Scared to move to Tennessee Because I'm gay

I Was Scared To Move To Tennessee Because I'm Gay, But I Was Pleasantly Surprised

Queer is everywhere.


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!

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.


Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...


Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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