Oral history project spotlights local LGBT community

A project conducted by Appalachian State University is gathering the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people living in the Appalachian region.

"We're not just looking for people who grew up here but transplants, those who moved here or lived here and moved away," archivist Kathy Staley explains. "Asheville has a very robust LGBT community. In the 1970s, the Running Water commune in Bakersville put out a national gay magazine. You have bubbles and pockets like that all over the mountains, but there's never really been a history that tells their unique experiences."

The project is seeking out both members of the LGBT community and members of groups that support it; the interviews will become part of the Belk Library's Appalachian Collection. The stories may also be posted online or used in a future documentary.

The idea for the project, says Staley, grew out of previous work she'd done documenting the stories of the LGBT community at ASU and in surrounding Watauga County. For this initiative, the state's Appalachian region was defined as stretching as far east as Winston-Salem.

"We want to start looking at what makes the LGBT experience here different from, say, the Piedmont, as well as how the area affects the lives of those who move here," she says.

Participants can choose to share their identities but won't be required to. Those interested in participating should contact Staley (262-6724; staleyk11971@yahoo.com) or co-director Michael Howell (262-7682 or howellml@appstate.edu).

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