I think the best way to describe Kosciusko County is "isolating and cultlike", in that everyone conforms to a certain way of thinking, and anyone who doesn't is sort of cast out of society and isolated. It's very lonely. There's only one kind of person who is allowed to exist.
When I moved here, I was fed up with organized religion, even though I was very much religious. I still very much believed in god and thought that the ultimate goal of my life was to bring glory to god, but I saw that the church wasn't providing any useful function. In fact, I thought that the church was standing in the way of my relationship with god. Now I realize it was standing between me and my own humanity. Moving here gave me a lot of time to be alone, because there was no one else to be with; for years I had no friends, very little human interaction for years. It forced me to figure things out on my own. No one here has ever enabled me to do anything.
Unfortunately it is very dangerous to engage in clandestine sexual encounters, because even the queer people here have been forced to internalize these fucked up ideas about themselves. They're forced into hiding and they're forced into these clandestine encounters. That's isolating, and isolation produces a dangerous 1-on-1 that is prone to becoming abusive. It's not healthy to hide integral parts of yourself. For a very short time I took part in those kinds of encounters, and I realized how dangerous it was and stopped.
I'm very private and very political. I mean, I'm forced into privacy by nature of having my own thoughts and not conforming to whatever I'm told to believe. I don't try to have a political influence around here; there's really no point. It's not even a matter of hiding. It's more a matter of there's nowhere to go, unless you agree that we should line up the Muslims and gays and shoot them. There's no place for me here. Every time I leave the house, every time I interact with someone in this city. You just walk around and you hear people talking about how you should line up all the Muslims and shoot them, kill all the black protesters.
I go out being visibly trans and I get followed through the grocery store - it's every single time I go out. I was fired from my job and denied benefits that I had earned, and I'll never see those benefits. They lied about the reason they fired me. They get away with it because I'm completely isolated and have no recourse. Living here is a constant stream of bigotry and discrimination.
I can't imagine Kosciusko County has changed much over the years. I don't know how it could have changed, because it's set up in such a way that it can't ever change, or at least I can't see how it could ever change. It's depressing as fuck. This whole experience has been very sad.
Being trans and being queer is just being who I am. It's the way I experience the world. I love who I am. I'll never try to be someone else to win the favor of others, because I only have this one way to experience the world. Trying to be anything else has always been impossible; it's always run me into a dead end.
25. Nonbinary trans woman. White. Disabled. Moved here in 2009.