This is Out Here in America, a podcast by the Sun Herald and McClatchy that explores what it’s like being LGBTQ in the Deep South and other communities in America’s heartland.
Carson Jones doesn’t have a favorite contestant from the hit reality show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
But it’s not because he’s having trouble picking the best drag queen.
He’s never seen the show.
The 23-year-old zookeeper, who has a cult following of nearly 40,000 people on Instagram, generally prefers going to straight bars with his friends, loves country music and spends his days off from the Birmingham Zoo with his two dogs down at the Cahaba River.
Carson’s idea of a great Sunday night is on the couch with his family and watching “Who Is America” after an intense training session at the gym. There may be an argument over where to get take-out.
And while the son of Alabama Sen. Doug Jones isn’t exactly in-the-know on LGBTQ pop culture, that doesn’t stop him from being an advocate — and activist — for equality.
Carson’s rise to fame started when his father was sworn into office by Vice President Mike Pence after defeating far-right Republican Roy Moore.
Pence is not an ally for the LGBTQ community. He’s often voted against measures for equality and there’s controversy over whether he supports conversion therapy.
And as the cameras snapped away, Carson, next to his father and mother, didn’t hold anything back. But he didn’t say or do anything — his face said it all.
“When you meet someone who you know doesn’t really believe in your right to exist, that’s definitely a very uncomfortable moment,” Carson said on a busy afternoon at Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham.
“You’re trying to save face, you’re trying to do the best you can, but its funny when you watch the video of it, because we’re all pretty tense.”
That side-eye moment went viral. And memes are still being created and sent to Carson, he said.
But a lot of people don’t know the context behind the photo or what happened after it was taken.
That and more — is on this week’s episode of Out Here in America.
Here’s what you’ll hear in this episode:
- Carson Jones, Mike Pence and Joe Biden walk into a swearing in
- The day Carson’s father beat Roy Moore in Alabama
- What it’s like growing up in Alabama and moving back home as an adult
- Why Carson isn’t afraid of doing things alone
- How Carson is an activist for LGBTQ people in Alabama and the rest of the Deep South