As a dyed-in-the-wool liberal Yankee, I felt I was descending into a Kimmy Schmidt bunker when I moved from New York City to Savannah, Georgia four years ago. But I soon found out that Southern gays have a vibrant community full of its own peculiar conventions, politics, and mating rituals.
Here are 12 reasons why the Southern gays’ tea is sweeter, hearts are the blessed-er and men are hotter than a four-balled tomcat.
1. Southern gays are on the front lines
First thing’s first: Unfortunately, many of the state and federal rights afforded to LGBT Americans have yet to reach (or be enforced) in the Southern states.
While blue state gays love to debate whether we “really need” legal recognitions like marriage equality or hate crime protection, the Southern gays have too few rights to take any one of them for granted.
2. Southern gays commune
The gay bar is an endangered species. Gay men are increasingly comfortable in straight establishments and can order sex like a pizza from their smartphones. But Southern gays still face the threat of violence in non-gay spaces. Some are closeted, unable to host a sexual encounter in their homes.
New York gays have the luxury of getting jaded with their abundance of nightlife options. But Southern gay bars foster an increasingly rare sense of community and loyalty among its patrons.
3. Southern gays eat
A healthy eater in the South is swimming upstream in a river of butter and barbecue sauce. Comfort food is the law of the land. In general, Southern gays have less anxiety about maintaining a lean gym build than in BMI-conscious cities like New York or Los Angeles.
Even the die-hard Southern gym bunnies have a hint of a gravy curve. The men come in all shapes and sizes–and so does the standard of beauty.
4. Southern gays drink
The combined result of rich food, sweltering temperatures and a slower pace of life, Southern gays can day-drink their East and West coast counterparts under the table.
Open-container policies in pedestrian-friendly cities like New Orleans and Savannah make the to-go drink a staple of Southern farewells.
5. The Southern closet is a screen porch
Sex in the South is a private matter, allowing sexuality to be a surprisingly fluid institution. Because sexual preference is not overtly advertised like it is in more liberal areas of the country, there’s more opportunity for gay sexual encounters for/with men who call themselves straight.
But these men aren’t all necessarily closeted. Some are just scratching an itch. And doesn’t the majority of gay porn still operate on this very premise?
6. Southern gays do a better Southern accent
Americans crush on accents easily. But while we give points for the sophistication of a British lilt or the virility of an Irish brogue, we often discount the beauty (and variety) of our very own Southern accents.
An uppercrust Louisiana man can make a drag show feel like a tea party. A rural Carolina boy can make a tea party feel like a carburetor.
7. Southern gays watch more than just the halftime show
College football is king down south. But Southern gays do more than just watch the game–they understand the game. Unlike the East and West coasts, football is seen as more of a male thing in the South than a straight male thing.
It’s still a boys club, but it’s one where boys who like boys feel welcome too.
8. Southern gays drag
The Southern drag show is the buttercream frosting of the gay Southern experience. Where New York queens tend to focus on shock value and avant-garde runway looks, Southern queens emphasize pageantry, emotion and classic glamour.
With the rise of “alternative” drag scenes across every college town in America, the most shocking thing a drag show can put onstage these days might be an earnest Reba lipsync.
9. Southern gays give their mother the respect that she’s entitled to
A Southern mother is an indomitable force of nature. Even when her children are grown, she is a fierce protector and an expert food guilt-er. And she expects more of her brood than a card on Mother’s Day and a call on Christmas.
In exchange for their labor, gay sons of these Southern mothers tend to enjoy a special role as confidant with impunity. Just so long as they drink their juice.
10. Southern gays have less competition
Cosmopolitan gays in cosmopolitan cities are a dime a dozen. Unlike New York or Los Angeles, gay men aren’t flocking to the South from around the country to live out their fantasies of sex, fashion and success.
A smaller pond makes every fish look bigger. Southern gays can make more of an impact with less work.
11. Southern gays throw the dirtiest shade
A true Southern belle is at her most polite when she is reading you to filth. If New York gays tell it like it is, Southern gays say it with a smile. When they do read you aloud, it is a masterpiece of smoke, mirrors and misdirection.
And you won’t know whether to check your ass or scratch your watch, bless your heart.
12. Southern gays sweat through less clothes
Who needs a torso pic when it’s 110 degrees outside before the heat index? Flesh is on display everywhere in a Southern summer, glistening like so many Easter hams.
By August, the steam starts to get to people’s brains. A pitcher of lemonade and central air will bring all the boys you need to the yard.