"Here's What People Don't Get About Us...": Non-Republicans Are Getting Very Candid About What It's Like To Live In A Red State

Recently, I asked Americans in the BuzzFeed Community who live in conservative states but don't agree with conservative politics to share things about their lives that people in liberal areas might not know or understand. In response, people shared their challenges and their fears, and some also shared their hopes for a better future. Here's what people had to say:

1."We’re raising a trans child in a state that recently passed legislation barring gender-affirming health care for minors. When our kid progressed from blockers to hormones, the prescription was denied by the national pharmacy chain. We had to get extra documentation from multiple doctors, petition the corporate office for the pharmacy, and jump through a million hoops to prove our child was 'grandfathered' and could receive the necessary medical care recommended by their pediatrician and endocrinologist."

A mom placing a comforting hand on her teenage son's shoulder

"We live in fear every day that they will reject the treatment plans again, and we will have to consider moving away from the only home our family has ever known. And where could we move that is safe?"

—Jennifer, North Carolina

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2."I do policy work in Kansas and Missouri, and it's actually refreshing to be a progressive in a red state. There's a certain amount of strategic action and practicality that you can take to build coalitions that focus on policy, not politics. For example, we killed a bill that would've made it harder to adopt citizen-led ballot initiatives by playing conservatives off one another in the Missouri Senate. Guess what? That means it'll be easier for us to adopt initiatives that'll be on the ballot this year: overturning the abortion ban, increasing the minimum wage, and ensuring at least one week of guaranteed paid family and medical leave."

"Honestly, I feel like more blue-state folks would benefit from a stint out in the red states. It's a good reminder of why we fight for the things we do. People are driven more by how you can help them rather than who can be hurt. Hope ALWAYS sells well. Fear is just a temporary sugar rush. Come join us as we build power out here!"

—Nate, Missouri

3."I hate it so much. I recently moved from Atlanta to Florida for employment purposes, and I regret it at least once a month. I went from being very politically involved (even considered running for local politics) to forgetting to vote for the first time in my adult life. It sucks knowing that no matter what you do, those around you are going to vote in ways that oppress you and your family."

"To make matters worse, I'm a minority in a very white area. My son never encountered racism until we moved here, and he's probably going to have to go back to therapy to survive this state. I'm hesitant to make friends with white people here because I always wonder what they 'really' think about me as a Black woman."

—Carmen, Florida

4."I'm a queer disabled cis woman who lives in Missouri, where the state government has been almost 100% right-wing for 20 years. I'm terrified for SO many things right now. One is the well-being of myself and many of my loved ones because of all of the super oppressive policies that have been pushed in our state legislature in the last several years."

A person holds a pack of birth control pills in both hands

5."I am a gay Mexican man who was born and raised in Southern California. I moved to Great Bend, Kansas, two weeks before my 26th birthday. I am now 39, living in Wichita, Kansas. White men have no problem calling me all the racial and homophobic slurs out loud to my face. I’ve been told to 'go back to my country' when I don’t speak Spanish and have never left the country, even for a vacation. I am fourth generation Mexican."

"When I first moved from California to the small town (Great Bend), it was really rough. So many stares and comments to me. I moved from there two years later to Wichita. Wichita is much better. But it still has work to do."


6."I live in Kentucky. Here’s the thing people don’t get about us: one-quarter of the state's population lives in just two cities: Louisville and Lexington. Both cities are heavily blue-leaning. The problem is that our state legislature has a Republican supermajority and keeps gerrymandering our districts so that the only blue district is the one that Louisville is in. Our only saving grace is that our governor is a very even-handed Democrat."

"This is why I get angry when people say, 'The South should just secede' or some variation of just cutting off red states. There are WAY more people in the red states that aren’t rightoid bible thumpers than people give us credit for. We’re more or less trapped here under the thumb of Republicans who wrote themselves into power, and tossing us under the bus puts a huge number of vulnerable populations into imminent danger (more than we already are) because many can’t afford to 'just move.'

The very idea that picking up and moving on a whim to a state with a much higher cost of living is a feasible option is incredibly privileged, especially when you look at the disparity of average income."


7."QAnon is alive and well around here. They are very vocal about it both in person and online. It’s very common for people to come straight from church and then say the most homophobic, transphobic, or racist thing you’ve ever heard. People here wholeheartedly believe that Trump won the 2020 presidency and believe that everything on CNN is 'liberal propaganda.'"

A hand holds a phone displaying a Truth Social post with an image of Donald J. Trump with the message "The Storm Is Coming." Trump is also shown on a computer screen in the background

"The lack of proper education surrounding abortion access or plan B is alarming. The scariest part is the most aggressive people who want Christian nationalism are the women. It’s tough out here if you dare to go against their traditional Christian values."

—Nox, Arkansas

Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images

8."I moved to Richmond, Virginia, from Delaware six years ago. I live in a VERY red county, literally one of the leaders of book banning and anti-LGBTQIA legislation nationwide. I was very depressed during 2020 and begged my husband for us to move back to Delaware. But since mortgage rates are through the roof and we are stuck here, I found groups of like-minded people in my town."

"I helped start a social justice group for literary access and got involved in more political movements. It is still VERY hard to live here as a woman of color, but knowing there are more and more people who don't like the things that are happening here either helps immensely."


9."I am an Independent living in my home state of Florida. My family sailed here from Spain to St. Augustine in the 1700's. It was a beautiful and carefree upbringing. I was raised to respect different opinions and political views. We had Walter Cronkite, who gave the straightforward news of the day without opinion pieces. Now, in my historical and colorful home state, there is selective hatred from many of my fellow Floridians, hatred directed at anyone with a different opinion or worldview other than their own."

"I love my state. There are many transplants here, and that is a bonus for Florida. I wish for everyone to enjoy living here but it's difficult. Folks are wearing their politics on their sleeves and broadcasting hateful, unkind rhetoric.We have serious issues here: rising seas, Category 5 hurricanes, overdevelopment, homelessness, and a stressed fresh water supply.

Listen to one another and respect other viewpoints, please. Let's focus on our present problems together."

—Dee, Florida

10."I've lived in Iowa my whole life, 35+ years. We were once a truly purple, almost progressive state, leading the country as one of the first to legalize gay marriage in 2010, topping the education charts, and holding the first presidential caucuses each election cycle. Remember when Pete Buttigieg won the Iowa caucuses?! Things have taken a turn in the last 10 years or so."

The image shows the Iowa State Capitol building with its grand architecture and dome, set against a clear sky. A statue stands prominently at the front

11."My family is a very old family of southern Democrats. My Grandfather was a state senator. My family remained Democrats (because it was the right thing to do) when many southern Democrats abandoned the party over Desegregation. We are proud Southerners, and we are fire-breathing Democrats. We live in western North Carolina (Asheville). Asheville dominates the western part of the state and is a breathtakingly beautiful, progressive blue bubble in a red state. There are literally millions upon millions of Democrats and progressives living in North Carolina and in the South, in general. I think most of us see ourselves as putting (and keeping) our money where our mouths are, so to speak."

"We stay, and we fight, and we vote here because our votes truly matter MORE here than they would if we moved to the West Coast or the Northeast. And, well.... armchair Democrats are a dime a dozen in those places.

As I see it, if Democrats really want to make a change, then they have to move from their comfort zones and get out into the red states to live. Then vote, to make sure that those states turn blue. Be sure to invite your friends and families, too. Three red states that could be flipped fairly easily come to mind: North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. But only if Democrats make it their mission to move and are prepared to fight for progressive values via the ballot box.

Yeah, it can be scary. But it can also be exhilarating. AND it's the right thing to do. Fight like hell and fight for every single state. Come make our blue bubble larger, safer, and stronger. We NEED you guys! There are an awful lot of dark words coming out of MAGA's mouths these days. It's time to stand up and be counted."

—Stephen, North Carolina

12."It can feel really unsafe to be a non-Republican in the area of Arizona where I live. Many of my neighbors fly Trump flags and believe the election was stolen. I'm the president of the PTA at my kid's school and am shocked that fellow parents don't think their kids should learn about the Civil War, particularly that slavery happened. At all. They want it erased."

"I was on campus, and another parent called me a 'liberal c***' because I was wearing my Eras Tour shirt. It's worrisome because these community members fit the bill of the gun-loving, racist, uneducated far-right Republican trope. They openly carry weapons everywhere and have bumper stickers threatening harm against Joe Biden or Liberals, etc.

Even more concerning is the fear that our public schools are indoctrinating our children with liberal ideals. I have seen quite the opposite; many parents in the Phoenix Metro area homeschool so that their children are not exposed to facts that they find uncomfortable. Additionally, my cousin has taught his 3-year-old daughter to tell her Grandpa she's mad at him because he voted for Biden. As a public school parent, I have not seen any indoctrination of any sort, although when my child was at a public charter school, he was forced to pray before every meal and snack. It's just so hypocritical and absurdly stubborn."

—Emily, Arizona

13."I lived in a college town in Alabama for seven years while I was in graduate school, including during the 2016 election and its aftermath. Although I was in a deeply red state, being both at a university and in an academic discipline that tends to be pretty liberal, I felt surrounded by Democrats/progressives. With the exception of the students I taught, I rarely encountered people with whom I disagreed politically (in the classroom, I tried to keep my politics to myself, however). I felt just as blindsided by the results of the 2016 election as people in historically blue states, even though I knew Alabama would go to Trump."

A group of people sitting on a grassy lawn in front of a large school building, engaged in conversation and appearing relaxed and happy

14."I live in Arkansas. It’s almost as if you are the only one living in reality, and everyone else is plugged into the Matrix. Republicans(friends and family) treat Trump as if he is the second coming of Jesus, which is blasphemous, but they cannot see the blasphemy because this is being taught in the churches as well."

"I’ve seen the good, honest, and decent people I grew up around turn into conspiracy theory nutters who discuss the latest Q predictions at the local cafe when once only the weather or local gossip was talked about.

Joe Biden is talked about like he is the Antichrist, and once-sweet little old grandmas are spewing hate rhetoric about LGBTQ+ individuals that they hear from their local pulpit.

I hear authoritarianism and fascism being embraced in a community that once revered their military parents and grandparents who fought against the same evil back in World War II. It makes me sad to see how these people have forgotten their values and sacrifices."


15."I’ve had no issues at all since moving to central Arkansas a few years ago. Honestly, I think people like to create chaos in their own head for sympathy. My neighbors and coworkers are wonderful. Crime is low in my area. The cost of living is amazing. My community actively supports and replenishes food banks, diaper depots, and social aid. I have bought a gun and furniture at the same store."

"Seriously, we should work towards stopping this unnecessary divide because questions like this only fan the flame and feed the stereotype."

—Amy, Arkansas

16."There's a difficult nuance in being a liberal in a conservative state and still wanting to remain close to my family, both geographically and relationally. It would probably be easier if I were the kind of person who could just cut off my family because we believe different things, especially since we are likely more similar than we both realize. It's very awkward and disheartening to be at a gathering with my parents and their friend group and hear some of the uninformed, sometimes even hateful, things they say about communities that are different from theirs. I love my parents, and they are genuinely good people, but it's been challenging to my mental health to feel a responsibility to have conversations with them about my beliefs that almost always just end in yelling and fighting."

Young woman arguing with her older mother

17."Idaho resident here. I am in high school and have decided that I am not even going to consider dating. As a young woman, the place that could go is just too dangerous. I have had an older friend leave the state after a horrible experience with the abortion laws here. Honestly, I am planning to follow her. For me, it’s off to the East Coast as soon as I can get out of here."

"I am so done with being a second-class citizen. I have not even considered staying here for college. And I have two trans friends who feel the same. None of us plan to stay here a minute longer than we have to."


18."I live in Utah and am consistently shocked that people around me still think the way they do. Our neighbor casually dropped the 'n-word' several times while talking to my husband. I bought a pride flag for our window, and we decided not to put it up for fear that our children would have to deal with the consequences. We sometimes have to tell our children’s friends and even grown adults that blatant racism won’t be tolerated in our home."

"There are too many examples to list, but it really is jarring and sad that so much prejudice still exists in 2024, and no one seems ready to admit it."


19."I am a blue dot in the red state of Tennessee, and I am disgusted by our state GOP which has taken every opportunity to change laws to their benefit and go directly against the people’s protest and voices by making it easier to obtain guns, refusing to expand healthcare with Medicaid, and refusing to raise the minimum wage."

Three handguns and several bullets are displayed on a glass counter in a gun shop. A person stands behind the counter with hands resting on it

20."We moved to North Carolina over 10 years ago from Portland, Oregon. Charlotte has always been progressive, but we live in a conservative county a little ways outside of Charlotte. At first, I was nervous, being a female POC. But despite our political differences, every single person we've met here has been extremely kind and helpful. When I was battling cancer, our conservative neighbors politely demanded to take care of our lawn for us over our objections."

"No neighbor in our old Portland neighborhood would have stepped up like that and helped out virtual strangers. Overall, it's been a great experience living here. Regardless of political affiliation, there are genuinely kind people everywhere, and I truly hope we can see past the politics to each other's humanity."

—Jamie, North Carolina

21."In Idaho, I don't feel 'free' at all. I'm scared to express any contempt for legislative practices and restrictions on reproductive healthcare for fear of retaliation. Conservatives in Idaho are quick to pull a gun, claiming to be the 'good guy with a gun' in literally any instance. There's now a bar that celebrates Straight Pride."

"It's so embarrassing. I'll never place an American flag at my house because of the correlation between the flag and MAGA. Pretty sad."

—Amanda, Idaho

22."Let’s be real: it fucking sucks. It feels as if voting is worthless because your vote will barely make a dent in the conservative block. You feel powerless as those in power continue to take away basic rights and cheat to stay in power. What also really sucks is the reactions from progressives who live in blue states. Anytime there’s any sort of natural disaster or crisis, you’ll see them saying stuff like, 'Oh well, they deserve it because they’re all just conservative rednecks.'"

A white car is partially submerged in floodwaters on a street, with people visible in the background navigating the flooded area. Urban setting

23."I live in Texas, and no one talks about how alone you feel. I have made several friends who have the same beliefs as me, but at the same time, hearing all of the nasty things that I so strongly disagree with out of everyone’s mouth really starts to take a toll on you after a while. You begin to believe that you are the only one who doesn’t think like that, and it truly starts to take a toll on your mental health."

"As a woman, the policy part of it is just horrible as well, and I wish I could move me and my family out of the country, but it’s just not possible at this time. Texas needs to do better."


24."Another fellow Texan. The feeling of almost hiding what I believe to ensure my physical safety is something I never imagined I'd do. After Robb Elementary, I remember walking outside, trying to just breathe and calm down, and watching a MAGA fan drive past my house with a fully adorned Trump mobile, complete with flags. Don't they see the absolute destruction going on because of their policies?"

"As for our governor, his callousness towards the immigrant community AND the victims of gun violence is shocking."


25.And finally, "In a lot of ways, it really sucks, but also it’s an important lesson in learning empathy and understanding in a lot of different ways. I grew up upper-middle class in the South and spent a lot of my younger years around people who tended to be pretty conservative. But being Christian, I have a pretty big issue with thinking you can treat someone poorly just because they’re non-Christian, LGBTQIA+, living with a mental illness, neurodivergent, or non-white. So I always leaned more liberal, even if I don’t much care about financial stuff outside of the social policy implications."

Two women having a conversation at a table, one facing the camera, holding a glass, the other with her back to the camera

Can you relate? Share your experience with living in a red state in the comments below.