Queer Expectations: An Empirical Critique of Rural LGBT+ Narratives

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Much of the body of literature on LGBT+ populations within the United States place urban areas and so-called gayborhoods as goals and eventualities, paralleling early US studies on immigration. Using a multistage, mixed-methods approach, consisting of secondary analysis of the Pew 2013 Study of LGBT Persons (N = 1197) and in-depth interviews (35 gay men, 2 trans-identifying individuals, 1 heterosexual woman, and 2 lesbians), we found that rural LGBT+ residents engaged in both short-term and long-term travel to mitigate feelings of being spatially segregated from the loci of gay social life—what Ghaziani (2019a) refers to as cultural archipelagos. However, rural residents also used their geographical location to resist dominant narratives about LGBT+ life. Some of our respondents felt that living in rural areas better situated them to be activists and advocates for LGBT+ rights, while others simply did not feel they could be comfortable within more urban contexts. These findings suggest that rural LGBT+ residents may have delinked their sexual selves with their cultural and political selves, thus illustrating the plurality of rural queer voices that exists. As we also argue, while residence category should be considered as influencing one’s experience, care must be used to avoid overly deterministic accounts. Finally, this article extends earlier work by Brekhus (2003), Mattson (2015), and Ghaziani (2019a) by presenting the meaningfulness of travel to and from queer cultural strongholds.


Mixed methods; Place; LGBT+ life course; Culture and identity; Metronormativity


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Rural Sociology



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