Sunday, January 06, 2008

A First for Western New York

While looking through news stories for the region today, I came across one about one of Jamestown's newest City Council members. It was something I had discussed with Matt after the Inauguration ceremony held on January 1st:

Jamestown Picks Openly Gay Council President

I've known Greg Rabb since I moved here in 1999, and Matt has known him longer, having had him as a professor at Jamestown Community College. Later on, we were lucky enough to rent a house from him and then, when we bought our own house, make it possible for Matt's parents to become tenants in that house.

I wouldn't say Jamestown is place where you find the gay population loudly proclaiming their pride in being here and being queer. There are no parades, no rallies, no well-published support or social groups. The two gay/lesbian bars in town, Sneakers and Sky Bar, seem to have their share of the straight crowd just because there's nowhere else to go dancing. Subtle pride stickers can be found in the windows or on the bumpers of cars, but overall I'd say being gay in Jamestown is like being Polish. You know that some people are, but it's hard to tell. The Swedes and Italians have got everyone beat when it comes to the pride department.

Because of the quietness, I've often found it's hard to get a read on the homophobic-meter for the city. Even after nearly nine years, I'm not sure if it's just that the general population doesn't care, or that the gay population is comfortable enough that they don't feel a need to proselytize a need for tolerance to the public. Of course, the stereotype of a rural city does linger in the back of my mind and I wonder if this city is really more homophobic than I'd like to admit.

Being "out" is a personal decision. I think most adults who are gay don't feel a need to broadcast that fact. Once you realize you're gay, at any level of the Kinsey scale, there generally seems to be a time period where you want to proclaim this fact to everyone. After all, it's a revealing of a part of you that maybe wasn't so obvious before. Plus, someone has to break it to your mom and dad that while there may be grandchildren, that may come about in a less traditional manner than they were expecting. But after this period, some see being gay is more like another part of their personality that they can choose to share, or not. I'd liken that attitude to the frequency of telling someone your ethnicity. I don't tell every new person I meet that I have an ethnic mix of Polish, Scottish, German, English, and Welsh. Why would I? There are so many other things about me that are far more interesting and have a more active role in my every day life.

I'm curious about your thoughts, especially if you live in Chautauqua County.

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