An LGBT Perspective On What It Will be Like to Raise Kids in the South
by Stephen & Adam Podowitz-Thomas
The last time you heard from us, we were just about to move across the country from Oakland, California to Raleigh, North Carolina to pursue some exciting new career opportunities and be closer to family. Now that we’ve been here for about two months, we have settled into our new apartment and have begun finding our go-to restaurants and favorite walking routes around our neighborhood. I have also had a glimpse of what it means to live in the urban South and have had a chance to think about how raising our child here would be different from raising him or her in the Bay Area. In general, outside of a much different working environment (moving from a technology company to a university), my daily life in Raleigh is not vastly different from my one in Oakland. However, I have also noticed a few differences that could profoundly what it would mean for our child to live and grow up here.
One of the small, yet most striking differences is that people here actually say hello to each other. Yes, what you’ve heard is true! Completely random people that you’ve never seen before and likely will never see again will smile and say “hi.” This took a little getting used to for me, but I’ve grown to like it. It’s not as if every person you pass in the grocery store while trying to pick out the perfect Yukon gold potato tries to have a five minute conversation with you, but even just getting a few hellos from the people we live around has given our neighborhood a more community feel. Where it has made a big difference is in the community we’ve formed within the apartment building we live in. In Oakland, we barely knew anyone on our floor and we were lucky to get a smile out of someone passing by. Here, we’ve met everyone in the apartments around ours and actually know things about their lives. We have also made some lovely friends in some of our building-mates—the couple down the hall who have an 8-year-old son and work at the same university as I do; the first-year English teacher at a local high school; the same-sex couple across the hall that we swap homemade baked goods with. To me, it seems like many people here prioritize building a community out of the people in their community, and that seems like good environment to raise a child in.
Another significant difference that I’ve seen between here and California is in the coupling habits of people who identify as LGB. At the risk of painting in broad strokes, the archetype of a Southern gay man is a coupled one. While there are more same-sex couples with kids in Oakland than in Raleigh, it’s pretty safe to say that more of the 20-30 something LGB population is coupled in Raleigh than in San Francisco and Oakland. It is important to us that our children know other same-sex couples with and without kids, so they can share their experiences with other children that are in the same boat and see the diversity of same-sex coupling outside of our own home.
As great of an experience we have had thus far in Raleigh, we’re not fooling ourselves. San Francisco and Oakland are two of the most accepting environments for same-sex couples. While the Research Triangle (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) is a liberal bastion in North Carolina and the state now recognizes our marriage, overall public opinion in North Carolina is still split on the issue. While I don’t believe most people that I’ve run into have really strong feeling about my husband and my relationship, we still do get a lot more “do you want to split the check”’s and “are you brothers” than we did in California. On the flipside, we have had a number of people who have tried to expressly show their support for our relationship, like the wonderful woman at the pharmacy that made it a priority to put my married name on file, when its absence was really my fault for never getting around to doing changing it with my insurance company or the hilarious fellow New Jerseyans in our building that stopped us on a walk through the neighborhood to tell us how excited they were that same-sex marriage has come to North Carolina. In a strange way, because there is more opposition to recognizing our relationship in the state as a whole, it brings those who are supportive of our relationship closer to us. It also makes it more important for same-sex couples to come together. Because there are fewer of us and the propensity of Southerners to form tight-knit communities, it seems like it will be easier to form a network of other same-sex couples and supportive allies with kids for our child to be a part of.
Photo Credit: Flickr Member Don McCullough- Carolina Morning
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