Study Finds Rural Gay Teens Use Web to Connect, Not Escape
A new study finds that gay teens in rural communities are using the internet … not to escape from their communities … but to connect to them. Researcher Mary Gray from the University of Indiana spent 19 months on the study – living in rural Kentucky. She said gay youth were using new media to seek out others in their areas.
Gray: “They really weren’t hiding in their homes, they weren’t isolated, they actually had a lot of pride about their local communities and their ability to live queerly in those spaces.”
Gray said in rural areas that don’t have gay or even gay-friendly spaces like coffee shops or bookstores, gay teens use new media to create their own.
Gray: “There was a group of young people who would go to a regional Wal-Mart in a fairly rural part of eastern Kentucky, and would do drag in the aisles of Wal-Mart, and take photos of each other, and then post them to their website.”
Gray says the internet also allows people in more urban gay communities to rethink what it means to be gay in America.
Gray: “I would argue our politics have lost a clear sense of what our common cause is, and I think we often thought it was about being in a city. And so new media tells us that we actually have to think more broadly about how to build that sense of common cause.”
Gray presented her findings at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association this weekend. The findings are published in the book “Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America.”