Smalltown Boy

It’s a near certainly that none of the people who rhapsodize about the wholesome superiority of small town life ever had to deal with being the only gay kid in a 50-mile radius. No who waxes sentimental about living in an environment where everyone knows all their neighbors ever dealt with being made a pariah by their own community. No one who has been taunted and made to live in fear by people they’ve known from childhood would be willfully naive enough to make a celebration of being geographically isolated and socially insular. Frankly, people who uncritically hold small town living up as being somehow inherently more wholesome make me sick. Sure, I grew up in a small town myself, and yeah, leaving your car and your front door unlocked is pretty great. But I didn’t have to be the gay kid going to a high school full of gun-loving hillbillies. I wasn’t the kid who had a mental breakdown and made suicide attempts. I didn’t have family members who did fucked up shit and went to jail for it. I wasn’t involved in any scandals or tragic accidents. I didn’t leave school to have a baby. I didn’t do, or fall victim to, any of the thousands of things that, in a small town, will get you labeled – forever – an outsider, an unwanted person, a object of derision, a designated victim. Things that, in any place with any degree of anonymity and freedom, a person can quietly move on from will stick to you for the rest of your life in a small town. You can’t even go have a drink with a person without everyone you know knowing about it. Forget the freedom to make, and not be defined by, mistakes. The implied violence of conformity is what allows small towns to feel safe, on the surface. To reiterate, there’s only one good thing about a small town: the feeling of leaving it the fuck behind.