A few days ago fellow contributor Sheila Kennedy openly asked the question “Do I Belong?”, and received a number of comments assuring her that despite her reservations and disclosure that she was the only straight contributor (it turns out she wasn’t quite correct…at least cartoonist Storm Bear joins her in that regard), her point of view was quite welcome and needed. I’m happy to see that she’s decided to stick around. Shelia’s questioning resonated heavily with me. While I’m proudly a member of the “LGBTQ” community (the quotes are there because I’m still not all that sold on the whole “Q-word” thing), unless some of my colleagues are using really ancient photographs of themselves, I’m the oldest (68.5) contributor, and Bilerico’s “new duds” have also given me pause to indeed consider what I, too, am still doing here. My problem has been sorting out and articulating some vague feelings of uneasiness.
Some recent posts concerning “The End of Pride” and the little flap over the “Real Jock” ad near the top of the site have triggered one significant piece of my discomfort, but I’ll save that "are we really only about sex after all?" topic for later separate treatment. For now let me describe and discuss what I’ll just shorthand as my “Pre Wal-Mart Nostalgia”.
Although I’m among the first to pat myself on the back (despite a little arthritis that makes it a greater challenge these days) for generally thinking younger than most of my chronological peers, I do find myself increasingly experiencing mild anxiety when confronted with new situations. I’m told that’s a sign that my clock isn’t moving backwards. Although I’ve been a Bilerico contributor for only 10 months, I had begun to feel like one of the announcers on a local Indiana radio station whose signal sometimes skips to other parts of the country or which the national networks rebroadcast from time to time. Yes, the casual listener could tell that most of its programs had some commonality with the national LGBT community, but there was enough commentary on the Indianapolis/Indiana scene, a lot of it non-LGBT, that I truly didn’t feel as if I had become an Advocate magazine columnist. Nothing wrong with that, of course….just that this was my perception and it defined my comfortable surroundings.
But then the Bilerico mom and pop general store gave way to the Wal-Mart out by the Interstate, and lots of out-of-town folks, many of them from those places on the East and West Coasts my Southern Indiana grandma likely prayed I would stay away from, began to appear. Nice folks, they certainly seem to be, and I guess they and some of their ideas will help fulfill the Bilerico Project’s site’s stated wish that we hear from many more facets of the rich tapestry our community represents. But I must say that when Bil Browning said “I want to know about drag queens, bears, dykes, faggots, gender queers, twinks, and transgender men and women. I want to understand the reasoning behind radical queers and establishment yuppies”, it hardly soothed my uneasy perception that I might not be in Kansas, er, Indiana, any more. I doubted that his “establishment” part of “establishment yuppies” was likely to include Log Cabin (or any other type) Republicans, gay men of any age who have reservations about partial birth abortion, lesbians young and old who feel that their deep personal faith in Jesus Christ wasn’t necessarily incompatible with their sexual orientation, or anyone else very much to the right of twelve hundred miles into Zonus Leftus.
Don’t get me wrong…..I count myself safely among those queer (see, Alex, I CAN say that word when waterboarded) citizens who consider themselves more comfortable with the Democrats, think the wall of separation between church and state is a much better idea than a big ugly one along the Mexican border, and who believe that life after birth deserves at least somewhat more government attention than that before. But I must admit that my own corner of our community includes quite a bit more territory in what might be called the center to center-right portion of the parking lot. I’ll be going into this topic in a subsequent post also, but, for now, let me simply say that I find myself not quite fitting the mold that I think most of my colleagues think should populate sites like this one. A glance at the analysis of our readership as to age, political affiliation, church attendance, and several other things that Bilerico published a while back does nothing to lessen that feeling, assuming that the contributors typically mirror the readership.
My comfort in being part of a Hoosier-focused, mostly (but not exclusively) LGBT site has been replaced by a much less secure feeling of something bigger and more populated with younger folks who are significantly more to the left than I think I am. Is that itself a bad thing? No. Is it something I likely need to get used to? Probably. Should I just sit down and shut up about it? I guess the above paragraphs are evidence that the answer to the last question is “Not anytime soon”.
That having been said, I also don’t want to become the site’s token cranky curmudgeon, either. So far as I know Andy Rooney and I have no common ancestors after humankind got evicted from the Garden of Eden.
So, deciding (unless the responding chorus of comments is in the “goodbye and good riddance” category, which I really don’t expect) I would offer a suggestion as we go forward. The other day Bil Browning, in writing a piece about Indianapolis City-County Councilman Scott Keller, a Republican who has done many good things for our community here, seemed to be a bit apologetic in writing about something local before a national LGBT audience. He needn’t have been. Maybe the answer to this site’s becoming a Queer Wal-Mart is to say proudly somewhere on its masthead that its owners till run a Hoosier store but that it now employs a greater variety of non-local greeters and sells lots more out-of-state merchandise to its travelers out there on the Interstate. After all, the Garrison Keillor show is clearly linked to Lake Woebegone in Minnesota, but somehow that doesn’t keep National Public Radio from spreading it from coast to coast for folks of all stripes to identify with. And Lord knows, NPR knows the middle of the road when it sees it. Or am I thinking of Fox News?
And please don’t beat up on me for using Wal-Mart as my analogy. Although I generally go along with criticism against it, this year the one nearest me had a pretty good selection of cheap petunias. So they can’t be all bad.