georgia are aiming for the same thing – they want a legal reason to be able to throw us out of their restaurants and shops. That might not sound like a likely event in Atlanta, but I lived in the far reaches of Newton County not that long ago and spent an evening at a restaurant in Jackson (our closest town at the time) with my husband, where the owner glared at us from behind the bar for 90 minutes – I would hate to see the weaponry that state Sen. Josh McKoon would like to give to him.

The simple fact is that the people behind these laws, who are telling us we are out of touch because we don’t shoot guns or drive trucks or eat at Applebee’s, have to concoct this fabrication, and dress their hate for us appropriately. I love my rifle. I love Applebee’s and all of its peers, and eat there often. Their argument is axiomatically false. And it is also false that we are the ones out of touch. It is them who refuse to deal with us, and who harass us out of the places they don’t want us in.

We left the rodeo because we didn’t want to be beaten or killed. We weren’t wanted. We sensed danger, and we decided to avoid it rather than confront it. They got their LGBT-free rodeo. Maybe they are right – maybe I did just fall out of touch with how much they actually don’t want us around.

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