A Collection of Love Notes from Friends Across the Country
The response to our call for love notes to rural LGBTQ+ youth has been extraordinary. From across the country, you’ve reached out to say in many ways to LGBTQ+ youth: you are valued, wanted, and needed in rural America. This post is a collection of many of the notes, and you can find others on our blog. Some of the notes below will be shared again as their own posts. When you see them in newsletters or social media, would you please share and amplify the messages of hope, reassurance, and affirmation? We will accept new notes through March 10 and share them all long after.
Together, we can build a more inclusive nation.
Catch the Wind
Your story is not written on the pavement, alleys, and benches of urban America. You come from greatness. Your legacy is on the shoulders of those who danced and vogued across the barn floorboards, stole kisses beside the rivers, took out mortgages at the only bank in town, wept outside of tiny hospitals, applied for marriage licenses at town offices, and brought rainbow cookies to the school bake sale.
You belong to the mountains, winding rivers and arroyos, the vast prairies, undulating canyons, towering redwoods, the rolling pastures and misty hollers, the swamp moss and sweet grass, the crystal lakes, and rocky shorelines. You are kings and queens and warriors. Never ever forget that you are loved.
– This is an excerpt from the essay that launched this project by Rural Youth Catalyst Project Co-Founder Kim Phinney. Read her full essay here.
You’re exactly what we need
We live in Norris, Tennessee, and as luck would have it at the same address. Norris is a small town in east Tennessee. And throughout our whole lives, we’ve lived in places where our families and our friends and our neighbors have supported us and helped us be the best people we can be. And they welcomed us and told us to bring our entire selves to the table when we build friendships and participate in the life of our communities. So we know that when people get the encouragement they need to be themselves, everybody benefits, not just that person, but the whole community they’re part of. And that support has given us a chance to make a bigger contribution to the places that we’ve lived I think. So we want today to send out our encouragement and support to LGBTQ plus community in rural America and small towns. Rural communities need you, we need you. And we want you to be happy and to feel supported. And to know that this is a place where you can be your best, truest self — here or wherever you choose to be in the future. So, thanks for being your beautiful, unique, and important self. And just remember you’re exactly what we need.
Tim Marema and Liz McGeachy
(Watch the video of this note)
Destined to add light
My neighbor hosted a candle-making party recently, gathering eight friends and family members around her kitchen island. We were all given female names when we were born, but not all of us had kept them.
Our preferred pronouns were as varied as the color of our hair – blues, greens, browns, and grays. Among us were two women married to men, a queer couple, two divorcees, and three young people who had recently come out and were actively exploring identity and sexuality.
We each took a wick and tied weights to the ends. We dipped them first into the melted beeswax, then into cold water, and watched the candles grow. Each candle was a little different, but all were destined to add light to a supper table, a romantic evening, or a stormy night. We chatted and joked and oohed and aahed, sharing the experience of making two things at once – candles and community.
I know not every kitchen island is welcoming this way, but I have faith that you will find one in your community, and then another, little gatherings of different yet loving people just waiting for your light.
Bethany Chaney, Brasstown, NC
You are both: queer and rural
I really tried to get this letter to you by Valentine’s, but each time I sat down to type I couldn’t get the words out. I find it hard to think about how much I love you without being overwhelmed by it all. I know it can be lonely. To look at the known world around you and not see yourself reflected back. Even when you look to the outside world, to only see caricatures of both the rural community that raised you and your LGBTQ+ community. I promise you; you can be both. You are both. You are no less rural for being queer and you are no less queer for being rural. You are whole. Complex. Layered. Beautiful. Loved.
On my daily commute, it’s hard to not think about when I was just 16 and driving these same roads. Feeling alone as my eyes strained to see myself somewhere. Mainly I just saw a lot of churches. I hope when you drive these roads you see us proudly holding hands as we walk down the street, the pride flags in windows, I hope you see St. Paul’s basement full of LGBTQ+ youth for HangOUT. I hope you see yourself and know you’re not alone.
I love your courage.
The way you take that last glance in the mirror each morning. Steeling your nerves for the world outside.
I love your joy.
The way you know and celebrate yourself, even when folks around you may not understand (yet).
I love your pride.
Walking through the world with your shoulders high and spine straight, though I know it’s made of the same jagged rock as these winding Appalachian Mountains.
I love your heart.
I hate that you’ve been forced to grow a thick skin at such a young age, but I am in constant awe of how soft and tender you’ve kept your heart. Free of calluses and full of hope.
The world is big and I hope you get to see it all, but I hope you always know you can come home to Wilkes by-god County and be ALL of yourself.
We celebrate all the joy and love you bring
Dear Rural NC’s LGBTQ+ Community:
You deserve a future that is brimming with opportunity, a life that is overflowing with love, and a community that embraces everything you have to offer. In the words of Glennon Doyle, “You are human, and your birthright is to remain fully human. So you get to be everything: loud, quiet, bold, smart, careful, impulsive, creative, joyful, big, angry, curious, ravenous, ambitious. You do not need to shrink. You do not need to hide any part of yourself.” We see you for who you are and celebrate all the joy and love you bring to the rural communities you call home. Happy Valentine’s Day! You will always have a friend in us.
Love, the NC Rural Center
Born to be loved
A wise woman once said, Sometimes God gives w both hands, she was referring to a gay friend of ours. Who you are attracted to, does define you, you were born to be loved, be kind, follow your heart, and be your authentic self!
You are …
You are Beautiful, You are Enough, and You are Loved.
These traditions belong to you
Dear LGBTQ youth,I don’t know how hard your lives are – I pray not too hard – but I want you to promise me that you will do your level-best to enjoy being young.
Go to those Friday night football games. Cruise the strip from the BP to the Dairy Queen (which was what we called a fun Friday night in high school). Dance with your friends at homecoming and prom. Be goofy. Be carefree. Be kids. Don’t let anyone tell you that you do not belong, or that these rituals, these traditions, or our culture is not yours. They are. You are as entitled to the innocence of youth and the rites of passage of young adulthood as any of your straight or cis peers – and do not for one minute forget that.
There is this temptation when you are young – especially when you are LGBTQ and don’t always feel like you fit in – to dream of life after high school, or of living somewhere other than your small town. That fantasy is nice, but it is also a thief. Do not let your hopes for the future steal your present joy. You walk through your small town with your head held high, safe in the knowledge that you belong here as much as anyone else. You make your community a better place to live just by being you. Don’t ever forget that.
Contributing Editor for Community Engagement, 100 Days in Appalachia
You belong everywhere
There is love inside you and all around you—in the hills and hollers, in your friends and family (whatever that looks like to you), in your teachers, your pets, your favorite books and music and your favorite tree in the backyard, and in this message I’m writing for you. Whether you’re out right now or not, you are perfect exactly how you are, and exactly where you are! LGBTQ+ people like you belong everywhere, in big cities, but also in your hometown and other rural communities like it. Happy Valentine’s Day!
With abundant queer love,Raychel Kool A proud nonbinary, queer, and rural kid from California, KY
You are perfect, exactly as is
I just wanted to send a note to say something I’ve learned on my short journey through life, so far. When I gave birth to my daughter who has Down Syndrome, at first I felt very sad, like something was wrong. More importantly, I felt as if I did something wrong. Maybe I drank too much wine one night or didn’t eat right or didn’t take enough neonatal pills. Why did this happen to me? Maybe I have bad karma?
My daughter is now 11 and things have shifted dramatically. Now, I feel so lucky every single day that I get to have her. I now feel the exact opposite and think, what did I do so right to be this lucky? I now KNOW I have good karma! And the growth that I’ve experienced walking through that proverbial door where on one side of the door something is wrong and on the other side of the door, this exact thing is now seen as perfect, even lucky … this kind of “initiation” transcends just my own unique situation, it literally changed how I feel about everything and everyone … how I now see the world as a dance in perfection.
Sometimes I feel cheesy because I just want to grab people and celebrate them and say “you are perfect, exactly as is.”
How long did this take me? You might wonder. The acceptance and shift was slow, it took years.
There will be hard days, but right now I feel like the world is waking up. It’s hard to see because the people who are still asleep are really loud.
I now think of the door as the equivalent of earning a spiritual PhD. You don’t even know you’ve earned it until one morning you wake up and realize you are a completely changed person. If you haven’t walked through that door of acceptance yet, please make that a goal. Once you get on the other side, you will feel very uplifted and can then help others on their journey through the door.
Much Love, Jill Rose
This county has a lot to do,
You are so, so important to us
We are thankful you’re here & unapologetically YOU!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
You are a beautiful human being
Dear rural LGBTQ young people,
I am a mother of a child who was assigned a female gender at birth but has lived as who he really is, a boy, for as long as he can remember. He told us that he was boy before he could talk and his assurance to his family that this was OK and he was right from such young age has been a blessing to our family. We never had to question him, and he’s never had to pretend to be someone he is not. I do thank my luck every day for living in a community (I live in an urban diverse community in Northeast) where diversity of all sorts are accepted and people of all gender identities are protected under a state law. But I do wake up fearful at night wondering when my child has to confront one ignorant person who thinks he should not exist – because I know it takes just one. And I weep thinking about other parents and their loving children for whom this is not just a nightmare, but a reality of everyday. So I felt the need to take a minute to tell you that you deserve dignity of knowing who you are and being who you are all the time, and without fear. You are as worthy of these rights as my own child who happens to live in a different place and it crushes me and motivates me at the same time. I sincerely hope that your own family is able to see you and tell you that you are beautiful human being who is loved but in case they are blinded by their own fear and unable to tell you these things, I am going to tell you that I care deeply about you and your well-being and I will do what I can to lift up young people’s voices, including those from someone like you. Thank you for coming into this world and I send my love to you.
A mom and a professional youth-voice fan
You are not alone
I want you to know you are not alone in the LGBTQ community even though you are rural. Every facet of life is infiltrated with us. I am a successful physician and live in an extremely conservative community and it can be done successfully. Stay true to yourself and those you love.
Be the unicorns of the world
As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I just want to share how much I value each and every one of you in our community. We are all beautiful and valuable. We all have different experiences, but they are all valid. If you have ever felt unloved or shamed for being who you are, I am sorry. No one should ever put you down for being who you are. Here is a virtual hug for all of you – keep being the bright, shining stars that you are and don’t let the ugliness of the world penetrate your beautiful rainbow heart! Be the unicorns of the world and keep leaving a trail of sparkles everywhere you go and continue to be is a beacon of hope and light in the world. ALL THE LOVE TO YOU FRIENDS!!
I look forward to you being my neighbor
Dear Beautiful You,
You are loved, needed, and valued. I am so grateful to be in community with you. I promise to keep learning and sharing to help make our hometown a warm place of welcoming where you look forward to building your future and being my neighbor.
You are valued
Sending love from Dover, Pa! Your beautiful self is a valued part of our rural spaces.
I hope life brings you great adventures
This Valentine’s Day I hope you know that you are loved, you are perfect, and you are beautiful. Living in a rural community can sometimes bring its challenges, but you are wanted, needed and valued there. I hope life brings you great adventures and that you know you can always count on your hometown to return to when you’re ready for a break.
Sending positivity, love, and warmth from North Carolina,
In your corner
My name is Lindsey Hanlon, and I’m from Cheyenne, Wyoming. I grew up, away, and back to Wyoming before realizing I was asexual and aromantic. I’m in awe every day of the LGBTQ+ youth in my community who have found themselves already, and who have stood up to everything from indifference to hate in order to tell their own story.
I want these kids to know that they are amazing. That they are brave, and wonderful, and that their home towns belong to them as much and more than they belong to bigots and bullies. I want them to know that they are loved, and supported, and that there are so many people in their corner, no matter how small their corner of the world is.
My name is Mariana Story Tuttle and I’m a research fellow at the University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center. As part of my work this year, I’ve gotten to hear from some incredible people advancing LGBTQ+ health in their rural towns across America. I just wanted to reach out and tell you that you (yes, you!) belong in your rural community. You are seen, known, and loved, and you don’t have to change an iota of who you are for that to be the case. Your beautiful self is who your community needs, whether you always feel that or not. Thank you for living your truth, and being where you are, right now. Big hugs from Minnesota.
Mariana Story Tuttle
Music, movies, and hope
Hello Rural LGBTQ Friends,
A few Valentine’s Day thoughts from my heart to yours.
- What Valentine’s Day without some great music!? This link will bring you to a couple of artists talking about & singing two love songs. So beautiful! It takes time & effort—sometimes lots of time & effort— to find those people in life whose love for us and our love for them “quenches our soul”, as one of these songs sings. It’s worth all the work and the wait.
- And what a great day to curl up and watch a movie! Check out these two short films (Breaking Binary & Trans-What?), made by some Vermont students looking to educate and inspire schools and communities to become more inclusive places.
- And for those of you who, understandably, might be feeling hopeless, like the world just seems stuck or even going backwards, please hang on. Things do get better. I attended high school from 1981- 1985. Pre-internet days, long before someone like me knew they were a cisgender male. But that’s what I was. A privileged white one, too, living in a deeply homophobic culture (though I didn’t know that then, either). I’m awed at the progress the world has made in just my lifetime! And here’s the thing. It seemed really slow along the way —painfully slow—but now it seems like it happened quickly. So please take care of yourself, and give life the time it takes for things to get better for you.
Founder, Red House Learning
Co-Director What’s the Story?
We care about you
Just a quick note to let you know that the Virginia Rural Health Association cares about you and is working hard to assure that rural America can be a wonderful, affirming place for you to live and work.
Beth O’Connor, M. Ed.
Virginia Rural Health Association
Learn more about our Pride of Rural Virginia initiative: https://vrha.org/pride/
You are heard and seen
Dear LGBTQIA+ Rural Young Person,
Know you are loved and appreciated and HEARD and SEEN. Know that you have support in unexpected ways in North Central Minnesota. As a daughter of two moms, I know the value and beauty of love, no matter where it is found.
Stay happy and healthy.
Dawn Espe (she/her) | R5DC & NCEDA Equitable Development Specialist
You Shine Like the Sun
I have never met you, but you’re in my heart and you shine there like the sun. I’m holding you close in spirit, ready to remind you that you’re amazing, you’re a miracle, and you take my breath away. I see you, I love you, you’re perfect!
With so much love,
You bring light and joy
Dear Massachusetts LGBTQ young people:
You are seen, you are loved, you are supported, and you matter. We are thankful for you. We are thankful for your voices and opinions, your wisdom and experiences, and your resiliency and empathy. Thank you for being who you are and for sharing that with us. You bring light and joy to our communities and make our world a better place.
Your Super Power
Dear one: Some days feel so hard and lonely. Some days feel full of possibility. On the days when doubt and worry hold you hostage, remember that your superpower is that you exist: your spirit, your style, your swagger, your story will free you and help free the rest of us. You are not only loved but you are necessary, too. The world needs your light and liberation. Thank you for sharing your superpower!
Whitney Kimball Coe
Center for Rural Strategies
Coordinator of Rural Assembly
Thank you for your bravery and strength
I am writing from a town in Minnesota called Brainerd. It is rural in the sense that we are away from the more known Twin Cities Metro Area, but we have many of the larger city conveniences.
I felt the urge to send a note of thank you for your bravery and strength. Being yourself in today’s judgmental world is not easy and facing some of the harsher criticism from small communities who fear change and differences, is a huge act of resilience. I mean, people can be mean, crude and cruel. So to face those challenges head on, takes more guts than hiding and allowing that negativity to rule your world.
I celebrate you. I am a proud supporter of the beautiful people in my circle who emerged in their true selves, despite the backlash from their families and communities. After the initial shock wore off, and when the next big news item happens in our region, I see levels of acceptance. This might not be the case if it weren’t for the few who stepped out of the closet first and paved the way for others to do the same. My niece was ashamed and scared to tell the family that she felt different and uncomfortable in her gender. She was so relieved to hear that we supported her journey and are taking an active interest in learning the appropriate terms and language to make her feel more welcomed and appreciated.
Thank you. All of you. I pray for you to shine bright in the face of adversity and persevere as only you can!!
Whether we have been acknowledged or not, LGBTQ people have always been part of rural life and communities. Your light illuminates the fullness of love and beauty of rural life. Keep shining bright.
Edyael Casaperalta, Elsa, Texas
Share yourself with the world
Hi, my name is Amy. I live in New Hampshire. What can I say? I love you and I’ve never met you. I know already that your challenges to love who you love, openly and beautifully, are just a part of what makes you wonderful. So wake up each day, and share yourself with your world, because the world is so much better when you’re in it and living your best life.
You are not alone
The world so needs your authentic beauty, your uniqueness, your light. If you forget you have the light and feel lost in the dark, reach out. Ask for help. It’s a gift for us to be able to walk with you. You have so many people out here who will share their light so you can safely walk your own path. You are not alone.
We welcome you into our hearts
We support and care about you, and we welcome you into our hearts as we celebrate you in our communities!
Melissa in Wisconsin
I see you
Dear LGBTQ+ County Youth:
I see you.
There’s home for you in the two-lane highways you can drive blind in, past their prime trucks and Craigslist cheap sedans, the gas station with the good coffee, and the smell of irrigation over summer fields. I hope you have places that put you at ease, where all your senses know home.
I never dreamed I would be here, holding my girlfriend’s hand in the rickety stands of the local speedway, her short hair under a cap and my boots still dirty from the farm, taking in Fourth of July races. Sitting at a picnic table at the county fair with a trans friend nursing his baby, his husband casually sampling the barbeque chicken and bouncing their older daughter–a few sideways glances from the other camo hats in line, but comfort in small numbers and a straight cis friend coming up with her own daughter, delighted to connect. Bridging the gap family to family, swapping side dishes off the paper plates. We belong here.
It still makes my heart race sometimes, walking into the NAPA, the next town over, sitting down at a new diner table on our date night, or talking about “our house” (and no she’s not my roommate) with the sales guy at Tractor Supply over fence panels. But those things, those places, they are also ours. We have always been here.
It can be lonely, not having older role models with love stories or dapper haircuts that can serve as an example, not knowing folks who walk comfortably and authentically as themselves and who deeply, intimately know that tangle of feelings and frustrations and not quite fitting. But trust that you will find us and you will meet us in the most surprising corners–folks living the reality of how incredibly creative, soft, joyful, and brilliant rural queer life can be. Life like any other with potholes, but full of potential. Trust that there are neighbors who will rely on you, check on you, bring your mail in when you’re away, and stop to chat in the grocery parking lot.
I hope you feel pride in all of the pieces of you. We need you here in rural America, despite the machinations of school boards and the polarization of election year yard signs. These places are ours too. Know that there are so many of us rooting for you, wherever you end up.
These notes were submitted as part of The Rural Youth Catalyst and Rural Assembly’s Love Notes to Rural LGBTQ+ Youth project. We invite you to write your own – a few sentences, a paragraph, or even a short video. We will accept new notes through March 11. Learn how and read more in this series below.
Other Love Notes
“May love find you today,” write Maureen Truax Holland, Esq (an Obergefell attorney) and Dr. S. Taylor Williams (physician) in their love note to rural LGBTQ+ youth.
Read more notes in the Love Notes to Rural LGBTQ+ Youth Project and learn how to send your own below.
“We see you for who you are and celebrate all the joy and love you bring to the rural communities you call home,” says The NC Rural Center in its note of support and love for LGBTQ+ youth in rural North Carolina.
Writer Skylar Baker-Jordan shares an important piece of advice in this note of support for rural LGBTQ+ youth: Enjoy your youth. Do not let anyone tell you the rituals and traditions of your hometown do not belong to you.
We’re thankful you’re here and unapologetically you, says Delaine Anderson in this note to rural LGBTQ+ youth as part of the Rural Youth Catalyst Project Love Notes for LGBTQ+ Youth project.
You’re exactly what we need, say Norris, Tennessee couple Tim Marema and Liz McGeachy in this love note to rural LGBTQ+ young people. This video was submitted as part of The Rural Youth Catalyst and Rural Assembly’s Love Notes to Rural LGBTQ+ Youth project. We invite you to write your own – a few sentences, a paragraph, or even a short video. Learn how and read more in this series below.