Growing up in Apex, North Carolina, I pretty much knew what it was like to be raised in the south. I also knew what it was like to grow up gay in the south. Lucky for me, the few places I've lived in North Carolina have been very accepting. With all this being said, I was a little worried to move to Good Ole' Knoxville, Tennessee after graduation.
I am attending graduate school at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville starting this fall and I could not be more excited! I moved at the end of July and have been settling in ever since.
I was slightly nervous to make the move because Tennessee is very different from North Carolina, especially when it comes to the political climate and progressive views. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to be out and proud like I was used to. I was nervous I would be surrounded by a bunch of bigots that made me uncomfortable. I didn't know if I was going to meet many other queer people. And I was scared that I might not feel safe at times.
After being here for a few weeks and starting my job, I've been pleasantly surprised that a lot of my worries did not come true. I am privileged in many ways and one of those ways is the way I look in regards to my identity. I do not look like a stereotypical gay woman. I am very feminine and most people assume I'm straight until they find out otherwise.
However, I do have my fair share of accessories or things that show off my gayness that I wear and use on a daily basis. One of these being my very favorite Pride Apple Watch Band. I have never been nervous to wear or show off these things so when I moved to Knoxville, I decided I would go into things with the same mindset. To my surprise, I still received compliments on these accessories and even though I was worried, I did not receive any negative attention for these things!
Overhearing racist, homophobic, xenophobic, discriminatory, or just plain ignorant conversations and ~politely~ interrupting to correct whatever is happening is a favorite past time of mine. But I was nervous to keep up this hobby in Tennessee because I knew that people had different or stronger opinions than those in North Carolina. Although the country accents are stronger and diversity is lacking in many places, I have not been overwhelmed with bigotry (yet) during my time in Knoxville. This has been really nice because I was honestly worried that I would be surrounded by ignorance and not be able to handle it. Although hate and ignorance exist everywhere, I'm thankful it is not as common as I thought.
Probably the best surprise that I've come across is that queer people are everywhere! Yes, I knew this. But I honestly thought that other gay people would be really hard to find and that it would take time for me to grow my new LGBTQ+ community. Well, I was definitely wrong. I have already interacted with so many amazing people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community and it has made me feel so at home. I'm excited about all the other queer cuties I will meet in my time in Knoxville!
Safety is an issue everywhere you go. There were times when I did not feel safe in North Carolina. And it is 2018 and our Political climate is not ideal for any marginalized group. So when I was moved to Tennessee all by myself without really knowing anyone, I was worried for my safety a little. Although I haven't been here too long and violence can happen anywhere, I have noticed that I haven't been suffocated with anxiety when I go out at night or go to a new place. This has been really nice because I don't ever want my fear to hold me back while I'm here.
All in all, Knoxville, Tennessee has done a good job at making me feel accepted and at home. I cannot wait for my two years full of adventure here and I hope it is packed with as many queer things as possible!