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September 27, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Being different is never easy.
Being different in a small town, where everyone knows his or her neighbor and hardly anything goes unnoticed by the ever- churning rumor mill, is even more difficult.
I grew up in a town with a population just under 1,000 people, and I know small towns often have a reputation that precedes them — they’re tightly knit, traditional and tranquil. They lean toward conservative values and stand firm on moral, often religious, ideals. On one end of the spectrum, these values place rural communities into a quaint, safe space, a place to be proud to call home. But on the other end of the spectrum, staunch, rigid towns stifle their youth and aren’t open to diversity.
When Trinity Rainey came out as a lesbian in 2011 in her hometown of Macon, she wasn’t sure how people would respond. When she was included this past May in the Columbia Missourian and KBIA project My Life, My Town, which documented the experiences of teenagers in rural Missouri, her story took on a whole new life. It inspired a town hall meeting, which was followed by almost two hours of questions from the curious community.
By putting herself out there, Trinity found that most people didn’t want to antagonize. Instead, they were interested in learning about a lifestyle they didn’t understand. Other people used Trinity as an inspiration to come out themselves.
The conversation doesn’t always go so smoothly; misunderstanding and discrimination can permeate all walks of life, but sometimes the best way to educate others is to start talking.