Texas Panhandle Schools as Sites of Opportunity and Exclusion for LGBTQ+ Youth




Peeples, Shanna
Kraus, Nicole Butkovich

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Recent work has drawn attention to the relative gap in the study of LGBTQ life in the South and Midwest as well as "ordinary cities" and rural areas (Stone 2018, Robinson 2006). This study seeks to contribute to closing that gap while exploring the critical role of schools and the experience of secondary education for rural LGBTQ youth. As a social institution, schools play a critical role in the socialization of young people into future citizens, whether inside or outside the classroom. Increasingly, schools have become responsible for more and more of the work previously done by families, religious and social organizations, and the state. Relying on in-depth interviews with 20 individuals who graduated from small, rural high schools between 1987-2022, this study explores the educational experiences of LGBTQ+ students in the Texas panhandle, a notably religious and politically conservative part of the state despite the oft-ignored diversity of the region. Preliminary results expose a few significant themes for positive experiences including the importance of specific ally educators and using other high-status identities like academic achievement or athletics to mask sexuality. Respondents largely employ avoidance strategies and detailed awareness of safe/dangerous groups within their respective schools, and few report openly identifying as gay while in high school. Male respondents in particular noted the ways in which male gender expression was officially and unofficially policed. We conclude the article with suggestions for how rural schools might continue to acknowledge and incorporate diversities of all kinds into their educational repertoires.


The data collection methodology was semi-structured interviews.


2024 Faculty and Student Research Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, College of Education and Social Sciences, Poster, LGBTQ, Rural, Texas Panhandle