Many years ago, a young Chad Griffin left his hometown of Arkadelphia, Ark., to pursue a career in politics. Today, he's the newest head of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) — a powerful gay rights group based in Washington, D.C. Together with Oxford American magazine, NPR brings this latest installment of Southword, a series about life in the South. To learn a little bit more about what it's like to be gay below the Mason-Dixon line, we caught up with Griffin — both at his office in Washington and in his hometown of Arkadelphia, Ark., where he spent his first day on the job. "I never knew that I knew another gay person when I was growing up," Griffin recalls, describing life in Arkadelphia. "I frequently heard things like 'faggot' and 'queer bait.' " It wasn't until many years later that Griffin would realize he was gay, let alone come out to his mother, which he did in his 20s. By that time, he had already volunteered for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, and joined that administration in the White House as one of the youngest-ever staffers, at age 19.
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