In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • "Well, We're Fabulous and We're Appalachians, So We're Fabulachians"Country Queers in Central Appalachia
  • Rachel Garringer (bio)

Click for larger view
View full resolution

In July 2013 I founded an oral history project called Country Queers out of intense frustration at the lack of rural queer visibility. The project aims to document the experiences of rural and small town LGBTQIA folks throughout the United States in all their complexity. Southeastern West Virginia, where the author grew up and founded Country Queers. All photos courtesy of the author.

[End Page 79]

Five years ago I moved home to the farm where I was raised in southeastern West Virginia. For a decade I had bought into the dominant narrative in lgbtqia spaces that because I am queer I could never live back home. I was told—in not so many words—that I could not have my queerness and my mountains, too, that I would not be safe there, that I would not be able to survive, much less thrive. This is a common experience for those of us who have left the small towns and rural areas where we grew up.1

Mainstream lgbtqia media and movements have long assumed a shared desire to escape from the country to more liberal "gay meccas" in urban and metropolitan areas. This assumption has been buoyed by stories of violent homophobic murders, such as those of Brandon Teena and Matthew Shepard—which, until very recently, have served as some of the only accessible evidence of rural queer existence. But for some of us this highly celebrated narrative of queer "success"—one in which you leave the farm and never look back, one in which you enter a fabulous landscape of glitter and queer dance parties—isn't all that appealing. For many of us raised in the country, following this normative queer migration narrative rips us from the landscapes, communities, and traditions that are as much a part of ourselves as our queerness.2

Young people in the mountains are often encouraged to leave or escape, whether they are queer or not. Educational opportunities, jobs, clean water, and possibilities all beckon from flatter lands outside the jagged borders of our states. But young queer folks from the region often face additional pressure to go. Not only did I find deep contentment once I finally moved home to West Virginia, I also began to meet other young queer folks throughout Central Appalachia who had returned or who had never left, and who were determined to stay. I was introduced to many of them through the stay Project (Stay Together Appalachian Youth), a regional network of young people who create, advocate for, and participate in safe, sustainable, engaging, and inclusive communities throughout Appalachia and beyond. stay envisions an economically and environmentally sustainable Central Appalachia where young people have the power to build and participate in communities in which they can, and want to, stay.3

In July 2013 I founded an oral history project called Country Queers out of intense frustration at the lack of rural queer visibility. The project aims to document the experiences of rural and small town lgbtqia folks throughout the United States in all their complexity. The first interviews I conducted for Country Queers took place at the 2013 stay Summer Institute. In the excerpts that follow you'll read stories of struggle and isolation, but also stories of joy, of pride, of triumph, of humor. I asked these young people about their experiences growing up queer in the mountains, about whether they felt pressured to leave. I asked them what was challenging about being queer in this place, and what was delightful about it. I asked them for funny stories, for ideas about what might make it easier for [End Page 80] isolated rural queer folks to flourish in the mountains. I asked them about queer history in the counties where they were raised and about dreams and concerns for their futures. Their wisdom shines through. Each of these wonderful country queers has a lot to teach us about the often studied, rarely understood mountain region that we call home.4


Click for larger view
View full resolution...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 79-91
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-16
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.