There is a misconception about the LGBT community, one which has been perpetuated for a long time. We’ve all heard it: LGBT people are generally more affluent, more educated, and more cultured than the general population, and disproportionately they live in urban environments. A great deal of myth grows up around this misconception to justify it. But the facts are quite different.

Over the last few years, organizations like the Williams Institute have done extensive work to correct our understanding of the economic state of the LGBT community. Reports like Paying an Unfair Price, from the Center for American Progress and the Movement Advancement Project, document increasingly alarming facts about poverty in our communities. And if LGBT communities are concentrated on urban centers, the reason is obvious: the LGBT people in rural communities face *even* greater challenges, and have often sought refuge in cities.

In “New Patterns of Poverty in the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community” (Williams Institute, June 2013), researchers explained that, “Lesbian couples who live in rural areas are much more likely to be poor (14.1%), compared to 4.5% of coupled lesbians in large cities. 10.2% of men in same-sex couples, who live in small metropolitan areas, are poor, compared with only 3.3% of coupled gay men in large metropolitan areas.” The social and economic forces arrayed against the LGBT community are even more powerful in rural communities, and the effects are clear.

And yet, 10% of same sex couples live in rural areas, and those couples are disproportionately people of color raising families. These families face staggering obstacles. Enter the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. In collaboration with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and The True Colors Fund, the USDA has launched its LGBT Rural Summit Series, and Nashville is the series’ sixth stop.

According to USDA Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights Dr. Joe Leonard, “the Rural Pride campaign will allow us to focus on the particular needs of the LGBT people who make their homes and their lives in the communities that USDA is proud to serve. We could not be more proud to partner with The Oasis Center, the NCLR and the True Colors Fund on this campaign. It is an opportunity to showcase the diversity of rural America and highlight one of USDA’s fundamental values: We represent and are here to serve all people.”

This touring summit offers the USDA and other federal agencies the opportunity to share information relating to policies, programs, and services that exist to protect, promote and strengthen LGBT rural communities. Issues ranging from rural housing loans, community facility grants and bullying will be discussed. Each series will also include a strong presence from local nonprofit organizations, sharing USDA's dedication to serving LGBT rural America. The ultimate goal? #RuralPride!

Cyndi Lauper, whose True Colors Fund co-sponsors the program, said, "We applaud the USDA for celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people living in rural communities… LGBT youth comprise up to 40 percent of our nation's homeless youth population. Those in rural communities face incredibly unique challenges and are such an important and often overlooked part of this conversation. The True Colors Fund is proud to partner with the USDA and NCLR to highlight their stories as a part of the many experiences that LGBT people face in rural America."

The Director of the National LGBT Rural Summit Series, Ashlee Davis, is particularly excited about bringing USDA’s program to Middle Tennessee. "Our team could not be more excited to engage with the LGBT community of Middle Tennessee and surrounding areas. From housing, health and food disparities, bullying and more, we will come together to identify solutions for the issues important to our community. As a native of Nashville [and a] member of the LGBT community, the Nashville Summit is an exciting opportunity."

Members of the community are invited to attend this free event, but registration is required. For more information or to sign up, visit http://bit.ly/1w2ALAH. USDA also invites you to share your stories. #RuralPride is all about increasing visibility of rural LGBT people and families across the country. To potentially be featured in future blogs and materials on the #RuralPride campaign, email LGBTRuralSummit@ascr.usda.gov and tell them about your #RuralPride!

 

 

 

 

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