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Strange Fruit: Is The South A Safe Place For LGBTQ People?

Wikimedia Commons/Dreamyshade
Why does Louisville have so many fish fries?

Many Americans have misconceptions of southern states based off stereotypes and media representations of the South as a repressive hotbed of antiquated attitudes and violence against LGBTQ people.

There's a popular idea that in order to escape discrimination and openly be themselves, LGBTQ folks must leave the South for more liberal Northern or coastal cities like New York or San Francisco.

Writer and reproductive justice activist Quita Tinsley argues that while the potential for violence or discrimination against queer and trans folks in the South can be higher than other regions, the entire nation is unsafe for those same people. And when she visited these northern “Gay Meccas” she felt isolated and experienced overwhelming levels of anti-blackness that exceeded what she felt in the South.

“This experience forced me to be honest with myself about something: as a Black, queer woman, there are far too few cities that are safe for me. I felt no more safe interacting with people in San Francisco than I did in rural Georgia,” Tinsley writes in “Why I Refuse To Leave the South as a Queer Black Person.” Tinsely is our first guest this week and we discuss how she learned to embrace and celebrate her identity as a Southerner.

Later in the show we shift the discussion from regional space to “gayborhoods,” an area of a city or town characterized as being inhabited or frequented by LGBTQ folks. In his feature article “Won’t You Be My Gaybor?” for Richmond, Virginia's RVA Mag writer Wyatt Gordon discusses the city’s lack of a gayborhood — the absence of gayborhoods in many southern cities — and examines if it is a sign of social repression or in fact a reflection of progress.

In Juicy Fruit, we honor the legacy of literary giant Toni Morrison who died this week.

Jaison Gardner is co-creator and co-host of Louisville Public Media's "Strange Fruit" podcast. His work focuses on race, gender, and LGBTQ issues.

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