I’m in a forthcoming anthology about queer writers in (from) the South. There is a part of me that’s uncomfortable even writing that down, because I can hear my friend L’s voice in my head. “Bullshit, you’re not from the South. You think [state near—but below—the Mason-Dixon line] is the South? You should come to Alabama, now that’s the South!” And it’s not just L, I’ve been hearing that all my life.
“Where are you from?” the guy at the convenience store asked me when I was a kid. I lived a block away and as soon as I was old enough to cross the busy street between my house and the store, I was there buying candy on a weekly basis.
“Here,” I said. I couldn’t get any more local than the convenience store down the street from the house I had lived in my whole life.
“Oh, you sound like you’re from England or something.” I don’t have a southern accent, my parents were born in the Midwest and the West.
One of my bookstore colleagues used to say I was liberal and forward thinking because I had gone to college away from the South. She hated living in the South.
My mama’s mama (of course I called her Grandma, and my mother “Mom”) wasn’t out of a Faulkner story, my mother made mediocre biscuits, I didn’t go to church (I’m Jewish for pete’s sake), but why are we still living in a magnolia-scented cliche?
Let’s talk about the other part: being queer. I am happily married to a man. I am in a monogamous relationship with a man who doesn’t hesitate to point out cute joggers as we drive to the grocery store on a summer afternoon. I am married to a straight man who knows how to buy me clothes. However I wasn’t always married to a man.
Once I dated women. But I’m not suddenly straight just because I don’t date women any longer. I am a lot more straight-seeming, sure, but not straight. Being bisexual is profoundly linked to how I see the world, how I look at relationships, how I think about gender.
So I’m claiming the queer and the Southern because not all Southerners are white or black and love fried chicken and their mamas and because all queer women don’t have short hair and live with cats. I am here, as usual, complicating things.
What do you claim? What do you complicate?