Telling (Queer-Affirming) Stories of Appalachian Place

Although no direct contemporary link holds Appalachian mountain religion and Christian fundamentalism together, the two forms of Christianity do share certain characteristics – including a pervasive queerphobia. While many people find little (or even no) hope in either form of faith when it comes to affirming the full humanity of queer individuals, the rich Appalachian culture that symbiotically complements mountain religion sets this way of faith in a position to deeply accept queer persons. Specifically, the Appalachian traditions of prizing place and telling stories provide a unique opportunity for the people of the region, particularly Christians, to move beyond queerphobia into a state of love that continually expands to include all persons.

(Often-silenced) Queer voices provide a vital say in forming understandings of Appalachia. This paper suggests concrete methods of creating courageous spaces where queer persons can speak out and be themselves while also providing a foundation for these actions based on Appalachian values and history. Specific sources consulted for the study include Bernadette Barton’s “1CROSS + 3NAILS = 4GVN: Compulsory Christianity and Homosexuality in the Bible Belt Panopticon” and Loyal Jones’ “Mountain Religion: An Overview,” among many others. The method of interacting with these sources involves establishing common points of departure for audience members, presenting historical data regarding the development of queerphobia and a dominant form of (queerphobic) mountain Christian doctrine, and introducing concrete steps for creating a big picture of Appalachia that includes trans and queer as well as cisgender and heterosexual folk.