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Support for LGBT in Rural Areas

Discussion in 'General Support and Advice' started by Aspen, Aug 13, 2020.

  1. Aspen

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    I grew up in a small Midwestern town—predominantly white, Christian, and straight. The first time I saw an out gay couple I was in seventh grade at a school dance. I remember going home and telling my mom how cute they were dancing together. “Cute?!” she shouted at me, in a voice that suggested I was talking about the algae in our backyard swamp. I didn’t mention them again. I technically went to college in the city, but it was the only city for hours, surrounded by nothing but rural folks. I made LGBT friends, went through my own sexuality crisis, started dating the woman who would become my wife—and then I went home. Back to the town where it was a fifteen-minute drive to the nearest grocery store, twenty minutes to the nearest city, and fifty to the nearest city with actual LGBT resources. I couldn't drive yet and for two years the only reminder that there was a world outside my Republican mother's house was the community I built for myself online.

    Being LGBT in a rural area comes with its own set of challenges. Rural areas have a tendency to skew more conservative, homophobic, and transphobic. Resources and the public transportation to reach them are rare or non-existent. It can be harder to make LGBT friends and find potential dates, and easy to feel alone.

    One suggestion is if you’re not able to make connections and find groups in your community—find online resources (like Empty Closets)! If social media has one good use, it’s allowing us to connect to people that we wouldn’t normally be able to. There are any number of social media platforms with a huge variety of groups. Chances are if you have a hobby, there’s a group out there for you.

    If you live or grew up in a rural area, what was your experience? What helped you? What advice would you give to others?
     
    #1 Aspen, Aug 13, 2020
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  2. Hawk

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    I was born and raised in the same village, and where I currently reside in Northern Alberta. I was never raised in a religious house, though I do remember going to church up until I was about 3 or 4. My parents always wanted us (my brother and I) to choose our own faith (or lack thereof). Growing up, I was never exposed to LGBT people until about Grade 11 (17 years old), a friend of mine came out to me as bi. Most of my jr and sr years consisted of trying to fit in, and I repressed a lot of my feelings surrounding gender and sexuality, or thought my feelings were "normal". Even at that, LGBT people were never talked about, and if it weren't for the internet (and EC), I'd have to travel an hour and a half to the nearest Pride Centre to get any resources or find any sense of community. Even now with COVID, the internet (and EC) has been such a blessing to stay in contact with other LGBT people, as I can't take off to the city as easily (if at all) at the moment.

    What has helped me?
    When I first started questioning my gender, YouTube videos were a good resource and have helped me realize that cis females don't have these thoughts, and that I relate a lot more to trans men. Finding a community where you are accepted, whether that be EC or other online or offline communities. Also, finding a role model to look up to who identifies the same way as you.

    What advice would I give others?
    There's no rush to have everything figured out. If it takes you a few months or many years to come to terms with who you are, you are no more or less valid than anyone else. Take your time, and experiment with things. Also, don't compare yourself to other people. This is your journey and your life.
     
  3. DecentOne

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    I grew up in a rural area. Long ride on a school bus to get to school. Lots of dairy farms, and windy rural roads, some paved and some not. There were three traffic lights if you went into the town center. My parents weren’t farmers, but we had chickens so fresh eggs every morning, and chicken pot pie when the hens were past their prime. No fast food restaurants, unless you drove to a small city a couple towns over. Small IGA grocer and gas station within a few miles, but real shopping meant driving into town or the next town in the opposite direction, or to that small city. House had well water and septic system, and protected by volunteer fire department. The area was in transition though, it was close enough to more urban areas that it started becoming a bedroom community, and former farms were being subdivided into 2-acre lots. This was back in the 70’s, they didn’t have a word for “exurbs” back then.

    As an adult I’ve lived in more urban areas since then in different parts of the country, up to now. I’ve moved again for my new job, and I’m in a southern rural area. No LGBTQ groups showing up in this county or the next one over, but plenty of churches. Back to being on a septic system, but in a small development within walking distance of the Post Office, Library, Pawn Shop, and a car wash that warns we’re not allowed to wash our dogs, horses or other animals there. So not like when I was growing up where as a kid I needed a bike. There is a city within an hour’s drive which is big enough to have a regional airport (not big) and a pride event and MeetUp group for LGBTQ, but during COVID-19 nothing is happening. I’m going to have to learn how to be out and proud in this context. I am out at work and was up front about my orientation when I was applying for this new job, so I don’t have to worry about people finding out or how my job might be affected, which I’m very happy about.

    I’m wondering if @johndeere3020 or others will find this thread. There have been attempts to have a Rural discussion on EC before.
     
  4. PatrickUK

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    There are some unique struggles that we face growing up or living in rural areas. For me, the biggest issue is the apparent lack of community as so many LGBT folk gravitate towards large cities. For those who have connections and career opportunities in rural areas and small towns it's just not possible to move to the cities, so it often becomes necessary to make up excuses for overnight trips, just so we can enjoy the experience of being ourselves without fear of exposure or judgement.

    Even if we do find like minded men or women nearby, it's likely to be a very small pool. My husband once said "everyone is pissing in the same pond" and there is a grain of truth to that statement.
     
  5. Spartan 117

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    So I live on a small island off of the South Coast of the UK, and while I do enjoy living here most of the time, it does have it's challenges. It's generally a conservative area with an older population. While I've never felt unsafe here or prejudiced against, it isn't exactly known for it's LGBT scene. The island recently had it's first Pride parade which is a step in the right direction, though I think that was more to attract tourists than for the community that live here. If I wanted to go to a gay bar, or LGBT group/meet up - it would almost certainly mean getting a boat! It got me thinking: walking into a room full of strangers is hard enough when you have to do it alone - let alone when you have a long anxiety filled journey to get there. So it really is hard.


    And here lies another problem! :laughing: I think us LGBT folks are very used to long distance relationships, for this exact reason. The right person is out there - but often they don't live just around the corner. Almost all of my relationships have at least started long distance, and that comes with it's own problems. I think it helps to be open and honest with a potential partner about the difficulties of a long distance relationship. I've faced a few pitfalls in the past by not openly asking questions such as "will one of us have to move?" and "how long exactly are we comfortable with our relationship being long distance?".
     
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  6. solarcat

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    I didn't grow up in a rural area, but I moved to one maybe a year after coming out as gay, and some seven or so years before coming out to my family as trans. While I like the clean air and the relative quiet, I absolutely hate driving down the dirt road when it's raining.

    And while I'm pretty much openly "queer" with my cute LGBeeTQ pin (it has a picture of a bee on it), I'm not out as trans yet. Although I'm not too familiar with the neighbors, there are far too many houses in the area with Trump flags up and even a Trump 2020 store in a pizza place's parking lot a few miles down the highway. So while I'm happy to say that my family is supportive, I really don't think the rest of the community will be, and that includes my work; although company policy protects gender identity, I know there are more than a few employees with conservative beliefs.

    Another issue is the lack of resources. Electrolysis,therapists familiar with trans issues, HRT clinics... I have to drive over 100 miles to see any of them.
     
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  7. Destin

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    Not sure if I count but I never lived anywhere with more than 10,000 people until college, yet was always within an hour of a large city. It was extremely frustrating as a kid because I was just far enough away to have no access to the city but close enough where everybody else talked about their fun trips to the city I never had due to being too young to drive. Far-out small suburb of a poverty stricken Midwestern city, then a tiny rusted out "where hope goes to die" small midwestern former industrial town, to the middle of freaking nowhere in west Texas, and then to a Floridian beach vacation area which is very slow and isolated in the non-tourist seasons.

    All of them were extremely conservative and being gay wasn't ever talked about by anyone. It wasn't even a thing. I'm pretty sure I didn't understand what the word gay even meant until I was 12ish because nobody would even say it. People would frequently use derogatory other words for it though and for sure would have disowned their kids for being gay in a lot of my friends' families. All with a hefty dosage of Christian evangelism too.

    West Texas was the worst, undoubtedly. There was just about nothing at all to do anywhere, so you had to sit at home all day or go do crazy life-threatening things just to entertain yourself. It was like a cartoon, with actual tumbleweeds blowing across the street consistently in the middle of the desert. I even learned how to ride bulls because the rodeo was one of the only things people did. The few people from there who turned out to be gay either moved somewhere else, or died mostly from drug related things, no one stayed. In high school, there were maybe two even semi-out bi/gay guys so the dating scene would have been impossible.

    All of the small towns had the expectation that you'd be married and having kids by about 21 also, which always seemed insane to me.
     
    #7 Destin, Aug 14, 2020
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  8. johndeere3020

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    Just a very, very lonely time. To some extent it still is. I was going to write more, tell you all some of what I remember, but it is mighty hard and I am out of tears.
     
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  9. PatrickUK

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    Another issue that often comes up in rural communities is the issue of faith. In many western countries it's Christianity.

    For a long time the church and religious organisations became the focal point of community activity, coming together for worship on a Sunday, in particular. Unfortunately, the brand of Christianity that developed in many rural communities was (still is) very conservative, emphasising the sort of small town ideas that @Destin mentioned above... settle down early, have a big family, follow the tradition and be a 'good and upstanding' member of the community. In other words, be a carbon copy of everyone else and keep up appearances. Being LGBT+ does not fit in with any of that and so it becomes a secret that dare not be mentioned.

    If you live in a rural community and stop going to church that decision alone can lead to questions, so it creates a double-bind.

    It's places like EC that help people in rural communities to reach out and experience a kind of kinship where they don't feel so isolated and alone. It's not perfect, of course, but having that connection can mean the difference between hope and loss of hope.
     
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  10. Bisurprise

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    My town isn't small small (pop: ~40k), but everyone just happens to know each other. It's a predominantly hispanic town, yet I've encountered so much racism here it's not even funny. Me and my family are Mexican.
    While I am still living in my hometown, I have a growing disdain for it. The only people that speak highly of it are people that have extended families there.. which is not my family. My parents were new to this country and knew nobody, and everyone else gave them shit for no reason other than their petty race/ethnicity alliances. The amount of abuse we got just for being Mexican was enough for us to distrust everyone around us, and left me feeling more alone than any kid should've. This is just general, when adding my queer tendencies to the mix, these emotions exacerbated and became volatile. My parents are Roman Catholic, and have made comments of disgust at gay media when I was growing up. They are thoroughly convinced that media would influence people, so I wasn't allowed to watch any cartoons that looked "ugly" (jokes on them, I turned out hideous lmao) and--like you guessed it-- nothing remotely gay. Not even subtextual, they believed the devil entered you there XD. In my perspective, however, I had nobody else. To a shut-in child with little to no same-age social contact, what parents' say is almost like the word of god-- if they say being gay is shameful, hate yourself as penance. If they say any queer characteristics are signs of weakness, you're the weakest of the bunch. And worst of all, nobody else is like you, and if they were, how would you be able to know? This upbringing left me feeling like a freak most of the time, and still do to some extent.
    There are LGBT groups (albiet small) in my town, but I never dared to approach them even now because I don't even want to risk conflict. It may seem ridiculous, the younger generation is becoming more liberal so they may not be as awful as the people my parents faced, but the animosity is still there. I don't vibe with my generation anyways, due to conflicts in the past I won't get into.
    I won't say I got past it, but reaching out to online resources helps. It gives me more confidence because people don't know my ethnicity unless I say it, so they judge me on my words and character. I take criticism better that way lol.

    EXACTLY. THIS. ^^^^
     
  11. QuietPeace

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    My experiences seem to be the opposite of most people

    I grew up in a larger city in a liberal state in the USA but in a conservative bubble. We belonged to a very conservative congregation in a conservative denomination and my parents were pretty extreme in their beliefs, racist, homophobic, transphobic all of it. The first time that I encountered anyone who was out LGBT it was a gay couple who moved in down the street from us and I was immediately forbidden to go down our street in that direction. My parents constantly made disparaging remarks about them and anyone like them. I was unable to really explore my own feelings until after I moved away from my parents.

    Over the years I have lived in larger cities and then for a couple decades I lived in a very small town (110 people). Oddly enough, it was in that small town where I felt safest through most of my life. I unfortunately lost my home in that town and had to move to a larger city nearby (over 1/2 a million people) and it was there that I experienced more had than I had since I had lived with my parents, including multiple hate crimes and someone attempting to kill me.

    The one problem that I did find in living in the smallest places is that yes, there is no one to date or relate directly to in real life. For me I am not so sure that is such a bad thing as every serious relationship that I have been in was abusive.
     
  12. Laughsalot

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    I grew up in Rural Northern Ireland.

    Northern Ireland is not known for being the most forward of places when it comes to LGBT matters at the best of times but unfortunately it only get's worse the more rural you get and I am in an area known for being particularly backward in just about every way it is possible to be. I am surrounded by sectarian people, racist people, homophobic people, deeply sectarian people, bible-bashers and sheep. The sheep are quite nice but the rest are not so great! lmao!

    It's hard. It's very lonely. I feel like an alien in my own hometown. I am in my mid-30's and am only out to a very small number of people who in my life because I don't think I could mentally stable enough to come out to everyone and to deal with the nonsense that I would have to deal with in this place. I've found myself being increasingly angry and resentful over the years. I don't want to hate the churches but I do. I really hate them. I hate how they treat us. I hate that when I go to family weddings I have to sit through the minister making a pre-prepared statement about gay marriage being wrong. I hate that the local town hall can't have a the pride flag up one day a year but that the Christians can plaster every bit of land and public property they want with bible verses and threats against anyone who doesn't conform to their religion. I hate that the local politicians actively and deliberately engage in homophobic behaviour to win votes at election time ... and that it works! I hate spending so much of my life feeling hate and anger.

    I have tried to make friends and join groups in the city but they tend to be well established and quite close knit and you end up feeling like an outsider there too. That made me feel a lot worse for a long time. Recently though I made a push to approach LGBT groups in the city, most of whom promote themselves as countrywide groups, and be quite annoying vocal about how people in the rural areas are being forgotten about. My timing was quite good because I started off doing this and then suddenly the country went into lockdown due to covid and the people in the city found themselves more cut off than they had experienced before. The groups were forced to take events online etc., and when they did they found they had new faces showing up - rural people who had never been able to attend things in person due to issues with travel and transport etc. Organisers have now told me that it's been a bit of eye opener, and that it has highlighted the point I had been trying to make to them. They've told me they plan to continue to do online events even when in-person events become more common again and and that they will be trying to do more outreach in the rural areas. I feel like just putting up a bit of a fight for us rural folk has helped me. I don't plan to stop! I believe we deserve better and so I am going to try and make things better.
     
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  13. Hawk

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    That’s awesome! And it’s great that they’re planning on continuing to do online meetings once COVID’s over. :slight_smile:
     
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  14. Findmepls

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    I am 49 well will be shortly and I am Struggling with my complete identity and I live in a very small town . I I am a very private person and have no friends family .I struggle with severe depression and social anxiety. So the few times over the last 10 years that there has been an attempt at something resembling a pride event I tried to go but failed to actually join. I guess that has helped me rethink what I want. I want to be part of a community like this ....like minded but all very different people from all walks of life coming together and trying to help one another and being social without harsh judgement , with acceptance not tolerance.
    It has taken me a lifetime to get to this point, to this place, this community. I only wish that something like this existed near where I live . Groups have tried and they disappear as quick as they appear, or so it seems.
    I would very much enjoy joining a group of people like the ones here in person and discussing the things we do here and more . Building close friendships , and hopefully not ruining them like I have all of my previous ones. I have tried contacting Pride and a few other lgbtq places via email but have not gotten any responses.
    My part of the world it appears that tolerance is more practiced than acceptance. So volunteering info like this is a huge risk that I won't take. I think I have drifted off topic so I will shut up now. Sorry
     
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  15. DucksandBees

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    At the risk of reviving the old thread and making the post warning below angry, I live in a rural community. I learned I was a “queer” (which was my dads select term- that I chose to embrace) some 20 years ago. God that makes me feel old at 39. I had moved to the big city from a small town and realized that I wasn’t under anyone’s thumb anymore. That was it, all it took was moving away to discover myself. Though I wasn’t actually “out” until maybe 10 years ago, and even then not to family. Despite fitting all the stereotypes, I mean, minus the mullet. I’ve had short hair for most of my adult life, and often get “sir”-d in public. Mostly I shrug it off, but lately I’m bothered by it again. I’ve moved back to a rural community, and I admit that was my choice - I know to expect less acceptance. But I’ve never been the kind of person to proclaim anything on a bumper sticker - anything except my love of roller derby.
    Today a woman sitting in the library parking lot exclaimed to another adult in her van that I must be one of those women who wants to be a man. At first I said nothing, but then felt compelled to reply no, just a woman. To which she hurriedly replied she didn’t know I could hear and was sorry. I know she isn’t sorry. It isn’t even a new occurrence for me. Tonight I’m bothered and not even sure why. Who cares what stereotype I fit, or what I wear or how I cut my hair? I guess I do. And I just want to be taken seriously, and respected and not jeered at, as the woman in the van obviously felt she was entitled to do. It makes me question, even at my age - how often others are thinking to themselves when they look at me - “how ridiculous.”
    My partner (who has no stereotype when you look at her) - says that I should shout at people. Turn around and call them out and tell them where to go as frequently as possible. But that isn’t me and likely never will be. I don’t think it makes anyone see that they are being offensive. And there are those who would even prefer to be “sirred” if I can make that a word, and I understand that too. Though that isn’t me.
    I’m not sure why I’m even posting this - I just feel unsettled by what people think it’s ok to say aloud - to any audience.
    So to anyone who needs to hear it besides me - good night you beautiful people, you’re normal and you’re loved as you are. Tomorrow is a new day. Let’s make it good. You don’t have to be out or meet anyone’s expectations other than your own.
     
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  16. arm

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    I've never seen anyone on dating apps who would consider long distance relationships. There were a few people not completely disinterested in me and open to meeting (though, I bet they'd regret that after meeting me) and they all would end the conversation, saying "well, if you ever in city, let me know". Nobody wants to deal with more than an hour of a ride, let alone longer distance.
    even 30 minutes seems bad to many


    and as for the topic, I am in a rural area, too and I don't think it's really all that different. In the USA, at least. in big cities you have more people, so there's more connections, but at the same time you have more bigots and the chances of a criminal being found (if they mug you) are much lower. If we're talking about a city with massive homeless population, there is also a big risk of being robbed for what you might think is nothing - boots, cheap smartphone, pants etc.. Rural areas are actually safer, I think. Especially if you find one without floods or many natural disasters, and maybe with some lgbt community, too.
     
  17. Hawk

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  18. Ipswichfan

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    Hey, I’m fairly new here, so I just saw this today. People who say nasty things aloud are only sorry they were caught.

    And anyone who likes Roller Derby is OK in my book. I went to a training school for the banked track version in the late 80s.
     
  19. QuietProffessNL

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    I kind of can relate to what you are saying, in fact I am no mind reader or anything, but kind of am taking a wild guess that the name Destin and mentioning of some region of Florida might very likely be the same area roughly that I grew up in. What helped me was being able to very loosely question the bible as something not quite making sense at an early age, then being able to speak more articulate about it at a later age to either make some sense about things to some people mostly back in Florida or risk getting shot on one occasion in east Texas where I think texas in general has sort of a more literal interpretation among many normal followers of the bible than many autistics have if you try throwing around some urban dictionary terms in a conversation.
     
  20. Prisma

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    Me too Aspen! That's why I appreciate emptyclosets. I have to share that as I went in to Wal Mart tonight, I saw two girls walking towards the door. One of them appeared to have love marks on her neck. They were holding hands proudly. Pretty sure they were a couple. This is a rare sight in my town. it made me happy to walk behind them. I saw them briefly drop handholding in the store and I thought, "Oh no. They're stopping in the store." But it was a quick readjustment and they continued holding hands.