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We Need a Queer Army in Oklahoma (and Kansas and Alabama)


Blue staters, push your cynicism aside and help us.

Last week, if you blinked, you missed Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signing into law a bill that allows any state-contracted adoption agency to deny people as foster or adoptive parents if they're deemed not a match with the agency's moral values. Yes, that's a conservative dog whistle for "gays."

I mention that you most likely missed it because these days, conservative offenses against everything from fashion sense to human morality come at a rate of about five to 10 on a slow Tuesday. I mean, look at the state of things; the Republicans just looked the other way at another mass school shooting. A deep-red conservative state being homophobic? Pssh, we'd be lucky to trend higher than the day's hashtag game for more than two hours. It's just the new normal now for America, but for us in Oklahoma, it's the old normal.

Once our state legislators decided that the prospect of a post-government career as a lobbyist was more important than raising taxes on oil companies to fund education to a level above starving Russian peasant village in the face of a marginally nationally noticed teacher strike, I knew the adoption bill was going to pass. I was surprised when our governor actually vetoed an open carry law that would have turned our state into a giant Old West cosplay convention. Yeah, that one caught me off guard. The bill to keep kids in an underfunded foster system because someone thinks the idea of two guys kissing is icky? Yeah, called that one. What's sad is that it barely even registered for Oklahoman LGBTQ people either; that stuff is just expected here.

You guys expect it too. I see the comments on the articles, and even the articles themselves. I remember right after the election there were so many bitter Facebook posts about how the blue states should all secede from the union and leave the red states to rot. As I'm a progressive Southerner, that kind of stuff kinda made me a little cranky. I get your frustration at the situation, but trust me, you're not as tired and bitterly frustrated by it as we are. I used to be resentful of progressively minded people who decided to move away from places like Oklahoma and Mississippi to the bluer pastures of the coasts, but I came to understand that you can get so beaten down by the bigotries and lack of opportunities, you have to move away (if you can) because you need it to stay sane and survive. I can't begrudge that. I do, however, begrudge the hell out of the folks who moved to their little progressive utopias and then do nothing but shit all over their former home, family, and friends like they've become better than them due to their zip codes.

I talk about all this because I could easily do another tug-at-the-heartstrings article about how it's so wrong and unfair. I know the statistics of the number of children in the Oklahoma foster system at any given moment, so I could work the whole "all these children deserve a loving home" angle that you get from these articles, but let's be real, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin doesn't read The Advocate, and I doubt she's gonna have a come-to-Jesus moment reading this. So that's why I'm gonna mention the fact she allegedly had an affair with one of her bodyguards back in the 1990s. What? Of course I'll always take a dig on that kind of stuff. It's just fun to do. No, LGBTQ people and their allies read The Advocate, so I'm gonna talk to you guys for a bit.

Help us.

Telling us to pack up and move isn't going to change anything, especially when all these blue utopias are already overcrowded and no one wants to build affordable housing there because it lowers the property values. No, we want your help because we want to stay here and we can't fix this ourselves. What? You think we haven't been trying? I know the head of the state's main LGBTQ lobby, and that man is an out-of-fucks-to-give Sisyphus. He's at every opportunity to raise money for lobbying efforts, for community organizations, talking to the media, organizing rallies, supporting other progressive organizations so they'll support ours, and most certainly coming close to getting tossed out of state legislature committee meetings because he will tell them what he thinks. We have scraped together money to build community centers, to network with other LGBTQ groups around the country, and share the scarce resources we can find. But it's not enough. If a 10-day teachers strike will barely get them to budge on changing policy so we can have school five days a week here, expecting them to celebrate Harvey Milk Day is downright dumbassery.

Legend has it that when President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 he said, "We've lost the South for a generation." He never said that, but Democrats and progressives have certainly embraced that idea. For decades, the left (yes, all of you from socialist to neo-liberal) has largely written off the South and Midwest as a lost cause and embraced what I've started calling "trickle-down equality." Sure, you'll get same-sex marriage and job protections passed in California and New York, and I'm excited and happy you guys did that, but California having a gender identity protection in its employment laws doesn't do anything for us here in Oklahoma. No one's really pushed for legislation in Congress, and the hopeful tactic everyone has embraced has been to lean on the federal courts by challenging these terrible state laws. Well, that kinda got shot to hell when they blocked Obama's Supreme Court pick, and Trump inherited over 100 federal judicial vacancies and is trying to fill them with idiots who can't answer questions you would know if you watch Law & Order but have the "right" opinions about Muslims, abortion, and gay people. Republican-controlled state governments are reaching the point where they have enough to change the Constitution. I don't know about you, but that unsettles me.

If we as the progressives of America really want to make this place better, we can't leave it up to ACLU, SPLC, and HRC lawyers to hopefully win a federal court appeal. We can't hope we win the White House and a razor-thin margin in Congress for a brief two years to rush through executive orders and compromised legislation. We have to take the fight to the red states on their home turf. Your local district that's been blue since FDR popped wheelies in his chair in the Oval Office doesn't need your blood, sweat, tears, and cash. Those flippable districts and local candidates in red states do. Sure, making Portland or New York City even more progressive is great, but you know what would be better? Making Nashville, Tulsa, or Jackson progressive for 1992. It's cool that Virginia elected its first transgender state legislator, but it would also be cool if the national media even knew there's a trans woman running for Congress in Oklahoma. So there, now you know. Now help her.

It's easy to move to where our work has borne fruit, it's even easier to hope the work trickles down, but it's not getting here any more than the money conservatives say is going to trickle down from quarterly Amazon shareholder profits to a trailer park in Indianola, Miss. You can't keep throwing your hands in the air in frustration and give up on these places you read about from afar, when the people who live there keep fighting to change it on their own. The people who would overturn the progress you've made are building up their power base here to come for you there. Why not take the fight for progress to their turf for a change?

AMANDA KERRI is an Oklahoma City-based comedian and regular contributor to The Advocate. Follow her on Twitter @amanda_kerri.

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