The insider’s guide to being LGBTQIA+ in rural and remote areas
Being LGBTQIA+ in a rural, remote or regional area can be awesome, but it can also leave you feeling isolated, different and alone. To help navigate these issues, we chatted to a bunch of young people from around Australia who identify as LGBTQIA+ and got their thoughts on what country life is really like for them.
Insider tip #1: It’s not all sunshine and happy times, but sometimes it is!
There are lots of perks that come with growing up in the ‘bush’, compared to living in the city, including the outdoors lifestyle and way less traffic. However, being LGBTQIA+ and rural can throw up some challenges that are tough to deal with, such as:
feeling isolated and lonely
not being able to relate to most other people
having limited access to sexual, mental and gender affirming health services
feeling like you can’t disclose your gender experience or sexuality for fear of a backlash.
I felt so different and isolated from everyone else. — Sarah, 20, Berri
If you’re feeling this way, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are lots of LGBTQIA+ people living in the country though even if it might take a little extra effort to reach them. A great place to start is to google the words ‘rainbow’ or ‘LGBTQIA+’ along with your town’s name - this can the gateway to finding LGBTQIA+ online and community groups, and also local youth services that are inclusive and welcoming for LGBTQIA+ people.
Insider tip #2: Finding a date can be like Mission Impossible
We all know that the dating game is hella difficult; but if you identify as LGBTQIA+, finding a partner in a country town can seem like Mission Impossible. Experts recommend checking out if there are any social groups in your area. A really good place to start is MeetUp, which has groups happening all over Australia and you can also search for LGBTQIA+ groups on Facebook. If you can’t find one, start one!
I find that a lot of LGBTIQIA+ people in low-population areas find it hard to go on dates because there is a constant fear that word will get back to people you haven’t come out to, especially to family or friends. — Pete, 22, Nyngan
Insider tip #3: Coming out can be tough (if you're ready to do so), but you may be pleasantly surprised
Before coming out, you might be worried about how people will take the news. It’s not uncommon to feel this way, but you might be pleasantly surprised by their reactions. The other thing to remember that coming out is TOTALLY your choice. If you're questioning your sexuality and/or aren't ready to come out, that's completely fine - there is no rush.
If you think you'd feel more comfortable talking to a professional about things, see Tip #4 for support services. If you do decide to come out to your family and/or friends, we have some tips to make the process easier here.
It was important to tell my family first, who initially were surprised. Then I told close friends, some of whom had already guessed. Everyone was very supportive. — Sarah, 20, Berri
You might even find others who are going through the same thing as you.
When coming out to a close friend, they were like, “That's cool. I'm pretty sure I'm trans and possibly demi-sexual…” it was really cool, and now we have each other to talk to. — Anna, 16, Benalla
And, you may even be able to help others out, which is awesome.
Now that I’ve been out for some time and am open about my sexuality, I can be an advocate for the community, and can support and help others. — Sarah, 20, Berri
Insider tip #4: Get some expert advice
Here’s an expert’s guide on where to get help and what support services are available:
There are dozens of LGBTQIA+ support groups from all over Australia converging online, especially on Facebook. Just google your town’s name plus the LGBTQIA+ acronym and you should hopefully find one near you.
Keep an eye out for the Rainbow Tick. The Rainbow Tick is a national initiative for recognising organisations that are inclusive.
If you’re based in NSW, hit up ACON. They can help you out with health issues, counselling, care coordination, substance support, and peer education.
Talk it out. If you want to chat with someone to explore what’s going on in your life, QLife is a nationwide telephone and web-based, peer-supported service for all ages. It’s available every day, from 3 pm to midnight.
Insider tip #5: You do you
The best advice is often that from someone who’s been there themselves, so we asked a bunch of LGBTIQIA+ people for their best piece of advice for anyone living in a rural, remote or regional community and feeling isolated, different or alone.
Time is your friend! Don’t rush to tell people, but also don’t feel like you can’t. I think you would be surprised that a lot of people will be really supportive and love you, no matter what. — Jordan, 19, Longreach
Don’t ever feel pressured to come out. Coming out is an individual process, and there is no best time or way of doing it. — Sarah, 20, Berri
The main thing is to know yourself, do your research, and understand that it isn’t wrong to be in love with someone of the same gender or to think that your sex and gender aren’t aligned.…You do you. — Jack, 24, Parkes