Country Queers is an ongoing multimedia oral history project documenting the diverse experiences of rural, small town, and country LGBTQIA+ folks in the U.S.A. – across intersecting layers of identity such as race, class, age, ability, gender identity, and religion.
The project aims to:
- preserve rural queer histories through documenting our contemporary presence and historical existence
- complicate ideas about who and what make up rural spaces and resist the narrative that rural communities are monolithic
- push back against the narrative that queer people can only thrive in major metropolitan spaces
- and connect country queers to one another across geographical distance in an attempt to help fight the isolation we often experience, and to build rural queer community.
Rae Garringer founded this project in 2013 out of an intense frustration with the lack of easily accessible rural queer stories at the time, and a sense of isolation from queer community after having moved back home to rural West Virginia. Rae had no formal training in oral history, audio recording, or photography when the project was born, but they did have an intense personal need to connect with and learn from other rural queer folks.
Since then, the project has grown to include a collection of over 60 oral history interviews with country queers in 15 states, a traveling gallery exhibit featuring images and oral histories gathered through the project, and a podcast (launching June 30, 2020). The project also features instagram takeovers where rural and small-town LGBTQIA+ folks are able to share some of their rural queer life with a broader audience.
This project wouldn’t exist without the support of so many people including volunteer transcriptionists, Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Patreon supporters, 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.