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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

When LGBTQ+ Came To Barton's Holler - What On Earth Were The President's Men Thinking?

Brenda Farley grew up in Barton's Holler, West Virginia - a coal mining town deep in the Appalachian mountains, far from just about everything except the general store run by a second cousin and a notions shop which somehow got by on thimbles, thread, and bolts of calico.  A bus to Wheeling came once a week, let children ride free, allowed chickens and ducks, and ground its way the ten miles to the highway before turning towards the city. 


It was when 'that gender thing' came to the holler, the politico from Washington looking for votes, an envoy from the President who wanted the country vote but made the mistake of sending - as Uncle Henry called her - a 'cross-bred neither-this-nor-that'.  What was the President thinking?

But this 'thang' as Uncle Henry named her, caught Brenda's fancy.  Nothing like it had ever come to Barton's Holler, not the circus, not even Clyde's Oddities, an itinerant freak show of dolled up midgets, hairy women, and snake charmers which made the rounds of the mountain towns but had missed hers year after year.  Now The Thang made up for all that, coming into town, flouncing her designer bag, and tip-toeing over the ruts and mud swales in Manolo Blahnik heels on her way up to the porch of the general store.


'I am here', she said in a deep-throated, gravely voice, 'to bring you good news'.  That stimulated some interest in the church-going crowd who had been preached to about the good news of Jesus Christ every Sunday, but a skeptical shrug from everyone else who had come to the town meeting just to see Uncle Henry's Thang. 

'President Biden wants you to know that he's on your side, the side of good, honest working men and women like yourselves'  Here the Thang spread her arms in an encircling virtual embrace, smiled, and went on but no one paid attention to what she said only how she said it - a sibilant, lispy delivery with no cadence, no ups and downs, nothing but California ups at the end of sentences that dragged on too long and led nowhere. 

Lester, the owner of the general store who had given the Thang his front porch as a podium, wore a suit for the first time since his cousin's wedding in Clarksburg - a visitor from Washington didn't come every day - and looked all tight and uncomfortable; but he stood there like a sentinel, raising his eyebrows over this or that idea about 'inclusivity' and 'diversity' which she never explained; but her drift was that country folk were to be finally included in the great national quilt of race, gender, and ethnicity.   

He wondered exactly what that was, but was polite enough to demur until Hiram Jenkins had to disrupt things by asking a rude and impertinent question - one of course that was on everyone's mind but were too polite to mention Not only what did inclusivity mean, but who the hell was she? Or he? Or both?

The hoots and catcalls from the rear where the drinking had started well before the Thang's first words, were raw and as Pastor Hitchens said after the Thang had left the holler, 'intemperate and undisciplined'.  The only things missing were the rotten eggs and onions that had been thrown at the last politician who had come to town; but the squawking and booing from the back was enough to throw the Thang off her stride and made her mix her metaphors. 

It was all black this, all gay that and sometimes the both together until she got completely twisted up and included the holler folk as part of the gay thing which sent the boys by the fuel pump over the top with more howling; and one of them sent a shotgun blast up through the leaves of the live oak sending a shower of bark and one squirrel flying. 

Brenda, however, was fascinated by the Thang.  She was sick and tired of overalls and work boots, hand-me-down dresses and mules.  She wanted what the Thang was wearing, pearls and haute couture; and think of it - there was a man under all that finery, and what might he be like?  Did he come out at night? Did he have a girlfriend?


Of course Brenda had no idea of what these transgender people were all about.  She had them pegged as a kind of sexual tag team, and that was what fascinated her. Be a man when you felt like it, a woman when you didn't.  Of course she hadn't parsed all the gender genitalia ins and outs, but it still sounded like a great idea; but only if she got out of Barton's Holler and went someplace where the choice on either side of the sexual aisle was a lot more appealing.  After all, if you were going to gussy up by day and wear serge suits by night or the other way around, you needed fertile ground for carousing. 

Which is where the Thang came in, and before her hurried exit from the holler, Brenda managed to have a few words with her and ask if there mightn't be a place for her in Washington part of the whole inclusivity package the Thang had talked about in her speech.

Brenda had enough natural savvy to bat her eyelashes a bit and give that seductive smile she had practiced in the mirror, and sure enough, an internship appointment was in the offing.  A win-win situation, actually.  The Thang could report good tidings and votes from the holler, and Brenda could get the bus out of town before November. 

The holler gave her a royal sendoff, wished her well, packed her a lunch for the journey, and asked her to be sure to send a postcard from the White House.  Neither they nor she had any idea of what to expect, especially given the visit of the Thang, but few people left Barton's Holler, so bloody good for her. 

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