My family took a trip up to Provincetown earlier this summer. We were camping just outside in the town of Truro and spent days biking around the beautiful seashore. It was a glorious week except for one big sad event but we love it up there.
We ride around all day, then head into town for lunch or dinner, and do some shopping. We’d all been vaccinated by this time and the streets of P-town were full. Our trip up to the Cape coincided with “Family Week,” a week dedicated to couples with children. There were games for the kids and fun things to do for the families.
I loved it. My partner and I were there with our kids and we saw so many LGBTQ+ couples with children in town. None of us batted an eye or recoiled in horror, to us it was just normal.
As it should be. Love is love and families are what you make them be.
But I didn’t think that way in my younger years, my understanding and compassion have evolved over the years, thankfully.
When I was a teenager I was told that LGBTQ+ was immoral and against God’s laws. I was in the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult but I heard this from other friends who were Evangelicals, Catholics, or any other crazy Christian flavor. Everyone “hated the gays.”
My friends in school weren’t any better. They hated the ‘fags’ and we were always teasing each other about being a ‘fag.’ I never thought about it and just went along with it.
It wasn’t until I went to college that my thoughts on this subject started to change.
“I would bash them all if I had the chance!”
I was in an environment that had people of color, different clubs, and events, and lots of new people. Granted, it was an Engineering college and by that extension fairly conservative but it was liberal enough to explore things you were never allowed to do.
A year after I started there a few students and a female friend of mine formed a club called BGLAD. The acronyms stood for “Bi, Gay, Lesbian, and Defenders.”
My friend and I were in the same environmental defense club and we hit it off since we first met. We weren’t romantically linked, just good friends. Since this was an engineering school, any female friend you had made you a stud in the eyes of the other geeks and nerds. After all, I wasn’t one of them! Or was I?
We’d spend an inordinate amount of time playing pinball between classes. One day we were playing with another group of classmates when the subject of BGLAD came up. One guy said, “I would bash them all if I had the chance!” To which my female friend hauled off and screamed, “I have so many good friends that are gay or lesbian, how dare you!”
I stood there, shocked, not understanding the interchange between them. I never realized that there are people, some of them friends that had gay and lesbian friends, and other people want to physically assault them.
This was a gay bar and quite a popular one too.
That seemed so unfair and not right. Just because I was straight I get a pass from violence but if you were gay or lesbian you deserved violence? How did that make sense?
That day was a pivotal moment for me.
My partner and I were in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware over the Labor Day weekend. It was a weekend for us to reconnect as a couple and do the things we love to do, together. The best part, we did it without the kids.
We biked to the beach and enjoyed the ocean and beautiful weather. As the sun went down we met up with another couple for dinner and drinks. After a delicious meal, we all decided to find the best ice cream store on the boardwalk.
The boardwalk was packed that evening. People of all walks of life were meeting up, standing in line, and being out and about. Then I saw two women holding hands and kissing.
You are accepted. Period.
While that wasn’t shocking for me, I just wasn’t expecting it here. Rehoboth had a slight redneck feel to it. After ice cream, we walked back to our car and passed the only bar open on the strip. There were long lines to get into this place and I spied what appeared to be many same-sex couples. This was a gay bar and quite a popular one too.
Once again, this didn’t shock me. I just wasn’t expecting it.
I began to think about why I wasn’t expecting to see this? After all, we had passed a gun store on our bike ride and we’d see rednecks driving around with the American flag flying from their truck beds during the day.
While I don’t begrudge a person’s patriotism, I do mind the presentation and the obvious ‘in your face’ attitude of some people that wave their flags around.
There was an interesting dichotomy between the rednecks and the LGBTQ+ community in Rehoboth and if I had to choose what side I’d be on, it would be the LGBTQ+ community.
Why? Because that community inherently feels safer and accepting of anyone. Whatever your gender identity, you are accepted. How you choose to love and be loved is accepted. You are accepted. Period.
This is not a “let your freak flag fly” statement, but rather one of living your true authentic self. A place where you can be just yourself.
And that, my friends, is the key.
In the redneck community, you need to conform. You need to take your uniqueness and crush it into a set of norms that someone else dictated for you. You are told who to love and how. You are told what’s right and wrong and not to question it. You are told how to live your life, whether you agree with what is dictated or not.
This, to me, is death.
The next day we rode again, this time along another beautiful trail next to the Delaware Bay. I replayed the events from the night before in my head and smiled.
I thought to myself how wonderful it would be to retire to a beach town one day. One with bike trails and one with an LGBTQ+ community.
How wonderful would it be to spend the last days of my life in a place where I can ride my bike along trails, hear the roar of the ocean, and live in a community where love and diversity are celebrated.
How wonderful would it be?
I think it would be grand.
Note: I use the term redneck to denote an intolerant individual or community.