Franklin County, Mississippi (CNN) -- Statistically speaking, Franklin County should be straighter than John Wayne eating Chick-fil-A. The middle-of-nowhere rectangle in southwest Mississippi -- known for its pine forests, hog hunting and an infamous hate crime -- is home to exactly zero same-sex couples, according to an analysis of census data. In other words: It's a place where gays don't exist. At least not on paper. Before I visited Franklin County, I figured there must be gay people living in Straight County USA. But I didn't expect anyone to be open about it -- and with good reason. As part of this op-ed project, I recently ranked the Hospitality State as one of the least hospitable for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, based on its lack of legal protections. In addition to allowing gays and lesbians to be fired because of who they are, Mississippi is also gracious enough to let landlords evict gay residents. Those are great incentives for a gay person to become invisible. And being invisible, of course, could mean avoiding census workers. I drove to this place of rolling hills and misty valleys with a few questions on my mind: Can there really be such a thing as an all-straight county? If so, what is it like to be someone who never has met a gay person? Do you just watch "Glee" and figure it out? If there are gay people in Franklin County, what keeps them hidden? I spent a few days searching for answers before I realized I was making the wrong assumptions: It's not that gay people here (or anywhere really) want to be in the closet, necessarily. It's the rest of the world that pushes them in and shuts the door. (much more at the link)
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