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Queers Riding Tractors

A new plan to convert hearts, minds, and Electoral College votes in the middle of America.

 

Editor’s note: Read more post-election reactions here.


Early on the morning
after the election, my wife and I woke up and gazed bleakly at the ceiling. We’d spent a long, panicky night staring at the TV screens in a bar named after Harvey Milk while a map of the country turned red. Now we stared at each other gloomily. We discussed getting our dog certified as an emotional support animal. We wondered about the fate of our healthcare plan. And then I started talking about relocating to the heartland.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” my wife said. “I’m not moving to Kansas. They don’t even believe in evolution there.”

She had a point. Why, as queers—one of us of Mexican and Lebanese heritage and prone to causing gender confusion in public restrooms, the other a Jewish journalist—would we move to a place that had just voiced its full-throated support for a man whose disgust for all these things had made him president? Because, I told her, somewhere in the flyovers, there was a lesbian farmstead with our name on it, and there we would plant vegetables and the seeds of national unity. “It doesn’t have to be Kansas,” I said. “Could be Nebraska. Or Wyoming. Though a swing state might be good.”

I have to credit Rush Limbaugh with the idea, really—though that never sounds promising. Smallholding in the deep-red hinterlands was not high on my list of possible second acts in life until the right-wing blowhard brought it up in August on his syndicated radio show, in a paranoid rant about a U.S. Department of Agriculture outreach program targeting LGBT farmers (hashtag #RuralPride). “Here comes the Obama regime,” he said, his monologue tinctured with the familiar dose of outraged nonsensicality, “with a bunch of federal money…and all you gotta do to get it is be a lesbian and want to be a farmer and they’ll set you up.”

Not, perhaps, having done much excavation of LGBT history, Limbaugh seemed unfamiliar with the lesbian separatist back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s, and expressed a sarcasm-shaded surprise that any lesbians out there actually wanted to plow a field and grow food for the nation. Since that couldn’t be the case, logic pointed instead toward a plot on the part of gay folks and the federal government to “bust up one of the last geographically conservative regions in the country…rural America.”

Probably not, but good idea, Rush! And given the price tag on Bay Area real estate, Limbaugh’s assertion—that the government would be setting lesbians up with all the resources necessary to stage a covert assault on traditional American values under cover of cereal crops—was, if counterfactual, not totally devoid of appeal. (“Wrong,” said my wife.)

Immediately after the election, our thoughts had been on Canada, on Calexit, on Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia, with its programmatic vision of the entire Left Coast seceding from the Union. But was it better, perhaps, if more laborious, to leave the progressive coastal containment zone and venture way, way inland? Though somewhere in the country’s midsection, no doubt, are white lesbian farmers who voted for Trump, we wouldn’t be alone in our project, I had to figure. We could all till the soil together, canning and pickling things nonpolitically, seeding the heartland with interesting ideas about pluralism and intersectionality.

We won’t, of course. As my wife pointed out, we don’t know how to farm (notwithstanding the half wine barrel of aphid-infested brussels sprouts I once coparented on a friend’s Mission back patio). The most I do these days in the way of vegetal caretaking is keep a few spider plants alive in the living room. We won’t go, too, because we feel safer in San Francisco, caretaking ourselves, our friends, and the city we adore.

But what might it be like to live in a place where your presidential vote had the particular weight of the contrary, the unpresumed, something that might just tip the scales? Where you might talk to people who disagreed with you on the most fundamental matters? Where you might finally break through and find some small patch of common ground to stand on?

I daydreamed about these things as I biked through the bubble later that morning. The Muni bus on Sansome seemed to honk Trump’s name in blustering, staccato bursts, and everything abrasive in the urban soundscape made me think I was hearing his voice. He was here with us now, and we would have to find a way to live with him. 

 

Originally published in the December issue of San Francisco

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