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Health in Rural Communities: Variation in Resource Utilization by Sexual Orientation and Gender

Brandi Woodell, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


This study examines health-related resource access and utilization among sexual minority and heterosexual individuals residing within rural areas of three Midwestern Great Plains states. Using in-depth interviews with 42 adults between 25 and 60 years of age, I examine how sexual minorities and heterosexuals differ in their access to and utilization of formal healthcare resources (i.e., clinics and hospitals) as well as how levels and sources of social support vary by sexual identity and gender. Findings reveal how the rural context may be shaping sexual minority experiences with 1) accessing healthcare due to a lack of gay-friendly providers; 2) utilizing healthcare due to stigmatization within healthcare settings and culturally incompetent medical providers; and 3) social support with family support and local community integration serving as key resources for rural sexual minorities. This study highlights the role of stigma in the help-seeking behaviors of sexual minorities by illustrating the importance of gay-friendly providers and culturally competent care. In addition, this study provides insight into the social networks of rural sexual minorities and offers an alternative to the common cultural narrative of isolation within these communities. I conclude by offering implications for each of these findings and highlighting how this study provides a nuanced understanding of the role of stigma and geographic context on the health of sexual minorities.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Woodell, Brandi, "Health in Rural Communities: Variation in Resource Utilization by Sexual Orientation and Gender" (2018). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10837805.