Politics of Location 2: The Bloomington Bubble

I am sure that almost every person who looks into to Bloomington community is aware that the Advocate declared that Bloomington, Indiana is the fourth gayest city in the United States in February of 2010. Mike Albo, the author of the report, is an amateur sociologist that used finely tuned, unscientific calculations based on a variety of factors in order to identify the 15 gayest cities in the States. He cites the “forward-thinking college town” known for Miss Gay IU and the Kinsey Institute as major components that inspired the town to be “heteroflexible.” With these as well as the many activist organizations, the GLBT center, and the growing Gender Studies Department at the University, it seems evident that the community is one of the most accepting cities in the country.

After reading through the many, sometimes ludicrous, reader comments, I came across the opinion of a Martinsville resident. He aims to highlight what he calls the “Bloomington Bubble.” Within the bubble, incorporating approximately a ten to fifteen-block radius, you can find a relatively liberal, understanding group of people that inhabit this area; however, once you step outside of the campus limits, you step into an entirely different community. The Bloomington community is much like any other larger city – you will find open minded people along side very narrow minded people.

The Midwest, especially Indiana, is typically a very conservative population with few state-recognized human rights ordinances that include sexual orientation or gender variance. According to Indiana Equality, only seven cities in the state openly acknowledge this form of discrimination, and interestingly many of these cities have a university within their limits.

Driving in almost any direction away from the campus, you can feel a physical difference in attitudes. In the small, rural, 87% white, normative communities outside of the campus you will not find large organizations promoting LGBT rights in their communities, and you will not find many signs or flags suspended by individuals. There are not gay-pride parades or transgender remembrance vigils. Although I cannot personally verify that there are obvious homo/trans-phobic activities in these communities, there is substantial evidence from friends and other stories that stress the conservative nature of these communities, and their stories are supported by the migration of gay/trans individuals to larger, liberal cities.

In the midst of the red counties around the states, the campus of IU Bloomington maintains an unexpected liberal attitude towards the LGBT community. With the help of the GLBT Office, transgender students of Indiana University have many resources to assist them in on-campus housing, changing their names on official documents for the university, and reporting any abuses or biases that they encounter. They have not established a generic formula for applying these resources, because they choose to address each case on an individual basis in order to incorporate the needs and desires of the student.

The policies of the University are more progressive than many state or national procedures, but I don’t think that there is any person at the University that would claim there are no incidents of discrimination or prejudice on our campus. Seated between conservative rural communities, Bloomington seems to be one of the forerunners in protection for the safety and liberty of the gender variant community; however, we must continue to push forward and educate the communities around us.






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