Country Queers is an ongoing multimedia oral history project documenting the diverse experiences of rural, small town, and country LGBTQ+ folks in the U.S. – across intersecting layers of identity such as race, class, age, ability, gender identity, and religion.


I founded this project in 2013 out of an intense frustration with the lack of rural queer visibility, and the extreme sense of isolation I felt as a queer person living back home in Southeastern West Virginia.  Since then I’ve interviewed over 60 amazing Country Queers in 15 States, launched instagram takeovers where rural queer folks can tell their stories in their own images and words, and led oral history workshops and presentations across the U.S.

This project wouldn’t exist without the support of so many people including volunteer transcriptionists: Montanna Mills, Kayden Moore, Jocelyn Jessop, Izzy Broomfield, & Riley Cockrell, and the extended political family of the Stay Together Appalachian Youth Project (STAY). The project was inspired by many conversations and experiences, including a small town huddle at Southerners on New Ground (SONG) Gaycation in 2013 where an intergenerational multiracial group of Southerners shared stories of the rural places we love, hate and return to.


Founder Rachel Garringer & #1 Duck Melba

Founder Rachel Garringer & Melba

To learn a little more about me, here’s an interview I did for Cordella Magazine in 2018. And for a bit more history about the motivations for this project continue reading for a statement of purpose from the early days:


July 2013

There is a widely held belief in the U.S. that in order to be queer you have to live in a city.  That being queer and being country cannot coexist.  That the country is not safe for queer folks, and that those of us who live in rural areas will never be able to survive, much less thrive.  That we are crazy for trying.

As someone who grew up on a farm in rural West Virginia, came out during college in liberal Western Massachusetts, spent 4 years in Austin, Texas buying into the belief that it was not safe for me to move home, (but who finally did it anyway because the city was eating away at me and the mountains would not let me be)  I am searching for other country queers.  People who cannot separate their countryness from their queerness, and for whom moving to New York or San Francisco is not an option.  People whose identities are so tied up in being rural, in farming, in small town life, that they are facing the challenges of being queer in the country, because the country is as important to them as their queerness is.  Because they don’t know who they are without the country.  Because leaving isn’t an option.

I want to hear their stories.  I want to know how they struggle, and what they want to change in their communities.  I want to find older role models for myself and other young queers living in the country.  I want to hear about the radical and brave work that young queers are doing in their communities and schools.  I want to hear the painful stories, the awful stories, to acknowledge that it is not always safe, that being queer in this country sometimes comes with threats, with violence, with death.  I want to know if there are joys and struggles that all rural and small town LGBTQ folks share.  I want to know about how experiences of being queer and being rural differ based on race, class, gender identity, nationality, language, ability, and other parts of our identities.  I want isolated queer folks living in rural places to know that there are others out there, all over this country. I want to know what country queers think needs to change, so that the option of being queer and staying in the country could become easier.  I want proof that country queers can survive.  That we can thrive.

– Rachel Garringer

















4 replies »

  1. This is so beautiful. I am so THRILLED to know you, have you in my life and have you in West Virginia!

  2. I am a queer/lesbian 29 year old in oregon, moved here from florida 3 years ago. I would love to add to your project as I have experienced country life and city life in both places and have had a very interesting experience with both. I believe in what you are doing, and it excites me to the core that I may be able to hear other stories like mine.

  3. Hi Rachel, I’m Loring. My husband Wil and I live in Oklahoma. He grew up in the city, I grew up on the farm. Coming out was difficult for both of us and our families, but now in our 40’s life is as normal as anyone else’s can be. We eloped to Iowa in 2010 and are accepted by our families as a married couple should be. We’d like to be legally accepted in our state, but that’s another story. We aren’t living on the farm now, but on 2 acres north of Edmond. Our plan is to move back in about 5 years. There’s not a problem with how the people treat us there, I’m one of theirs. If you are from the community and have family there, the entire community will have your back in most small towns. It’s just like family. I might pick on my little brother, but no one else gets away with it. That’s the mentality in small towns, and they look out for their own. Thanks for doing your project, it is much needed. There’s a lot of us out here, and we need folks to know it’s okay to live the life that is best for you. Blessings to you, Loring & Wil

  4. I hope you will include the voices of elder queers who have grown up/are living in the country and can speak to what it was like 30-40 years ago.