United States of Queerty: Indiana

We here at Queerty are big fans of the United States, the nation that bore us, Celebrity Jeopardy, the hamburger and that whole representative democracy thing. It’s a nation rich in natural resources, can-do attitude and homosexuals, and each week, we’re visiting a new state to find out just what makes it so uniquely fabulous.

Indiana
The Just Barely Blue Corn State

indianaDubbed the “Crossroads of America”, Indiana is a Midwestern state that serves as a right-leaning bellwether for politicos. While the state voted overwhelmingly for George W. Bush, it narrowly went for Barack Obama in the 2008 elections, the first time it had sent a Democrat to the White House since LBJ. The state is broken into three distinct regions: The Great Lakes to the North, the central flat portion and the southern region, dominated by forests and rolling hills. The state may be best known for the super-macho race car event it holds in Indianapolis each year, but that doesn’t mean the Hoosier State doesn’t have room for gays and lesbians. An attempt this year to get a gay marriage ban amendment bill going in the state legislature failed to make it out of committee, though the state dos ban gay marriage already.


The Fight For Your Rights

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  • Just last week, a lesbian high school student sued Lebanon High School after her school refused to allow her to wear a tux to the prom. Yesterday, the school reversed its decision and decided to allow her to dress the way she wants to. The ACLU helped file the suit, which “alleged the girl was told by her principal that while the school’s dress code does not contain gender-based requirements, there is a special dress code for the prom. That code requires female students to wear a formal dress, the suit charges.”
  • Terra Haute, on the far western edge of the state, founded its own chapter of PFLAG this month. Steve Ralls, Director of Communications for PFLAG attributes the increase in straight allies to, “The Academy Award-winning film, “Milk,” about slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk; a Lifetime Television film, “Prayers for Bobby,” starring Sigourney Weaver as a real-life mother whose 20-year-old son committed suicide when his family and church tried to “cure” him of his homosexuality; and the passage of Proposition 8 in California, which overturned a court ruling that had allowed same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies. The combination, Ralls said, has led to a stepped up “mobilizing of straight allies.”

Local Hotspot
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BLU Boy Cafe
112 E Kirkwood Ave
Bloomington, IN 47408
812/ 334-8460

Sure there are bars in Indianapolis, but Bloomington’s BLU Boy Cafe captures the Midwestern spirit of Indiana better. Run by David Fletcher and Scott Jackman a couple who retired early to pursue their love of baking, the ‘BLU’ stands for “Boys Like Us”. Their true love is chocolates, though– and the results are stunning: Multi-hued pillows of passion fruit, fiery red ancho chile chocolates. You get the idea– and you can get a taste of Indiana by ordering via their website.


Model Citizen

Ben Tousley is a 22-year-old graphic design student at the University of Indiana-Bloomington originally from Zionsville, Indiana.
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What’s the best part about living in Indiana?

People talk a lot about Midwestern charm. I don’t know if that’s a legitimate thing, but having gone to other places, there’s a nice charm to people here. It’s kind of relaxed. People think it’s flat, barren land here, but down in Bloomington, southern Indiana, where I live now, it’s very hilly a beautiful. It’s very beautiful in ways people may not originally think.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing gays and lesbians in Indiana?

That’s such a huge question. I’ve only just come out in the past year– well, longer than a year now, so I guess reflecting on that aspect of it, it took me a while to come out. There’s ignorance to gay everywhere but– I don’t know. It’s weird because I don’t want to answer the question making it seem– I’m sure there are huge legal issues as well that are more important and that I should be talking out, but only having come out in the past year, it’s kind of difficult and interesting to reflect on that. I have to keep reminding myself I’ve only been gay for a little time.

Well, that’s sort of why we do these pieces, because it’s not just about the big legal problems, but the personal stuff as well.

Well, I guess in that perspective, there could be someone living right next door to me that I really relate to, but as I try to put myself out there and try to relate to other gay people, I still don’t feel like I do. What’s interesting with Indiana is that it’s harder to meet people. On the coasts, it’s easier to network with people, but here… because there are certain stereotypes and a lot of people aren’t out in the same way they are in big cities, it’s harder to find people.

Indiana voted for Obama this past election and now has more Democrats in Congress than Republicans. Do you see attitudes changing?

Absolutely. That’s why I get hesitant to answer your previous question in the way I answered it. Right now, as I said before, I’m living in Bloomington and I think The Advocate, or something like that, called it “The Number One Gay Small Town in America” and it’s really interesting because it’s a very liberal town. People call it an oasis in Indiana. It’s a big college town, so that even though I’ve noticed a big shift, I’m on a big college campus, with a lot of young people, so I have to take it with a grain of salt, because I wonder what it’s like back in these small towns all of us are from.

What keeps you in Indiana?

Well, right now, just finishing up school. I’m going to be graduating December of next year and that’s really the only reason. I’m really excited to leave. It’s not only because I’ve been in one stat my whole life, but I think a lot of it definitely has to do with being gay. I’m really excited to go to a place where I can meet lots of different people. It’s very cliquey in Bloomington.

If there’s one thing a gay visitor to Indiana should do, what is it?

Bloomington is very gay-friendly and I’d suggest hitting up Bloomington even more than Indianapolis. There’s lots of great progressive stuff going on here. There’s lots of openly gay retailers and restaurants everywhere. There’s this place called Iron Chef. They were really good at helping organize a lot of the protests and rallies we had with Prop. 8. They sell kitchen stuff and cookware. They have a big rainbow in their logo, which they have up right there in the town square. It’s pretty cool.

Five down, forty-five to go. Each week until we’re done, Queerty will be traveling to a new state and meeting the gays. We love featuring our readers, so if you think you’re Model Citizen material, shoot us an email at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.

Photo via emosmonkey