Going out as trans in the rural West – High Country News – Knowing the West

Paonia, Colorado, is an idyllic American-style enclave with approximately 1,500 residents nestled in the West Elk Mountains of Delta County. It’s a great place to watch the poplars change. But changing your gender presentation in such a rural place? This is an other story.

However, research by the Movement Advancement Project shows that 3% to 5% of rural Americans are LGBTQ +, which is consistent with estimates for the American population as a whole, and that urban and rural youth are also likely to identify as LGBTQ +. Still, going out in a small town can be isolating and scary.

“Being trans in Delta County,” said Apollo Rodriquez, a 16-year-old photographer and activist in Paonia, “I wouldn’t recommend it.” One way he navigated this transition was a high school photography workshop.

Her photo project is designed to evoke the discomfort of dysphoria and the gradual shift to self-acceptance, Rodriquez said. But personal acceptance does not always reflect societal tolerance. In Paonia, children were attacked at bonfires and rodeos for being gay, and Rodriquez himself was accosted by self-proclaimed Christians who hugged him to pray for him, without his son. consent. But “even though it’s very difficult and I go through a lot of complicated things,” said Rodriquez, “it’s still worth being my authentic self.” – Brian Oaster (they / them) is a writing intern at High Country News.

Hello, my name is Apollo.

II have always been Apollo. It just took a while to be able to tell.

It took me a while to tell myself. And to all the others.

I find spaces where I can be myself. And savor
those quiet moments between two of comfort.

Before everything is still too much.

And meI’m exhausted again from how overwhelming
to be fully oneself really is.

But I start to climb that hill again and do what makes me happy.
Because I can
Don’t stay in those exhausting feelings of dysphoria all the time.

I cut my hair. I shaved it in my friends’ backyard.

Androgyny makes me very happy.

I thought it was the right time for a fresh start.

And thatit’s going decently.

I’m still looking for my most authentic life
and now that’s how iI’m moving forward with this.

Anyway, heIt’s so nice to meet you.

Im Apollo.

When I started the photography project I kinda thought it was going to be really moody, edgy, and I didn’t really have any direction. I started it at the beginning of June and I had just come out, and it was not going well. It was pretty hard. The acceptance that I thought I would get, I didn’t get. It was a very strange and messy time. But at the end of the project, I was doing well, much better. And I was much happier. People had come and were more tolerant, and I was in a better environment.

“I think it’s cool to see this change in my project. I’ve sequenced it from start to finish, and I think you can sort of see it. I shaved my head in the middle of the month, and it was a big turning point. I think you can see how the project developed from this big crazy, messy cloud and not only negative energy, but energy, to have a little more clarity. Being able to take a picture of myself and not just ignore my identity that month was really good for me. Because I think without this and this workshop I might have been like, It’s too much. And it would have been months.

“It’s still a longer process, but being able, every week, to reflect on myself and every day, to analyze these portraits that I took, it brought me to a clearer place.

Apollo Rodriquez is a photographer and activist from Paonia, Colorado. Follow him on Instagram.

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