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Crooked Letter I LGBT Essayists Respond to Human Rights Campaign Alabama Survey, Part 3: Elizabeth Craven

Crooked Letter I: Coming Out in the South, edited by Connie GriffinCrooked Letter I, an anthology of Southern-themed LGBT coming out stories, will be published by NewSouth Books in 2015. This week we’ve been posting thoughts by some of the anthology contributors about a recent survey of LGBT Alabamians conducted by the Human Rights Campaign in Alabama. Read the first and second parts of this series, with thoughts from Susan Benton and B. Andrew Plant. The third and final submission is from Elizabeth Craven:

Kith and kin, faith and family, loyalty to the land, the culture and the lifestyle marks a Southerner. Yet all the institutions that defines a life: home, work, worship, these are the very places where Southern gay and lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people feel most threatened. Fear of rejection feeds a the narrative that the South is a closed culture.

This survey of the LGBT community in Alabama paints a more complex picture. Perhaps not one of the urban gay life the media loves. Perhaps not a land of all happy endings … but a place where people with roots fight for another definition of family, an expansion of community, a challenge in and out of the church. One weapon in this fight is one of the most cherished in Southern life — the story. The coming out story of gay men in overalls, Grandmothers loving transsexual grandchildren, people in porch swings learning to accept another kind of difference. Sometimes slowly, sometimes painfully people in the South open their eyes to their “other” children, their “other” coworkers, their “other” choir members.

The South changes in a very Southern way The survey shows much work needs to be done. Yet, one by one, people in the South are speaking out. These changes can be forced by law but they are solidified by relationship. Gay culture needs some Southern spice, but the South needs her gay children, and their gay stories. After all, these are stories of home. The survey makes one thing very clear. More and more LGBT people are choosing to live, to love, and to raise their children openly in the South. Change is coming.

Crooked Letter I will be available direct from NewSouth Books or from your favorite bookstore in 2015.