A phenomenal post from a friend floated across my field of vision on Facebook and I just had to share it with y’all here.
Karen is a minister and friend from back in the day at Kirkwood UCC in Atlanta. She happens to be a lesbian and damn fine theologian now living the life of a farmer with her partner, children, bunnies, goats and pigs in the beautiful state of Virginia. She has a word or two to say about some recent Rush Limbaugh shenanigans that I thought y’all might want to hear.
Friends, meet Karen.
Someone told me recently she had heard a story about how several conservative news/opinion outlets (including Rush Limbaugh) had picked up a story about the USDA sponsoring Rural Pride Summits. These summits were designed to help LGBT persons living and farming in rural areas to connect with one another and community resources. So, I went to read the transcript of this segment on Rush Limbaugh’s show. Rush railed against these Rural Pride Summits as a subversive plot by the Obama administration to stage a liberal takeover of traditionally conservative rural areas. He also found it mystifying and hilarious that such a thing as a lesbian farmer could possibly exist. Then I read the comments section. Comment after comment mocked the idea that lesbians could be farmers suggesting they would find the work too hard, run away the first time the weather turned bad and they still had to work, and mostly opined that lesbian farmers would never make it in rural areas because they would be rejected by the other rural residents.
Being a lesbian farmer myself, an apparently mythical creature, I found this segment and the comments curious. (I generally choose curiosity as a reaction rather than anger.) We moved to our rural homestead two years ago after many years of urban living. Atlanta/Decatur is no doubt an oasis of gay life. It took almost no effort to find other gay friends or gay families. Our church, our neighborhood, our child’s schools were all welcoming and affirming places. When preparing to leave the city and move to the country we were a little nervous about how our family would be received, and truth be told, we are still cautious about we present ourselves. We aren’t closeted per se, just cautious. But, now two years into our rural life, we have had zero reason to fear. Every one we have met has been accepting of who we are and we have not experienced even the slightest hostility or rejection.
In reflecting on this segment from Rush, I keep coming back to this idea that there is a huge disconnect between how those on the right and those on the left think about the other and the reality of who the other is. Reading the comments section one might deduce that conservatives (or at least those who comment on Rush Limbaugh’s website, admittedly probably not a good cross section) think that liberal lesbians are weak, afraid of hard work, and so deviant as to not fit into “normal” rural life. And given my own biases and those I see in my liberal friends, urban dwelling liberals seem to think that rural conservatives are backwards and hateful bigots. If we only ever read the comments sections, this probably holds true. Fortunately the real world is much more complex and beautiful than the comments section. As a liberal living here in rural America, I can attest that my new conservative neighbors and friends are thoughtful, delightful and welcoming people who have accepted us into the community and care about many of the same things that matter to us. I hope that they have found that we are strong, hardworking folks who value our common rural life and contribute to our community. We are not so different as the pundits would have us believe.
Karen is a graduate of Candler School of Theology and has worked in various ministry roles in and out of the church. But while interviewing for a hospital chaplaincy job, she realized she couldn’t work in a building with no windows. The call of the sun was too great. In 2014, she, her partner, and their two kids left their city life for the farming adventure they had been dreaming of for many years. Karen now runs their growing farm, Heart & Bones Hollow, where they raise pigs, rabbits, goats and chickens in addition to their vegetable gardens.
Photos are from Karen and Bones’ farm and were taken by Theresa N. White