Women's & Gender Studies
Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies
In our contemporary understanding of LGBTQ identities and communities, the binary of visible gay community versus closeted individuals is mapped on to American geographical and cultural divisions. Simply put, we associate urban with out and proud, and rural with closeted and homophobic. Scholars of queer rurality have explained this geography of the closet as one in which the rural United States "is made to function as a closet for urban sexualities" and "operates as America's perennial, tacitly taken-for-granted closet. One scholar has even specifically dubbed the state of Mississippi as the nation's closet. This foundational "metronormativity" in LGBTQ identities and communities has been undermined by recent work in rural queer studies. This work emphasizes that representing the country as the closet elides flourishing LGBTQ communities and individuals in rural spaces. Additionally, the country-as-closet construct reinforces an urban definition of LGBTQ identity and visibility that may not be compatible with rural LGBTQ lifestyles, in effect rendering rural queer life impossible. This essay problematizes the metaphor of the closet relative to rural gay and lesbian identities to identity new directions for scholarship on queer identity and community. I challenge the closet's reliance upon binary divisions between public and private space and visibility and invisibility by locating other forms of gay and lesbian community and identity that flourish across and beyond these binaries.
Schweighofer, Katherine. "Rethinking the Closet: Queer Life in Rural Geographies." In Queering the Countryside: New Frontiers in Rural Queer Studies, edited by Mary L. Gray, Colin R. Johnson, and Brian J. Gilley, 223-243. New York: New York University Press, 2016.