Meet Me in the Cornfield: The Reality of LGBTQ+ Relationships When You’re in the Middle of Nowhere

Recently, I was taking a bus ride home from Long Island back to Geneseo when I noticed that the girl in front of me was frantically swiping through Tinder. Even more shockingly, I noticed that her Tinder had been entirely set to women–which was shocking not only because she had on the sharpest possible fake nails (honey!) but also because this meant she was gay. I held my breath, and as if by magic, my profile popped up on her phone. I was, after all, astronomically close to her current location. She didn’t hesitate for a second.  

My photo practically flew left.  

It’s not as if I had everything riding on this girl’s approval. Regardless, in my latent bitterness, a thinly veiled way of protecting my self-confidence, I found myself thinking: good luck finding another gay girl out in the sticks!

While the thought originated in an attempt to self-salvage, there is some truth to it. Dating other LGBTQ+ individuals when you live in a rural area can prove to be incredibly difficult. It’s disheartening to open an app like “HER” and see a grand total of five hits in your local area–one of whom is just visiting their grandfather’s farm for the weekend (true story!). You’ll have more luck if you expand your search area out further, particularly if you live in an area like Geneseo where there’s a city an hour and a half away, but not every LGBTQ+ person lives in an area like this, and even if you do, your matches still come in few and far between. In cases like this, your Tinder sign-up really ought to come with a signed waiver that finishes with “abandon hope, all ye who enter”.  

And what of us that do have partners, the lucky bastards? While it’s never truly safe to be openly LGBTQ+ in even the most liberal of areas, rural areas carry with them a blanket of conservatism that can make it uncomfortable to even look at your partner in a loving way while you’re in public. That’s true even for singles looking to meet people. When you and a gorgeous stranger’s fingertips brush over the same roll of Tollhouse cookies in the food section of Wal-Mart and your gaze lingers for too long, you are suddenly reminded that Wal-Mart also happens to have a sale on ammo and rifles at the moment, and down the gaze goes. While I truly doubt that in my lifetime I will be fired at in a Wal-Mart for flirting with another woman (one can only hope, anyhow), the fears and anxieties that come with disapproval are particularly palpable in these small-town areas.  

On the one hand, the only way to truly combat this fear is with love. By being visibly LGBTQ+, we force those around us to reckon with our existence–we are not some invisible force relegated to the big city or suburbia, we are in the community. Yet this also compromises our safety, and we do run the risk of harassment–or worse–if we meet the wrong individuals while rallying for our existence. Rural LGBTQ+ dating almost becomes somewhat of a gamble in a sense–are you going to flirt with the wrong person who’s straight, and will take your attraction personally? But not every gay person is on a dating app, and the only way you’ll be able to find people outside of the digital world is to try and possibly fail. Does that put you in danger? Are you safe? If you guess right and end up dating someone, is it now your responsibility to be at least somewhat openly gay as to help the area realize our existence? Are you still safe? Where are you even going to go on your dates? The local cornfield?  

There really are no right or wrong answers. A situation that is safe in most circumstances can quickly turn sour with the right (or really, wrong) people present. And it is unfortunate that LGBTQ+ persons’ existences are so closely tied up with the concept of advocacy to begin with. In a perfect world, our relationships would not be treated as examples to look up to. But we don’t live in that world, and work still needs to be done–even if it’s as simple as reminding the locals that we exist.

 

Anyway, that’s enough seriousness for one article. Anyone else out there looking to visit their pappy’s farm, please hit me up. Country girls don’t have to make do.

 

 

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