Living LGBTQ in rural America

Sometimes those born and raised in cities see urban areas as mecca centers for LGBTQIA communities — at times even dismissing the thought that rural areas contain more than a few lone queer souls. 

However, a recent study done by LGBTQ think tank Movement Advancement Project estimated that 3-5 percent of people living in rural areas identify as LGBTQ — between 2.9-3.8-million people.

“Being LGBT doesn’t mean you want to go live in a coastal city,” said Logan Casey, a MAP policy researcher. 

Logical as that seems and is, historically and now, LGBTQ folks must make compromises if they decide to live rurally. Many members of our community reminisce about hometowns — the sometimes-bucolic nature of rural life — but may feel ostracized. Further, resentment can arise as many LGBTQ folks feel shunned from a sense of “home” they might have wanted, angry that their return would mean sacrifice of community. 

The MAP report found that, in fact, LGBTQ folks are “more vulnerable to discrimination” in rural areas, and that “Public opinion in rural areas is generally less supportive of LGBT people and policies.”

In Philadelphia, the LGBTQIA-plus community is comprised of many formerly rural-dwelling folks, as is any city. Urban areas do provide safer spaces with more access for our community members. The report states that only 11 percent of rural-living LGBTQ people have access to an LGBTQ health center, while 57 percent of those living in cities do. 

Parents of LGBTQ youth also must make compromises to remain in rural areas, as only 36 percent of schools in these areas offer an LGBTQ group, while 60 percent in urban areas offer these spaces. 

As is typical, the transgender population is subjected to increased discrimination in rural areas, with transition-related hormones and surgery denied by insurance companies at a rate 15-percent higher than in cities. The report also states that 34 percent of trans people encountered discrimination on public transportation. 

Even so, the MAP report confirms that more LGBTQ folks live in rural areas than might have been expected. In fact, LGBTQ families and individuals are raising children at higher rates in rural areas and some LGBTQ people report feeling safer in rural areas than in cities. 

Perhaps this new information will promote state spending that benefits the LGBTQ community in rural areas. Maybe those of us living in cities, too, can cease rural degradation, with an understanding that our community resides there too, and those folks are thriving with far fewer resources directly benefiting the LGBTQ population.