Being Queer in a rural environment
According to a report by Movement Advance Project (MAP), there are millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people living in rural areas across the nation. MAP estimates that the LGBTQ population in these places is approximately 3 to 5 percent of the total number of people living there. The study discovered that many of these folks are residing outside of large metropolitan regions by choice. They live in small towns and in isolated areas for the same reasons most people choose to settle in such places.
Whether it’s by choice or by circumstance, being queer in rural America can pose unique challenges. Such isolation can make obtaining resources such as healthcare difficult for LGBTQ folks. Being such a minority in an often conservative atmosphere might make this population vulnerable to discrimination. Finding queer connections can be difficult.
You may find yourself experiencing some of these difficulties. Perhaps you’re having trouble adjusting to rural life. Maybe it seems that emotional support is lacking or you don’t feel like you’ve found your people. There are some ways you can take action toward being more comfortable in your current surroundings.
Find Your Own Community
Finding your people might not be easy in such settings. Fortunately, people are becoming more open minded and accepting toward the LGBTQ community these days. With some proactive steps, you will likely be able to connect with people who are either queer themselves or who are accepting of your identity. You can look for meetup groups within your geographic area. A Google search for “LGBTQ + your town” might be a good place to start. Search tags on Twitter and Facebook as well. You may find local groups to connect with.
Sometimes you might have luck connecting with folks through dating sites, even if you’re not looking to hook up. TrevorSpace is a site that’s geared toward young people and allows you to search specific geographic areas in order to discover ways to get involved in LGBTQ activities in your local community. Meetup.com is a general interest site that allows you to search your region for nearly any type of interest you might have in order to find a gathering of like-minded people. If you don’t find what you’re searching for, you could start your own group there should you feel comfortable doing so. When you begin to cultivate your own supportive community, you can share information regarding resources to help and support each other.
Carve Out Space
Getting comfortable in your town might involve finding a place, rather than specific people, to help you feel secure.. Carving out space in a supportive environment like a church, community center, library, bar, park or favorite instructor’s classroom can provide you a haven where you can relax and be yourself. What matters is that you feel comfortable here and that you have a place where you can retreat when things seem overwhelming or difficult. Take time to create that space for yourself. You deserve this type of refuge.
Prioritize Your Safety and Comfort
Unfortunately, not every space is safe. This can be particularly true in more conservative areas. It’s important to recognize that your safety and security are of utmost importance. It can be tempting to give people the benefit of the doubt or to not rock the boat in situations that feel intimidating or unwelcoming. What matters, above all else, is your safety. If you feel that being nice will keep you safe, that route is fine. However, it isn’t always necessary. You have value, and you are entitled to enforce your boundaries by taking actions that prioritize your well-being.
These are just a few tips to get you started on the path toward feeling at home as a queer person in your rural town. As you begin to navigate this process, you’ll gain additional support and resources. Soon, your hometown may not seem like such a lonely place.