My Southern Heritage

I grew up in Kentucky and have lived in Georgia for twenty years. My ancestors have lived in the South for centuries. By any standard, I am a a bona fide Southerner.

Pride for our Southern heritage is universal in my family, but stories about the Civil War weren’t part of my upbringing. I heard we’re kin to Robert E. Lee and John Wilkes Booth, but nobody in the family has any old photographs, letters from the battlefield, or other Civil War memorabilia.

My DNA results shattered the myths I’d believed all my life. We are not related to Lee or Booth, and records linked to my family tree reveal ancestors who fought for the Union, but none who sided with the Confederacy. Apparently we switched sides sometime after the Civil War.

My Southern heritage has nothing to do with the Civil War. Symbols of the Confederacy don’t automatically turn my thoughts to “the war of northern aggression.” Obvious connections sometimes slip past me. The context is different.

I attended Southern Junior High. Our team was the Rebels; the school colors were red, blue and gray; and our mascot was a Confederate soldier. The team name and mascot were changed years ago, but in the 1970s, nobody thought anything about it.

I wore my Rebel flag baseball cap with pride throughout my teens, twenties, and into my thirties. To tell you the truth, I thought it made me look butch. Finding out it was racist was quite a shock. Once I knew, I never wore it again.

The Civil War was more than 150 years ago. Things have changed. I’ve never seen a shrine to the confederacy in anyone’s home or met anyone who’s still bitter about the loss. Most of us have moved on.

An ignorant few equal opportunity haters give the rest of us Southerners a bad reputation. Nobody I know. We gay men tend to keep a safe distance from pickup trucks, motorcycles, and other vehicles festooned with confederate battle flags — even in the South.