These Young Activists Are Changing the Narrative on Appalachia

An activist network known as Queer Appalachia has been shifting the conversation about gender and sexual orientation in Appalachia, perhaps the most iconic and prototypical of assumedly heteronormative deep rural communities.

The group states that their work occurs at the intersection of such wide-ranging identity labels as “Fag Hillbilly,” “Chocolate Spoonie,” “Farm Femme,” “Swamp Witch,” undocumented, non-binary and many more.

It’s an overdue rallying point and network of support in what has traditionally been the most difficult type of environment in which to grow up queer: small, disconnected, isolated communities that lean conservative.

And it’s no coincidence that many who identify as LGBTQ come out only after reaching adulthood — and often only after moving to an urban center. But youth need support far earlier. Given that LGBT interests intersect and overlap with those of many other groups, they stand to create connections and benefit all residents of rural communities.

Queer Appalachia, however, is already moving beyond awareness campaigns. As Belt Magazine reports, after the recent success of “Electric Dirt,” a published photography collection of queer voices in Appalachia and the South — as much a celebration of the region’s cultural traditions as the LGBT+ contributors and artists that have always been part of those traditions — the network has turned its sights to another intersectional topic: opioid addiction within the region and among LGBTQ communities.

Why is this important? Low-income rural Americans are harder hit by income inequality, the opioid crisis and globalization than other regional and socioeconomic groups. LGBTQ individuals are also at higher risk of being low-income and suffering mental health and addiction issues. This clearly illustrates an area of commonality between diverse groups, as well as a shared vulnerability.

Donald Trump came into power in part due to his promises to lift suffering white rural Americans out of poverty, as well as by scapegoating and adopting a posture of hostility toward vulnerable and marginalized groups. In reality, the current administration has only hurt these communities, both with domestic policies and its foreign trade agenda.

Queer Appalachia is going a long way toward demonstrating that Appalachian residents — and those living in similarly rural regions — have a lot more in common than not. And that includes LGBTQ youth, people of color, undocumented immigrants and many more groups hurting in the current political climate — few of which are mutually exclusive.

The appeal and importance of a self-proclaimed community for “dirt princesses,” Indigenous people and transsexuals — quirkily esoteric or not — could well offer broader and deeper relationships than anyone imagined. We’re all in this together — and that becomes more obvious each day that civil rights are under attack by the Trump administration.

Photo Credit: Shep McAllister/Unsplash

56 comments

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thank you.

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Dave f
Past Member 5 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Gino C
Past Member 6 months ago

Thanks

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Dave fleming
Past Member 7 months ago

Thank you

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Chad A
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

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Lesa D
Past Member 7 months ago

thank you Joel...

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Vincent T
Past Member 8 months ago

tyfs

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Maria P
Past Member 8 months ago

Thanks

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Carol C
Carol C8 months ago

Very impressive! I wish them success. Thank you for posting this great news.

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Clare O
Clare O'Beara8 months ago

nice

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