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Being “Rural Gay”

13 Oct Posted by in • Guest Writers | Comments Off on Being “Rural Gay”
Being “Rural Gay”

I lived the majority of my “out” life in major urban areas, from Hollywood to San Francisco, and although I was raised in a rural community in South Texas, I had misgivings about what my life as a lesbian would be in a small rural community in Mendocino County. Eight years ago, my wife and I moved to a 300-square foot cabin on 100 acres in Hopland, California. If you’ve driven on Highway 101 North through California, you probably blinked and missed Hopland. We lived off-grid (without public utilities, that is) for almost three years and after the second winter of chopping wood, we decided to move to the nearest community with electric heat. That was Ukiah, another town usually seen from Highway 101 as a bank of auto dealerships, a Walmart, and the Henny Penny restaurant sign.

What kind of GLBT community could there possibly be in this little rural town built around schools, the county seat and lots of churches?

Now after five years ‘in town’, I have learned a new way of being “Rural Gay”. Being rural gay means that instead of hanging out in bars or coffee shops, you find your straight neighbors referring you to “the nice couple of boys who live down the street” or “Have you met Lisa, the vets assistant, yet?” Eventually, you find yourself attending private potlucks, BBQ’s, friended on Facebook pages, listening to the bi-monthly pride radio show, showing up at softball tourneys and the annual Pride Dance put on by the “we’ve lived here all our lives so they all know anyway, do you like my tie-dye rainbow shirt?” gays.

And getting political? You find out that the majority of the adult Rural Gays have moved to the country for the very purpose of leaving the City and its political ways. “We’re looking for peace and quiet after lifetimes of fighting the good fight, so if you want to get active well, you’ll have to look to the local gay youth.” Rural gay youth? The most freakish punks and outlandish hippies get most of the attention, while the brainy geeks languish in libraries and 4H clubs across the rural landscape.  But on the other hand, there’s not much competition up the political ladder. Congratulations! You get to be the GLBT representative they’ve always wanted to in the Democratic club, the central committee, and the local rotary club.

Don’t think that there aren’t positives to being Rural Gay, though. There’s more than just being able to have a ridiculously big back yard and being able to see stars at night. For one, you are on the front lines of America here. Living in the bubbles of urban communities, protected from the guy with the American flag flapping helplessly from the back of his pick-up truck and the local NRA hunters, urban gays have no idea what guts it takes to stand in front of a rural courthouse waiving a No on Prop. 8 sign. Now that’s pride, eh? And guess what, you wind up having a lot of straight friends. The democrats, the left-wing environmentalists, the enlightened winery owners, educators and public servants and especially their teen and adult children, all don’t get why it’s such a big deal, being gay. And being friends with you is, well, pretty cool.

So thinking of moving to the country? How nice to own your own ranch or home? You don’t have to leave your rainbow flag in the closet, but you need to learn there’s a new way of being out in your rural mountain home.

Katharine Cole is one of the pioneers of the San Francisco Americana rock scene. In 1999, she joined Dawn Richardson of 4 Non Blondes and Carrie Baum of Soul Divine, releasing two original CDs. She later became part of the burgeoning country western scene as “Kitty Rose”, releasing two popular CDs, “Kitty Rose Greatest Hits!” (2005) and “Kitty Rose Live at The Ryman”. She currently has returned to playing bass in the Blues rock band “The Battlin’ Bluebirds” and is a popular DJ on KZYX&Z, Mendocino County.  Visit her site at

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