A Queer Eye for a Post Peak Life

hello Peak Oil Shrink;

I’m hoping you (or your readers) might have some words of advice, or at least hope, for me.

I’ve been aware of the oncoming convergence of peak oil & global warming for a number of years now, and have slowly been trying to drag my partner and close friends to a similar awareness, while also starting on a long-term program to “power down” in my/our life. The idea of growing a garden, making home goods by hand, etc is not at all distasteful to me, and in fact seems like it would be a much happier life in many ways than the stressful technologically-enveloped one we are currently living. Although I’ve been working bit by bit to make our urban lives more sustainable – slowly converting our yard into a permaculture-type garden, working to make our home more energy-efficient, taking up bicycling – there’s a part of me that is deeply scared that U.S. city life is simply going to be dangerous, if not impossible, for a family if the coming crisis strikes too fast. That part is screaming to get out of the city, to somewhere with land and trees and water instead of people and cars and midnight gunfire.

Which leads me to a dilemma: how do I find a rural area that would be safe and accepting of a lesbian couple with kids? And how do I justify moving my family away from all the diversity, benefits, and supportive networks for LGBT families that come with life in a large liberal city, to a life that for them will probably seem lonely and difficult, not to mention legally and socially marginalized? It’s hard enough to deal with teachers, doctors, and coworkers already – I’m scared that moving to rural America will mean harassment and isolation, not the sort of community support that so many “doomers” claim is necessary for post-Peak survival.

I’ve seen at least one commenter who believes cities will become very violent, scary places – but others who think cities will be the most likely to reach full sustainability quickly due to density allowing for easier powerdown infrastructure transition. I think it’s the not-knowing that’s hardest: how do you plan when you have no idea what to plan for? Should I go with my gut and head for the country, or let the bet ride and dig up more of my neo-urban backyard for berry bushes? These are the questions that keep me up at night. I’d love to hear somebody else’s opinions. Maybe at least then I’d know I’m not the only one awake at 3am thinking about this stuff.

Thanks,

Sappho in the City

________________________

Hi Sappho,

You are definitely NOT the only one staying up late at night thinking about this stuff, and you are right, there are no clear blueprints for the future.

Take hope! There are rural areas that welcome lesbian women. University towns placed in otherwise rural areas are places to consider. Ask the university folks: Do you feel safe here? Who are you out to? What’s your relationship like with police, teachers, doctors, etc.

If you are seriously considering moving, I’d ask you to do some networking within the lesbian community for suggestions in the State you are considering. Is there gay/lesbian marriages or civil unions? Have they outlawed them? Are there religious institutions that have active affirmative action statements reaching out to GBLT folks? What kind of politically active groups are their for GLBT folks? Is there an active bars scene and do people get harassed by the police? I’d go to the schools and talk to the teachers/principles, directly, about how many other “out” parents there are, or how they work with GBLT kids that are being harassed. The very least, talk to other GLBT parents who have kids in those school systems. Are their high school groups for GBLT kids? If there are, your children will feel safer there, having lesbian mothers, than if there are not.

Do the places like Craig’s List have an active W-to-W board in that spot? Do lesbians & gay men get flamed? I’d also look at the Relocalization.net and check to see which areas have active networks, and see whether there are lesbian families active.

I have no doubt that you’ll need to carefully consider the impact of any sort of move, and what it will mean economically, socially,
domestically, and personally, and I wouldn’t consider moving anywhere you and your family haven’t personally visited many times, especially during the “worst” season of the year. I might even consider renting out your home, if you own it, or subletting it, if you rent, and moving someplace for an extended time to get a feel for the place, hang out with the people, check out job prospects, visit the library, coffee shops, talk to other lesbian families in town, and generally get a feel for the place.

Final word, I want to emphasize: Look at the demographics and crime rate of where you are living now, and where you want to move to. See what types of crimes happen there. What are the attitudes toward domestic violence?

There are folks like Kunstler that speak of the benefits of New England and the Northwest Coast as places that are “community” in their orientation. Others talk about being a good 6 hours from any major metropolitan city. Ultimately, you have to seriously consider the things you most value in your life, and the types of things you are most likely to miss should you decide to relocate. Wherever you go, you will have relocation shock, and it will take longer to integrate into a rural community, than an urban one. As I’ve mentioned, we just don’t expect newcomers to stay, so we don’t get too close until we’re certain they will.

Thanks for writing. I hope this was helpful for your thinking.

Best,

Peak Shrink

__________________

Does your rural community welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered folks? What challenges have you faced being GLBT in a rural area? If you relocated to a rural life, are you glad you did? If you decided to remain in the city, what was your thinking? Share your story by writing: PeakShrink@peakoilblues.com

About Kathy McMahon

Kathy McMahon Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist who is internationally known for her writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil, climate change, and economic collapse. She's written for Honda Motors, and has been featured in American Prospect, Greenpeace International, the Vancouver Sun, Freakonomics, Itulip, Ecoshock Radio, and Peak Moments Television.

Comments

  1. Try going to youtube and watching a peak oil video entitled, ‘How Cuba handled Peak oil’. Cuba went through a transition from an oil based economy to a non-oil based economy in the 90’s when Russia could no longer supply them with oil, as they had before. Due to an immediate shortage of food, some people went blind due to lack of nutrition. The lack of oil happened so fast the govt. was powerless to do much of anything. So people started planting crops wherever they could; on rooftops, in kitchen’s, etc. and now the popultion is approx. 50% farmers, which just happens to be the same percentage of farmers in the US in 1900. Currently the US is only comprised of 2-3% farmers, but with the upcoming peak oil event many of us will find ourselves tilling the soil so to speak. That’s the first step – find somewhere on your property to plant crops. I’m planning an area to cultivate this spring. If we all do this, we can trade crops. On the plus side of what happened in Cuba, 85% of their crops are organicially grown, and health rates have improved greatly from the sausage and beans type diet they had before.

    What isn’t handled in the interview unfortunately is heating in the winter without oil. Cuba of course is warm year round, but what do we do here in cold regions during the winter without an affordable flow of fuel?

    As far as your persuasion, lesbian couple etc. Well, you need to balance being in a location that is tolerant, yet also being willing to stand up for what you think is right.

    My impression is the peak oil thing will crescendo at some point with people in cities offing each other for the remaining caches of food, leaving the stores shattered and empty. However, if you store enough canned food and grow some of your own crops, protect yourselves with a firearm on rotating shifts, then you should be able to hold out for the 2-5 weeks of chaotic infighting. After that things will settle down and people will connect with each other to share crops etc. to start life anew.

    Tip: Change your front door out for a steel framed door, and install brackets to support steel bars horizontally at the 1/3 and 2/3 points up from the floor, so your front door cannot be broken open. Make sure the 1/2″ lag bolts holding the brackets are sunk into the wood door frame a minimum of 2″. Remember, chains, latches and lock bolts will not stop a band of starving men from smashing down your door, but the above setup will. Also, the sound of a shotgun cocking will caution most people to move on to easier caches.

  2. Well-from my vantage point as a straight woman I can tell you that my state(Vermont) seems to be a fine place for gays. I live in a rural area and there are a number of gays just in the immediate area- single, couples, families with kids- the works. So I don’t imagaine it would be a real issue for you here for the most part-but check with gay people who live here would be best I’d say- I’m assuming there must be some sort of “network”, web sites, or??

  3. I would suggest that you take a trip (preferably in the Spring or Fall to avoid the height of tourist season) to Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

    http://travel.gaynewsblog.net/2006/07/eureka-springs-named-top-gay-getaway.html

  4. If you can move to a smaller rural city then Galesburg, IL might be a place to look. It is a town of about 30000 in the middle of a large farming area. It is also an industrial city that has seen better days and a college town. It also has the distinction of having an unusually large gay community and liberal population for the area that is in. It is surrounded by nice country and farmland as well.

  5. Green Hill Farm says:

    I am in Massachusetts and of course gay marriage is legal here something I’ve always been proud of and now am so happy about for I know my newly out son can someday marry if he chooses to.
    I had two married lesbian couples in my CSA last summer alas one couple is moving out of state and the other couple is pregnant and they weren’t sure they could handle a csa this summer but hopefully they will return.

    My son says the Amherst, Ma area is lesbian central :) (I don’t remember his exact words).

    I have also noted at Nofa (organic farming association) conferences lots of lesbian couples. Nofa isn’t just for farmers its for gardeners as well. Winter conference tomrrow in Worcester :).

    Beth

  6. Um, did I write this post, like, a year ago? Just kidding. It all sounds so familiar, though, the horrible sinking feeling that city life is doomed. The horror of considering leaving the comfort of gay city life. The unthinkable thought of sending kids to school where they will literally be the *only* kids with two mommies. Why oh why is Peak Oil ripping away the only possible way of life for a minority family like mine? And I’ll have to move to the *country* where they’ve never ever heard of gay people and will throw rocks at our car every time we drive by. Might as well stay in the city and make a garden on 1/1000th of an acre of poisoned soil. Just a few sheet mulched beds, some hardy kiwi plants, some edible perennials that are really shade tolerant, and we’re golden.

    Yeah, we couldn’t do it, couldn’t sink all our money into a million dollar house in Brooklyn and then have to walk away if things got really bad. So we moved to a rural area two hours north of the city. We’re renting at the moment to get to know the area, and we’re going to start house hunting in April.

    What’s it like to be gay out in the sticks? Nobody’s thrown any rocks. Nobody’s even blinked an eye. I introduce my partner to everyone as my “partner” and there isn’t even a flicker. Not only is my landlord cool, his aging mother in law who lives beside us is cool. It’s almost disappointing. Things may change this year when the black teenagers we plan to adopt arrive. But they probably won’t. The community we’re in is so connected to the city (a lot of people commute in, even though it’s a two-hour ride), everyone has lived there or worked there at some point, or some member of their family has. It’s just like a far-away rural suburb.

    So, I don’t know. I think finding a cool rural place for your gay family will be a lot easier than you think. For myself, I found it to be a part of the spell that capitalism was casting over me. You are feeling very sleepy–living in the city and using money to meet all your needs is the only way to live–leave the city and you will get shot–buy an iPhone now–that kind of thing. After getting over the transition from one life to the other, I’m like, the train is right there, but all I do when I go into the city is buy crap. I’m happier here.

    So let me know if you’re considering the Hudson Valley as an option. There are towns around here that are *way* more gay friendly than ours. On the other side of the river in villages like High Falls, you can’t spit without hitting someone who’s taken a Permaculture Design Course. There’s a lot more going on than initially meets the eye. It’s good to just get out there and take trips to towns you’re considering. It was very clear to us when we eyeballed certain towns that they were totally not our scene. After half an hour someplace, it can be surprisingly easy to tell if you want to spend the rest of your life there.

    Good luck with everything, I hope clarity finds you soon,
    [Peak Shrink has deleted an email here, but will gladly give it out to anyone wanting to learn more about the towns mentioned here, as well as to the contributor it was intended. It is my policy to prevent emails from feeding the vast webcrawlers that will flood your email with spam. This action in no way should discourage communication about cool GLBT locations.]

    PS: I also highly recommend the magazine Lesbian Connection. It has an annual feature where they list contact dykes all over the country. You can email them and they’ll give you the scoop on gay life where they live. The CD for our town helped us find the house we’re renting right now.

  7. I did my Master’s degree in Ithaca, New York. It’s one of those University towns that Peak Shrink talks about. It’s a very, very liberal (when I was there in 1994, gay couples would walk down the street holding hands), tight-knit community, nestled in north-central New York state, and surrounded by organic farms. It’s the home of the Mooswood restaurant of the vegetarian cookbooks fame, one of the biggest grocery stores in town is a vegetarian co-operative, and it even already has it’s own local currency which is accepted at the farmer’s market. If I was American and looking for a place to re-locate to, it would be at the top of my list. I’m sure there’s lots of other places like it in Northern New England, as well. If you look for them you will find them.

  8. I recently decided to listen to the part of me that was “screaming to get out of the city, to somewhere with land and trees and water instead of people and cars and midnight gunfire.” I moved from Los Angeles to Asheville, NC just one month ago.
    You might want to check out Asheville. It’s very lesbian and gay friendly. It’s a small city with regular rainfall, gorgeous forested mountains, cheap real estate (at least compared to most west coast cities) and a lot of arts.
    http://www.sheville.org/
    http://outinasheville.com/
    Good luck!

  9. Why is being gay your “North Star”? Shouldnt you be lookin for a community that can help feed you and your family? You mentioned you would like to make things with your hands. Well would you be interested in bartering with others who could do the same? Forget about looking for a gay community, find one that values your friendship and ability to produce and exchange goods. And I guarantee this, thouse who think Hillary Clinton or Barak Obama is going to fix this problem will probably the ones who will have the most problems adjusting.

  10. the reader also known as Sappho says:

    Jennifer-
    I just went and read your blog, specifically the entry on September 3 on choosing to move to Asheville… and your process sounds VERY similar to my own. Hope you don’t mind if I quote you here: “First I responded by digging in and doing everything I could as a City Repair-ing, permaculture-ing, community-art-making kind of gal. But the stress of also trying to make a living, raise our son, and cover the basics in this vast, crowded, expensive, polluted place often made it feel impossible.” This, too, is part of my dilemma. As I’ve worried more about the future, I’ve become more involved in community efforts for change, and from that I’ve developed a strong bond with lots of great people here in my city. If I leave, I also leave all of that, and have to start over with building my involvement in a new place. It’s not an easy choice! (Please keep us posted on how your move works out. I’m adding you to my feed reader.)

    Also, and this is a comment for anyone, not just Jennifer. Jennifer mentions cashing out equity to move; her blog profile mentions that she is a writer and artist, and a homeschooling mom. I’m none of those things – I make my living as a corporate IT grunt. My partner is also somewhat similarly employment-constrained. Day care is a constant financial reality. And our city is not one of those that grew enough to allow us to cash out any significant equity in our home. So, when looking for somewhere to move, we are also facing the dilemma of what the heck we will do for money when we get there. Corporate data centers aren’t usually located in the sorts of places anyone here has mentioned so far! And while I’m sure the economy will one day shrink to the point that we will all be bartering our handy skills locally, i’m not enough of a full-blown Doomer to think that it will change that much in the next two or three years. We’ll need jobs, if we are to move. How have those here dealt with that? Have you changed careers? Tried to find ways of doing the same job remotely? Quit working, and tried to live off savings and such? And how has that been for the family dynamic, on top of everything else? It’s at least as big an issue for us as “the gay thing,” believe me.

  11. Hi, I’m also an urban lesbian who’s a country girl at heart. Well, semi-urban; the area where I live has about 250,000 people (and that’s too many for me). I’ve lived in the country and intend to move back there ASAP. I also live in the South, so I know a thing or two about discrimination against GLBT folks. But, it’s not as bad as they say, even in the rural areas. A friend of mine is a social worker for a rural Tennessee school system -she has no less than seven children being raised by lesbain parents in her school system right now; and that’s not counting all the childless and empty nest lesbians/gay men in her community. Most rural people are of a live and let live philosophy; they might not like your lifestyle, but they’re not going to say anything. There are always exceptions, but they are less and less in number as time goes by. And my generation and younger (I’m 24) are much, much more accepting than the old timers.

    My biggest problem has never been discrimination, but rather the isolation from other lesbians. Even here in the city, that’s a problem. There’s not many of us. Finding lesbian friends is hard enough -finding a girlfriend is darn near impossible!

  12. The problem with Peak Oil and everything that will result from it is that we don’t know how things will play out. There are some, such as James Howard Kuntsler who think that they know pretty much what is going to happen but, in truth, no one does. He does believe that demagoguery will likely flourish as people try to blame others for their woes. As gays and lesbians, we will almost certainly be targeted by some groups. Gee, we’re being targeted now! What I hope will happen is that small communities, possibly on the immediate outskirts of cities will spring up and these communities will consist of people of like mind and interests. So gays and lesbians may very well establish communites such as this. We will need community more than ever after the crash. These communites will need to be sustainable as far as possible, growing food, making necessities by hand, providing security and so forth. The lifestyle will likely be mostly agrarian in nature, but with other kindred spirits in close proximity, the quality of life could very well be better than we have now.

  13. Find a rural cohousing group. I live in one in New England, and everyone here is extremely tolerant. We have a gay couple living here and everyone thinks they are both wonderful. A lesbian couple is considering moving here soon. I suspect you’ll find cohousing communities to be very open-minded and welcoming, and in rural areas you’ll have the neighbors, land and resources to manage peak oil challenges perhaps better than other areas.

  14. You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the finest websites on the internet.

    I’m going to highly recommend this website!

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