Erin B. Waggoner: Allied Farmville: Finding a welcoming community

It is April 2018. I am living in Connecticut, finishing my doctorate, working for UCONN and the NCAA, and interviewing for jobs after graduation. I had a job offer in Massachusetts, but something felt off. My gut was telling me something, but I didn’t know if it was just jitters at a new job or continuing to live that far away from my family in Kentucky.

That’s when I applied to a job at Longwood University. My other job offer provided more money and put me on the academic promotional track in a city, whereas the Longwood job would be less money, in a rural area, and not be on a promotional track. Yet, one conversation with a welcoming person changed my life. This one felt right. When I was offered the job, I accepted without hesitation. I was moving to Farmville.

Meanwhile, in April 2018 here in Farmville, Stephen Marion posted on Meetup, just weeks after I had accepted the Longwood job. He was looking to find and build an LGBTQ+ community after moving back to Farmville from Los Angeles; something he was missing growing up. It took us less than a year before we crossed paths. Stephen started Farmville Pride six years ago this April. I had turned down jobs and pulled my application from places when I had done research into their communities. When I found they were not welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.

What I was reading in the local news from these places told me I was not welcome there. That me, a lesbian woman, would have a hard time building a career and a family there. Maybe that’s what felt off about that other job. When I looked up Farmville, I did not see the same thing in the news. In fact, I saw nothing. And nothing was better than “you don’t belong here.” But that one interview conversation told my gut something: This is where you belong.

What I found when I arrived in Farmville was that my gut was right. I found a welcoming community, despite any reservations I had about returning to a Southern rural community. Yes, there is still hatred and homophobia and transphobia, and I have experienced and seen it. But what I see is more of an allied community than one would expect. A large reason for that is Farmville Pride.

The meetup group Stephen started is now a non-profit, working on education, outreach, and community for LGBTQ+ persons and their allies. We hold our Pride picnic every June, meet every third Saturday of the month at Three Roads Brewing, stay active on social media, host education and outreach events through the year, and even have fun with maker’s workshops. We have built a community, but there is always work to do to help LGBTQ+ like me know that Farmville is a good place to move and live.

There are ways to show your allyship and community! We are gathering recipes for a Farmville Pride Cookbook. We would love to know what you are cooking!

We have a new sponsorship program, where you can directly or anonymously help our organization continue to build community. You can sponsor Maker’s Workshops, our student internship program, our ever-expanding education and outreach, or our Pride events.

You can donate items to or sponsor Euphoria’s ApparELLE, our gender-affirming clothing swap program. You can apply for our Allied Virginia initiative, where we promote your business on our website and socials as an LGBTQ+ ally. We even have stickers you can proudly display at your business! We also always welcome volunteers outside of our executive board and would love to know what you want to see and do.

Let’s let that young LGBTQ+ professional in Connecticut know to trust their gut. That teenager know they have a community. Those parents and grandparents know they have resources to support their kids. Let’s truly be an Allied Farmville.

If you have recipes to share, would like to be a sponsor, or would like to be included in our allied businesses list, connect with us on our socials or email us. And join us in June for our Pride picnic and every month at Three Roads! We’d love to see you there.

Erin B. Waggoner is an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies and Co-Director of the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies minor at Longwood University. She also serves as the Interim Chair and Communications Chair for Longwood University. She can be reached at farmvillepride@farmvillepride.com.

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