I grew up in the small farming community of Colby, Kansas. Until I was 14 years of age, I lived with my father’s extended family on a wheat and hog farm a few miles north of town. There were so many Barnett families living within a half mile of each other that some people called the place Barneyville.
Prior to the internet and cable television, the discovery of one’s homosexual or bisexual orientation in such small towns was a very lonely, usually frightening and sometimes even dangerous experience.
Surely life for small town gays and lesbians must be easier now than ever, thanks to the digital age, but something tells me the fear of discovery remains pretty strong for many of them.
Since leaving Colby more than 35 years ago, I’ve discovered and become friends with a few other gay folk who also grew up in that area–besides my two gay siblings (yeah… must be something in the water there, I think).
There is something unique about friendships that are based on a common interest as important as one’s home town and childhood experiences. I think this is especially true for those of us who grew up on farms or in small rural communities like Colby*.
That’s why I created a facebook group called Gay folk from Colby, Kansas. For the first several days of the group’s existence there were only three members, all men I knew, one of them my gay brother, and none of us still living in Colby. In a couple of weeks two more friends joined. In just the last day or two the group has doubled its membership to 8 men and 2 women.
One of the younger members says he knew of ten gays in his high school class of 2004 alone. That would be pretty much all of them, if Kinsey’s infamous estimate of 10% is correct, so maybe things really are changing even faster than I know.
Here’s a sample of what another member posted recently:
Growing up I wasn’t a homosexual because that was another term for pedophile and I wasn’t interested in children.
For almost 30 years I wondered when I would meet a gay person from Colby. I knew of Jonathan from mutual friends, but we were never in the same place at the same time. Then I ran into another person, who hopefully will join us here, from an attendee list for a men’s gathering in KS. I saw his name & called him. He saw my name and concluded it couldn’t be me, because there wasn’t anyone else from Colby who was gay.
Welcome to all who join. I too look forward meeting you here…
We haven’t gotten much further than general introductions and only time will tell what the group might become. A GLBT affinity meeting at the next Colby High School reunion? Oh my!
By writing this post I hope it will help the group show up in internet search results for “gay colby kansas” so others can find it. Membership in GFFCK (you know how we love our acronyms) is private, and the group is intended to be a “safe space” online, so if you grew up in NW Kansas, or still live there, feel free to join.
A facebook account is required to join. Confidentiality is respected and expected. Just search “gay folk colby” on your facebook page and send me a request to join.
* Members from nearby rural communities are also welcome to join.