When imagined in relation to other regions in the United States, the Midwest is often positioned as the “norm,” the uncontested site of middle-class white American heteronormativity. This characterization of the Midwest has often prevailed in scholarship on sexual identity, practice, and culture, but a growing body of recent queer work on rural sexualities, transnational migration, regional identities, and working-class culture suggests the need to understand the Midwest otherwise. This special issue offers an opportunity to think with, through, and against the idea of region. Rather than reinforce the idea of the Midwest as a core that essentializes and naturalizes American cultural and ideological formations, these essays instead open up possibilities for dispelling and unraveling the idea of the heartland. Our introduction discusses the theoretical and critical motivations for understanding the middle as a queer vantage, along with an overview of the six articles that make up this special issue, which collectively reimagine routes and paths, contours and shapes, directions and teloses of queer lives, practices, and institutions.

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