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Queer in the Rural Midwest


As I’ve stated on the grave series, I spent the last week in the lower Midwest, specifically Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. I am going to have a series of posts discussing my time there.

For the first one, I just wanted to mention something I saw in the tiny town of Chanute, Kansas. I stopped to get gas and a snack. The cashier was a young guy, maybe 20, and obviously gay. Painted fingernails even, which I grant in itself means nothing, but still. I immediately thought, god, what must it be like to be queer in Chanute, Kansas? And then the woman behind me, who I am pretty sure was a local, was also clearly queer and out. I then thought, huh. What is life like for queer people in rural America in 2021? Then, a few days later, I was in Emporia, Kansas. Admittedly, there is a college there, but it’s not like I expected to see this in Emporia:

Now, I am neither an expert on queer life in the early 21st century or the rural Midwest. I can say of course that things have vastly changed in this nation since my senior year of high school when the Oregon Citizens Alliance used my town as its test case to get anti-gay ordinances passed and succeeded. It was just dandy seeing my friends spend the last semester of our high school days protesting gay people having civil rights. I know we ain’t in 1992 anymore. But my assumption remained that it would be pretty bad to be queer in rural America. And I began to wonder….is this assumption at least partially false?

Anyway, I figured commenters might have a lot more knowledge on these issues than I do and that it was worth a conversation.

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