Queerness doesn’t really happen in the countryside. Where I come from, it’s conservative, lacking in ecstatic colours and fragrance of community.
There are queer people here, of course, but the same sense of community is lacklustre. Same goes for the tolerance – if I threw a knife at a map of my local area, wherever it hit I would have been hurled abuse from a van window, or given glares by passersby simply for being outwardly expressive in my queerness and identity.
One experience most engrained was when I was 16. I wasn’t even dressed as ‘openly queer’ back then – I remember simply wearing a pair of denim jeggings and an acid-trip top with some pretty vulgar but ironic wording of ‘piece’ with a peace symbol. Stopping to tie my misbegotten shoelace, a rock was thrown at me from a moving truck as cries of “f*****g faggot” drenched the air.
I can’t remember how I responded, aside from a cascade of tears due to the humiliation and pain of being hit, not just by the rock, but the words themselves. I was used to the snide comments and overt homophobia, however that was the first time that my pride in being recognised as queer stuck stronger than their hate.
“Pride just doesn’t exist in the countryside. The scene in the countryside is, for a lack of other words, empty.”
Though it did for me that day, Pride just doesn’t exist in the countryside. The scene in the countryside is, for a lack of other words, empty. Growing up was difficult in the countryside where the only access to a nightlife locale was dominated by high school bullies and heteronormative performances – far from the colour and flavour of the city many people think of when you mention Pride. Far from the parades and protest; adorned colours of reds and yellows, blues and purples dotting the landscaped streets while green trees sway and dance to the drumming of samba musicales competing for who can drum the loudest.
So Pride was always the time I’d traverse to new places and experience what the community did outside of the sheltered life of the countryside. But it never felt inclusive, or easily accessible – even if the faces and smiles were welcoming, I always felt like I was an outsider. It wasn’t home. It wasn’t my Pride, it was theirs.
Rural queers like me don’t ever really see themselves often in the big city Prides. Sure, people will be laissez faire and say they love visiting big cities to experience the community – and there is a genuine truth to that. But it’s not our home, our place of pride. The most representation we ever got was the “only gay in the village” sketch in Little Britain, and even then it was dipped and fried in heinous stereotypes that gay people are all tight-up gimps.
In the countryside queer people as a singularity; only ever one. Never as a community. But with the pandemic causing a disruption to the celebrations and cancelling physical Prides, the parades will mean something different now: we’re all truly on an even playing field. The resources that are for Pride are all on a singular parade row in the biggest grouping of people since Stonewall. This year, online, maybe we’ll experience our first ever moment of global pride.
“This year, online, maybe we’ll experience our first ever moment of global pride.”
Global pride has in this year become a commonplace of meeting with friends, new and old without the restriction of locale; the necessity of a physical place removed and more of one of open accessibility and true equality amongst its communities that are flung far and vast. It helps rural LGBTQ+ people especially bring pride into their homes, their conversations and much more than that. It gives them a place of acceptance and tolerance to escape from the daring homophobia of the overt locals without having to venture off to a place far from home. It truly makes Pride a free movement – one for everyone regardless of where you’re from.
Going forward, Pride should reflect and remember that it should be a celebratory moment; a remembrance of our history. But our history isn’t just in the place, it’s in the name. The name of Pride in ourselves as queer, gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual, asexual, intersex, pansexual and many more.
We’re not defined by the place, but by ourselves and our journey. Pride should be for all and my hope is that, after this pandemic, our community continues on with not only our physical pride, our parades, our parties and our protests, but our digital ones as well.
Making pride truly accessible to anyone, and removing the restrictions and limitations of the locale, is our best hope as a community.
Mattie Osborne is a freelance journalist and activist. Follow them on Twitter @mattiexoxxx
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