Pride Blog Series Day 9 – Aschlie Lake

Lake_AschlieSmall Town LGBT Pride

I have resided in West Virginia my whole life. I live not more than five miles away from where I was born and raised. To some, just the thought of living in West Virginia makes them cringe. In small towns all across the U.S., the LGBT community has dealt and continues to deal with bigotry and ignorance. Many flee to bigger cities and more liberal areas of the country to gain more acceptance and to live a more peaceful life. But the ones of us that don’t move are often asked why we stay. So I will try to explain why I choose to stay in West Virginia and why I think it’s important for more LGBT to do so all across the U.S.

I guess the biggest reason for staying is that I love my state. It’s my home. It’s where my family lives. It’s my history and I choose to make it my future. And maybe, just maybe, it’s because I am hard headed. By staying, I am forcing people to look at me and rethink their opinions of the LGBT community. I refuse to give up on my community. I won’t run away because a few people are ignorant. I am not saying that those who did move were wrong to do so. I can completely understand why someone would move. But for me, it’s important that I show my community that I am equal and not ashamed of whom I am.

Fairness WVFor some of my family and neighbors, I am the only lesbian they know. How can a person get used to differences if they’ve never been around anyone different from themselves? By staying in small towns, the LGBT community is becoming more visible to people who have never known other LGBTs. I truly believe that it’s harder to discriminate a group when you have a neighbor, friend, or loved one who is part of that group. And that’s why it’s important for small town LGBT to stay. We are playing a large part in turning opinions in rural communities.

In the ten years since Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, the public opinion on SSM has increased in every state, including more conservative parts of the country. In West Virginia, for example, support for SSM has gone from 21% in 2004 to 32% in 2012 (Freedomtomarry.org). I can say from living here that acceptance is much easier now than when some of my friends came out in the 80’s or 90’s. I recently wrote a Facebook status that mentioned I had been at Wal-Mart and saw a lesbian couple holding hands while walking inside the store with their child walking in front of them. Never once were they afraid to be accosted in public. Ten years ago, that might not have been the case. But it’s becoming a more common thing to see.

LakeAnd that’s the point of small town LGBT: visibility. The more we are seen, the more we are heard, the more we are part of the community, the more acceptance we will get. Is it hard? Will there be times where we just want to live anywhere else other than where we are? Of course. But times are changing and I want a future where I can live as a happily married lesbian woman and still be a West Virginian. I want a West Virginia where I can walk down the street, hand-in-hand with my wife and it be completely normal. By being out and proud, I believe small town LGBTs are paving the way for that to be the future in places all across the U.S.

References
“West Virginia.” Freedomtomarry.org. http://www.freedomtomarry.org/states/entry/c/west-virginia

GCLS TshirtAschlie Lake’s Bio:
Aschlie came to the world of lesfic by accident, but quickly found her family. As an avid reader, you can often find her curled up reading or frantically looking for her next read. Aschlie was elected as the At-Large Director of Membership to the Golden Crown Literary Society in February 2014. You can find her on Facebook.

She’s giving away an XL GCLS Portland T-shirt! Leave a comment here to enter the giveaway!

37 thoughts on “Pride Blog Series Day 9 – Aschlie Lake

  1. Excellent blog, Aschlie. You’re so right – when people realize that they know and like a gay person, they are less inclined to be prejudice… and you are one of the most likable people I know. What a great ambassador.

  2. Great blog. Some people need to stay and some people have to go. Good for you for knowing what choice was right for you.

  3. Good on you , my friend . Fighting the good fight and you are absolutely right . For a long time , I was the only gay woman in a men’s shop and I never hid that fact . The girls that followed were easily accepted and I’m proud of that :-)

  4. Great Blog!!! I chose to move back to my hometown. They are pretty open-minded here. See you in Portland!…..Dutch

  5. I grew up in a small town, 2500 people, as a young lesbian, even ‘I’ was not sure about gays, even though my brother is also gay. He was thrown out of our house by our dad when he was 16, so how could I feel safe?
    I was outed by an ex friend, also gay, in grade 10 and I fled my town for a city.
    But I went back in my early 20’s, still very unsure, of who I was, who I was supposed to be and unsure of the residents.
    Fast forward 25 years. I’m married, completely out and close friends with many of my high school chums.
    Talk about coming full circle.

    • That’s fantastic! It’s weird how that happens. I know that I may have not had enough faith in friends and family when I was younger. I was scared of rejection. But when it all came out, everyone surprised me and loved me. It made me have more faith in people’s ability to see things differently and to change.

      • Warms my heart to hear that. I am sure this will be the case with many who are uncomfortable coming out. A lot of folks get the, “What took you so long?” or “We were waiting for you to figure it out.”

  6. You are one of many that I know and love, because I don’t just seek to have relationships with only straight humans, or to have that ‘token gay friend’. I seek and invite positivity into my life, and I’m so glad you are a part of that! The fact that you are my baby cousin as well as my friend is just a bonus. I love you!

  7. Aschlie, I often tell people West Virginia is one of the biggest secrets in the US. What a beautiful state! I don’t live there, but I’ve visited several times. As a girl born in the country, who didn’t move into town (a tiny one) until I was 11, I couldn’t wait to get out into the big wide world. I’m a city girl from the country. I admire you for sticking it out, staying home. Every time I visited back home, I was out and proud. But I know how hard it was for the ones who stayed in the 50s, 60s, 70s, even now in a lot of places. My hat’s off to you, Aschlie!

    • The great thing is that there is no “one” right choice. you need to do what is good for you and what makes you feel whole and happy.

    • It was definitely much harder to come out earlier than when I came out. I have friends that had many, MANY problems when they came out.
      I am sooo glad you’ve had the chance to see the beauty of WV! There are so many things I haven’t even seen that I need to.

  8. Aschlie, you are exactly right. People fear what they don’t know, and they can’t know what isn’t there with them. Living your life, in your town, as honestly and truthfully as you can is doing more good than you know.

    • Agreed. You shouldn’t have to go if you don’t want to. It’s where you live and you should stay if you want to. By staying and being out, you touch more lives than you can imagine. That said, even if you can’t be out or stay, we are all moving towards the same goal of acceptance, respect and love.

  9. Great blog. I can see why you want to stay near your family. I’ve met some of them and they are great people!

  10. I used to think gays could only be happy in big cities and decidedly liberal towns. Now I live in a moderately conservative town in Oregon. Before we moved here, I worried about what people would think and say about me and my wife (who is African American, making her the 218th black person in our town of 55,000). It turned I was the one with the stereotypes. Everyone in our neighborhood and at our jobs and in the community has treated us well. In fact, the neighborhood is so friendly it’s like something out of a move about the 1950s. Here’s to tolerance and the good life, wherever we find it. Thanks for the great blog.

    • Thanks for sharing your story! I think that maybe the loud bigots in small places overshadow the hoards of kind, decent people. To some, it’s amazing that I have never had one single problem being out in my community. But I really haven’t. My barber used to be a 75 year old man who, upon meeting me and figuring out I wanted a man’s haircut (because he made sure to tell me he didn’t know how to style women’s hair), said to the other guys in the shop, “There’s a lady in the shop, fellas. Watch the language.” He never treated me any different, other than the guys couldn’t curse or tell dirty jokes while I was there, lol. And none of the other guys (mostly firemen and policemen bc the barbers were retired from the PD or FD) disrespected me. In fact, I was asked if I ever thought of joining the fire department, lol. Most people are regular, decent people. But because the bigots shout their ignorance, our own stereotypes can forget the quieter, good hearted people.
      Thanks for your comment!

      • It’s important to share these experiences because the prevailing stereotypes have painted all small town folks and conservatives as intolerant. This can give hope to those who are closeted or desire to stay in a small town but don’t know about coming out in one. There have to be happy stories out there to counterbalance all the hate. Unfortunately, a lot kids take their lives because they feel there is no hope for them if they come out. That the only outcome would be a bad outcome. Sometimes leaving a small town is out of reach or they are too young.

        No matter what any one person’s choices are, to stay or go, to be out or not, it’s my hope that they can find happiness and safety in all the ways that count.

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  12. Awesome post and great conversation after. It’s amazing how much has changed in the last 30 years and people like you, J D Glass, and the others posting this month are a big part of that change. My (deceased) partner of 25 plus years was from a little town in southern WV. Although she moved to a city in another state with her Mom and brother when she was a teenager she always loved and missed her mountain. I know she was proud of who she was and where she came from and that was part of what I loved about her. And those mountains are beautiful!

    cw

  13. We’ve visited your neck of the woods before and Aschlie, your bravery is above commendable. Brava for our normalcy being seen! :)

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