The stories of LGBTQ+ people vary across cultures around the world, but they also are wildly different even within the same country. The experiences of queer folx vary within the United States due to the disparities between middle America and the LGBTQ+ community in cities or on the coasts. Samantha Allen’s book Real Queer America tells a selection of the stories of those who lived happy and fulfilling lives fighting for LGBTQ rights in conservative states. Her own life has been characterized by years lived in these “red” states that queer people stereotypically want to run away from. She resisted that compulsion to flee, instead opting to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights within those southern/midwest states. Eli Clare told a similar story in his novel Exile and Pride. He felt a deep love for his home in Oregon, despite the homophobia and transphobia that pervaded the culture of his town.
While Allen’s account of her time in middle/southern America is explained by wanting progress and change, she does not go in depth about why this area of the country deserves “saving”. Yes, LGBTQ+ people are everywhere in the United States, but why shouldn’t they just move? Why do we need to push back and populate the towns where many are likely to be hostile to us? Clare’s emotional account gives a clear answer. The beauty of the landscapes and the quality of life that could be had in these places are sometimes worth the pain of not being accepted. Eli Clare expressed that the memories made in middle America are unlike those people in cities share. People in cities often live lives of privilege. They benefit from the struggles of the working class. These struggles are what Clare experienced early in his life. He could not relate to people in his community because they lived in the upper class most of their lives.
Memories, experiences, and beauty are what make up conservative America. Clare’s accounts clearly prove that we cannot leave behind the “Real Queer America” that Allen tells us about.
Picture By Guzzler829 – A self-edited version of the file found here, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=80458825