On February 9, Jeremy Addaway went for a walk around his Blount County, Alabama property. He recorded his trek on a cell phone, as he searched for signs that marriage equality in his state would result in gay people doing “homosexual things” on his brush pile, or behind his work shed. Jeremy found nothing. Nothing on his brush pile, nothing in or behind his shed, or in the woods. Well, there were some squirrels, but so far, that’s it. And a video he thought would garner about 30 views went viral. I had the opportunity to speak with Jeremy Addaway by phone Wednesday evening, and he shared the reasons for his opinions on marriage equality, and his personal quest to be a better and more positive person.
As a young adult, Jeremy lived with hate in his heart. He was part of the racist skinhead movement (the white power “boneheads,” not the real, anti-racist skinheads), and he still carries tattoos relating to those days. But he realized he couldn’t travel through life filled with rage and bigotry. Jeremy became a boat captain, a job he still holds and loves, shuttling supplies to oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. He married a wonderful woman (a redhead, he said with a smile in his voice), who, after his first video began gaining traffic, asked him why he had to show the mess in the backyard.
Jeremy Addaway is a big guy, with a strong Southern accent. We talked about the preconceptions many people have about Southern white men, and how his video was received by people who have that bias. He told me he had read quite a few comments that stated people were “surprised” that someone “like him” was so supportive of marriage equality. There were also comments about his intelligence, ranging from compliments to, again, shock that a man living in Alabama was well-spoken and articulate.
“Marriage is not a religious issue, it’s a freedom issue, “Jeremy told me. He compared it to a business: What he and his wife said “in front of the preacher is between them and God,” while the license and the legal agreement is about law. In Jeremy’s eyes, and the eyes of many others in this country, there should be no law against gay marriage. He also believes the arguments and political grandstanding against marriage equality is a “distraction,” meant to keep the American people from truly seeing what their local, state, and federal politicians are “up to.” I compared it to “The Wizard of Oz,” and he agreed. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, just focus on what we tell you is important.
In the aftermath of his walkabout video on gay marriage going viral, Jeremy was told by many people to use his “15 minutes of fame to make money.” No, he said, I’m going to use it for something positive. Jeremy wants to put good things out into the universe, especially after spending part of his youth immersed in hate. Case in point: he thought about reading some of his hate mail on camera, then changed his mind. Instead, he shared a story about a woman named Teresa Groover.
Teresa and Jeremy met about seven years ago. She was a boat captain as well, but other male captains refused to work with her because she was a lesbian. So Jeremy took her onto his boat. He was impressed with her work ethic, her personality, and her intelligence. Teresa was a good woman, Jeremy told me. She asked him once if her lifestyle bothered him, to which he replied, “No, why would it?” Teresa talked with Jeremy about her partner of ten years, how they wanted to get married, and how unfair it was that they couldn’t.
Teresa was killed in 2009. The man who shot her, Thomas Flynt, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for her murder. In his video, “A story about the best captain I ever knew,” Jeremy talks about Teresa’s partner not being able to visit her in the hospital prior to her death. Teresa’s obituary does not include any reference to her life with another woman, listing only her immediate family as survivors. Her life as a lesbian was erased by the people who knew her, except for Jeremy Addaway. He remembers Teresa’s spirit and energy, her passion and talent, and her bravery. In Jeremy’s heart, “T” will live forever.
Redneck News, Jeremy’s “official” news organization, was created on “the fly.” He thought it would be funny if people thought he was an actual vlogger, giving a serious report on gay marriage in Alabama. Unfortunately, many people did not recognize the satire, and sent Jeremy emails and messages on social media to prove it. His followup video on not being a bear went flying over a few heads, too. (He’s not a bear, he’s an Auburn fan.) The original video contained a comment about squirrels, so I had to ask Jeremy if he had investigated those suspect rodents any further. He told me they had moved into an old nest in his “garden district,” and redecorated it, primarily in goldenrod. Jeremy also wanted to confirm that, since gay marriage has come to Alabama, he has not found himself attracted to wildlife or inanimate objects.
Being an extrovert and very outgoing, Jeremy enjoys speaking to people, even complete strangers, in public. He and his wife will be at a party, and Jeremy will start chatting away with someone he just met. On several occasions, his wife has told him the “dude” Jeremy was just talking to thinks “you’re flirting with him.” Jeremy has no “gaydar,” because in his eyes, it doesn’t matter. What matters is treating everyone equally, and being a positive person. Which is why Jeremy enjoys making videos, but he does hope more people will understand when he’s being satirical.
We ended our conversation with a brief chat about politics, and the general feeling of meanness so prevalent in the country. Jeremy believes that if you look hard enough, you can find something in common with almost anyone. Jeremy and I agree on many things, including what a horrible person Ted Nugent is, gay hell (where he has been told he is going) is going to be fabulous, and squirrels are wily.
Disclaimer: Forward Progressives does not condone or support comments made by Jeremy Addaway in the past on other issues. The goal of this interview was to highlight Jeremy Addaway’s evolved views on marriage equality only, and publishing it does not imply support for any of his other beliefs which are evolving as well. Thank you.
Watch the video below: