By Quinn Noonan
No matter where I’ve been this week, someone or something has reminded me of the Phil Robertson debacle. I’ve heard opposing opinions, different ways of looking at the ordeal, and lots and lots of negativity. But what’s most difficult is when people ask me what I think about this situation, as I am a gay teenager in Louisiana.
I don’t tell them that it’s bigotry, or that Mr. Robertson is wrong, because I don’t see that as the problem here.
A lot of gay bashing is seen on TV and in news outlets, and plenty of it comes from southern states. To others, I am sure we look like a nasty place for our homosexual comrades. But I have found that the media has it very wrong.
I grew up in a small country town in southern Illinois with nothing to offer but cows for miles. I recall being pushed down in hallways and having “faggot” chanted behind me as I passed tables full of fearless high schoolers. I remember being afraid to go out after dark because if anyone recognized me, I may not come home bruise-free. I once had a lit firework thrown at me from a moving car on the Fourth of July.
After my freshman year of high school, I moved from that town in Illinois to a bustling community just north of New Orleans, and my life has changed drastically. I have gone from being the only homosexual I know to being one of many proud characters in my school. I have friends now. I have freedom to be myself, to be human. I still hear the multitude of typical slurs, but it doesn’t phase me because I am surrounded by so many others that have been raised to be tolerant and empathetic, good-natured people. I have found solace and acceptance in a place that, before I moved here, I thought would be a whole different kind of hell for me. I have found “southern hospitality” to be a very real thing.
When people mention this whole Phil Robertson issue, I don’t tell them how wrong he was because they either already know that or actively deny it. Instead, I tell them that I am lucky enough to live above the words of a man on TV. I know that there is work yet to be done, but some thanks need to be given to the kinder people of Louisiana, as well as a reminder to those less fortunate and more trapped that, despite what a map might show you, the borders of a state or city or a small town in Illinois do NOT define the people, only the land they live on. You will find your freedom, and you’ll learn that it lives in the humans that surround you and not in the streets you grew up on or the bridges you pass on the way.
I am angry, not because of what Phil Robertson has to say, but because the public of our country might never know that we are not all Phil Robertson.