A straight man in Oklahoma wants you to know not all country boys are homophobic.
There's an unfortunate — but not inaccurate — stereotype that people who live down south don't support LGBT+ rights. The story, of course, is much more complex. In Kentucky, for instance, where I got married because Kim Davis told me I couldn't, the reactions I got from residents ran from "Wow, we're so happy for you!" to "just don't talk about it here," to my brother telling me that maybe I should focus on "not speaking" in one small town which I would have happily moved to (if not for the homophobia) because there was a video rental/tanning salon combo on the main street.
But things seem (hopefully) to be headed in the right direction. And Cody Barlow, a straight man in Oklahoma, is working to challenge the idea that all "country boys" are incapable of accepting and supporting the LGBT+ people in their lives (and in general).
In June, Barlow posted a picture of his truck. Now, if you've checked your Facebook feed recently, that isn't such a big deal. People post pictures of their cars all the time in the hopes that you'll hit them with a heart emoji. But Barlow's photo was different. He'd used duct tape and mailbox letters to transform the back of his pickup into a supportive message for anyone who identifies as LGBT+.
"This is important to me, not only because I have family and friends that are LGBTQ+, but also because countless people have dealt with hatred and judgement simply for who they are, and/or who they love, for far too long, " Barlow wrote in the accompanying caption. "Obviously doing this isn't going to change the minds of those who are intolerant, but hopefully it can help drown out the hatred with love."
And he didn't care about any of the negative reactions he might receive: "I live in a rural area in Oklahoma, surrounded by small towns in every direction, and I'm sure this is not a very welcome message around here," he wrote. "But this is going to be displayed on my truck for the entire month of June in support of pride month."
Barlow wasn't wrong about getting some people mad, though. While most of the comments he received on his photo were from people congratulating him on his creative show of love, others denigrated him for his support, suggested they were "cool with those people until they force their agenda down my throat,"* and insisted that Barlow was the bigoted one for drawing attention t the problem of homophobia among those that would also call themselves "country boys."
In a world where conservatives (and white supremacists) have dreamed up a "straight pride" just to troll those who identify as LGBT+, I'd say Barlow's message is still sorely needed.
* What does this talking point even mean? It's trotted out every time anyone mentions Pride and completely ignores that heterosexuality is consistently shoved into everyone's faces 24/7. Inclusivity is not an "agenda." Just let the gay rats get married on TV!
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