A Queer in the Countryside: Post #1

Howdy, so normally in this blog I talk about my physical health and my writings. I have also talked about how I will also be expanding into more personal topics. Well, as the title would suggest, I have some things personal to discuss with you all. For this first post, I’ll be going over some background about myself. That way as you read on you may get a better understanding of me and of my life in rural America.

I will warn you of one thing, I’m not used to doing this type of stuff. Not because I’m ashamed or afraid, I just rarely find use to talk about many portions of my life. I don’t dedicate posts to how my hair is blonde, or how my shoe size is 9 ½. But recently, I’ve felt the need to speak, and to have my voice heard on the topic of my queerness. Not because I feel drowned out or am afraid of those around me, but because I feel like many in the queer community do not realize that a happy life lived by a queer in the country is not only possible, but is a reality.

You have heard time and again the horror story of queers in rural areas. Cast out and shunned by those they love and losing everything hold dear. I think these stories, while tragically real and showing a valid opinion on several rural areas, gives many the ability to overlook that someone who is queer can indeed live in the country and have a happy life, and not be afraid. I rarely hear a post about people who live in the country and are happy, but I know logically that if I exist, then others like me must exist as well. So while along with this background of who I am, I will also be doing a little Q&A, as I find it a helpful format to relay information.

So first things first, my name. I’m Josh, and I’m a bisexual guy living in rural Southern Indiana. I go to college at Ball State, and I’m a Creative Writing major with German and Linguistics minors. I’m 21, and I have lived in the country my whole life. This place is my home, and I do not intend to leave it. In fact, if I can, I’d like to make a name for myself in the community I live in.

Now that you know some stuff about me, let’s do a little Q&A portion.

Q: How open are you about your bisexuality to your peers?

A: Very, though not in an “in your face” type of way. I’ll allude to it and express interest in men and women. Just like how a straight guy would say “well she’s cute”, I would do the same with “well he’s cute”. It’s kind of hard to express, as I always see “open” as flare and all the rainbow stuff and high pitch voices. I know that’s a lot of stereotypes, but I’m just being honest about what I see. To a stranger, I would probably look like a traditional rural straight man. But those who know me would know I am bisexual. If I was asked, I would be honest that I was.

Q: What type of environments do you work in?

A: Farms, camps, parks. I’m a real hands on kind of guy. If I can’t work with my hands and break a little sweat, I feel a little worse for wear. I like seeing that I did something.

Q: How do people in your area feel about being queer?

A: It’s a mixed bag. From smallest to largest, this is how I would rank it. Violent homophobes are a small minority in the area. I don’t hear of a lot, and if something does happen it is considered heinous and horrible on the homophobes part. Violent homophobia is not tolerated here. The next level would probably be vocal homophobes, people who would never hurt you physically for being queer, but certainly aren’t above being an ass to you about it. After that, I would say a decent portion are people who are okay with it and don’t see it as a problem. Then about the same amount are indifferent to it. The vast majority do disagree with the lifestyle, but would not hate anyone who was queer or treat them differently.

Q: How do you feel about people who disagree with being queer?

A: It’s just a difference in beliefs. Some people think eating meat is immoral, and yet I continue to eat meat disagreeing with them. In the same vein, most people I know simply disagree, and leave it at that. Of course I would be delighted if everyone came to the conclusion that being queer was okay, but for now I have to be okay with the fact that to many it is not.

Q: Doesn’t it feel burdensome? Don’t you feel oppressed or hated?

A: Burdensome on my emotions, a little bit yes. I wish I could talk to everyone about how I met a cute guy. But just like you wouldn’t talk about god with an atheist, so to can I not expect to talk to people about my interest in men who disagree with it and expect the best conversation. It does sadden me, but honestly some of my best friends disagree with it, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Why let a disagreement on one thing ruin a friendship. And in the end, whether I’m talking about a guy or a girl, they are there for me. I tread a little more carefully, as I don’t wish to offend or make anyone uncomfortable, but I will talk about it on occasion.

I don’t feel oppressed or hated, rather I think I’m misunderstood in most cases. Many here seem to think being queer means being an entitled dickhead (pun not intended, but they probably would imagine a sort of gay pride suit like that). I feel like I offer a different perspective, one where I blend in naturally with their society, except for the fact that I like men. Not out of fear or feeling like I have to, but because I’m comfortable in the country life. I think I offer a perspective that they can relate to, and see that queers like me exist, and that can have a positive effect on how they see other queer individuals who are more flamboyant than I am.

Q: Why would you want to associate with someone who doesn’t like you being queer?

A: Because we’re all people, and we all have our disagreements. There are some things about them I don’t really care for, but I don’t think differently of them either. And so many who disagree, while it saddens me that they do, are some of the best people I have ever met. I relate to them, and feel a sense of belonging here with these people and with this community. Just because someone disagrees doesn’t mean they are a bad person. That’s also why I separated them from “homophobes” in the category answer. I don’t think they’re “homophobic”, but rather simply disagree with my bisexuality. They aren’t hateful or scared of me, they just disagree, and move on with their day.

Q: Did you struggle with your Christianity as you were bisexual?

A: So I was 18 when I realized I was bisexual, and right when I went into college. It was there I had a lot of things about the world thrown at me, and I made some realizations about who I was. Of course being in a small town puts you in a bubble, but I wasn’t prepared for such a cultural shift. I did lose faith in Christianity for a while then, though I never lost faith in god. I probably prayed more that semester and focused on my spirituality than I ever had in the past. I became obsessed with finding truths for myself, reconciling religion my sexuality. I prayed to god, but I was unsure what god I prayed to. I browsed many different religions, the major ones and other more obscure ones, but none seemed to have anything I felt was truth.

But in my heart, I still felt this tug and pull towards Christianity. I fought it for a while, as I just didn’t feel like I could believe it, or should believe it. Eventually one day I gave in and thought more about the idea of being a Christian. For the first time, I looked up the term “Gay Christian”, and found many results. While many arguments I see presented I don’t find very convincing, it did put me on the path of reconciling my sexuality with my religion. It would be my junior year in college when I would finally go back to church, and I cried so hard because I felt like I was lost and being found again. I had reject this life, and came back to open arms, ready to love me all the same, even if many in the church disagreed with my sexuality. Now I feel my faith in god and Christianity is stronger than ever, and I don’t worry myself as much about my spirituality. I go to church and do find myself religious, I’m just not as obsessed with answers like I was freshmen year.

Q: How did you reconcile your sexuality and religion?

A: There are a few reasons. The basis reason is that (to me) the idea that homosexuality as a sin does not make sense. With any sin, there are negative repercussions. Lying, murder, stealing are all things that lead towards a cyclical path of worse living until one repents. Homosexuality is not this, though. Gay couples support one another, care for one another and their children (if they have any). It is positive. Yes there are gay sluts and abusive gays, but the same is true for straights as well. If homosexuality were a sin, like lying or murder, one would only find negative cases in relationships, but this is not the case. Gay love is just as supportive as straight love. I have had feelings for both women and men, and it lifts me up, and makes me work to better myself, even if those feelings are not always reciprocated. In all, the base reason is that it is positive, and sin results in negatives.

With this I come to more complex answers. Why does the bible forbid homosexuality? To me, what the bible says about homosexuality is a liberalization. In fact, I would say the bible’s purpose is to progress society to a more liberal state. If one looks to the old and new testament, one can find many incongruences. The largest is perhaps that god goes from a vengeful bloodthirsty warlord in the old testament to a more kind and understanding. This makes me feel like there is more at play here than simple rules. With any liberalization, what seems awful now was actually considered extremely liberal for the time. The same is true with the bible. Many things that seem awful or strange now were considered very liberal. The bible in whole is an outstandingly liberal book for its time, and with the new testament being more liberal than the old, it makes me think this is a stepping stone that is meant to be taken as a process.

These two reasons made me think about my place in Christianity, and my faith, and helped to restore my belief system be being a significant part of my life again. I know many will probably disagree with my statements, and I accept that it will be so. But this is what caused me to reclaim my faith, and so I think it is important to let out what did.

Q: Are you an activist?

A: I wouldn’t consider myself that. I feel like many are just too in your face to really make a difference, and want change too quickly. Lasting change takes time, and requires patience. Not to say many activists aren’t patient, and I do feel like there are times for swift activism, but I feel like in this aspect I am not an activist. I wouldn’t feel comfortable in a parade or club or protest. In things like making gay marriage legal, I think swift activism is good. However, in things like changing society’s mind about being queer, I think swift activism is more harm than good. Swift activism demands change now, and often guilts people for believing what they do, often also attacking who they are. As I said, slow activism is probably more up to my speed. And obviously things like violent homophobia should be stopped as soon as possible, but I think we should be patient with those who simply disagree but love and respect us the same.

Q: What would you call yourself?

A: A voice, probably. Just a voice from a rural queer that you don’t hear about often, or at least I don’t hear a lot of rural queers who wish to continue life in the country. One who loves where he lives and wouldn’t feel comfortable anywhere else. I’m not a city person, the country is my home. Many may disagree with me, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Q: What spawned this idea?

A: I just feel like I lack a voice or understanding. Some from more conservative people but also from people who are liberal. Most representation in media is very urban centric, and many people who I’ve met that are queer seem to believe I must hate country life and that I can’t wait to move to the city, when in fact the opposite is true. I had a screenplay that was about a gay rural romance, and my teacher seemed to think one of the characters should want to move to a more liberal city, when in fact the theme of the story was reconciling place and self. I feel so tired of the urban queer persona, and I barely see anything from rural queers, so I feel like if I want to hear a voice, I can be that voice.

Well that’s it for now. Obviously by the “Post #1” I intend to write more about this topic. If you have more questions feel free to ask them, and I’ll address them later in new posts. I have a lot of ideas of what to talk about, and I hope voicing who I am can help connect me to others who think like me.

Writing Update: Week 1

  • Stories Completed: 1/5
  • Words Written (Book): 0/200,000
  • Words Written (Short Story): 0/10,000
  • Words Written (Flash): 725/750
  • Words Written (Script): 0/30,000

So yeah, writing has not been very good to me either this week. College has been taking a toll on many things, and I just feel really overwhelmed. But I did write a flash story I was happy with, though the people at workshop didn’t understand stuff due to clarity issues in the piece. While I hate when that happens, since most of the time if it was cleared up the rest of the story would make sense, I am happy to get such critiques. Because I can’t be there for the reader to clear up any questions so the story makes sense, the story must make sense without my comments. So I feel a little annoyed, but a positive annoyed, because I know I can and will do better.

I’ve also been reading over the few thousand words of my revision for my book, and I think I may just start over. I only got 2500 words in before I stopped for a while, and I think that there is an important reason why. I really need to get my timeline fixed and set up well so things make sense, and right now I feel a little unclear.

So yeah, not much progress as far as word count, but I think understanding of my work and worldbuilding has been mildly productive.

Fitness Update: Week 1

  • Miles Ran: 7/150
  • Days Lifting: 41/200
  • Weight: 171 lbs

Rough week for me. This entire semester I’ve been trying to go to the gym consistently 6 days a week, but have averaged out about 4-5 days a week. While not terrible, it’s not where I want to be. I think I will hit 60 days of working out when the semester ends, but I’m not sure.

As far as eating habits go, I had some M&M’s, and let me tell you almost a month without a chocolately treat, M&M’s tasted awful. Made me sad, but it’s interesting how you can lose the taste for certain foods after a while of not eating them. And it’s not that I cut it out temporarily, I’ve just been balancing my diet and haven’t really been eating much sweets. But yeah, treats don’t taste great after not eating them for a while.

I started running on Friday, and my ankles were killing me. I don’t know what happened, but I suspect I overworked them on the calf press. So I have put running off to the side for now, while I recover my ankle.

As far as lifting, I don’t know man. This entire semester I’ve been in a bad minset to work out. There’s been next to no consistency and I keep making excuses. I feel a little pathetic, but that inspires me to be better. I had time to bring these miles and lift days up, but chose not to. And while I can’t run, I can still lift, and so I will.

Coming Soon: Ball State Dining Halls Ranked Based on Sandwiches

I’m big fan of sandwiches, and since I’m a student at Ball State University I decided to put my passion for sandwiches and good food to use. I will be ranking on a ten point scale five vital categories for a good sandwich.

  1. Taste- Simply how it tastes (including aftertaste)
  2. Presentation- How it looks and feels, and how I can hold it
  3. Fulfillment- How do I feel after eating said sandwich
  4. Price- Is it worth the price of the sandwich to get it
  5. Consistency- How often are the places open and how good are the sandwiches to make me want to go regularly

These categories will be ranked on a 0-10 scale, with 0 being worst and 10 being best. The best possible score will be 50 points, and that dining hall will be declared the best dining hall based on sandwiches. The dining halls in Ball State are:

  • Atrium
  • Bookmark Cafe
  • Elliott
  • Jamba Juice
  • Lafollette #1 (I don’t remember the names but will write them down when I make the actual post)
  • Lafollette #2
  • Lafollete #3
  • Micro Cafe
  • Noyer
  • Quiznos
  • Student Center
  • Tom John
  • Woodworth

I’ve already eaten at a few of these places, and know their sandwiches well, so the next few days I will go to the other restuarants and eat there, and when I am done I will report back with my findings.

Writing Goals: A Late New Year’s Resolution Part II

So this year I’ve been swamped with school, and so my writing has suffered for it. Though I have found inspiration in short stories. As I said, I’m wanting to write and publish 5 short stories before I send a draft of my book in. Last semester and this I have been developing two. I’m also considering flash fictions as well, as getting them published will add to the 5 story quota. Of course, if I get one story published and I finish my book, I may decide to send it in. Why not? Anyway, I’ll say that my goals for this year are this:

  1. Write 5 short stories and send in for publication
  2. Write 5 flash fictions and send in for publication
  3. Write full revision for my book (Approx. 200,000 words)

I’ll be updating every week about my status on writing. The first post update will be on Sunday. I’m going to assume the revision will be 200,000 words, and so as I will be writing 1000 words a day, I’ll write at the top of my updates as such:

  • 1/5 stories completed
  • 1000/200,000

Now, if the book ends shorter than 200,000 words, that’s fine and dandy (publishers are more comfortable publishing smaller books from newer authors anyway).

Also, since this has been talking about my book, I’ll also say that structurally, I’ve decided the series will be 12 books long, consisting of 4 major arcs, and each arc being 3 books long. This is the way the series has been going, and it has grown so much bigger than I ever imagined. I went from 3 books, to 5, to 6, to 7, to 10, and now to 12. And I’m much more comfortable at twelve because with how the story is going, and how big it all is, that is how I think it is best to tell it.

So yeah, twelve book series coming sometime.

Exercise Goals: A Late New Year’s Resolution

So technically I’ve been working on this stuff since New Year’s, but I thought why not put it all into one post. When it comes to weight loss and lifting, I’ve found having a specific weight or lift limit in mind for the year often leads to doing more damage to your body than good. I do still want to get to 140, but that is a goal that I recognize may take a while, the same for the running goal of 10 miles. So I’ll tell y’all what I want to do by the end of the year, and give you a weekly update (this will also be a thing with my writing).

My goals are:

  • Run 150 miles this year
  • Lift 200 days this year

So far I have run 7 miles, and lifted 41 days. For future reference I’ll write it like this:

  • Run: 7/150
  • Lift: 41/200

I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m excited to do it. Right now I’m running a half mile a day and I’m hoping to soon pick that up to 1 mile a day. I’m also working on speed strength so who knows it may vary.

Exercise!

So another important part of my life that I haven’t talked about is exercise. When I was a Freshmen in college, I weighed over 200 lbs and was sad and depressed. I was in a slump, and couldn’t find a way out. Then last year, I decided to do something about it. From January 2016 I started working out. I got a workout partner and we would go about 5-6 times a week. We’d lift and run. The end of my sophomore year came, and then my junior year started, and I got a new workout partner and we worked out about 3-4 times a week. By the end of December 2016, I lost 30 lbs and weighed 170. It’s been a huge accomplishment for me, and the change in my lifestyle helped accommodate working out. I would eat healthier foods, and snacked much less and overall have been active in living a better life. I’m more confident with myself than I’ve ever been, and I couldn’t imagine where I’d be if I hadn’t started working out.

Currently, I’m struggling a little bit on getting back to the 6 days a week grind like last year. It was a lot easier with a partner, and going alone is not as fun. Mostly this semester I’ve been going 4-5 times a week. Which, while not terrible, is not where I want to be. So I’m hoping to use this blog as a way to boost my responsibility in working out, and motivate me more. Much like how I was more motivated to write, I want to be more motivated to work out. Use this blog to hold me accountable.

So here are my two goals I have for this year:

  • Weigh 140 by the end of the year
  • Run 10 miles

I need to really push myself to get to these goals. Right now I’m plateauing hard at 170, and I need to break it down. I know the healthiest way is to lose a pound a week, and there are about 30 weeks left in the year, so I think if I start now, and in earnest, I will get to 140.

My sophomore year I was keeping track of what I ate and the calories, and that’s how I lost 20 lbs in one semester. Of course those are the easy pounds, but never the less holding myself accountable worked. I haven’t been doing that since, and I’ve also been cheating and making exceptions too much. I need to make fewer exceptions, and drive down to 140. I know I can do it, so I will. And if I end up at the end of the year at 150, I won’t be mad, I just know I need to lose the weight.

So hopefully this blog will motivate me and hold me accountable for my health and fitness just as it did with my writing. No day like today is my motto, and it really is no day like today to start being healthier!