CHENEY, Kan. With millions of subscribers and views on YouTube, Tyler Oakley has taken the world wide web by storm.
The LGBTQ activist spent Thursday evening just outside Cheney, speaking to a group of kids who had a few difficulties starting their own club.
Dozens crowded in a shed outside Cheney to hear from Oakley. His goal for the small community in western Sedgwick County is to start a dialogue about LGBTQ inclusiveness in rural communities.
"I think the smaller community is, the less opportunity for you to connect with others," Oakley says.
It's an issue Aaron Mounts knows all about.
Three years ago, Mounts tried to start a group for LGBTQ students at Cheney High School to have a safe place to meet and discuss issues important to them.
"I myself am LGBTQ and I did not have the best experiences through middle school and the first part of my high school career," Mounts says. "And I realized, there are other people exactly like me who need these safe places, so I wanted to make sure that they felt accepted and they felt safe at school."
Due to existing policy that doesn't allow non-curricular groups to meet at Cheney High School, the group wasn't allowed to meet there. Mounts' effort didn't go unnoticed, however.
It caught the attention of Oakley, who decided to feature Mounts in an upcoming documentary.
"So many LGBTQ students in rural America exist, but are looked over," says Liz Hamor with GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), a group that promotes LGBTQ inclusiveness in schools and set up Oakley's visit to Cheney.
She and Mounts hope Oakley's presence in Cheney can bring more awareness to the issue LGBTQ students in rural communities face.
"I hope people take away just a learning experience. I hope that people kind of learn what's going on in their town, they learn what it's like to be LGBTQ, they learn what it's like to be an LGBT student," Hamor says.
GLSEN says four years ago, it had six groups in the Wichita area for LGBQ students. Now, it has 36 active groups in the area.