Daily Beast reporter Samantha Allen was on MSNBC's Morning Joe to talk about the state of the LGBT community in red states across the country.
In a previously taped segment, (co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were off on Tuesday as Scarborough was planning for his mother's funeral) Brezinski introduced Allen as having journeyed throughout, '"Real America' to document what is actually happening in the places that almost half of the LGBT community calls home."
Quoting Allen's book, Real Queer America: LGBT Stories From Red States, in her introduction, Brezinski declared: "'If the dominant LGBT narrative of the 20th century was a gay boy from the country buying a one-way bus ticket to the Big Apple, the untold story of the 21st is the queer girl in Tennessee to stays put."'
Allen began by remarking that, "I just found amazing pockets of LGBT acceptance all over more conservative parts of the United States" from Provo, Utah, to Bloomington, Indiana. Speaking of conservative parts of the country, she observed, "I have lived a lot of my life in Utah and Georgia and Florida, so I knew from firsthand experience that these places were more welcoming to LGBT people than sometimes we might think they are," before giving the example of an LGBT youth center directly across the street from a Mormon temple and children of parents "observing a pretty conservative faith" being present at those youth centers.
Asked the purpose of the book, Allen explained, "After the 2016 election, I saw, you know, a fair amount of commentary on social media of people being dismissive towards Red State America... I wanted to go out there and say, 'No, this is what LGBT life is like in these places. It's not uniformly awful."' It was not purely an exoneration of Red State America, as Allen warned that, "there's lots to combat at state legislative levels, lots of anti-LGBT bills being proposed, but these places themselves are often warm, welcoming places to live."
New York Times reporter Nick Confessore asked about the history of the gay rights movement and isolation of LGBT youth in rural America, with MSNBC political commentator Mike Barnicle saying that Allen's work was "encouraging."
Allen's comments about combating "anti-LGBT bills" at the state level notwithstanding, which are often more about the First Amendment then anti-LGBT sentiment, the idea that Red States are not full of LGBT haters would only come as surprise to those who believe their own caricatures of conservative or religious Americans. After hearing it from the mouth of an LGBT individual, hopefully coastal liberals will re-evaluate their assessment of those who live between New York and Los Angeles.
Here is a transcript for the March 5 show:
7:49 AM ET
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Joining us now is now is GLAAD award winning journalist and Daily Beast senior reporter Samantha Allen. She's out with a new book entitled "Real Queer America, LGBT Stories from Red States." Allen traveled to quote “real America” to document what is actually happening in the places that almost half of the LGBT community calls home. As for what she found, she writes in part this, “If the dominant LGBT narrative of the 20th century was a gay boy from the country buying a one-way bus ticket to the Big Apple, the untold story of the 21st is the queer girl in Tennessee who stays put.” Welcome to the show, good to have you. Tell us what else you found in your travels?
SAMANTHA ALLEN: I just found amazing pockets of LGBT acceptance all over more conservative parts of the United States, whether it's in Provo Utah or Bloomington, Indiana, just amazing communities of support and inclusion.
BRZEZINSKI: And so, you talk about that support in places where you least expected it. What were you expecting to see?
ALLEN: You know, I have lived a lot of my life in Utah and Georgia and Florida, so I knew from firsthand experience that these places were often more welcoming to LGBT people than sometimes we might think that they are. But even then I was surprised by the amazing kind of acceptance that I found in Provo, Utah, for example. I spent a lot of time at a LGBT youth center that was right across the street from a Mormon temple and a lot of the LGBT youth came from Mormon families, their parents were figuring out how to support them while also, you know, observing a pretty conservative faith. It was just remarkable.
BRZEZINSKI: So what did you set out to do? Why did you decide to write this book and what surprised you the most in the process?
ALLEN: You know, I set out to write it shortly after the 2016 election. I saw, you know, a fair amount of commentary on social media of people being dismissive towards Red State America. You know I still encounter that flyover country attitude from friends who live on the coast. I wanted to kind of go out there and say, “No, this is what LGBT life is like in these places, it's not uniformly awful.” Yes there's lots combat at state legislative levels, lots of anti-LGBT bills being proposed, but these places themselves are often warm, welcoming places to live.
MIKE BARNICLE: So, Samantha, there's a school of thought and I don't know how large or popular the school of thought is, but it does exist that out there in the larger country beyond us, beyond the coastal elite neighborhoods, that to be young and gay, LGBT, living in the hollow in West Virginia or small village or Tennessee that the isolation of such an existence, that the loneliness of the isolation creates cultural issues of suicide, depression that envelope LGBT people out in the country. That's not true?
ALLEN: Oh, I mean I think that's very much true. I don't want to sugarcoat what's happening in these places. Utah, for example, still has one of the highest youth suicide rates in the country. So, I think there are very real issues to deal with, but I think part of what we're seeing is folks moving to more kind of affordable mid-size cities in the south and west rather than going all the way to New York or Los Angeles or San Francisco, which can be really, as we know, costly places to live. I think, you know, we still see folks needing to get out of more rural areas to an urban environment to find LGBT acceptance remember but they will go St. Louis or Norfolk, Virginia or Salt Lake City rather than feeling the need to get to the ocean.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE: Samantha, one thing that strikes me about the long March of gay rights in this country is how it was slow and all of a sudden extremely fast. All of a sudden gay marriage reached huge acceptance, was approved by the Supreme Court, and part of it, I think, was people learning that their neighbors were gay, having personal relationships with people who were queer, and I wonder if you think that as queer people are living in places that are not centers of liberalism as they spread to places like Dayton or stay in those places that they were from, if that's going to be the leading cultural edge of political change in some of these places and towns and states that are not historically as legally friendly to gay people?
ALLEN Yeah. That's exactly the phenomenon I was exploring in the book. I think the kind of engine that's driving the LGBT movement in this country is precisely that, people coming out to their friends, relatives, co-worker, that's happening more and more. Millennials as we know are out as LGBT at record rates. Millennials are also not, coincidentally, moving to cities in the south and west. So that's going to just be a radical makeover for the country, I think.
BARNICLE: So, Samantha, I think maybe the principle wish that any parent has for a child is that at minimum you want your child to be happy.
BARNICLE: So, a young child, LGBT child, a queer child is the route the road to happiness getting easier or is it getting the same, kind of difficult in rural communities?
ALLEN: You know, I think if you look at data on this, there's still a lot of blame in schools. There's more anti-LGBT going on in schools than we expect. Overall I think the road will get easier. I was moved when I went to Utah. I'm transgender myself. I'm an ex-Mormon. You know, I had a road to acceptance with my own family when I came out. When I went to Utah I met transgender kids, queer kids, who came out to their Mormon parents and their parents first reaction was, "I want to you be happy. I want to figure a way forward for you in this life. I don't want to stand in the way of that."
BARNICLE: That's encouraging.
BRZEZINSKI: The book is "Real queer America LGBT Stories from Red States." Samantha Allen, thanks so much. Great to have you on
Allen: Thank you so much