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Re: “TV producer Bryant Huddleston disinvited as Imboden Ark., high school graduation speaker because he's gay

I am one of the many gay men that had to abandon the beauty of Arkansas to migrate to a larger city, so that I could learn to breathe and feel safe enough to pursue my natural inclinations. I very much did not want to be gay. I wanted to be my older brother, the All American boy, despite knowing from a very early age that I was same sex oriented. As a result of the hostility towards people like me in my community and this state, hiding was a survival skill. What I didn't know at the time was that learning to mistrust myself and do everything that is contrary becomes habit. Around seven years old I made conscious decisions to stop all my creative endeavors, which I would come to realize in my mid-thirties is my life source. As a result I spent the better part of twenty years lost to myself, agonizing over why I couldn't figure out my path. Eventually my writing started to get published, my photography of which Arkansas was my muse was represented in NYC showrooms and I had two documentaries in the can. It was hell getting there.

I have a large contingency of gay men friends from Arkansas in NYC and like Bryant the large majority of them are incredibly creative, successful and all of them are exceptional human beings. I can confidently say that most of these men would have never left Arkansas had it not been for the homophobic, sexist, racist (all of which are one form of the other) overtones in the culture. I can also say with equal confidence that Arkansas has missed out on a lot of incredible talent that NYC has benefited from.

I had always anticipated building a small studio in NW Arkansas for the summers. A place where I could come back and reconnect with the landscape of my childhood, write, take more photographs, film old-timer storytellers to preserve the oral tradition, take advantage of all the incredible spring rivers and lakes, reconnect with the people, and revisit all the good things that I recognized in all of my friends from this state. There are very specific characteristics among these group of men and a singular woman from Arkansas, they are warm, generous, humble, extremely loving people, with a lack of pretense that I find very attractive. They took all the good stuff and left the rest behind.

Anyway, be careful what you wish for. At the age of 42 I was diagnosed with ALS. A year ago my other half of 18 years and I (he is a Little Rock native and professor and researcher at Columbia University NYC) moved back to be around family and friends. I had lived in NYC for the better part of twelve years. I am a grown man. I can renegotiate my life with the culture of Arkansas and not be affected by the homophobia. This is my state as much as it is theirs. But the truth is after living and sharing our lives in our building with people from all over the globe, as vast a cross section of ethnicity and faiths, and not being considered anything more than a couple fighting the same struggle to build a life as they are, the mentality of most here (certainly not all) is difficult to live in the midst of.

But I am still happy to be here. The beauty still compensates for what the inhabitants largely lack in looking beyond their own noses. Bryant I am very sorry this has happened to you. Unfortunately the prevailing message is still the one we grew up with. It is pervasive, irrational and embraced by those who fear rather than seek to understand.

21 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by BFender on 05/05/2013 at 10:39 AM


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