When the Amendment 1 was proposed, I was upset, but I really don’t think I realized that is was actually real. It was surreal and something to worry about later. But in the last couple of weeks, it has become starkly real to me. It’s hit me that these are my neighbors, my friends, and my family, some of which will definitely vote to deny me even the possibility of having equal rights. And these people will say (if I ever get the nerve to confront them about it, which I surely will not) that it’s not personally against me—that it’s an issue of principle, not individuals. But it can’t be divorced from me personally. This is the state where I grew up, and my community back home is asserting its disapproval of me, and so are many of the friends that I have come to love and respect. It makes me nervous that these sorts of feelings are becoming more and more socially acceptable. I have always sensed a tension at home (tiny rural area in NC, cows outnumber people, mostly socially conservative, that sort of thing), but in my experience people have managed to at least keep it largely to themselves. I think they haven’t expressed any direct malice because it’s not something that they regularly think about. Now, though, LGBT issues are the topic of discussion, and I dread what I know that I will hear in two short weeks when I go back. I have been thinking a lot lately about coming out at home, to my family if to no one else. But now I’m afraid the climate may be too hostile for this to even be an option. I’m afraid of the insensitive passing remarks and conversations that I’ll overhear about how wrong or disgusting queer people are. I’m afraid that I will let these inevitable words get in my head. I’m afraid that I will feel ashamed or less of a person where I know that I never should. I’m afraid of giving people power over me, even if they are completely unaware of what they are doing. I’m afraid people will draw a connection between my politics and my sexuality and expose me. I’m afraid that what has been my home for so long will no longer be that. And I’m afraid that all of my friends there who would be affected by the Amendment and the change of social atmosphere that it would bring, wonderful queer and allied people who deserve nothing better than the best, will be subjected to the same.
I find myself faced with what seems to be an unavoidable step back into the closet. I’ve been able to surround myself with LGBT community at Duke in ways that I never had even imagined possible. I have been fulfilled and supported and have developed and it has all been a dream. After having all of this freedom, going back is going to be undeniably hard. I dread that I will have to be there when the Amendment 1 voting results come in. If it’s good news, I will celebrate alone; if it’s bad news, I will cry alone. And it is like this for so many queer and allied people in rural communities through the state. So I guess that’s ultimately what Amendment 1 would mean for me—a hit when I’m already down.