Samantha Allen, an author and reporter covering LGBT issues, traveled the midwest recently to learn about our community’s resolve during the Trump administration.
“This may seem like a strange time to feel optimistic about the future of LGBT rights in America. But as a queer transgender woman who has spent most of her adult life in red states, hopeful is exactly how I feel.
“In July 2017 — the same month that President Trump announced on Twitter that he would ban transgender troops — I left on a six-week-long road trip across the red states. I wanted to understand what motivated L.G.B.T. people to stay in the heartland at a time when some progressives were still pondering escaping to Canada.
“When we focus too intently on the actions of the Trump-Pence administration, we miss the bigger — and better — picture: A majority of Americans — in all but six states — now support same-sex marriage. Most support transgender military service. Most oppose businesses’ turning away LGBT customers in the name of religion. Public opinion on LGBT people is finally turning a corner, not just on the coasts but between them as well.
“That shift is thanks in large part to the increasing proportion of Americans who identify as LGBT themselves. According to Gallup polling data, 4.5 percent of American adults now identify as LGBT, which is a full percentage point higher than in 2012. Millennials may not be more likely to be LGBT, but their increased willingness to come out of the closet is driving the community’s numbers up.
“Queer people, simply put, are everywhere. (We are most definitely in Dollywood, a theme park owned by Dolly Parton in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., and my favorite stop on my road trip, where I saw Bible Belters and lesbian couples peaceably ride roller coasters side-by-side.)”