Claremont is a small city in Sullivan County where community spirit runs deep.
Its downtown oval is fronted by grand brick structures, including an opera house. Its well-preserved mills are home to many new businesses. The Sugar River runs right through town, Mount Ascutney stands in the distance. This corner of New Hampshire is a nice place to call home.
Claremont is also home to Rural Outright, a program of the TLC Family Resource Center. Rural Outright holds events year-round, including Rural Pride in June, and provides resources and support to LGBTQ people and families.
Rural Outright is not just about events and support — it is about belonging.
Aaron Almanza is a young professional who is refurbishing an historic home in Claremont’s downtown. After college, he interned at the Saint Gaudens National Historic Park in nearby Cornish. He moved back to his native California, where he ran the nation’s oldest LGBTQ helpline from San Francisco. But New England always felt like home. With a pandemic-era transition to fully remote work, he saw his chance to come back east for good. The presence of Rural Outright helped encourage him to make the move.
Organizations like Rural Outright and events like Rural Pride are critically important, Aaron said, to helping people find belonging and joy where they live. “Having Rural Pride in a small town — that is where it is needed. It is needed in small-town America.”
“Everybody comes to San Francisco with this idea that it’s the safe place,” he said. “But it is the most expensive place in country to live. So you get a homeless gay kid coming to San Francisco and having to live in the streets. You should be able to have that community and have that safety where you’re from. You should be able to choose to live in your hometown and feel safe there.”
Bryanna MacConnell, who runs Rural Outright’s programing, has roots in Sullivan County that stretch many generations deep. She still lives in her hometown. Things were not always easy for her growing up, and things are not always easy now. But each June, when the Pride flag is raised, a symbol of belonging waves over this old mill town.