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social sciences

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Rural Life  
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While it is often necessary for gay men and lesbians living in rural areas to travel long distances to interact with other gay individuals, new technology, including especially the Internet, has facilitated interaction and communication between people who are geographically distant.

The Internet offers a variety of safe online or "virtual" spaces in which people in remote areas can seek out information ranging from news to glbtq community and political organizations and help-lines, as well as safe sex information and peer support groups.

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Although many relationships established online remain virtual, others develop into offline friendships and even long-time companionships.

One typically thinks of rural gay people as closeted to one degree or another, but some gay men and lesbians in the country are open as to their orientation, and many of these have found their neighbors welcoming rather than censorious.

A live-and-let-live attitude characterizes many rural areas, perhaps especially in the Northeast and the western United States and Canada as opposed to the southern United States. While rural areas in general tend to be conservative, they are not necessarily homophobic.

There may be a direct correlation between the strength of fundamentalist religion in particular rural areas and the level of homophobia felt by gay and lesbian residents.

In addition to the geographic and social isolation of rural glbtq people, the next biggest challenge facing gay men and lesbians who live in rural areas is the absence of equal rights and protection from discrimination, a challenge that is exacerbated by a feeling of political powerlessness in conservative areas.

While all glbtq people in the United States suffer from unequal treatment under the law, in most cities there are laws protecting gay people from the most blatant forms of discrimination, even when those cities are in conservative states. In rural areas, except for those in liberal states that have enacted state-wide protections against discrimination, no such prohibitions against discrimination exist.

Media and Entertainment

Gay people have made their presence known in such staples of country life as the rodeo and country music. Not only are there a number of openly gay or lesbian country music performers, including k. d. lang and Chely Wright, but several heterosexual country singers, including such stars as Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks, have expressed support for the struggles of their glbtq fans.

The popular gay rodeo circuit gives many rural gay men and lesbians an opportunity to celebrate both their cultural heritage and their sexual identity.

Rural gay and lesbian life is chronicled in several publications, including journals such as Country Women, which was published in Albion, California from 1973 until 1980, and RFD, published since 1974.

Will Fellows' Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest (1996) collects the oral histories of more than three dozen gay men, ranging in age from 24 to 84, who grew up in farm families in the midwestern United States. A play, Farm Boys (2004), by Dean Gray and Amy Fox, was adapted from the book. It has been produced in New York and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Karen Lee Osborne and William E. Spurlin's Reclaiming the Heartland: Lesbian and Gay Voices from the Midwest (1996) presents a diverse collection of fiction, poetry, and essays from writers who have lived or are living in the Midwest, including especially in rural areas.

Thomas Bezucha's independent feature film Big Eden (2000), a romantic comedy about a New York City artist returning to his Montana home to care for his grandfather, offers an affecting, if romanticized, account of rural life.

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