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Dear Jesse

Dear Jesse. Watching this documentary about Sen. Jesse Helms and people’s opinions of him and his politics, I identified a lot with the filmmaker, Tim Kirkman. After growing up gay in the South, we both fled as soon as we could. But while he ran to New York city, I retreated to the equally conservative Midwest. And now, like he did in his film, I contemplate returning home.

I don’t usually think of “The South” as my home. Though I spent the majority of my life in Alabama, I continue to cling to my birth state of Connecticut as a way to avoid being labeled a redneck — in a way, it’s a lot like internalized homophobia. It’s something that I need to work through and moving back south to confront it head on may be the only way.

I’ve spent the past 8 years kind of floating at sea, letting the winds of fate blow me from undergrad to grad school to my first job. There’s nothing tying me to the Midwest. What’s the difference between working at a small conservative, majority-Christian school in Missouri vs. one in Georgia or Tennessee? And there’s really no reason to move back to the South other than my family. But isn’t that reason enough? As cool as it might be to go live and work in California or New York, it would only broaden the gap between us — a gap that’s really of my own construction. No matter how much I laugh about the sense of abandonment that started when my family sent me to prison (a really funny anecdote I must relate sometime online…), it’s really been my fault I’m not closer with my parents or brothers.

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Move to Atlanta….it’s the gay mecca of the south.

Anonymous | 2 Sep 2001