By Mary Kirchdorfer
I come from a supportive family in Minneapolis, Minnesota, an extremely liberal city with a thriving LGBTQIA+ community. Moving to Salzburg as a USTA was a pretty big adjustment in many cultural ways, especially because it’s a much more conservative city in terms of queer representation, resources, and gender roles. While my experience as a bisexual woman in both cities has been positive, there are some striking differences.
I attended Augsburg University for my undergraduate degree and the University of Minnesota for my master’s degree. Both of these schools had a queer straight alliance/women-trans-femme-type group where I was able to meet the majority of my friends. Minneapolis often has queer dance nights in clubs and bars, and 90 percent of my close friends are queer. When I moved to Salzburg, I realized how much I took this for granted.
Without a university, it was hard to find group settings not only for dating but just for making other queer friends. Minneapolis also has far more gay/lesbian bars. While Salzburg does have a few gay bars, there are no bars for women to meet women. This isn’t surprising since Salzburg is a much smaller and more traditional city. For the first time in my life, I used apps like Tinder and HER, and this is where I was able to finally meet queer friends/partners. In general, my group involvement with the queer community in Salzburg has been minimal, but I have met a few wonderful people with the help of those apps.
I was so excited to move to Salzburg and I do love it here, but as with any new space, I was nervous to have to come out all over again. In many ways, I was right to be nervous. For the first time in my life, I met homophobic students. In one of my schools, I taught a few lessons on gay rights and homeless gay youth, and I had students tell me they do not support gay rights. This was difficult (obviously), but I am always perceived as a straight woman, so it was not obvious to the students. In the same class, I had students defending LGBT rights, and it led to a more lively discussion in English, which, in the end, is the main goal. While I am not as open about being queer at work in Salzburg, I still feel safe working here and supported by my colleagues.
While in Minneapolis I had a sense of comfort being out at my workplace and an easier time finding the queer community, the people (queer or not) that I have met here in Salzburg have been incredibly welcoming and kind. I am starting to feel like Salzburg is a second home, especially with my best friend Paula. Moving to Salzburg has taught me how to rebuild my circle from scratch and find the support I need in a new country. It has also taught me a lot about being independent in my own queer identity, and I am forever grateful. It is also the most beautiful place I have had the privilege of experiencing!