We Heart the Heartland

Iowa’s approval of same-sex marriage is a vindication for Midwesterners. For a long time, they’ve been seen as rednecks and rubes. But as those of us who live in the Heartland, or have family there, can attest, many are simply decent and well-meaning folks.

Because my own relatives hail from Howard Lake, Minnesota, I have a positive view of Heartlanders. They have steadfastly supported me since I came out. Holding stalwartly to progressive values like tolerance, environmental sustainability and general social responsibility, they are forward-looking even as they hold to the very best traditional values. Iowans who embrace marriage equality for all are cut from the same, durably-quilted cloth.

Imagine my astonishment when I learned that baying-at-the-moon crazy anti-gay Rep. Michele Bachmann represents my relatives’ district! When I hear people make fun of the “kooks and bigots” who sent Bachmann to Washington, it hits uncomfortably close to home. But nobody in my family voted for Bachmann — though they’re stuck with her all the same.

There are loyal allies in the least-expected of places. There are also malignant homophobes in those that seem the most enlightened. Not everybody voted for Michele Bachmann. Nor did everybody support same-sex marriage in states like Iowa or Vermont.

We are right, I think, to see hope in the Heartland because of Iowa’s stand for marriage equality. As we make friends with folks in other midwestern states, we will win them over, too.

My uncle, in his eighties, is working to make his little Lutheran church more welcoming. My cousins routinely support efforts to make their churches inclusive for all. And GLBT Christians who live in or visit the Midwest, out and proud as both GLBT and Christian, can do wonders to transform the hearts and minds of these religious folks. We can do a tremendous amount simply by being honestly ourselves. Truly, the time is past when we can remain closeted just for the sake of our own, personal comfort.

When we have won the Heartland, we will have won America’s heart.