Finding community in the middle of nowhere

by Jillian Drinnon
The Rural Gay Columnist

By nature, I am very sociable. I need to be surrounded by friends and family at least four out of the seven weekdays. I just love knowing people are near me. Otherwise I feel like I’m going to lose my mind.

Though I love people, making friends has never been a particularly easy task, and I imagine this isn't abnormal for my fellow rural gays.

Like many people of the world, when I came out at 16, I lost most of my friends, I lost my job, and I had distanced myself from my loved ones quite a bit. At the time, I was heartbroken, but in retrospect, it was a freedom. Though I’m still learning this, it is wonderful to be able to set standards for myself.

As a disabled queer woman, I don’t have to accept off color jokes as stuff I have to live with. Of course, valuing oneself is wonderful, but with my continually developing ideas of worth, it is getting a lot harder to open the mental friendship gates.

It’s pretty ridiculous to complain about having a better understanding of self, but dang, if it isn’t killing my social life. In a city, I could go to a hearty handful of places to meet likeminded individuals and LGBTQ+ folks, but my options are slim to say the least in my town of 12,000.

I don’t think it's impossible to find people that won’t be sent running at the first sign of my gayness. In the past, I’ve gotten very lucky. There are so many people I love very dearly, but as they have begun to move away, have kids, and start the next phases in their lives I have been put back on the hunt for social opportunities.

As I start school at a new college, I am embracing feeling like a freshman again. By plunging into random social groups with fingers crossed, I’m starting to make progress.

There is the occasional crash-and-burn experience in which I get slammed for not attending church or get asked time and time again if I have a boyfriend, but just trying new things makes the whole experience worth it.

I’ve also been exploring the expansive world of the internet. I’ve traditionally brushed off socializing online as a form of desperation, but as I try to seek out gay communities near me, the internet is proving to be an excellent tool. When I was in my early teens, I would put out flyers all over town to try and start a board game group. I feel like forums and Facebook groups are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing just on a bigger scale.

The most dramatic change I've experienced on my quest to find a new social group is, coincidentally, learning to be okay with loneliness. I’m almost 20, and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the expectations of my age.

I feel like I’m supposed to live like I’m in an 80's comedy about college life, but I just don’t want that right now. I partied plenty in the past, but at this moment I adore being able to spend a late night with my pets watching chick-flicks without having the little ball of anxiety in my head squeak, “You should probably be doing something right now otherwise, you’re going to die alone,” because that’s not true.

I still prefer to be around others, and I’m not stopping my friend search any time soon, but being able to accept my own company is nice too. It’s great to have a growing set of standards for friends, and by being lonely right now, I am forcing myself to try new things and meet new kinds of wonderful people.

Copyright The Gayly. 7/13/2019 @ 11::41 a.m. CST.