Chicken and Fried Okra
BY Jason Ball
October 05 2007 12:00 AM ET
Imagine a house
full of Southern queens in one kitchen trying to get
dinner ready. It was a scene. Everyone had a different idea
on the best way to fry okra and what should go in the
oven first. The iced tea and the Johnnie Walker flowed
(served separately, of course). When we finally sat
down to dinner we had a feast that would have made Scarlett
O’Hara proud, complete with fried chicken,
barbecued chicken, black-eyed peas, collard greens,
red beans and rice, jambalaya, peach cobbler, and
homemade bread pudding. We laughed as we reminisced about
our rural roots. Teased each other about who was the
most country. And had heart-to-hearts about what it
was like growing up gay in the Bible Belt and how we
had to hide who we really were. That night after everyone
was gone, I told Troy I knew we had something special.
For me, this
project has always been about understanding the struggle we
faced growing up in the restricted culture of the rural
South and how we created new lives for ourselves --
not in spite of, but because of, our upbringing. Our
stories are just the tip of the old gay iceberg.
That’s why we are creating the Sunday Dinner
Legacy Project. The goal of the SDLP is to document
and compile the stories of gay men and women who grew
up in the South. I know gay Southerners who’ve left,
who’ve stayed, and even a few who’ve
returned. Everyone’s story is important.
Everyone’s story is relevant. To share your
story, go to outofthesouth.com and click on
“Share Your Story.”
I, for one,
wouldn’t change anything about my life. I am and
always will be an Arkansan. I just hope Out of the
South and the Sunday Dinner Legacy Project will in
some small way make it easier for all the gay boys and
girls growing up today in the South.
Special note: I
dedicated this film to another gay man from my hometown.
Jerry Coggins also grew up in Trumann and ended up living in
Los Angeles, not far from where I live now.
Unfortunately, his life was cut short just as mine was
really getting started. In 1988, at the age of 29, Jerry
died of AIDS complications. I was a senior at Trumann
High School. I never met Jerry, but I know he also had
a story to tell.