6. Somehow, all of these pasts seem present in Country Queers. Silenced histories, a deep love of place, the way history lingers in the land and old barns of my West Virginia home, and a personal need to find rural queer community, to find proof that we can survive and thrive in our country homes. .
I had no idea what I was doing when I started this project in the winter of 2012-2013. I lived in a sweet and very cold old house on the farm next to where I was raised. I had no media training, no media equipment, no experience, no spare $, but a lot of passion. At that time, there really was almost NO rural queer visibility, and I was intensely frustrated, and super isolated. I saved up and bought a Zoom H4N and started interviewing friends I’d made through the STAY Project @stayproject (a rad Central Appalachian youth network that turns 10 this summer!). STAY is how I found other young queer people who loved these mountains, and were determined to scout a path future for young folks, especially lgbtq and youth of color, in a region deep in economic crisis.
In the summer of 2013 at @ignitekindred SONG’s gaycation in east TN I sat in a rural and small town convening (facilitated by the brilliant @sapogonia) with queer, trans, and gnc folks from across the South, and listened to stories about what we all loved about the places that raised us, about challenges of living in those spaces across other intersecting layers of our identities.
This project isn’t now, and has never been, “my work.” It wouldn’t exist without hours of conversation with friends and mentors, without the 60 fierce and generous folks who’ve welcomed me into their home & shared their stories, without everyone who has donated so far (please donate now if you’re able! Link in bio!), without the volunteer transcriptionists who’ve helped get some of these stories out so far. And without rural and small town queers, near and far, who’ve reached out to say, “we need this, this is important, how can I help?”
Tomorrow is my birthday & I’ll be switching gears to a big fundraising push asking all who can to give $3!