Same-Sex Desire In A Small Town: Sexual Minorities and Rural Place in Context
May 16, 2012
12:20 – 1:40 pm
UCLA School of Law, Room 1314
Luke Boso, Richard Taylor Law Teaching Fellow, The Williams Institute
Urban bias shapes social perceptions about sexual minorities. Predominant cultural narratives geographically situate sexual minorities in urban gay communities, dictate the contours of how to be a modern gay person, and urge sexual minorities to “come out” and assimilate into gay communities and culture. In this talk, Boso will contest the urban presumption commonly applied to all sexual minorities and will focus specifically on how it affects rural sexual minorities, who remain largely invisible in the public discourse about sexuality and equality.
Many rural sexual minorities lack basic legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The resulting legal vulnerability is often exacerbated by courts. Judges tend to take the factors and norms common to rural life into account only when approving the belief that sexual minorities do not belong in small towns. They ignore rural context when it may buttress sexual minorities’ claims to legal protections and access to justice.
Urban bias erases the most marginalized sexual minorities’ experiences from public discourse and places the burden on individuals to make positive change for themselves. The assumption that rural sexual minorities must move to the city both presumes autonomy of movement where none may exist and denies it where it does. The prevalent urban gay narrative reinforces the belief that homosexuality and rural America are incompatible, makes rural areas more threatening for those who remain, and inhibits legal and social solutions for helping rural sexual minorities live comfortably in their communities.