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Ranchers help members of LGBTQ community find acceptance in rural America

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Posted at 3:37 PM, Feb 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-24 19:08:59-05

JUNIATA, Neb. — Dreams look and sound different to everyone.

To Levi Gorsuch and Danny Leonard, life on their ranch is their dream progressing in real time.

"They joke if you can work cows together, you can survive anything," said Leonard.

While Gorsuch was born into ranching, his husband, a doctor from San Diego, serendipitously stumbled into it after they met

They own B Bar L Hereford Cattle, where they raise bulls to sell for breeding. It’s not an easy life in the least, yet it’s something they love to work for.

"We start when the sun's down and we go till the sun goes back down," said Gorsuch.

Gorsuch and Leonard weren't sure how they would be accepted in rural America, but they have been greeted with open arms in Juniata, Nebraska.

Aside from raising cattle, Leonard works as a pediatrician and Gorsuch coaches high school volleyball.

They say their neighbors have embraced them as dedicated community members and hard workers.

"I think a huge misconception among the LGBTQ+ community is that you have to harbor and grow and experience in an isolated way only in cities," said Leonard. "It wasn't until I met my six-foot-four cowboy moving out here that I leaned that, not only is it the two of us, there is actually a huge network of LGBTQ+ people in agriculture, in ranching, in livestock management."

The couple documents their life on social media, which has allowed them to mak connections with others with similar backgrounds.

There’s greater LGBTQ+ representation in rural communities than one may think. A 2019 study by thinktank Movement Advancement Projects estimates 2.8 million to 3.9 million members of the LGBTQ community live in rural areas. That’s 3% to 5% of all rural Americans.

Even with the representation already there, Leonard and Gorsuch say keeping an open mind about rural Americans and upholding their responsibilities to their neighbors, has made life work for them.

"Every single day, every single exposure, every single conversation educates you. And, if you are willing to listen with the same regard that you were hoping to be heard by this community as you found yourself, I think you'll, I think you'll make it work," said Gorsuch.

"I just encourage young people or any people of any age who want to make the move to just do it," said Leonard. "The rest falls into place."