I hit the road at 7AM on a Friday morning, only an hour later than I had planned. Set up for Ozark Pride in Hardy, Arkansas, was to begin the next morning at 11AM. My destination for that night was Springfield, Missouri, the last big town on the way to Hardy. Google maps told me it was an eight and a half hour drive. I thought I could make it in twelve.
My van, Cookie Monster, is not built for speed. It only theoretically has cruise control. It has a tape deck, but my cassette collection from the 80s has long since melted. I listened to public radio, then classic rock for as long as I could. Then I shoved my cell phone in my bra strap, by my ear, so I could listen to podcasts for the last two hours of my drive.
I was grateful to finally arrive in Springfield around nine. It was raining on a dark county highway for the last hour of my drive. I pulled into a strip mall and cooked dinner in my van by the light of a Jimmy Johns. I found a large parking lot between two hotels and settled in for the night. I had a weed drink while I finished the Spelling Bee then slept like a big, gay bear.
The next morning, I made coffee in a Home Depot parking lot and was back on the road by seven. I was excited to see my friends again. I had been to Hardy’s first Pride in 2021. The two and a half hour drive from Springfield to Hardy is a long, uninterrupted roller coaster of wooded hills and dead armadillos. Hardy is a tiny hamlet of 743 in the middle of the Ozarks in rural Northern Arkansas.
It’s an unlikely place for a Pride celebration. Hardy was a known sundown town not that long ago. It is still potentially unfriendly to people of color and non-normative individuals who may find themselves wondering where to park their distinctively queer van after dark.
Arkansas, as a state, has the distinction of being the first in the nation to ban gender-affirming care for minors in 2021. A judicial stay on…