Building queer community in a red state
Thank you for this, Lyz and Molly. How wonderful would our Iowa be if people in every neighborhood held each other up, made space for each other the way Molly describes …I’ve been in northeast Iowa for more than thirty years now, have witnessed the political, cultural and environmental cha cha. I don’t remember ever feeling this disheartened and frustrated about the direction Iowa’s been traveling .
I found a copy of the letter to the editor I wrote all those years ago in response to Representative Charles Hurley’s claims that Jesus would not approve of gay marriage. There was a note from a gay couple to me thanking me for speaking out when they felt they could not
I’m a mother of seven, grandma to nine, the oldest of whom is a transgender boy. He and his mom moved to Brooklyn, NY and while it’s not easy having them further away, I’m glad he’s there and not here right now. My flag is up, and I’m thinking of painting my house to match. And I bet if I lived in Molly’s Gayborhood, it would get done in a day and we’d have a helluva good time doing it.
Grateful beyond words for all those who are staying to fight the good fight.
Another Wednesday, another newsletter that will burrow into my head and heart and live there a while. Thanks for this Molly and Lyz!
I want a life and connections and community like what Molly describes in the gayborhood. I actually think my whole family (wife, kids, and dog) want that too. Like...we have connections and close people in our lives but they are not close in proximity. The difference between 3 houses away and 3 blocks away is greater than it ought to be. To overcome this I make an effort to show up for people, but I struggle to ask people to show up for me.
Reading this from Molly reminded me of my friend Shawn and how I became her friend. In the summer of 2006 I was a local blogger following/supporting a senate campaign in Connecticut and she hosted an LGBTQ fundraiser at her house in the days leading up to the primary. I showed up on a Friday night with my camera and tripod to film the candidate speech and then bolt. It was a big crowd and Shawn was grilling burgers and hosting like a pro. After the speech when I was packing up, she invited me to get some food so I grabbed a plate and started to load up. She insisted that I wait while she grilled me a fresh burger, which is how I fell in love with Shawn. I left that night with a big hug, a plate of leftovers, and a new friend.
A couple years later after getting married and buying a house in her town, she was the first person to cut our grass. I'd posted on FB looking for a mower and she offered to bring hers over and cut our grass as a housewarming present.
Fast forward a few more years and I started my current job which had (and still has) a complicated arrangement of exactly where I sit to do it. On day damn one, I reported to the IT consulting company that provides my hardware and guess who is there? Shawn! The IT company shared office space with her org. Huge hug and probably too much time catching up.
Over the years since, I would run into Shawn almost any time I stopped by the Corner Pug, at every rally and protest I attended (not nearly as many as I should have gone to), and in the most random places at the most random times. I feel like I was part of her gigantic, sprawling gayborhood.
She died unexpectedly in October 2021. https://www.courant.com/2021/10/19/shawn-lang-tireless-advocate-and-voice-for-the-marginalized-dies-generations-to-come-will-benefit-from-her-advocacy/
My oldest is nonbinary and has spoken about switching to she/her pronouns (born male). They have been struggling with depression and disordered eating. I have been worrying a lot that they do not want to transition because of the horrible stories on the news, besides just the strength they need from within. They are definitely broken right now and it hurts. This article gave me something more than hope. Perspective, maybe. Hope + more patience and a moment of calm in the storm of my anxiety. Thank you for this in a moment when I happened to really need it.
I really appreciate folks like Molly - and Lyz - who stay and fight the good fight, in places folks like me used to call home.
And for those who might say, "Well, why didn't you stay and fight?" Because I can best serve everyone by not being locked up in prison. Had I stayed in the Midwest as it has become, I know myself well enough to know the possibility I would end up in prison because I went over the line fighting to protect good people like Molly from the monsters is significantly higher than I'm comfortable with.
So I fight the battles I know I'm good at fighting, where I can help all good people, and still remain free.
May the mower work all summer, Molly.
Dammit. This just made me tear up at my desk. My son is trans, and though for now New York is holding on as a Blue state, the reality is that our college town is a little Blue pond in a sea of Red and also he likely won't always live here. I pray he always manages to find his people like Molly has.
my heart has been heavy. it feels as though iowa is no longer welcoming to anyone who is not white, straight, christian and votes republican. that leaves a whole lot of us out for many reasons if not all. my concern for LGBTQ friends and family members is overwhelming. i wonder if it's even safe for my daughter and her wife to visit here. i fear for the trans grandson of a close friend. and so many dear friends. so reading this today gave me some hope. i'm so glad, molly, that you have found community here and that it thrives. we need you here. please stay!
This gives me hope for my home state. I was always proud of Iowa for being a more progressive part of the Midwest and it’s been really hard watching how things have changed politically/legislatively. This is an important reminder that there are many people invested in creating and working for inclusion and equity for everyone. I have friends who own a business in Marion and they are very vocal about their stance on inclusion, acceptance, diversity. I’m grateful to everyone who continues to emphasize love and build community ❤️
Having recently finished reading "The Tragedy of Heterosexuality" (recommended on this blog! Thank you!) I extra appreciate having the language now to specify straight culture and how queer culture always finds a way no matter how intensely straight culture fights it.
My queer daughter and her trans husband moved from NorCal to Salt Lake City, UT a number of years ago. At the time, I couldn’t fathom such a move and I had a lot of fear for both of them (and, later, my grandkids). What I learned is that there is a vibrant and thriving LBGTQ+ community right in the heart of Mormonlandia. Who would have thunk? And, hey, it’s only a 9-hour drive from my home in Salida, CO.
I've learned more about how to live an authentic and meaningful life from my queer friends and family than I have from an endless parade of politicians, pundits, and priests who want nothing more than to force you to live *their* version of life -- their small, sad, scared version of an existence that can and should be so much more. Thank you, Molly, for sharing your story. My heart will be a bit lighter today having read it.
This is such a necessary post. Thank you, Molly. My oldest brother Marty and his long-term partner Joe are considering marriage soon - they've been together 25 years, and they want the extra legal protection even though they live in Seattle. They host family dinners on Fridays and Joe's sisters - who are quite conservative - are there every week. They have woven the most beautiful community, and when I visit I love submerging in it. I'm hoping love wins.
Thank you, Molly, for sharing your wonderful community with us. I wish we all could live in a sharing, friendly group like yours.
"A hallmark of a home is that it is a place where you feel safe; if you don’t feel safe, it’s not home." Beautifully said. Your community sounds lovely, and it's heartbreaking that there are people who have made it their life's work to disrupt and erase queer communities instead of doing something positive with their one existence.
Thank you Molly for sharing your beautiful community with us. A perfect example of “Iowa nice”.
Molly, many thanks to you and your neighbors for helping build a vibrant, vital community in CR. We are so much better for it.
I love this piece so much and want to live in the Gayborhood. My boyfriend's neighborhood is like this, but mine is not, really. I live in a townhome association and do know some folks who will pick up packages for each other and such, but overall, we all kind of keep to ourselves.
I live in Minnesota and our governor just signed an emergency executive order to protect gender-affirming health care, and similar bills are going through our DFL-controlled legislature as well. While I'm grateful for all of that, I still plan to fight like hell to protect trans and LGBQ+ folks because they deserve protection and to just be able to live their lives!