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LGBT Rural Summit

The LGBT Rural Summits

This section examines the ways that conservatives and liberals alike talked about the  LGBT Rural summit held on August 18, 2016 in Des Moines, Iowa. The summit was organized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in collaboration with the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the True Colors Fund (Cyndi Lauper’s organization that focuses on homelessness among LGBT youth). Although the USDA and company had organized fourteen similar summits since its inaugural event on June 6, 2014 in Greensboro, North Carolina, this was the first summit to garner national attention.

According to the USDA, each Rural LGBT summit “aims to elevate the voices of the rural LGBT community, highlight the important federal policy efforts to protect this community, and identify next steps to ensure all rural communities have access to the resources they need.”

Conservative Responses

Conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh, along with his fellow conservative bloggers and pundits, consistently described the event as one for lesbian farmers—to celebrate them, recruit them, or use them to “replace conservative farmers.”

Interestingly, the discussions that took place at the summit specific to lesbians and to farmers were minimal. We might ask how a day-long conference in which one of four breakout panels focused on agriculture and LGBT life—and on which one woman was a panelist—at a summit attended primarily by men has come to be described as an event for lesbian farmers. (For another example of this framing of the event, click here.) Considering that there were essentially no lesbian farmers at an event ostensibly for lesbian farmers, it seems likely that the goal of the conservative commentary was not to provide an accurate description of the event. It was, of course, meant to trivialize and mock the summit.

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Liberal Responses

Many self-proclaimed liberals responded to Limbaugh’s sexist and homophobic comments. In doing so, some ended up reproducing the same kinds of simplistic and stereotypical ideas about rural place that are evident in Limbaugh’s comments.