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.
Old Dominion, New Attitudes
Birthplace to eight Presidents, former capitol of the Confederacy, home of high-tech industry and tobacco farms, Virginia is for lovers of history and contradiction. One person will tell you that Virginia is a deeply conservative, religious and agrarian state and another will say it’s socially liberal, ethnically diverse that’s home to many of the Internet’s most successful companies– and both would be right. Despite all this diversity, Virginia lags far behind its neighbors to the north when it comes to gay rights, a situation Virginia LGBT activists are working to change.
The Fight For Your Rights
- When it comes to marriage for gays and lesbians, Virginia ranks one of the worst states in the nation, with constitutional amendments banning not only same-sex marriage, but civil unions, domestic partnerships and out-of-state marriages and unions as well. There are currently no plans on the horizon to change any of these measures, though Equality Virginia advocates for their change by asking LGBT people to write their representatives.
- Virginia law also prohibits so called second-partner adoptions, meaning that while a single LGBT person is legally able to adopt, their partner gets no parental rights.
- On the issue of health insurance, there’s been some recent movement. In 2005, Gov. Mark Warner signed into law a measure allowing companies to voluntarily offer health benefits to members living in the same household as the employee, however the state offers no such benefits for its own employees.
6 East Grace Street
A liberal oasis, Richmond is the friendliest area outside of the D.C. area for LGBT folks and nowhere’s more friendly than Barcode, which does triple duty as a restaurant, bar and pool hall. A recently opened patio section lets patrons enjoy the cool Virginia nights and a weekly karaoke night is hugely popular with the locals.
Virginia native Michael Jarrell is an 18-year-old college freshman who works at a local grocery store in his hometown of Sterling, a rural suburb of D.C. He’s a big fan of American Idol‘s Adam Lambert.
What’s the best part about living in Virginia?
The best part about living in Virginia is that Washington D.C. is so close and that’s kind of the center of the country when it comes to all things political. I’m kind of a politics nerd. I’ve been paying attention since I was 10 years old. It just makes me feel like I live in a prominent area that’s pretty important. Everyone around me, all the adults work for the government. Stuff like that.
I went to the Inauguration, which was really awesome. It was crazy. I had to sleep in my car, because I wanted to get a parking spot and it was like twenty degrees. It was really freezing and I couldn’t sleep. It was great– so many people.
What’s the biggest problem facing gays and lesbians in Virginia?
I think the biggest problem in my area is homophobia. I live about an hour away from the city and in Virginia, that means farms and bigots. I’m not trying to be stereotypical about people who own farms, but a lot of them haven’t met any gay people or lesbians and they’re homophobic. I usually try to steer clear of those kind of people and go into the city for social aspects.
Virginia’s a recently blue state– do you see it becoming more progressive?
In certain areas. The places that are surrounding Washington D.C. have changed, the places that aren’t around D.C. and a little further south and west have not. I don’t think they’ve changed that much. I’m kind of on the border between the ones that have changed and the ones that haven’t. I know a lot of people– most people I surround myself with–absolutely accept it. Those that don’t, I don’t surround myself with, but I think it is changing, yeah.
Describe your average Virginia gay.
Virginia is really diverse. You have places that are in the city and those that aren’t. I guess the ones that are close to the city are your typical gay guy: The go out to parties all the time, goes to clubs, has a good time. And the ones who are further away from the city tend to stay at home more often. They don’t really–um– do much.
If there’s one thing a gay person visiting Virginia should do, what is it?
Ah well, crap! What’s that place Thomas Jefferson lived at? Monticello? There’s a lot of historical things around here. There’s a lot of battlefields, there’s a lot of houses that old Presidents have stayed in, because we’re next to D.C. There’s a lot of history here and I think that anywhere that has history is fun to go.
What’s one misconception about the state you’d like to clear up?
We’re not all Southern. You know, your typical tractor people– We’re not all like that. I mean, I see it. It is a Southern state. We’re still really big on growing tobacco and farming it and we have a lot of animals around here. You know, I think that of Virginia, even, except for my little corner next to D.C. I venture out of it and I’m like “Whoah, this is really different”.
Eight down, forty-two 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.