Gay Guys in Smaller Towns: How Do You Cope?

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    Feb 28, 2008 9:08 PM GMT
    I've asked a few guys on this site about this individually, but I want to survey more people: What strategies do you know for living as a gay man in a smaller town? In particular, how do single gay men make friends, find dates, and keep from going back in the closet in towns without a recognizable gay community?

    Here's what prompts my question, by the way: I've been offered a job in a small, economically depressed town. While I am enthusiastic about the job, I do not want to take it if the consequences are celibacy and social isolation.

    There are two large cities with substantial, visible gay populations within two hours' drive--which is still too far to go if you just want to get a beer and meet people.

    Still, I know that not all gay men live in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, or San Francisco, and I have noticed several guys on this site live in places where I think it might be hard to have a social life that included other gay guys. So how is it done, fellas?
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    Feb 29, 2008 12:13 AM GMT
    This topic you brought up hits right on for my living situation. I live 4 miles from a 3,000 population town, there is a larger population with a gay community about an hour away. It is hard by any measure to be so far out on a limb so to speak !!! I do have gay friends that keep in contact with, but there is no regular interaction with gay men. This is partly why I like this site so well, it fills in a gap !!! If I didn't like privacy I would go nuts out here !!! ha !!! If your used to a lot of interaction with other gay men, I would not suggest it !!
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    Feb 29, 2008 2:22 AM GMT
    I agree with realifedad: if you want regular, in-person interaction with other gay men, you are not going to want to take that job. I live half an hour away from Boise, and it's even tough for me to maintain any gay friends that I can see in-person. How large is the town you're considering moving to, and how important is constant in-person contact with other gays to you?

    I will say this, however: you need not closet yourself just because you're living in a small town. I find that if you're just honest about who you are, and show no shame, then small town folk adjust perfectly well, for the most part. Just accustom yourself to having mostly straight friends, and be okay with that.

    One other thing is that if you move to this town, the internet will be your good friend. The fact is that if you're in a small town, just by sheer statistics you're not going to be around a lot of other gay men, either for friendships or dates. The internet, however, has transformed the way many gay men in small towns communicate and stay in touch with the gay world. Develop an online persona at the major gay sites (gay.com, for instance), and search out any gays near you. I have found that sites like gay.com are actually reasonable for people living in rural areas, because the people in rural areas like myself are trying to develop relationships with the few gays near them, and are more likely to be cautious in trying to develop inter-personal relationships, as opposed to simply trying to hook up--though if you're in the mood for a hookup, I'm sure people who don't get into a major population center often would oblige. icon_smile.gif

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    Feb 29, 2008 2:29 AM GMT
    i was a firecracker in my hometown of 1,200 people. i had to be VERY aggressive because i was a bullied kid in a highschool. i've never been an adult with a job in a small town, but i'll tell you this: you better know who you are before you go. the pressue to be just like everyone else can be intense. it'll only be worse if you allow people to keep you closeted.

    i think that cable/internet may have changed attitudes some in the last decade in many small towns. everyone's seen "will and grace" by now, as grotesque a comparison as it might be to real life.

    if you take the job in the small town, know that most of the gay people there (and yes, there will be many closet cases) will avoid you in public in order to not be guilty by association.

    personally, i wouldn't take the job uless there was either alot of money at stake or an incredible opportunity for advancement later. think carefully before you commit to this.
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    Feb 29, 2008 3:26 AM GMT
    I appreciate these responses a lot. Nampa and Boise are probably a fairly good comparison to this place in terms of size; this place is somewhat smaller. The big town is about 60,000, and then there are two nearby towns of about 37,000. There is no chance that I would go back in the closet there; the culture of my job (college professor) is very liberal--almost no one ever bats an eye if I tell them I'm gay. Mainly I'm concerned that as a single professor in a smallish city I would be seriously lonely. My potential colleagues are all straight, and mostly married.
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    Feb 29, 2008 3:34 AM GMT
    I live in the middle of Mormon Idaho, and the people here are about crazy. The biggest thing I've found that helps is to be unwaivering about my sexuality, but also to keep my mouth shut as necessary (i.e. jobs, school, etc.) Essentially, when someone tries to give me shit, my response is generally along the lines of "Yeah, so?"

    Keeping your ground keeps people of your back! icon_wink.gif

    As far as other guys, most of the ones here in the area have been mentally screwed by the locals, and I try to avoid them. I've noticed gay guys in general are a bunch of self-victimizing, self-defeating queens. Not my type of people, and just not worth my time.

    Maybe I'll find some better guys when I get outta Idaho, lol.
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    Feb 29, 2008 3:43 AM GMT
    Well, I guess it really depends on your need, you know? I doubt a college professor is into the bar scene (but it's cool if you are) so there might be an interesting and thriving gay intellectual scene there. So that would be cool. Where is this town, if you don't mind me asking.

    Here in pullman, there aren't many gay men, but a lot of people seem to find people which is cool and surprising.
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    Feb 29, 2008 3:48 AM GMT
    sickothesame said... so there might be an interesting and thriving gay intellectual scene there.


    Um, regrettably, no.
  • Barricade

    Posts: 457

    Feb 29, 2008 3:49 AM GMT

    As someone from Kentucky, the internet will be a huge resource. You can meet guys in the surrounding area, If your a professor, that means you have weekends off?That would allow you to get away for the weekend when you need to.
    Who knows just because the friends/colleagues you meet aren't gay you can't have fun and be satisfied socially. Gay men are everywhere, it will be fine. Unless it's a island your moving to, keep your head up and eyes open.
  • bobbyd918

    Posts: 14

    Feb 29, 2008 4:04 AM GMT
    I moved to a small town of 3,000 in Oklahoma in 2000. It was probably the most miserable place I've ever lived to date lol Luckily I had a really great job. So if you enjoy your job, that may help some. But, nothing beats being able to freely socialize with like minded people.
  • iHavok

    Posts: 1477

    Feb 29, 2008 4:27 AM GMT
    The internet and a different way of thinking is the only ways you can survive.

    Gay.com becomes a tool that's less about a hook up and more of a way to socialize with other people in your geographic area.

    You also lose a lot of your issues with distance. Suddenly it's not a big deal to drive two or three miles to meet someone.

    And if u need proof of my qualifications, I lived in Great Falls Montana for 4 years, Rapid City SD for 3.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Feb 29, 2008 5:16 AM GMT
    I might not have lived in a small town but I can relate to what you might be going through. I'm a military brat and I was always packing up and leaving/going someplace new every 2-4 years. I had no choice but to adapt to things quickly if I didn't want go crazy. Even now with age under my belt I still have to adapt quickly if I'm to make any sense of things. Whenever I go somewhere I weigh out the pros and cons. That always seems to help smooth the process over pretty well.

    For you, this job could be just thing you might want in your life but it might mean you'll have put other things on hold like a relationship or social activites with others. The internet is a great way in meeting people from across the world in a non-physical way and gives you that sense of sanity you might need. If you can hold out on certain desires and be happy with the way things are then I'm sure you'llbe fine. Maybe every once in awhile you can take some time off for a couple of days and make that long drive to meet some people. You have options...you just have to want them bad enough to have them andmake sure you think it through.
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    Feb 29, 2008 5:24 AM GMT
    I coped by running like hell as soon as I was able.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Lake,_Washington
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    Feb 29, 2008 5:32 AM GMT
    I grew up in North Idaho, and am not really 100% out to this day. My friends know, and I've dated, but it was tough. Then the internet came along and I discovered how much fun gay friendships are. When I was dating, there was always this moment of discomfort when people I didn't know would figure out I was on a date with a guy. No serious repercussions ever arose, but I know people whispered about me behind my back.

    If you are comfortable with that, small towns are great. I would move back in a minute if I could make decent money there!
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    Feb 29, 2008 6:57 AM GMT
    I grew up in a small southern town of about 50,000 people (as of the last census). Everyone there knows everyone else's business. I didn't try to conform, so I stood out. It took me a little while to come out, which I did at about age 21, but once I came out to the people that mattered to me, I stopped giving a damn what anyone else said or thought.

    As for meeting people... I had a best friend in school (starting in kindergarten) who grew up to be gay, too. We had that bond of friendship for over 35 years, in fact, so we'd always hang out together. I met other gay guys at work, and at various social functions, so I really didn't need a major city around to connect with people. I was about a 45 minute drive from Raleigh, which was where the closest gay bars were, so it wasn't a problem if I wanted to go there. Another way I'd meet people was by getting involved in area charities and doing volunteer work for them... I found that most of the men doing that turned out to be gay or bi and I'd always end up with a few new friends. I've always had pretty accurate "gaydar" too, which helped a lot.

    I moved to the Chicago area 4 years ago because I wanted to make more money, I was bored, and I was missing city life, having lived in San Francisco, LA and DC for a short time back in the late 80s.

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    Feb 29, 2008 7:38 AM GMT
    I live in a small town called Simpsonville, it's about 20 miles from Greenville. Rebel flags hanging everywhere, nothing to do, no gays from what I can tell. Just a bunch of close-minded, ignorant rednecks. How do I keep from going back in the closet... I don't know.. I guess I never really came all the way out.. I still have my foot in there. How do I deal with the small town life? Um.. I think this pretty much tells it.. I spend my time here posting to these forums. I have maybe 3 friends who I'm out to.. the others I have to act "straight' around because they hate fags. I am looking to get out, I'll be moving soon so I don't have to deal with it much longer.
  • fryblock

    Posts: 387

    Feb 29, 2008 8:12 AM GMT
    define small town. i'm in a small town, but it also happens to be a major college town, so as long as you stay away from the townie areas, you are usually fine.
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    Feb 29, 2008 8:19 AM GMT
    I scare people, I make them think Im the tainted child.
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    Feb 29, 2008 11:37 AM GMT
    I stay hidden until the day when I can strike back!

    ...or run away. Hehe
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    Feb 29, 2008 12:08 PM GMT
    I moved out.
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    Feb 29, 2008 12:39 PM GMT
    It really depends on the community and the state. Do you have time to go there and check it out for a bit? I once lived in a town with less than 1,000 people and commuted to the larger city (30,000) to teach at the University. I never had any problems meeting other gay people and made quite a few friends. My partner and I lived in the small town together and it wasn't a problem. The neighbor even watched our house when we were away and brought us a pie when we moved in. We never locked the house or our cars. People were more liberal and educated in the University town than in the next largest city 40 miles away. However, I made gay friends in that place as well (40,000) and am still friends with them. I worked part time at a clothing store in the mall since teaching at the university didn't pay well.

    Since there weren't any bars, people had parties and dances - I even went to a gay barn dance! So, it really does depend on the community. It could be a great experience or a bad one. The only reason I moved is because my partner and I broke up and I got a job offer somewhere else.
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    Feb 29, 2008 12:41 PM GMT
    Seems like responses here fall into two catagories 1) moving to a small town or 2) trapped or previously trapped in a small town...

    As a 'gay' (hehe) who moved TO a small town, I think Im one of the people being asked the question here.

    First off - you have to have a reason to move someplace, a strong community of people (and the fearlessness to create the kind of community you need). Sounds like you're not closeted, so that's great - you will naturally gravitate to and attract other like-minded people

    You don't mention what town you're moving to, which is interesting, since it may help to share that in terms of 'networking'.

    I live in rural vermont, and in order not to go crazy I schedule time to travel - in fact, its built into my job and my future work. I fly, train or ride to nyc, florida, west coast - at least once every six weeks. For me (a new york city boy) - its a social imperative.

    Again though - the key is a strong sense of community in your new place. friends who you can be yourself with, invite for dinner parties, variety... etc...

    a lot of gay men live rurally - look up 'radical faeries' on wikipedia. its about living out, proud and finding your own identity and sense of spirituality as a gay 'pioneer'...

    how may men have the balls to move BACK to a small town??? hehe...
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    Feb 29, 2008 12:43 PM GMT
    Well I am the first in 6 Generations, not to live in the bush, and spend my whole life on a dariy farmicon_biggrin.gif when one lived in the bush. Yes One was horny, and the vibrations on the tractor, was enough, to give me a hard on.

    One just did not pay it much time. One would hang out until, one was able to the City, and then, I would do it, be me. it would be hard being back home for the first week. Never hid my sexuality, but did not flaunt it either. never got beat up about it.

    But it was drought that drove one to the city. Fucked my brains out for first year, then AIDS come along, and ruined it all. Went back home, and worked as a Lumber jack.

    Funny. I now live back in the the City, and have 4 past 15 years. Yet I have never really had much to do with the gay community, since I moved back. All my mates are str8; still! Yet I could be at a gay bar, in a half hour drive from where one lives now.

    I could go back to the bush to live, and just be one of the blokes. As I am able to control my dick now. it dose not control me, as it once did. This made living in the bush hard....