“People grew up in church, so a lot of us lived in shame. What did we do? We wandered around lost. We married men, and then couldn’t understand why every night we had a headache,” says Darlene Maffett, a 43-year-old resident of Jacksonville, Fla. Maffett is a lesbian with two children who raises her kids with her partner.
According to a New York Times analysis of the most recent census data, same-sex couples with children are becoming more prevalent in the South than even in New York or California. In fact, southern states such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas have beaten out New England and the West Coast. Ms. Maffett's hometown of Jacksonville has one of the biggest gay populations in the country.
Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles, says that part of the reason this is such an important discovery is because the stereotype is that mainstream gay America is “white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.”
Maffett credits this change to the eight gay-friendly churches located in Jacksonville. She says this more open-minded approach to Christianity is allowing southern gay people to be more comfortable with who they are.