Metro

  • Written by Christopher T. Conner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Missouri-Columbia

Pop portrayals of LGBTQ Americans tend to feature urban gay life, from Ru Paul’s “Drag Race”[1] and “Queer Eye[2]” and “Pose[3].”

But not all gay people live in cities. Demographers estimate that 15% to 20%[4] of the United States’ total LGBTQ population – between 2.9 million and 3.8 million people – live in rural areas.

These millions of understudied LGBTQ residents of rural America are the subject of my latest academic research project[5]. Since 2015 I have conducted interviews with 40 rural LGBTQ people and analyzed various survey data sets to understand the rural gay experience.

My study results, now under peer review for publication in an academic journal, found that many LGBTQ people in rural areas view their sexual identity substantially differently from their urban counterparts – and question the merits of urban gay life.

Easy come, easy go

The standard narrative of rural gay life is that it’s tough for LGBTQ kids who flee their rural hometowns for iconic urban “gayborhoods[6]” like Chicago’s Boystown[7] or the Castro[8] in San Francisco – places where they can find love, feel “normal” and be surrounded by others like them.

But this rural exodus story is incomplete. Most research, mine included, suggests that many rural LGBTQ folks who once sought refuge in the big city ultimately return home[9].

To the extent that American pop culture portrays rural LGBTQ adult life, the focus is on their isolation – think “Brokeback Mountain[10]” or “Thelma & Louise[11].” The gay protagonists of these films are lonely, seldom able to express their sexual selves.

But my analysis of a 2013 Pew Survey of LGBTQ Americans[12] – the latest available comprehensive national survey data on this population – showed that LGBTQ rural residents are actually more likely to be legally married than their urban counterparts – 24.8% compared with 18.6%. This aligns with what I’ve heard in interviews. The rural LGBTQ people I spoke with placed a high value on monogamy – on what many of them consider a “normal” life.

Those who returned home from urban gayborhoods also told me they found gay city living rarely delivered on its promises of companionship and inclusion. Many said they had experienced rejection while trying to date or develop a social circle. And they had missed the charm of small-town life.

Queer in the country: Why some LGBTQ Americans prefer rural life to urban 'gayborhoods' Rural LGBTQ Americans are less likely to participate in iconic gay rights events like the Pride parade, interviews and survey data find. Arun Nevader/Getty Images[13]

No escape

The rural LGBTQ people I interviewed seemed to place less importance on being gay than their urban communities had. Downplaying their sexual or gender identities, many emphasized other aspects of themselves, such as their involvement in music, sports, nature or games.

They rejected an urban gay culture that they felt was shallow and overly focused on gayness as the defining feature of life.

One married 35-year-old described his big-city life this way: “Going to bars, bitching about how bad we have it in comparison to other cities, or judging people based on what they are wearing.”

Such comments call into question certain assumptions of the contemporary gay rights movement, including that “gayborhoods[14]” are the pinnacle of gay life and that rural America is no place for LGBTQ people.

This may be less true, though, for Black and Latino LGBTQ people. A 2019 report on rural LGBTQ Americans[15] found that “discrimination based on race and immigration status is compounded by discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”

While I found no direct evidence that LGBTQ people of color were less likely to return to rural areas, the many difficulties of rural living for this population may partly explain why most of my interview subjects were white, despite my efforts to identify a more diverse pool.

Woman in helmet on bucking bull in a rodeo ring California’s Golden State Gay Rodeo Association holds an annual rodeo for LGBTQ rodeo riders. David McNew/Getty Images[16]

But, as some of the people I interviewed reminded me, no matter where they lived they would not be fully accepted.

“As a trans person, I’m always going to have to deal with people discriminating against me,” one woman said.

Living in a rural locale with an active local music scene let her focus on aspects of her identity that were more important to her than her gender identity.

For some LGBTQ Americans, then, rural life allows them to more fully express themselves. Given the variety of issues facing LGBTQ Americans, from health care access to work problems, the rural world is not an escape from discrimination.

But neither are urban areas.

One lesbian from Kansas recalled attending a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign[17] – the country’s most prominent LGBTQ advocacy group – in Washington, D.C., where a high-ranking member of the organization shook her hand and said, “Thank you so much. We need you out there in Kansas badly!”

To this the Kansan replied, “Thank me? I’ve been there my whole life. We are the ones who need you in Kansas. You are the ones who forgot about us!”

[You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter[18].]

References

  1. ^ Ru Paul’s “Drag Race” (www.tandfonline.com)
  2. ^ Queer Eye (www.tandfonline.com)
  3. ^ Pose (www.netflix.com)
  4. ^ 15% to 20% (www.lgbtmap.org)
  5. ^ subject of my latest academic research project (scholar.google.com)
  6. ^ gayborhoods (rowman.com)
  7. ^ Chicago’s Boystown (www.nytimes.com)
  8. ^ the Castro (journals.sagepub.com)
  9. ^ ultimately return home (www.lgbtmap.org)
  10. ^ Brokeback Mountain (www.imdb.com)
  11. ^ Thelma & Louise (www.advocate.com)
  12. ^ 2013 Pew Survey of LGBTQ Americans (www.pewresearch.org)
  13. ^ Arun Nevader/Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com)
  14. ^ gayborhoods (rowman.com)
  15. ^ 2019 report on rural LGBTQ Americans (www.equalityfederation.org)
  16. ^ David McNew/Getty Images (www.gettyimages.com)
  17. ^ Human Rights Campaign (www.hrc.org)
  18. ^ You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter (theconversation.com)

Authors: Christopher T. Conner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Missouri-Columbia

Read more https://theconversation.com/queer-in-the-country-why-some-lgbtq-americans-prefer-rural-life-to-urban-gayborhoods-155616

Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

Visit The Conversation to see more

Entertainment News

Ny’a: My Musical Journey

It’s been such an amazing musical journey. Starting my career in the late 1990’s and selling over 500,000 copies of my debut album “Embrace” worldwide was the beginning of it all.  It was an incredible start of my career. It was a whirlwind for m...

Ny’a - avatar Ny’a

Pro Tips for Gambling Online

While online gambling sounds like an entertaining thing to spend your afternoons playing, it is also serious business for professional players. Those that take gambling seriously know all the tips and tricks that make a good game. Not only do the...

News Co - avatar News Co

The New Art: Balancing Human and Synth in Music Creation

It’s a great time to be alive for indie music makers! There are many of us, maybe including you, who are creating good music out there, armed with nothing but our own ingenuity and the few dollars in our shallow pockets. But what’s the best way to ...

Angela Predhomme - avatar Angela Predhomme

An unstoppable force in indie R&B music since her re-emergence in 2015, Ny’a releases “Waiting”

An unstoppable force in indie R&B music since her re-emergence in 2015, Ny’a has topped the World Indie and Euro Indie Charts countless times, hit the R&B Soul Chart and Club Music Chart Top 20 and became the first artist since Janet Jack...

News Co - avatar News Co

An Aussie Band Breaks Into The US Music Market

AN AUSTRALIAN BAND’S STEPS TAKEN TRYING TO BREAK INTO THE US MARKET By skinsNbones The steps skinsNbones have taken as a band trying to break into the music market haven’t been taken in the traditional Australian way. We didn’t have the opportun...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

KENNY BLACK , STEPHEN WRENCH AND SHIMMER JOHNSON Release “Good Ole Love”

After a difficult year fraught with fear, anxiety and personal and sociopolitical struggles, nothing has the power to soothe our collective souls – or coincides as perfectly with our renewed sense of hope – than a heartfelt, blissfully beautiful love...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Metropolitan Business News

Essential Tips for Developing Corporate Websites

The corporate industry, just like the others, is experiencing a massive technological revolution. Organizations have changed their marketing criteria by embracing the internet. Therefore, do not be ...

News Co - avatar News Co

How to Make a Personal Injury Claim for Minors

As a parent, you want to make sure your child is always safe. But as much as you want to keep him under your watch, it is impossible to be there for him all the time. When he is out there attendin...

News Co - avatar News Co

Dress for Success - Style Essentials for Every Businessmen

Did you ever glance at a person in passing and instantly think, “Wow, they must be successful”? It seems like the rich and successful people always stand out from the crowd without even trying, ...

Diana Smith - avatar Diana Smith

Why use Google Adwords?

Google ads, previously known as Google AdWords is one of the best and most effective ways to advertise your business online. According to data released by Google, over 5.5 billion searches are made ...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Perfecting Web Design For A Health-Based Website

These days, when it comes to understanding what we put into our bodies, we are more focused than ever. It seems that everywhere we look, there is another health benefit, product, or trend on the...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

3 Realistic Reasons Why Physical Offices Are (Almost) Dead

Nowadays, more and more businesses are trying to find alternatives to traditional offices. For many years, brick and mortar offices have been at the heart of a company’s life. But work environme...

News Co Media - avatar News Co Media

Writers Wanted


News Co Media

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion