Welcome to the Smokies

I would like to comment on the July 20 Mountain Xpress article "Gay is the New Local.” Having enrolled in the sixth grade at Swannanoa Elementary in 1961, I consider myself a local, even though I lived in five states and two foreign countries before the age of 12 (Air Force brat). I know the value of being welcomed to a new community, as I was often the new kid in town until I finally arrived here. I make it a habit to welcome newcomers as long as they seemed to embrace local culture.

When I was building a new house, a friendly guy from Boston offered his services as an electrician if I needed one. I thanked him and told him I was covered on that and asked, "By the way, where are you from?" "Boston," was his thickly accented reply. I said, "Welcome to the Smokies." "Oh, I've been heeah four ye-ahs aweready," he proudly announced. My reply: "Like I said, welcome to the Smokies.” He laughed and I had made a new friend.

In the article, the authors state: "Many of the things that make Asheville great, the vibrancy of art, the culinary innovation, the preservation of the landscape, the delightful range of family life, are brought to you by LGBTQ Ashevillians." This comment seems a bit presumptuous. True, we welcome the gay community’s contributions, and many they are, but this community has been being built for decades and continues not because it's gay, but because of the peripheral view held by the locals and all those newcomers that come here because it's already cool. Credit is not taken, it is given where it's due. And by the way, "Welcome to the Smokies.”

— Bruce McTaggart
Mars Hill


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6 thoughts on “Welcome to the Smokies

  1. Viking

    I tacked on a similar sentiment to the original opinion piece. If you are trying to agitprop for a underserved minority, raise some hell, push for sympathy, but Americans only like arrogance to a point. ‘Gay Asheville’ is a silly brand and has no reflection on who brought this town back from it’s low point in the 70’s. The change makers here are regularly not LGBTQ… but we but no means want to purposefully or inadvertently discount our LGBTQ citizens.

    But Bruce leaves out that LGBTQ do get abused and that fact that if they choose marriage in NC they can’t do so legally and are punished economically. Americans making less than $50 k are generally getting abused these days and equal protection fails to manifest for all kinds of demographics. But getting beaten up or being intimidated for being different is unacceptable.

    I mentioned law enforcement treatment of LGBTQ folks. In looking up the name of the recent hate crime victim, Luke Hankins, I found this story (I’m sure MX had one like it, but I missed it):


    Hate crime ‘disturbing’ to Asheville LGBT community

    Written by
    Sabian Warren, Asheville Citizen-Times

    ASHEVILLE — Police made a second arrest Wednesday in the beating of a man whose attackers taunted him with anti-gay slurs.

    Community activists also Wednesday called that type of assault rare and the police response concerning.

    An Asheville police officer initially failed to file a report on the attack in an Ingles grocery store parking lot and has been put under internal investigation. […]

    APD did find some suspects, but there is still an apparent politicization among some law enforcement in the area. Also unacceptable.

  2. Ashevegasjoe

    Sooooo, what is your point? You admit the LGBTQ community contributes, but you don’t like the way they take credit for it? Maybe if they were less flamboyant about taking credit it would be OK? I don’t get it.

  3. Cosmic Ballroom

    The mountains attract eclectic people of all types. The inclusion of or rejection of certain aspects of culture is up to each individual person.

    I personally refrain from association with folks whose attitude is “me, me me! I’m special”.

  4. Viking

    Credit. I’ll answer your question, a characterization it seems, with another question: How would you have preferred I write my comment, Ashevegasjoe?

    Along with questioning their rationale in branding Asheville as ‘gay’, to the exclusion of other groups, I gave credit to Heather Talley and Lee Crayton in a comment I mention above that I attached to their opinion piece, “Gay is the New Local.” I’ve defended LGBTQ folks in the face of aggressive police action and I think we should all live in a just nation and in justice-driven communities.

    I hope T.J. Thomasson makes it to city council. I would be happy to endorse a LGBTQ candidate; but have not seen TJ’s resume or list of past public accomplishments, and I looked at recent news items about him and visited his blog.

    There is a significant LGBTQ business community and activist community in the area, and I’m pretty sure they don’t just work on LGBTQ issues but also contribute to society as a whole. LGBTQ citizens deserve credit for their accomplishments… and we owe it to ourselves to forge a larger culture that can allow for such recognition versus ‘hiding’ the LGBTQ community either implicitly or tacitly. Obviously that’s part of allowing for their equality.

    Second question: When did I suggest LGBTQ citizens be discredited… for anything or by any means?

  5. Viking

    I want to add that I would not endorse the ideal of Cosmic Ballroom that the “inclusion of or rejection of certain aspects of culture is up to each individual person.” Negative ‘culture’ can very much deny people basic human rights like physical security in a 21st century civilization.

    Extremely negative groups causing great pain have attained power by influencing culture to justify their activities, today and throughout history. I don’t see that as the case with the LGBTQ citizens or the major LGBTQ agenda items (i.e. to be treated with justice, not be beaten up on sight, etc.); but then they are still human and subject to human imperfection.

    The authors of “Gay is the New Local” made a relatively minor strategic blunder, but the principles of allowing LGBTQ citizens to be law-abiding community members and not be persecuted, physically attacked, or economically disadvantaged because of who they are is something I have challenged ’The System’ over. The only thing is all sorts of individuals and groups get hit with various nastiness every day and in larger numbers across the US and around the world every day. I by no means would say we should give up fighting for justice.

    Promoting a ‘Gay Asheville’ branding campaign has it’s merits, but I simply can’t imagine that being a big bridge-crosser tactic. However, a very good LGBTQ politician representing COA, and many LGBTQ politicians representing other parts of NC in various ways, will be a good thing.

    LGBTQ citizens have challenges that should not be ignored by the majority. As many of their needs should be met as soon as possible, along with addressing our other major justice gaps in the US. I don’t think they are claiming ‘specialness’ as a demographic.

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