The Struggle of the Small-Town Gay

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Photo Credit: Love, Sex & L.A.

In 2016, why is it still “not acceptable” to put yourself out there and flaunt your homosexual self in all or most circumstances? From a smaller-town perspective in the thriving gay community down South, it’s (unfortunately) still socially unacceptable to deviate from the “norm.” So, how do we make our small-town homosexual selves excited about our sexuality without moving to a larger city like New York or LA? Yes, it’d be great to up and move on a whim, but not everyone can do that. The youth of course, have to sit and dream until they’re of proper age. That’s another issue in itself — do we have to wait it out & endure the rural small-town close-minded attitudes towards homosexuality in hopes of one day allowing ourselves to experience “gay culture?” Because of the limitations of small town life — the average gay man does not have access to as much gay culture and sex — can we still thrive and have a sense of comfort with our lifestyle and sexual selves? Is it possible? Do we give up? I mean, I still imagine myself as Carrie Bradshaw having a fabulous life with lots of sex and romance. And I still feel like I deserve it. 

I’ve pondered this as I have been going on about 8 years of living in Richmond, Virginia (RVA) — a “mid-sized” city in the South offering a huge University known for its art school, as well as great food and beverage and budding arts community. I originally moved to RVA for school and stayed because of, well… life. As I got older I learned some lessons & the experiences here shaped me into who I am in the present. However, there has been little growth in the LGBTQIA community in terms of togetherness / coming together and being ourselves. Opportunities for interactions in the gay community are scarce here. For the mid-20s age group, there is still slut-shaming, still a negative stigma surrounding those who use PrEP, still a lot of judgement being passed in the community per what we choose to do with our “Gay Selves.” Why can’t we just be our Gay Self without worry? Why are we judged and shamed by people in our own community (who most likely do the same things behind closed doors)? Ever so gradually, I watched many of the people around me in the gay male community leaving Richmond in search of a new place to “be gay.” They felt they could be themselves in the larger cities like Washington, D.C., New York, or Los Angeles. So they left, with or without a sustainable source of income at their chosen destination. 

Years continued to pass by in Virginia and I hadn’t really developed a colorful, fulfilling sex life. I had more developed a swift digression of a sex life… However, my sexual appetite did not decrease. I waited and looked. Lots of going to bars and searching. Had some short relationships with steady unfulfilling sex, then recently gave up. 

Is this it? Do gay men just have to move to a city known for “gay life” — participate in it — die and repeat? Or are we required to build something that’s not 45 year old married men or meth heads wanting to party in our own smaller communities, to bolster the survival of our sex lives? Or is there some microcosm of a community we can build for ourselves that will fill this void for people in cities like Charlottesville, Virginia, Rochester, NY, Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

And how does this Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d and tinder stuff effect this phenomenon? Does it ruin our access to any semblance — even more so in the small town setting — of a romantic, sexually fulfilling gay life? What is the remedy to this situation and how do we get what we desire and find fulfillment? The clock is only ticking and I know the end is nigh, so let’s figure out a few things.

Author: Ted Gregson

Ted Gregson is an independent graphic artist and creative thinker based in Richmond, VA.

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