Every year, the Human Rights Campaign releases their Municipality Equality Index, which assesses each city on how inclusive their laws, policies, and services are to LGBTQ residents. The city is scored between 0-100, with 100 being ideal, and zero representing the most disparity between straight and queer residents.
This year, California cities scored 50-100. There’s not a correlation with city size, but the lowest scores are in rural areas such as Fresno, San Bernardino and Bakersfield.
Laura Diven, the LGBTQ Legal Director for California Rural Legal Aid, says that her group is seeing an increased need for protections for the transgender community, primarily transgender women and young people. She says that she recently took on the case of a transgender woman who was asked to leave a bar because of her status.
“I think the issue is animus toward the LGBTQ community. I think it's important to remember that people live in rural communities for a reason. There are these close personal relationships that most rural communities have, and it includes tight social, economic, religious work, communities,” Diven says. “Many people ask, ‘If it's so bad, why don't you leave?’ And the truth is people have deep ties to person and place. I don't think the solution is to leave rural communities, but rather to grow these communities and increase inclusion and solidarity.”