Joyce M. Barry, visiting assistant professor by special appointment of Women’s and Gender Studies, published an article in the January 2021 issue of the Environmental History journal.
Barry’s invited article “Misfits in the Mountains: Tensions Between Environmental and LGBTQIA Identities in Appalachia,” is part of a roundtable conversation titled “Go Tell It On the Mountain: A Forum on Appalachia’s Environmental History.”
Barry’s contribution examines the historical tensions between an Appalachian cultural identity largely informed by the natural environment, the Appalachian mountains, and queer identity in mountain culture. Central Appalachian culture has largely been defined by the natural environment, an association long embraced and celebrated by many Appalachians, but also used by some outside the region as a pejorative connection in the form of the Appalachian “hillbilly,” a figure deemed too closely associated with nature, and ill-fitted for culture.
These historical associations are uniquely fraught for queer Appalachians as LGBTQIA people are often positioned as natural aberrations or anti-nature, and therefore rendered as environmental and cultural misfits. These tensions have led to outmigration among some queer Appalachians, and Barry’s article concludes by focusing on regional activism that seeks to highlight and reconcile some of these long-standing tensions in Appalachia.