In the previous post, I discussed what the "Tennessee is hopeless" industry is. I want to look at some of the effects.
Overall: The major effect of the "Tennessee is hopeless" industry is to shape the views of those outside our state. Stories and blog posts along these lines almost magically push the buttons of "hillbilly," "redneck," "backward," and "what do you expect" comments.
For example, here's a comment on a "Tennessee is hopeless" piece from March 2014: "How wonderful to see Tennessee so eager to rapidly race to the inside of the toilet bowl, just to set a good example for the rest of us. Can we legally ask this state to secede, along with Texas?"
Of course, those who write the articles aren't directly responsible for the comments, but they follow so predictably that you have to wonder whether this is the desired response. And what is the essence of these comments? We (the rest of the country) would rather not have to deal with you (Tennessee or the South).
Am I being overly sensitive about a stray comment? I don't think so. I've watched these stories closely for 13 years and the comments that go with them. I wish I saw significant patterns of change, but I don't. Much of the rest of the country can't figure out why LGBT people live here if they bother enough to consider the matter.
The Money: And that brings us to the next effect, the rest of the country doesn't deal with the LGBT movement in the South. We don't have to secede because the rest of country already treats us as if we have done so. There are exceptions here and there, but funding for LGBT advocacy and programs in the South is tellingly low. As the group "Funders for LGBTQ Issues notes, about 3 in 10 LGBT adults live in the South, but the South sees about 4% of the funding spent in the United States. The national funders haven't yet made significant advocacy investments here and the avalanche of neglect and discouraging stories and blog posts probably makes those of us who live in Tennessee and in the South hesitant to invest in the movement right here where we live. We are taught to believe we can't win for losing.
Confronting a hopeless tide: The overall effect can be crushing. The rest of the country denigrates you. The national funders don't support you. The right-wing in your state outspends you to maintain a socially conservative culture. Your own community and your allies hesitate because they think you can't win. The results are closeted lives, higher STI rates, suicide, discrimination, and violence with few resources to address them from a social service or advocacy perspective. People and organizations that attempt to stand against the tide find it hard to stand for long or as tall as they would like to.
Next time: In the final piece, I'll discuss some thoughts on turning things around a bit. The hopelessness that is thrown at us in Tennessee and in the South is a big ship that can't be turned around quickly. But there's always something we can do.