What would happen if all of us critically examined our basic story of America and see if those stories cause us to make assumptions about people in our lives? What would happen if people could meet each other and see unique individuals with unique stories rather than characters in a pre-existing, pre-scripted story?
Ask a person about Appalachia, and their answer will likely amaze you. Outsiders may grimace, telling you about poverty and economic depression, an unhealthy affinity for coal, lack of education, and so on. Insiders, though, might tell you about the close-knit community, respect for the land, rich cultural heritage, and a passion for the place and its people.
Over the years, it has been sickening to watch politicians, coal company hacks and sycophantic journalists defer judgment and split hairs over the connections between massive mountaintop removal operations and public health hazards in the same way black lung disease for coal miners had been denied for decades.
Take some time to get to know the local communities who have been building bridges, winning and losing campaigns, and making a difference for generations. Enter these communities with humility and a beginner's mind. And please, please don't erase the rich history and culture of the queer South just because you finally started paying attention.