The Underground Rainbow
1st Edition Thursday, January 31, 2020
I’ve been trying to find a way to get the news out about the wonders of the rainbow in our Southern world.
Welcome to the first edition of The Underground Rainbow. A couple of us who write but live outside of Stanly County wanted to find a way to support the LGBTQIA+ community that lives in the county.
We are a group of volunteer writers and activists who want to find a way to support you and also to empower you to tell YOUR story. If you are interested in writing about how you view life in the county, please contact Robin at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a secure email and no names will be shared unless you request to be out.
Did you know that 35% of LTBTQIA+ live in the South?
Thirty-five percent of the LGBT population in the United States lives in the South, where they are more likely to lack employment protections, earn less than $24,000 a year, and report that they cannot afford food or healthcare. More new HIV infections among men who have sex with men come from the South than any other region in the country. Southern LGBT individuals are also less likely to have insurance than anywhere else in the country. From Williams Institute of Law-UCLA
Want to learn more about our population who live in the South? Check out more on Studies in the South. There are links associated with each of the states shown on the above-referenced map.
Ed Oxford is a gay Christian, a graduate of Talbot School of Theology, and a researcher in how the Bible has been weaponized against LGBTQ people. His first book written with Kathy Baldock, will be released in 2020.
Q: BASED ON YOUR RESEARCH, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR LGBTQ CHRISTIANS TODAY?
My advice to LGBTQ Christians today would be three things:
1.) As difficult as it may be, try to extend grace and patience to the Church. The vast majority of pastors in America have not done their due diligence on this topic, so we can’t expect them to be any further along than they are currently. In the same way that God has extended grace and patience with us when we sin, we need to extend grace and patience toward others regarding their error on this topic. Bitterness will only manage to create further damage.
2.) Seek out other LGBTQ Christians who have already done their due diligence on this topic and reached a point of peace between their sexuality and God. We can learn a lot from others who are a little further up the trail.
3.) Often remind yourself that this mess is not caused by God, but instead is the result of people who have been entrusted with free will.
There are some inclusive congregations in the South. If you know of any, please let Robin know so that we can begin to keep a list. There are also inclusive groups of other religions in the South, for now, mostly Charlotte. Please let us know what you need.
Steven Stillman is a theologian, writer, and gardener who lives in Midland, NC. Though that’s not in Stanly County, Steven understands what it is like to be a gay man living in rural USA. Steven and I often talk theology and you can read more about that if you want at Third Cup of Coffee Ramblings. For now, however, he’s going to be our Master Gardener. He also usually includes a yummy recipe. (from the week ending November 16th)
Monday afternoon I set about some of the tasks that were yet to be completed to prepare the house, yard, and greenhouse for the winter months. The primary tasks planned; getting all the items into the greenhouse for the projects that will take place in the greenhouse over the winter (the plants have all been tucked in for the winter two weeks ago); to load the propane tanks onto the truck to be filled; to blow the leaves off the roof before Tuesday’s forecasted rain and continuously dropping temperatures; to cover the bare soil in the raised beds with a layer of leaves topped with a cover of cardboard to be weighted down with logs; to actually get the propane tanks filled, and to install the new two-burner propane stove in the greenhouse to be able to start the supplemental heating Tuesday night.
It was too much for me to do, frustrating because it was a normal late autumn schedule of events for just a few years ago. My mind still thinks in terms of years past, my body tells me there is no way all of it will happen. Yet I try to outwit my body and zip through the agenda I have planned on accomplishing.
Good progress on the agenda was being made, well satisfactory progress to be truthful. All the items were in the greenhouse, the propane tanks were on the back of the truck, the leaves had been blown off the roof. I was feeling good about things being like the days past, and then I fell off the porch. The lower porch, only a couple of feet up, but enough to knock the wind out of me when I landed flat on my back, and it took me the better part of the next few hours to be able to get up.
When I did get up, angry about the time lost, I realized, had the fall happened a few moments earlier, it would have been off the roof, and there would be no time for being angry. Anger examined from another point of view, in a different context, can diminish the power of that anger back to nothing, where it should never have moved from.
Tuesday morning arrived, and so did the aches from the fall and the agony in my joints with the rain falling outside. I was ready to start moving frantically to get ready to get the rest of Monday’s agenda completed, and found I couldn’t.
And as I ate my oatmeal, and then sipped a cup of hot tea, I was allowed to view the yard in peace, through the window.
To see that the Norway Maple, changing green to bright yellow – top to bottom, had this year beat the river birch, changing green to bright yellow – bottom to top; To see the rest of the maples aflame in reds and oranges amongst the brown of the oaks; To see the various leaves cascading from untold heights in numbers almost as many as the raindrops falling from even higher, and I realized just how much I would have missed if I had been able to rush out the door as I had planned. [I also get to ponder why some oak leaves fall to the ground, while others remain attached to their twigs to rustle loudly in the winter breezes. The unfallen leaves are winter’s wind chimes, growing loud enough in storm winds to be heard through closed windows, loud enough to sometime rouse the house from winter slumbers.]
So Tuesday has a new plan, a slow down plan. One smaller tank will be filled; one smaller tank will be installed to keep the greenhouse warm as the temperatures drop continuously from dawn at 594 to the near-record low of 25. And I am reminded, don’t worry about it all, take care of what is necessary and take time to enjoy the surroundings.
For the book lovers, this is a must-read for those of us living in the South. Honeypot: Black Southern Women Who Love Women written by E. Patrick Johnson. Johnson is from North Carolina and does a great job of capturing the dialect and feel of what it means to be in the South. Johnson also has a book out for the men, Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South. He is now in The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame. For more about his art, please visit his site at E. Patrick Johnson ____________________________________________________
Robin is a musician who grew up singing at West Stanly High School and her church, Pleasant Grove Baptist in Frog Pond, NC. She went on to study music at Pfeiffer College (now Pfeiffer University). What is a good newsletter without something about music? Music is what got Robin through all the years of living in the closet and, along with prayers of trusted friends, are what gave her the courage to come out in her late 30s. If you know of good musicians in the area, especially out musicians, please send us info.
Robin has started a group on Facebook for Lesbian and Bi-women that is about music. One of the members posted a great blog on Dolly Parton’s song, Jolene. In the podcast, they discuss how many of Dolly’s songs can relate to any gender. When you have the time, take a listen – The Only One for Me, Jolene.
In the podcast, a gay banjo player/singer, Justin Hiltner is interviewed briefly to talk about the different ways Dolly’s songs can be sung. Justin was nominated for an International Bluegrass Music Association (IMBA) award. Justin says that he Wants New, Queer-Inclusive Music To Smash Barriers.
Talking of Smashing Barriers: Here are some other sites you might check out. Just remember, you are not alone. You can do this. It can get better.
BINADW is the world’s only print magazine dedicated to Butches. We print photographs and tell the stories of a diverse range of butch identifying folks from all over the globe.
Equality will always be a big issue for our community. Learn more about the rights that you do have.
The Campaign for Southern Equality is working to build a South where LGBTQ people are equal in every part of life. A South where your zip code doesn’t determine your rights. Where all of us are free to be who we truly are and love who we truly love.
But wait, there’s more news! There’s a new place we can gather together in the South. Check out Southerner’s on New Ground (SONG)
SONG is a regional Queer Liberation organization made up of Black people, people of color, immigrants, working-class and rural and small-town LGBTQ people. We are a membership-based organization. SONG’s members are made up of people committed to building freedom movements rooted in southern traditions like non-violent social justice activism, storytelling, music, breaking bread, resistance, humor, performance, critical thinking, and celebration.
If you’re going to be in Whitakers, NC in March, you might be interested in the following event.
Un Renacimiento Sureño Queer: ¡Reunión de la membresía 2020!
Un levantamiento, un reclamo, sesión estratégica y regreso a casa para la membresía de SONG
Nuestras metas para la Renacimiento Sureño Queer son:
• Reflexionar y evaluar lo que pudimos hacer juntxs en 2019 e identificar lo que se requiere de nosotrxs para avanzar el trabajo de SONG en este momento político.
• Crear estrategias y establecer una visión de la dirección de nuestra organización en los próximos 5 años.
• Ofrecer un entendimiento significativo del legado, la amplitud y la profundidad del trabajo de SONG en toda la región sureña.
• Continuar arraigando profundamente en nuestro legado de trabajo organizativo multirracial LGBTQ sureño.
• Revivir, animar y fortalecer nuestros espíritus en familia, celebración y alegría juntxs.
A Queer South Revival: Membership Meeting 2020
An uprising, clarion call, strategy session and homecoming for SONG members.
Our Goals for Queer South Revival 2020 are:
• Reflect on and assess what we were able to do together in 2019 and identify what is required of us to advance SONG work in this political moment.
• Strategize and caste a vision for the direction of our organization for the next 5 years.
• Provide a meaningful understanding of SONGs legacy, breadth, and depth of work across the Southern region.
• Continue to root deeply in our legacy of southern LGBTQ multi-racial organizing.
• Revive, enliven, and fortify our spirits in kinship, celebration, and joy with one another.
Your contributions are welcome.
Compiled by JRobin Whitley
Robin lives in the mountains with her dog, Birdie and is also a writer, musician, and artist. You can read more of her work at www.jrobinwhitley.net. Though we don’t have a website yet, that is one of our goals. Perhaps YOU can create great websites. If so, please contact Robin at the email listed above.