Small-Town Pride Celebrations Supporting Social Connectedness & Well-Being for LGBTQ+ Rural Residents


Social connection is a known determinant of health at both community and individual levels. Various aspects of identity affect how socially connected people are, and whether they feel they belong in their community. Rural residents report larger and stronger social networks than urban residents. However, they also face unique risks for social isolation and loneliness. Feelings of social connectedness and belonging also vary by sexual orientation and gender identity. For example, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults report lower social cohesion in their neighborhoods, which may be perpetuated by discrimination and homophobia from members of their community. In addition, recent research found that rural LGB adults reported the lowest levels of having their social and emotional needs met, compared with urban LGB adults, urban heterosexual adults, and rural heterosexual adults.

Celebrations are an important contributor to social connectedness, and ultimately to community and individual-level health and well-being. Community-wide Pride celebrations, which began after the Stonewall Riots in 1969, specifically increase visibility and acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) individuals. Pride celebrations, including parades and festivals, offer an opportunity to recognize progress, build community, and raise awareness of ongoing injustices. This is especially crucial in rural areas, where Pride celebrations have the potential to provide vital morale boosts for LGBTQ+ rural residents. Indeed, they are important in increasing awareness and combating interpersonal and institutional discrimination caused by homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of prejudice. Addressing those issues and improving the social and political climate for LGBTQ+ individuals is essential for improving health and well-being and reducing health disparities on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

This case series highlights examples of two small-town Pride celebrations that contribute to social connectedness and belonging for rural LGBTQ+ community members.

University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
Mariana Tuttle, Madeleine Pick, Robert Libal, Carrie Henning-Smith