April 13, 2022
Growing Up Queer in a Small Town
By Lisa Herforth-Hebbert
With minimal representation in my hometown and in the media, I hid my queerness and internalized toxic misconceptions about gender and sexuality.
Coming of age in a rural, conservative-leaning town of 500 is in itself no easy feat. Growing up queer in such an environment is much harder. Supporting queer youth, regardless of one’s own political and religious beliefs, is crucial.
I was raised in a religious family, in a small town with minimal diversity, in terms of race, political affiliation, and least of all, sexual orientation and gender identity. Most of my town consisted of straight, white, Christian, cisgender, working class people, with the majority identifying as politically conservative. Queerness felt like a taboo, something rarely talked about aside from the occasional hushed rumors: “I heard so-and-so is gay!”
There were a small handful of “out” members of the LGBTQ+ community in my town and at my high school, but those who were open about their sexuality and gender identities were visibly excluded socially and more often than not, were judged for their ‘divergence’ from the status quo. With minimal representation in my hometown and in the media, I grew up hiding my queerness and internalizing toxic misconceptions about gender and sexuality that to this day, I am still unlearning.