Partial Transcript: So, you said that you moved here as a, to Spruce Pine as a baby. What has kept you in the western North Carolina region for your whole life, I guess?
Yeah. It hasn't been my whole, whole life. There was a window when I went to college where I actually went to school at Evergreen out in the Northwest for three years. So, that was sort of a back for the summer situation.
I think a big part of it is the land. Just growing up and feeling a connection with the mountains here and also just kind of quickly building an understanding of if you grow up in a community and you can still see yourself wanting to stay there, while it's true that you can build a sense of community and build a life anywhere, but that possibility is always open. That just because of the importance of time and investment and the fact that you go through these stages of development in your life when you're really young, that never get repeated in that way anywhere else, there's just a sense of preciousness around the fact that for the good and for the complicated that there is certain qualities and connections of relationship, that certain ties that I have in this area specifically that never would be built anywhere else.
Segment Synopsis: Andrew talks about their growing up and the preciousness of quality relationships.
Keywords: Community; Land Roots; Mountains; Relationships; Spruce Pine, NC
Partial Transcript: Yeah. Up through my teenage years I definitely say growing up in a rural western North Carolina area I wasn't really seeing any representation of LGBTQ stuff. It just really wasn't a term that existed in this other sense.
As I got to be older into my teenage years, you start to learn the charge of that, just like in all the casual. I feel like that's so gay became a big phrase when I was moving through school. I feel like that's maybe when that trend started.
Just being aware of that underlining negative implication. But for me also, when I was a teenager I got really caught up in the church and I have an ex evangelical background. I was actually for a spell of a couple of years really deep in that culture of being directly really homophobic environments. I'd be in the same room with people who are on the Jesus Camp Documentary which is all about youth indoctrination and brain washing and stuff. There were up through most of my high school all of that purity culture and all of that kind of the running list of the pro life, homophobic. Everything was sort of my tight lifecycle.
Keywords: "so gay"; Evangelical; High school; Homophobia; Isolation; LGBTQ Role models; Religion; Western NC; coming out
Partial Transcript: I was very, yeah, just kind of named my identity and I very much came out on the spot there and received ... Yeah, made some close connections with some peers and coworkers around that and not so much with others.
But in any case, it felt really empowering and good to have that shift into having that very much on the table. Over the course of time, working and also living at that school because it was a boarding school.
A coworker friend that I made who then became a partner, who then became my wife, we started hosting big gay brunches for anyone local and queer. We sort of identified together we needed more community and connection and support and have both prioritized building that in lots of different ways.
So, kind of over sort of intentionally identifying needing that more and building that more. We met, through that, we met and made some friends that we play weekly D&D with.
Segment Synopsis: Andrew describes their experience teaching at a boarding school and their strategies for living among LGBTQ community.
Keywords: Boarding School; Cisgender Straight Allies; Coming out; Middle School; Queer Brunch; Queer Romance; Safety
Partial Transcript: Yeah, what's needed or what can help out here? In terms of rural western North Carolina specifically, a lot of it comes down to resources in terms of being able to make a living, it's a real game changer for my partner and I that she was able to find remote work with transmission.
A lot of it's just because with some of the additional challenges of finding work that can support you in a rural economy is challenging for everyone, and then you add on queer experience in addition to that and it can be especially key as whenever a larger, wider, more resource organizations can just fan out those opportunities directly to folks.
It's also just with the shifts of this pandemic, it's opened up a lot to get digital, for things to be digitalized, to not have to travel so much to have these kinds of meetings and connections and to have support groups open up into digital spaces more.
But yeah. I feel like I can speak more specifically to sort of the rural corner of this pocket of western North Carolina. That's what I see, is just getting that baseline of sort of class support to be able to keep existing out here to be able to then build the relationships and support education and institutions and to be able to do the other levels of support. First you just have to be able to keep living in the area.
Segment Synopsis: Andrew discusses a formative experience of learning more LGBTQ history and how that translated into their class.
Keywords: Activism; Campaign for Southern Equality; Collaboration; Inclusion; LGBTQ Community; Queer educator; School Trip
Partial Transcript: So yeah, it's definitely any kind of ... If your professional track is education, community programing, facilitating events or workshops and stuff like that, finding paid up stable paid opportunities to do that.
Yeah within Asheville it's competitive at that level and outside of Asheville it can be more competitive in the sense of just a lot of that work still happens but is not in paid positions.
So yeah, I've fallen back to doing a lot of house painting to make ends meet and we finally, yeah, found ... My spouse found a place with tranZmission that's been really wonderful. So, I feel like it's just one of the ways that sort of class and resources and stuff can show up. It's just that when those resources and opportunities are more limited just like you end up going to these fallbacks of just doing whatever, working class, labor, you can get an opportunity.
And it's like sort of a slow build to shift out of that sort of survival mode and trying to build up, stay connected with the work that's most meaningful and important to you. It kind of takes these ebb and flow back seats. And it's certainly been a huge help for us to have each other in that and to be able to kind of take turns with who's bringing in what to kind of cushion the fact that for us that was a really unplanned shift to all of a sudden need to look for new housing and new jobs for both of us
Keywords: Closeted; Education; Eleanor Roosevelt; LGBTQ History; Lavender Scare; Microaggressions; Social Activism; Social Class; Unemployment; Workplace Support
Partial Transcript: Just as a teacher teaching on the topic of gender and sexuality and history and all of that, we were in this massive room with this huge pile of clothes sorting them size, women's, men's.
I just noticed in myself, I was like, "Oh, this feels really weird and wrong and oh no this brings up a lot of stuff to be sort in this big pile of clothes." I started kind of checking in with the students and asking, "How do you feel about sorting this pile of clothes?" Relationship to gender and stuff and yeah, a lot of the students and a lot of other folks I was kind of asking if anything was coming up for them.
It was like, it's whatever. So, I kind of started putting together the pieces of this is my own experience. It was within two or three days of this trip when I realized I had never met someone non-binary and I was actually kind of had the full aha moment of oh, there's a core piece of my own gender identity that hasn't ... but this is illuminating.
So, this already intense experience became extra intense when it became really suddenly that personal. So, sort of in the backdrop of all of these other experiences and encounters and moments in this trip.
I was kind of doing the initial PFLAG of oh, my whole relationship to my personal experience of gender has just done that tipping point. So, it was really exciting and incredibly stressful in that respect.
Segment Synopsis: Andrew discusses an educational moment where students are asked to sort clothes by gender and they realize that nonbinary gendering felt more comfortable and inclusive.
Keywords: Coming Out; Gender Binary; Gendered Clothing; NonBinary
Partial Transcript: Yeah. I guess to back up on that just a little bit, in part of leaving the school and choosing to stay in the area, we before the pandemic we were, my partner and I were running sort of by word of mouth we're running queer support space out of a local library and we're feeling safe enough about doing kind of, like working with known people that we trust to try and get word and support and bring spaces together in that way.
We are still doing regular potlucks out of our home and that kind of thing. I definitely say this how the recent election season played out here definitely had a pretty, in my personal experience, a pretty chilling effect on before the full visibility and pressure that we were feeling good about having a pride flag on the outside of our home.
After seeing in town out here there were a couple of days like Trump trains and rallies that happened and that those recent experience were kind of game changers for us really valuing rural queer visibility that kind of being in the process of reassessing how we need to look at doing that in the safest way.
So, as a part of that and trying to figure where to place that particular kind of stress, I reached out to do some polyarching just because yeah, figure out what you can possibly do to try and support the process of something that's so pressurized.
Keywords: Building LGBTQ Community; LGBTQ Gathering; Local Politics; NC resources; Rural precarity; Youth Empowerment; pandemic life