Out in the Country

Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America

293 pages

August, 2009

ISBN: 9780814731932



Also available in



Part of the Intersections series


Mary L. Gray is Associate Professor in The Media School, Affiliate Faculty of Gender Studies, and an Adjunct in American Studies and Anthropology at Indiana University. She is also a Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research New England. She is the author of In Your Face: Stories from the Lives of Queer Youth and Out in the Country: Youth, Media, and Queer Visibility in Rural America.

All books by Mary L. Gray

Winner of the 2009 Ruth Benedict Prize for Outstanding Monograph from the Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists

Winner of the 2010 Distinguished Book Award from the American Sociological Association, Sociology of Sexualities Section

Winner of the 2010 Congress Inaugural Qualitative Inquiry Book Award Honorable Mention

From Wal-Mart drag parties to renegade Homemaker’s Clubs, Out in the Country offers an unprecedented contemporary account of the lives of today’s rural queer youth. Mary L. Gray maps out the experiences of young people living in small towns across rural Kentucky and along its desolate Appalachian borders, providing a fascinating and often surprising look at the contours of gay life beyond the big city. Gray illustrates that, against a backdrop of an increasingly impoverished and privatized rural America, LGBT youth and their allies visibly—and often vibrantly—work the boundaries of the public spaces available to them, whether in their high schools, public libraries, town hall meetings, churches, or through websites. This important book shows that, in addition to the spaces of Main Street, rural LGBT youth explore and carve out online spaces to fashion their emerging queer identities. Their triumphs and travails defy clear distinctions often drawn between online and offline experiences of identity, fundamentally redefining our understanding of the term ‘queer visibility’ and its political stakes. Gray combines ethnographic insight with incisive cultural critique, engaging with some of the biggest issues facing both queer studies and media scholarship. Out in the Country is a timely and groundbreaking study of sexuality and gender, new media, youth culture, and the meaning of identity and social movements in a digital age.


  • "Gray . . . challenges the urban focus of queer politics and media studies, and not solely in her choice of topic. This book has more ambitious aims than simply documenting a neglected population. Her focus on rural queer youth does this admirably, but even more impressive is how she uses her topic to unpack what Jack Halberstam calls the 'metronormativity' of queer scholarship and its implications for politics of visibility"

    —D. Travers Scott, International Journal of Communication

  • “In this deft, smart ethnography, Gray not only brings to life the intricacies of rural queer existence, but also dislodges conventional assumptions about gay media visibility, queer identities, and the closet. As friendly, articulate, and challenging as its subjects, Out in the Country is a major contribution to both sexuality and media scholarship.”

    —Joshua Gamson, author of The Fabulous Sylvester

  • “Young queer people living in rural areas face numerous challenges, to be sure. But they creatively use new media and other strategies to find one another, as Gray shows so well. Out in the Country challenges preconceptions about both gender and sexual nonconformity in rural America.”

    —Arlene Stein, author of The Stranger Next Door

  • “We still know far too little about the experiences of queer youth, especially those who live in small towns and farming communities. Gray’s pioneering work will do much to cure our ignorance, as she takes us along on an engaging exploration of queer teenagers caught in the crosswinds of commercial media culture and local societal and political beliefs.”

    —Larry Gross, author of Up From Invisibility: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Media in America

  • Out in the Country promises to excite and ignite our critical imaginations as it pushes us to reckon with the complexity of queer lives away from the urban spotlight. Gray has done a stupendous job in bringing these stories to light, and in analyzing them with such warmth, humor, and insight.”

    —Suzanna Danuta Walters, author of All the Rage

  • “Gray’s ethnography allows us an in-depth look at GLBT young people in the southeastern United States. Gray’s book should be read by anyone who works with rural GLBT youth, and those interested in learning about an under-represented, but not invisible, population.”


  • Out in the Country succeeds insofar as it turns our attention toward the unique set of challenges faced by queer rural youth as they try to reconcile where they live with who they love.”

    Daily Yonder

  • Out in the Country gives hope that times are changing, highlighting the lives of today’s rural queer youth through a series of case studies focusing on the efforts of advocates to increase gay visibility. Informative and insightful—you’ll be surprised by what you find!”

    MIX Word