Sacrificial Offerings

A couple of weekends ago I went to a gay & lesbian campground downstate. This is the type of a place that bills itself more as a resort than strictly campground, with a pool and social activities and plethora of other things. There is a nightly meet and greet, there's a camp social director and plenty of events and themed days that occur throughout the summer and fall seasons. It's like summer camp for those of us that didn't get to go as kids--though there is alcohol and nudity and many more adult themed goings-on at this summer camp I suspect than at those of my youth. I always look forward to making the drive down, setting up the tent and socializing. I meet all sorts of people, from all over the midwest: a doctor and his partner from metro Detroit, a couple of guys from the UP, a riotous lesbian couple from Indianapolis who told me they met while working in porn, transplants to San Francisco that moved to Las Vegas then on to Madison, the list goes on and on. More than half of them I'd wager told me stories about growing up in small-town USA and then moving away to college or for their first job to somewhere metropolitan; making the drive to camp was their way of getting out of the city and making a nod to the way that they had spent some time in their youth. Many of the men (and women!) that I chatted with around campfires or shared a drink with at drag queen talent shows told me that they really didn't like living in the city, "I'd rather live in a small community," or, "I can remember tomatoes out of the garden in the summer, I miss that," or, "Life is too hectic, it takes me ___minutes to commute, and then I have to do the whole thing on the way back. I only get to unwind on the weekends." Invariably I would ask why they didn't hike up their trousers and make a change; I expected that I'd hear that money was the number one reason, but mostly I heard it was their partners. To this I'd often reply, "I thought relationships were about compromise?" Apparently this is not a point that is often up for compromise, as the chorus of, "He/she'd never move, there's no opportunity for him/her outside of the city." Funny that a lot of the partners of those queried are doctors or business owners or consultants; they own medical practices or travel extensively for work or oversee production in businesses that they own--to say that there are no opportunities for them outside of metropolitan areas is like saying there's no water in the Great Lakes. When further pressed with the point of their partners' mobility, most were quick to tick off pretty much the same list of "other" reasons why a move was impractical: "We have an open relationship, so long as my partner doesn't meet the people that I bring home, nor I meet the ones he/she brings home, well that's the rule (we couldn't do that if we lived in a small town)"; "All of our friends live in the city, we'd have to make new friends, develop new professional acquaintances, we've spent the last ten years doing that and I don't know if we could go through it again"; or, most disturbing, my favorite, "He/she makes the money." So much for compromise, so much for stating your mind or blazing a new path or stepping out of the box to try something new. I heard recently that the majority of gay youths are just waiting to graduate from high school so that they can move away from home and get on with their life, feeling the need to escape smothering or unsupportive parents, looking for the "sophistication" that they see in gay men and lesbians that have made it in New York or LA or London, wishing for a better life with little regard to what it takes to get there. It's a mass migration of sorts, but unlike the lemmings that plunge from cliff to sea, we have the abilIty to look back; I just wish more of us had the courage to turn around.

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