I have filled these pages with the potential perils of being country gays, with all the optimism of a Falcons fan, but it would be folly of me to not express some of the quirky aspects of this sparsely populated, gun-heavy, beardtastic and truck-dense milieu.
Although we express often that we live near Covington, we don’t actually. It is just the nearest place anyone will know. Anyone from small- or no-town America has likely had to reference the nearest big city, much in the manner of how many before Amal a certain woman may have fucked George Clooney. In actual fact, our closest town of note is the thriving metropolis of Jackson, Georgia, in Butts County, where the restaurant of choice is Lucky’s Italian.
On our first visit there, two men walking in and sitting at the same table were novel enough to warrant a unanimous stare from the elderly patrons, and more than a small part of me was terrified we were not going to be served. By the end of the entree, our waitress was telling us about her gay friend who watched her child while she was working. By the end of dessert we knew she was going back to school, we had seen multiple pictures of her daughter in myriad dress-up clothing (the real upside of having a child, no?), and we knew she left college early to get married.
There is either a very short list of acceptable company in Jackson, or the ice-breaker—her proving she had no issues with gays—was a slippery slope to substituting conversation we intended with each other, to conversation with a woman carrying both her second child and the chicken Parmesan.
This extended to our vet, also in Jackson, who looked after our very sick dog in the final weeks of his life. It meant the vets saw real relationship moments between two men, including a lot of insatiable wailing that was delivered almost unanimously across each others’ shoulders. And here, in the land of Jody Hice, where Jesus is the top celebrity, just beating out the Duck people, and one needs to dodge deer and bunnies while driving, we were totally acknowledged and treated like a couple.
This is not to say I don’t feel paranoia about our safety out here. Of course I do, and I have argued before that prevention—avoiding our neighbors—is better than getting smacked around (something more than enough of us have experienced) and having to call some sort of law enforcement (unless it is by law enforcement).
But there is enough evidence to show that a fair number of Americans (who do not hold elective office) do not care enough to worry about many in the LGBT+ community. They may not like it, and they may not be familiar with it, and when it comes to the civil institution of marriage they may feel like their deity’s nose is being put out of joint, but they don’t reject our existence out of hand.
Of course, it doesn’t mean you’re always going to be safe. But with the privilege that being two 6-foot white men entails, we’ve been able to be ourselves in more situations than many of our peers. And forcing people to acknowledge we’re a gay couple has been a good thing. There are a sprinkling of people in Jackson that now know that gay people show the same pain when it comes to dead pets, the same joy when it comes to Italian food, and the same readiness to beat each other when hangry (there’s a tale from the Covington Walgreens, settled by a bottle of orange juice, that we won’t get into).
Although it is sad that the silver lining of this series of columns is people being as decent to gay people as they would be to straight people, my expectations are low enough that I regard this as a good thing.
(Simon Williamson, a native of South Africa, lives with his federally recognized spouse in the wild yonder of Newton County. You can follow him on Twitter: @Simonwillo)