“I hate New York. It’s not just the oppressive summer heat, or the dearth of affordable housing, or the lack of decent water pressure. It’s not simply the city’s awesome capacity to imagine itself as the be-all and the end-all of modern queer life (no small feat, mind you). What I really hate is the casualness with which this move is dispatched, the taken-for-granted assumption that you want to be on that tiny island (but not some of those outer boroughs) and be there soon. That you want to get there someday, somehow, and get out of this godforsaken town. That the promised land awaits just a hub or two or three away. I hate that no queer in New York has ever had to apologize to other queers for wanting to live there, unlike those of us who did not wash up on its shores. And I hate that the more I hate what New York stands for, the more I feel like the kind of shitkicker its queer denizens have too often defined themselves against.”
-Introduction, Another Country, Scott Herring
I have had many a long discussions that, although much less verbose and heady, mirror the points made in this book. Scott Herring is a man after my own upstate New York heart.
“You live with cows.”
“You must have had an awful childhood, always wanting to escape.”
“You come from a cultural wasteland.”
“Tell me again about your family. Listen up guys, this is hilarious.”
“Our fashion trickles slowly to upstate and the rest of the country. You’re always years behind.”
“Why do you still live there?”
“Why would anyone live anywhere but New York?”
“I’m so glad I live in Brooklyn now where things actually happen and there are actually things to do.”
“The worst bar in Brooklyn is better than the best bar in Syracuse.”
“New York is the only REAL place. All other cities are pretending.”
These are all some of many things New Yorkers/people from downstate have said to me- some with better intentions than others. There’s plenty of irritation to go around though, you may recall my encounter with a gay man in San Francisco.
I have to admit that while reading this, I zoned out at times (I was also tipsy). Much of what he writes about the south only speaks to me so much (though I do have an itch to travel there and I am trying to catch my knee-jerk generalizations about its inhabitants). But there were stellar paragraphs, and the major arguments were very validating. I enjoyed that he looked at literature, especially Willa Cather and Alison Bechdel. I find the idea of queers (so tired of this word…) inhabiting small towns, rustbelt cities, suburbs, farms, and backwoods inspiring and exciting. Not in a “let’s conform and get married and get along with everybody” kind of way, but in a “I’m not going anywhere so get used to it,” sense.
This book actually articulates the very reasons why I hate reading queer theory. So I’m glad it was recommended to me, otherwise it never would have been on my radar. I recommend it to you as as well, if you’ve ever felt shame over your provincial background or shamed anyone about their provincial background or sympathize with those shamed over their provincial backgrounds. Lay in the sun overlooking your supposedly subpar, anti-queer surroundings, sips some mimosas, and eat this shit up. It feels really good. You might even feel, at least for a few minutes, that you’re right where you belong.
As a fellow trans and queer Syracusan (Syracusian?), or really, just a person from Upstate New York, I get this stuff a lot too. I mean, I do not like Syracuse for the most part, and I am planning to move to NYC within the next few months, but the condescension that can come from others about where I’m from bugs massively.
It’s very, very complicated for me. I am proud to be from Syracuse, and I am proud to be a queer person from Syracuse. That’s not to say I’m always proud of the people here (queer or not) when they disrespect me or members of my community. I have gotten some bullshit from cis gay men here for being a trans dude, but that happens in NYC too, much more often than that community is willing to admit to. I want to live in NYC because I have friends and family down there. The jobs I want are down there. And it is oftentimes very hard to reconcile my strong desire to get away from Syracuse, and my desire to make it better. At times it feels like I will be abandoning something abstract I can’t quite articulate all that well. I feel sometimes like I’ll be letting down all those who are small town, or rural, or whatever, and stick with their communities because that’s where they want to be, and I just so very badly do not want to be here anymore.
And as a final note, I have lived with fucking cows. In Iowa. Cows are awful creatures that are dumb, stubborn, and screech in the night. I have never encountered a cow in upstate like I have encountered a cow in the Midwest. Nothing against people who farm or ranch, I just really hate cows thanks to that experience, it really has nothing to do with who lives near or amongst them. But anyways, fuck off with your you live with cows bullshit. Just because my city has less than 8 million people in it doesn’t make us backwoods hicks, and thinking that about me or anyone who lives in a small city, or a small rural area like that is just as fucking backwards.
TL;DR, read the shit linked above, then proceed to have feelings about it.
- God: I love all my children equally.
- [Earlier in the Bible]
- God: I don't care for Job.