How LGBTQ community life in a small Midwestern city differs from that in larger cities with established gayborhoods
River City is a small, Midwestern, postindustrial city surrounded by green hills and farmland with a population of just over 50,000. Most River City residents are white, working-class Catholics, a demographic associated with conservative sexual politics. Yet LGBTQ residents of River City describe it as a progressive, welcoming, and safe space, with active LGBTQ youth groups and regular drag shows that test the capacity of bars.
In this compelling examination of LGBTQ communities in seemingly “unfriendly” places, Queering the Midwest highlights the ambivalence of LGBTQ lives in the rural Midwest, where LGBTQ organizations and events occur occasionally but are generally not grounded in long-standing LGBTQ institutions. Drawing on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation, Clare Forstie offers the story of a community that does not fit neatly into a narrative of progress or decline. Rather, this book reveals the contradictions of River City’s LGBTQ community, where people feel both safe and unnoticed, have a sense of belonging and persistent marginalization, and have friendships that do and don’t matter. These “ambivalent communities” in small Midwestern cities challenge the ways we think about LGBTQ communities and relationships and push us to embrace the contradictions, failures, and possibilities of LGBTQ communities across the American Midwest.
Clare Forstie is Education Program Specialist at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Educational Innovation. She holds a PhD in Sociology from Northwestern University.
"We are everywhere—even in small post-industrial cities in “flyover country.” Queering the Midwest offers an astute analysis of the ambivalence many of us feel toward the LGBTQ communities that nurture us. We can’t live with them, but can’t live without them. It upends simple notions of progress, coming out, and even liberation without diminishing their importance for overcoming stigma and anchoring the self."
~Arlene Stein, author of Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity
"Queering the Midwest is a readable book about the complex way that community happens. I appreciated the way this research centers friendship instead of partners, organizations, or bars in the lives of LGBTQ people. This book makes us rethink the role of institutions and relationships in making LGBTQ community in small cities and in the Midwest."
~Amy L. Stone, author of Queer Carnival: Festivals and Mardi Gras in the South
"Forstie ‘Midwesternizes’ LGBTQ studies, convincingly demonstrating that conventional understandings of community gleaned from gayborhoods don’t always hold water beyond the big city. It is impossible to be ambivalent about this timely account of the role of that emotion in LGBTQ life today. As rich and satisfying as mom’s hotdish, Queering the Midwest is a landmark study."
~Greggor Mattson, author of forthcoming The Cultural Politics of European Prostitution Reform: Governing Loose Women