Gay couple, circa 1875
Growing up, I had always viewed Visalia as hostile to gay life. In the 70′s (the 1970′s mind you), I didn’t see any gay people. There were some everybody suspected (everybody as in my classmates at Mt. Whitney High School. That’s a representative sample, right?), but none who I knew for certain. That’s part of the reason it wasn’t until the 21st century, and my 40′s, that I even began my coming out process. No positive role models.
Today, I notice something completely different. The gays are everywhere! No, really. I see them all the time.
How do I know? Easy. Every time I go into a local supermarket, they’re there. It’s clear to me they aren’t just “roommates” from the apartment complexes nearby, but are actual couples. Watch them if you don’t believe me. (be discreet about it, though)
I suppose part of it is that I’m “in tune” to spotting them now. My “gaydar” has been upgraded since my teens, thank goodness. But at some point in the last thirty years Visalia has become home to a rather large, if publicly silent, group of gay and lesbian couples. (The 2010 US Census listed Tulare County as the #1 County in California with gay couples raising children, per capita)
It’s an interesting mix of individuals, too. Seen alone, you’d probably never spot them as gay or lesbian (I’ve noticed you gals, too… it’s not just the men I’m noticing out there!). But in the store, engaged in one of those mundane chores of daily life, I see them. Most of them tend to be younger couples, guys and gals in their 20′s. (That may reflect the demographics of those apartment complexes I mentioned.) I have noticed some older couples, too, although the higher in age they get, the more they tend to be a lesbian couple.
Now it’s almost a game for me when I go shopping. I’ve got the gaydar on max, and I’m letting it sweep the store as I walk, seeing what I find. (I’m easily entertained at times.) There goes a couple now. Yep, gay. There’s another pair, but it’s clear they’re NOT a couple, but probably are, honestly and truly, roommates. No sharing of toothpaste or bedrooms there. Once you start paying attention, it really is rather obvious.
Or maybe I just know what to look for these days. Now all I have to do is figure out how to spot *single* gay men!