I once thought that to be a happy gay person I needed to live in the city. I thrived being part of a community, until the urban annoyances; parking, noise, crime, eventually became a frustration that weighed on me daily.
I longed for a small town.
I wanted to live somewhere where I could borrow eggs from a neighbour, where friends could drop in or I could grow a garden. I found Spencerville on a tour of the 416 and decided that I could grow roots here. I packed up and moved.
Being gay in a rural community is not simple, at least not in the way I anticipated.
"Coming out" is the act of telling someone you are LGBTQ. You need to come out a lot in a small community, sometimes every day. People don't expect another woman to be your wife. And even more than not expecting it, sometimes they just don't understand it. You have to explain it, a lot.
Telling a nurse or a cashier that my wife is NOT my sister is easy enough, the frustration is that, in 2020 my relationship is never assumed, even with the same last name. Some days you just want to grab the mail or get the services you stood in line for and educating someone is not on the agenda. It's a small rub, but the friction is worth it to be somewhere lovely. I am different but mostly accepted. Mostly.
June is LGBTQ Pride Month, a month where gay culture is highlighted across North America and most of the world. It is a celebration full of speeches, media coverage, and yes, a few large parades. The spirit of the month is to acknowledge the hard-fought battles the LGBTQ community has endured, but June always highlights how much further we need to go.
How much further do we need to go in our small towns?
Yesterday, Prescott raised a Pride flag in a lovely gesture of support. Someone promptly vandalized the rainbow crosswalk in town. It was an intentional gesture of hatred and it is pointed at the LGBTQ community. The crosswalk was a symbol telling us we are welcome, and the vandalism tells us we are not.
This is the second time the crosswalk has been targeted, with the first crime resulting in a conviction. If you have social media, please read the comments from last year. It is a mixed bag of unwavering support for the LGBTQ community and homophobia. People are brave but shockingly honest behind their keyboard. We are not always wanted. We are not always welcome.
I love my neighbours, my friends, and my garden. It is a simpler way of life, just as I thought it would be. But those tiny everyday frictions of being different add up and the end result is a blister. The blister will eventually heal and leave a tiny scar. This is the cost of laying down roots here - an accumulation of tiny scars.
Please continue to be kind to your friends and neighbours but be especially gentle to people who are different. Every kindness is a gesture of acceptance, and acceptance is healing for everyone. We still have a long way to go, but my faith in small towns is unwavering.