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social sciences

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Rural Life  
page: 1  2  3  4  5  

Studies by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) have indicated that rural gay and lesbian students are even more likely than their urban and suburban peers to be harassed and bullied in school. Their plight is rendered even worse by the fact that they are less likely to know of any openly gay or lesbian teachers or administrators and they have little or no access to glbtq-supportive community resources.

Rural school boards often resist the formation of gay-straight alliances and frequently fail to accord glbtq students their civil rights.

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In 2010, for example, the Itawamba County School District in rural Mississippi refused to allow Constance McMillen to wear a tuxedo to her senior prom and to bring a female date.

The ensuing controversy led to a law-suit filed on McMillen's behalf by the ACLU and catapulted the brave young woman to national prominence. Ultimately, the school district settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay McMillen $35,000 and to institute a non-discrimination policy throughout the district, which is believed to be the first such policy in the state.

Despite the success of her lawsuit, it is worth noting that McMillen was forced to transfer out of the rural district in order to escape harassment from other students. She graduated from a high school in Jackson, Mississippi.

In the past decade, a number of organizations have recognized the need to support glbtq youth. Many of these resources are conveniently gathered in Christopher J. Stapel's No Longer Alone: A Resource Manual for Rural Sexual Minority Youth and the Adults Who Serve Them.

If glbtq rural youth are particularly vulnerable, many of them are also amazingly resourceful in asserting themselves and their identities, from organizing fundraisers in barns and cross-dressing displays in the aisles of Wal-mart to lobbying legislators, as Mary Gray discovered in her study of rural glbtq youth visibiliy.


Most empirical studies of gay and lesbian life in the United States have been based on urban populations. Only recently have scholars turned their attention to the problems and pleasures experienced by glbtq people who live in rural areas.

From these recent studies, it seems clear that many gay men and lesbians who live in the country do so out of choice and report high levels of satisfaction in many aspects of their lives.

However, in most surveys, rural glbtq people also report having experienced high levels of discrimination and express the need for more resources and increased visibility.

Claude J. Summers
Tina Gianoulis

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arts >> Overview:  American Television, Reality Shows

Reality television viewers have come increasingly to expect the appearance of gay men and lesbians on these shows because their presence helps further underscore the "reality" in Reality TV.

social sciences >> Overview:  Census 2000

Census 2000 revealed that there were 594,391 gay male and lesbian couples in the United States, living in 99.3 percent of all U.S. counties; nearly a quarter of these couples are raising children, and these families live in 96 percent of U.S. counties.

social sciences >> Overview:  The Closet

If the closet has served to institutionalize homosexuality as shameful and inferior vis-à-vis the legitimate heterosexual culture, it has also provided a space of possibility for subversive sexual and political acts.

social sciences >> Overview:  Coming Out

"Coming out" is the revelation or acknowledgment that one is a member of a sexual minority, a process that is at once personal and social and often political.

social sciences >> Overview:  Computers, the Internet, and New Media

Since the advent of the Internet, lesbians, gay men, and sexual and gender nonconformists of all kinds have been able to use a variety of computer-mediated communications to meet and network both on- and offline.

arts >> Overview:  Country Music

Although the roots of country music are in conservative rural America, in recent years many gays and lesbians have become attracted to it, and there has been an emergence of gay and lesbian country performers.

social sciences >> Overview:  Demographics

Recent surveys and data collection efforts hold the promise of providing a more accurate demographic picture of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

arts >> Overview:  Documentary Film

The queer community has used documentary film to resurrect historical memory and to permit the marginalized to bear witness, as well as to build an image base that reflects our diversity and counters distorted representations.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is a national organization in the United States dedicated to creating safe school environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gay-Straight Alliances

Gay-straight alliances are youth-led, school- or community-based groups designed to assist glbtq students, children from glbtq families, and heterosexual students who want to be allies of their glbtq peers.

social sciences >> Overview:  Gaybashing

Violence perpetrated against people thought by their attackers to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered occurs with disturbing frequency in the United States and other countries.

social sciences >> Overview:  Geography

Over the past 25 years, the academic discipline of Geography, especially its social scientific and humanistic branch, has been attuned to glbtq people, places, and natures.

social sciences >> Overview:  Hate Crimes

Hate Crimes are crimes towards persons or groups motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

arts >> Overview:  Music Festivals

A cultural institution among lesbians, women's music festivals are community-based events that celebrate women's space as much as women's music.

literature >> Overview:  Pastoral

Both the elegiac and the romantic pastoral have been associated with homoerotic desire from their beginnings in classical literature to their echoes in contemporary literatures.

social sciences >> Overview:  Radical Faeries

A movement that emerged in the late 1970s, the Radical Faeries identify with the gender variant sacred outsider that has appeared and reappeared in many cultures throughout human history.

arts >> Overview:  Rodeos

The International Gay Rodeo Association, a thriving group with more than thirty affiliates across the United States and in two Canadian provinces, celebrates both the cultural heritage of the rural West and the glbtq identities of its participants.

literature >> Overview:  The Western

A distinctive American narrative genre that has developed over more than two centuries, the Western is now consumed worldwide; characteristically depicting homosocial relationships, it is also frequently suffused with homoeroticism.

literature >> Bannon, Ann

In a series of five interlinked pulp novels set in Greenwich Village and its homosexual bars in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Bannon provides an important record of lesbian life in a period when few women dared speak openly about homosexuality.

social sciences >> Hay, Harry

Activist Harry Hay, an original member of both the Mattachine Society and the Radical Faeries, is recognized as one of the principal founders of the gay liberation movement in the United States.

arts >> lang, k. d.

Long before she came out, lesbians had made singer k.d. lang their own.

literature >> Miller, Isabel

The fiction of Isabel Miller explores and celebrates relationships between women, often across class lines.

social sciences >> Shepard, Matthew

Matthew Shepard led an unremarkable life, but his shocking death transformed him into an icon of the glbtq movement for equality.

social sciences >> Teena, Brandon

Twenty-year-old Brandon Teena was brutally murdered on December 31, 1993 on account of gender non-conformity.

literature >> Vidal, Gore

The multifaceted Gore Vidal is important in the gay literary heritage because of the straightforwardness with which he pursued gay themes and included gay characters in his work.


Bell, David, and Gill Valentine, eds. Mapping Desire: Geographies of Sexualities. London: Routledge, 1995.

Cassels, Peter. "Rural LGBT Youth Face Challenges Using the Internet." Edge (Boston) (August 3, 2010):

Cogan, Paul. "Editorial. Edition Number 9." County Closets (April 2011):

Connolly, Carol, and M. Gail Leedy. "Out in the Cowboy State: A Look at Gay and Lesbian Lives in Wyoming." Journal and Gay and Lesbian Social Services 19 (2006): 17-34.

Dundon, Rian. "A Hidden Life: Being Gay in Rural China."SFGate (November 25, 2006):

Fellows, Will. Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996.

Gates, Gary, and Jason Ost. The Gay and Lesbian Atlas. Washington, D. C.: The Urban Institute, 2004.

Gray, Mary. Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

Herring, Scott. "Out of the Closets, Into the Woods: RFD, Country Women, and the Post-Stonewall Emergence of Queer Anti-urbanism." American Quarterly 59.2 (June 2007): 341-372.

Oswald, Ramona Faith, Eileen Gibbie, and Linda Sue Culton. "Rainbow Illinois: A Survey of Non-metropolitan Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People." Journal of Rural Community Psychology (2002):

Patterson, Eric. "'My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys': Men Who Love Men, Westerns, and Brokeback Mountain." (January 1, 2008):

Smith, James Donald, and Ronald J. Mancoske, eds. Rural Gays and Lesbians: Building on the Strengths of Communities. Binghamton, N. Y.: Harrington Park Press, 1997.

Stapel, Christopher J. No Longer Alone: A Resource Manual for Rural Sexual Minority Youth and the Adults Who Serve Them. Cambridge: Harvard Gay and Lesbian Caucus, 2006.


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J. ; Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: Rural Life  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2011  
    Date Last Updated April 12, 2011  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2011 glbtq, Inc.  


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