I recently watched the film Loving about the couple, Richard and Mildred Loving, who were married in the 1960s. Mildred was an African American woman and Richard was a white man. They married in Washington DC, but lived in Virginia.
As someone who has been involved in interracial relationships, I’ve always been fascinated by their story. When they married interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia, a holdover from slavery and maintained by the abiding racism of many southerners. Eventually the unassuming Lovings took their case to SCOTUS and ended marriage discrimination on the basis of race.
Virginia is for lovers? Similar to the way Mildred Loving is portrayed, many have a deep love for the Virginia countryside and long to be there near their families of origin. But Virginia, or at least her government, has a reputation for being unfriendly to lovers, much like other southern states. Of course, I am referring to marriage equality for LGBTQ communities. Jeff Mann (author of Country, which I will be reviewing here soon) published a book of essays, Loving Mountains, Loving Men, about being a gay man in the Appalachian region, particularly growing up in rural West Virginia and living in southwestern Virginia as an adult. You can guess that often it was an isolating experience. Moreover, before same sex marriage was legal in Virginia, I knew someone who lost a child when the biological mother entered a new relationship, even when other protective measures had been put in place. Other LGBTQ people I know from the mountains often end up in larger cities–no doubt economic reasons are at play too, but these individuals often have little to no supportive family in their hometowns.
Despite real progress at the level of policy, I think it is safe to say that for many couples, both interracial and “queer,” acceptance in rural southern mountain cultures is slow and hard fought.
I was once accused of promoting the idea that good sex could change the world. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it isn’t too far from the truth. Call me Pollyanna but I do think that more intermarriage, and more people being able to love and marry and have families with their chosen mate, the better the world will be. Maybe good sex can’t change the world, but loving relationships in all their complexity certainly can and will.