Each June, the celebration of LGBTQ Pride month arrives in Boise in the form of Pridefest, a festival that draws thousands of people from across the state.
That’s because in many rural towns in Idaho, there are no Pride celebrations.
In a state where it’s still legal to deny someone employment or housing based on their gender identity or sexual orientation, many LGBTQ individuals don’t feel comfortable talking about or even acknowledging those identities — let alone celebrating them.
That’s clear in two recent podcast episodes from Boise State Public Radio. They’re pieces of an ongoing series called Some of the Parts, which focuses on stories of various minority groups in Idaho.
In the series’s inaugural episode, a Mormon woman recounts the 20-plus years she spent in Idaho trying to suppress her feelings of same-sex attraction.
“I remember the moment of just realizing, ‘Holy cow.’ It was really like an, ‘Oh no’ kind of a moment. Like just a sense of horror and despair and this can’t be real,” she told BSPR.
Last month, the podcast brought the issue back to Boise. A homeless, lesbian Boise woman told radio reporters that a local homeless shelter wouldn’t let her and her same-sex partner sleep in the same bed (or even near one another). They opted instead to sleep outside.
This isn’t a uniquely Idaho issue. In a similar vein, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, Miss. — owned by McClatchy, like the Statesman — will launch a podcast next week exploring gay communities in rural areas of the Deep South.
For many LGBTQ people living in Idaho, the experiences of those in the South will seem familiar. And for straight and cisgender Idahoans, it’s a chance to glimpse the struggle they may not have known their neighbors were living through.