The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Center for Lesbian Rights brought their Rural Pride Summit to Des Moines Thursday. It offered a chance for the rural LGBT community to talk about their economic, health, legal and social concerns.
Des Moines was the 13th stop in the series, which began in 2014 as a way to increase the visibility of the LGBT community in rural America.
It’s estimated that almost 10 percent of same-sex couples live in rural areas of the country.
The executive director of the advocacy group One Iowa, Donna Red Wing, says the reality of being LGBT in a small town is much different than in an urban area.
“Even though we have the laws to protect us, the culture hasn’t changed," she says. "We haven’t been able to change hearts and minds.”
Des Moines lawyer Keith Uhl grew up in the Monona County town of Mapleton and says he has no idea if there were LGBT residents nearby.
“How do the word get out to Mapleton, and Moorhead, and Soldier, and Altoona, and Ottumwa, and Osceola.”
Figures released at the Summit reveal LGBT residents in rural areas are twice as likely to be living in poverty. Rural LGBT young people report higher rates of violence and bullying at school.
There are roughly 66-thousand Iowans who identify as LGBT.