Dating Gay In Dixie

We uncover what’s waiting for you when you go below the Mason-Dixon line.

By Analise Pendergast

elow the Mason-Dixon Line, you’re bound to encounter a generous helping of famous Southern hospitality. Forget your sun-dried tomatoes and mesclun salad. Down South, the tomatoes are green and fried to perfection, and the collards will melt in your mouth.

But the Southern states are also among the most conservative
Order a cold one, and you won’t be drinking alone for long.
areas in the United States, home to many whose religious, social and political positions lean to the right.

So what does that mean for gays and lesbians living, and dating, in the South?

Chilling challenges
In certain ways, gay/lesbian life in the South is much the same as anywhere else. There are gay bars, bookshops and accommodations in many Southern cities and towns. Gay and lesbian marchers fly the rainbow flag at annual GLBT Pride events in every state. Most Southern colleges and universities have GLBT groups. The Southern states sport a multitude of queer associations, events and destinations.

But there are also special challenges.

In a region where promoting and defending “traditional family values” is a prevailing concern, gays and lesbians come face-to-face with prejudice. Espousing anti-gay views is not necessarily frowned upon in the old-guard South. Racism runs deep in many Southern locales and, sadly, it spills over into the GLBT world as well.

Worst-case scenario, this clash of cultures gives way to harassment, discrimination and even violence—both within and against the gay community. But generally gays and lesbians can enjoy the charms of the South in a tolerant, albeit segregated, environment.

Fabulous festivals
Either way, gay folks everywhere still know how to throw a great party. And Dixie is home to some sublime spots for sipping sweet tea with your sweetie.

Mosey on into a Southern gay bar and order a cold one from that bartender with the adorable drawl, and you won’t be drinking alone for long. Gay Southerners are quick to strike up a friendly conversation and make you feel
Atlanta and Memphis are home to sizable gay communities.
welcome. Kick up your heels and join in on the line-dancing.

The South hosts many special GLBT happenings, including the Miss Gay Arkansas Pageant, appearances by the Gay & Lesbian Marching Band of North Carolina and Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Women’s Festival, to name just a few. Down on the bayou, Mardi Gras festivities attract divas of all persuasions. Queer cotillions and gay rodeos, lesbian bed-and-breakfsts and getaways for guys exist throughout the South.

Atlanta and Memphis are home to sizable gay communities, as are some smaller cities such as Asheville, NC. And while folks debate whether Florida is officially a Southern state, it flaunts some prime must-go-there gay destinations. From Gay Day at Walt Disney World to party mecca Key West to Miami’s South Beach, gay Florida is hot hot hot.

Being gay or lesbian in the South has its perks but also its problems. But changing times promise continued progress. The South is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet—of all persuasions. And you just haven’t lived till you’ve watched two cowboys two-steppin’ to Cotton Eyed Joe.

Analise Pendergast is a freelance writer specializing in topics of sexuality and relationships.
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