Southern Discomfort: The Drama Known as “Camp Lickalotta”

Southern Discomfort

H. Lukas Green and Jody May-Chang©
May 3, 2008 PrideDEPOT.com

Camp Lickalotta Entrance SignSeveral weeks ago, PrideDEPOT.com ran a story about a lesbian couple in North Carolina who wanted to build a recreation area called “Camp Lickalotta.” We were ready to leave it at just a crazy idea about a camp with a dubious sounding name someplace in the rural South.

We never anticipated the reaction the story would generate nor the debate that followed on our website. The many comments from locals in Shelby, NC, were emotional and they described how the local media seemed to join forces with and powerful political conservatives to fight against them. It soon appeared to us that there was much more to this story than just a campground with a dubious sounding name.

Behind the name “Camp Lickalotta” are real people who were dealing with real issues seldom seen in large cities where LGBT people are openly accepted. This is about gays and lesbians in rural America where coming out means facing powerful people who demonize you using the politics of religion.

We wanted to know what was behind the hysteria to squash the idea of an LGBT-friendly camp with an outrageous sounding name.

PrideDEPOT.com called many of the principal players in the “Camp Lickalotta” drama and found out how forcefully the fear card is played against those who just do not fit the safe and accepted heterosexual image.

In this part of western North Carolina, the story is about survival and right to live free of harassment, intimidation or the threat of physical violence. This is “Southern Discomfort.”

Southern Discomfort: The Not So Golden Valley

H. Lukas Green and Jody May-Chang©
May 3, 2008 PrideDEPOT.com

The actions of a lesbian couple and their supporters caused an avalanche of religious fervor, fear and bigotry in the small southern towns of Casar and Shelby, North Carolina.

Camp Lickalotta Area

All of this played out on the front page of The Star, the largest daily newspaper in Shelby, NC. The big news was about a lesbian couple trying to establishing an LGBT-friendly campground called, “Camp Lickalotta.”

Christian conservatives quickly piled on the women and their supporters condemning them as sinners and a threat to families.

The Star reportedly learned of the camp from locals who read about it on the internet and posted comments on the newspaper’s website. The Star plastered news about the camp on its front page under a bold doomsday headline. The newspaper even included a warning that the news might be considered offensive to readers.

Soon a campaign was launched to intimidate the gay community. The Star assisted in that effort by repeating the phrase “controversial camp” in each story. The newspaper embraced a reporting style favoring religious conservatives who were enraged that the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” was invading their community.

The biased reporting almost seemed to invite many of off-color comments about lesbians building “Camp Lickalotta” that were freely posted on The Star’s website. If there was any hint of journalistic integrity, The Star managed shred it by publishing a font page verbatim letter written by O. Max Gardner III, a prominent attorney representing the couple who evicted the lesbians from the Golden Valley Campground where “Camp Lickalotta” was proposed to be built.

There is no denying that news about lesbians building a place called “Camp Lickalotta” is in itself attention-grabbing, but that was the marketing idea by its founders Nancy Leedy and Joanie Beasley. They wanted to create a place that would to grab the attention and imagination of people – well, it apparently worked.

Continue reading