Lately, we see a more positive portrayal of the LGBTQIA+ community in the media. However, we shouldn’t feel complacent; like the problem of queer acceptance is solved. Despite remarkable strides, LGBTQIA+ youth are still fighting prejudice in the depths of rural America. They fight for equality at best, and for safety at least.

If you can relate, or want to be an ally to someone who can, this article is for you.

A struggle to find community despite inescapable alienation

In America’s rural towns, LGBTQIA+ youth are often confronted with challenges shaped by the isolated social and political landscape. Unfortunately, queer youth living in these areas are subjected to more discrimination and harassment than those residing in urban areas. This can manifest in many forms, including verbal abuse, physical violence, and exclusion from community activities. 

Real experiences of rural LGBTQIA+ youth 

Zac Mitchell, an openly gay student in rural Tennessee, was featured in an article entitled “It’s OK to be Gay” in his high school’s yearbook, which angered members of the school board.

18-year-old Edmond Jeans from Dandridge, Tennessee, who is transmasculine and uses he/they pronouns, said “My family was incredibly unsupportive” and would not allow him to attend church as a child because they thought it was “too liberal”.

Willie Carver, an openly gay man who grew up in Appalachia, wrote Gay Poems for Red States to reflect on his own experiences and inspire LGBTQIA+ youth living in rural places.

Consequences of discrimination and harassment

The consequences of discrimination can be severe. Suicide rates are significantly higher in rural than in urban communities. The Rural Health Information Hub reported that “LGBTQ+ youth consider suicide three times more than their heterosexual peers”.

According to a national survey on LGBTQIA+ youth conducted by The Trevor Project in 2021, a staggering 42% of LGBTQIA+ youth contemplated suicide that year, with more than half identifying as transgender or nonbinary. 

Lack of reliable safe spaces – something urban teens may take for granted

For many young individuals identifying as queer, the number of safe spaces can feel very limited. Think of all the situations in which non-queer teens may need safe spaces. There may be instances where you need to seek refuge away from home due to physical violence in your household, a parent’s substance abuse, or just intense fighting with your family.

Now imagine being unsure if you could seek support or refuge in any of these difficult situations – just because you are queer. Then, envision the heightened need for a safe haven, because you face the possibility of being kicked out of your home simply for being queer.

LGBTQIA+ experiences in rural schools  

Many of us have experienced bullying or harassment at school, this issue is especially prevalent among queer youth in rural schools, where they face discrimination and harassment every day.  LGBTQIA+ youth often face homophobia and biphobia when attending school in rural communities.

School staff’s lack of awareness and policy

Many teachers, administrators, and support staff expressed a lack of readiness or comfort in addressing LGBTQIA+ issues and providing support for queer students, resulting in a gap between teacher’s and student’s perceptions of safety within school environments. 

It’s not uncommon for LGBTQIA+ youth to feel unsafe in these environments, especially since many rural school districts don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity considerations in their policies.  

Limited access to resources 

Rural LGBTQIA+ youth often encounter threats to their well-being due to limited resources and support in their community. Factors such as elevated poverty levels, greater distances to access resources, and unreliable transportation have a greater impact on these communities than in urban and suburban areas.

The presence of GayStraight Alliances and Gender and Sexuality Alliances are much less common in rural schools, prompting LGBTQIA+ youth to feel disconnected from their school’s community compared to students from urban or suburban regions. 

All of the above may be intensified for transgender youth

Rural transgender students are consistently overlooked in conversation. One study included LGB as identity markers for rural youth participants, neglecting to consider the potential

presence of transgender youth in these settings. Additionally, many healthcare professionals in rural America who don’t know how to provide gender-affirming care.

Trans youth living in rural areas are more prone to victimization compared to LGB youth. 

Virtual safe spaces: online resources and helplines for LGBTQIA+ youth in rural areas

You aren’t facing this alone – there is an entire community of LGBTQIA+ youth experiencing the same reality of life in rural America, and there are resources readily available at your fingertips. 

Here is a list of resources made just for you: 

TrevorText: text START to 678678

Offered by the Trevor Project, trained counselors are just one text away and are available for support 24/7. They will listen to you and offer their support without judgment. All of your conversations are entirely confidential.

Trevor LifeLine: 1-866-488-7386

The Trevor Project also offers a 24/7 suicide hotline for LGBTQIA+ youth, where you’ll be connected to a counselor who is very understanding of issues your community is facing. Just as via text message, your conversation will be anonymous.

LGBTQIA Teens Online Talk Group

Powered by the lgbt national help center, there are chat rooms available for LGBTQIA+ teens on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 4 – 7 PM/pacific. This is a safe space for LGBTQIA+ youth to express themselves freely.

Queer & Trans People of Color (QTPoC) Mental Health

This Facebook community welcomes QTPoC individuals to healing mediations and offers extensive resources including links to organizations to connect with a therapist of color, like

TransLatin@ Coalition (TLC)

Founded by a group of Transgender and Gender nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) immigrant women, the TransLatin@ Coalition (TLC) serves as a valuable resource for TGI Latin@ immigrants living in the U.S. Together, they advocate for the Trans Latin@ community.

Color Bloq: QTPoC in the South, Red States, and Non-Urban Communities

Formed by Chief Esparza in 2016,  Color Bloq is a nonprofit organization that shares the experiences and challenges of Queer & Trans People of Color (QTPoC). This vibrant online community is home to many conversations and stories that reflect the catalog’s dedication to narrative change.

Color Bloq offers a safe, online space for Queer & Trans People of Color, empowering them to share their unique stories. 

Supportiv Anonymous Peer Support Chats

Whether you want to talk about your rural LGBTQIA+ experience, or about some other struggle you’re facing, the peer support chats at are available 24/7/365.

A road to acceptance and security

This journey, though isolating at times, is one that many can relate to. If you’re living in a place where you lack the freedom to be yourself, don’t hesitate to seek community elsewhere, and never stop advocating for yourself.

You deserve more than what your community can offer you! Keep believing in yourself and keep striving; because every step forward is a step towards a place of safety and acceptance.

Make it a goal to find an online community or resource to connect with others who understand your experience. Remember, your voice is heard, and you are deserving of acceptance and understanding.