Get On The Train
Dear LGBTQ+ sisters and brothers of the “fiscally conservative, but socially liberal” club:
I hear you. It’s expensive. Really expensive.
Now just go do it.
Vote in favor of the transit plan on May 1st.
Transit means freedom and opportunity for people like us, and another incentive for LGBTQ+ people to come and stay. The alliance of progressive-minded people needs to grow in the American South, and “real” mass transit will help with that.
My editor at 1100 Broadway, long-time columnist Dwight Lewis, had a saying for moments like this: “Get on the bus!”...That freedom rider bus those of us crazy people who believe in all things progressive and social justice oriented travel upon in order to change a culture. I wasn’t this type while under his command, but I have wised up a bit since then.
We would be taking a risk. A worthy risk, but a risk none the same. With a successful yes vote on May 1st, we would green-light the construction of a modern multi-billion dollar transit system that likely very few will actually use at first, and very few outside the Nashville taxpayer base would willingly fund without some sort of legal coercion (sales taxes) one way or another.
We should do this. Why? Because it is our chance to finally become a real city and drag the rest of Middle Tennessee into the 21st century along with us. Hey, we’re progressives! You automatically sign up for that label when you come out of the closet and begin openly living your truth down here. It’s not like the haters are going to suddenly find new ways to love us.
“Real city” means good things for the LGBTQ+ people and other progressive communities in the reasonably near future. Firebase Nashville (“our little blue bubble surrounded by a ring of fire” in the paraphrased words of Nashville LGBT Chamber CEO Lisa Howe) will continue to be that place of refuge for people trying to escape the many aspects of Southern culture that we all know and, yeah...secretly love most days compared to Yankee-land (let’s be honest here...we choose to live in the South for a reason.)
The Pro-Transit groups will have you think that the residents of the doughnut counties surrounding Nashville are JUST PINING AWAY(!) with envy, waiting for us to build out a super-modern transit system that they can soon attach themselves to, finding the good sense and courage to raise their property taxes to join our effort very soon down the road.
That’s bunk. This is the South. They don’t want this at all. We will likely be paying for this on our own for a long time to come. And still we should do it...because Nashville has been coming out of the “big city” closet ever since Phil Bredesen was mayor. County-wide mass transit is the next logical step forward in our city’s growth plan.
We have the once-in-a-generation opportunity to permanently change the fabric of a large Southern city. Writing a very large check for trains, buses and nearly 24/7 access to practical public transit will be taking a step toward empowering people who were previously confined to their neighborhoods if they could not access an automobile. A vote for expanded mass transit would be a vote to expand progressive Southern culture.
It’s also a vote against those who would rather see people like us pack up and leave. That’s what the kids of my generation did back in the day. They’re in California now...talking about the family they left behind in order to live free. Those high-tech companies out on the coast? They’re chock-full of middle-aged LGBTQ+ people with Southern accents working for folks who often think everything that comes from this part of the country is backward or wrong. Now, traditional Southern culture often drives me nuts too...but I think we all know better than that.
I am not going to beat around the bush here. Growing up LGBTQ+ in the American South can be a poverty-inducing experience. Many of us are kicked out of homes and communities with not much in the way of formal education or good opportunities to re-build upon. We come to large Southern cities so we may find other people like us to create new families of choice with while staying close to the people and culture we know...because we actually give a crap about those who just want us to all go away.
Many of us are poor because of whom we love and many of us take whatever employment we can find because we really do not have much choice in the matter, especially in our younger days. Relatively few of us have decent transportation options as a result. Hey, I’m a recovering Canadian-style conservative...I am aware that other historically marginalized communities share much of the same fate as ours, and I also celebrate when someone from this type of background rises above adversity and finds success on their own. That is something to celebrate indeed!
But my column is directed toward our particular community...where the impact of a dominant religious viewpoint combined with a proud and often obstinate culture leaves many of us unwelcome and under-employed. Cars, insurance and fuel is expensive while accessible, extensive public transit would be a G-dsend.
For the LGBTQ+ community, the transit vote should be a no-brainer. Public transit means empowerment. The Nashville region is expected to grow by one million over a relatively short period of time, transit or not. I have no problem with more than a few of those transplants to our neck of the woods being people like us: queer, progressive and proud.
Bring it! Fight for the future and vote yes on May 1st.
Get on the train.
Julie Chase is the pen name for a local trans woman and Out&About Nashville columnist.