BY Duane Wells

September 29 2009 6:45 PM ET

Tyler Area Gays 02 x390 (courtesy) | advocate.com

“I was told when I started doing this -- when I started out with the online community which evolved into Project TAG -- that I would be assassinated within months of starting the website," Carlyle offers matter-of-factly. “I had friends who would come over
and they would break down in tears, begging me not to do this because
the gay community [in Tyler] was so fearful that we had to remain
invisible. A lot of our problem is within our own population. We’ve
been so beaten down…that we’ve come to believe some of the antigay
rhetoric, so endemic is very low self-esteem [among gays] and a
tremendous amount of fear to the point of [paranoia]. Very few people
are out of the closet in this region."

In fact, there are so few
openly gay people in Tyler that when Carlyle moved to the city a little
over three years ago he says he was told that there were “no gay people
in Tyler.” However, that bit of information turned out to be the
furthest thing from the truth. As incredulous as it sounds, Carlyle soon
discovered that there were gay people living right next to each other
who didn’t realize that their neighbors were gay because they were all
in the closet.
 
Asked why he and his compatriots made the unusual
choice of an Adopt-A-Highway sign to herald Project TAG’s message about
being out and proud in East Texas, Carlyle says, “We wanted to do
something that was community service–based that let people know that
gay people care about the environment and that we’re active
contributing members of society and that we’re people just like
everybody else. The Kiwanis club has their Adopt-A-Highway sign and
Tyler Area Gays has theirs too. We both care about the community. We
wanted to show people that and to get the word gay out there. If it’s
too offensive to put in an AIDS benefit program, then, my goodness, people
need to see that word more often.”
 




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