I am a Southerner. I love the South. I grew up in the great state of Georgia with its sweet peaches, vidalia onions and red clay. Ninety plus percent of my extended family still live there, and I’m proud to call it home. Unfortunately, the views of the state legislature and many of its citizens haven’t always been kind to or even tolerant of the LGBTQ community, and it was worse in the nineties when I went to medical school – in Georgia.
Despite the conservative bent of the university and its town, I always felt comfortable. My girlfriend and I went out with my classmates and their significant others and fit right in seamlessly. She cheered me on from the sidelines whenever our intramural flag football team had a game and occasionally surprised me at school just to spend time with me on our lunch break. I felt accepted.
One day I was sitting in a psychiatry class diligently taking notes when I heard the professor say, “All homosexuals are deviants. They are all tattooed, pierced, flamboyant.”
He was standing right in front of me, and I was an easy mark: one of these girls did not look like the others. Even back then I had a boy’s haircut and dressed like the boi I am.
As my classmates started to make objections, my head was swirling with what to say – at this point I had zero tattoos and a belly ring (but he couldn’t see that) and I sure as hell wasn’t running around with no shirt on screaming, “I’m a lesbian!” down the halls of the university. Before I could stand up to point these things out, my classmate – our class president – Meredith jumped up.
Meredith is the picture of a Southern Belle. She is a gorgeous born and bred Georgian, intelligent, hilarious – and straight as a board. In fact, we were all going to her heterosexual marriage that weekend.
Meredith jumped up and said, “Look. Look at my tattoos. Here and here. There’s one on my back, too. I have piercings. I have piercings in all sorts of places, and I’m straight! This girl – this girl right here…” She pointed to me. “This girl doesn’t have a tattoo on her body. There is nothing different between us. She is smart and funny and works just as hard as everybody else. She’s certainly not flamboyant. I’ve never even heard her say she was a lesbian. You know why? Because she’s just like everybody else! We’ve all met her girlfriend, and they’re a lovely couple. When we all go out for drinks with our significant others, they come with us – because they’re just like everybody else! What you are teaching is wrong – just wrong.”
He was stunned. I was stunned. I think the whole class was stunned.
I don’t remember what happened after that – if we continued the lecture or dismissed class. I just remember Meredith. I remember a tattooed and pierced-up Southern Belle standing up to the man!