LGBTQ+ Appalachia

Written by Danny Woomer, Senior Honors student at Western Carolina University

The following is an abstract of a longer research paper written for Robert Ferguson’s History class. If you would like more information please email him at

My project focused on LGBTQ+ Appalachian women, highlighting Jill Ellern and Dawn

Neatherly of Sylva, North Carolina. “Coming out” narratives are a common theme Queer Appalachian histories. One excerpt from Jill Ellern’s interview reads, “And she was just, their first year of college. And so, we spent a lot of time together. And when I went away to college, when I came back, we went ‘you know’, so I had to tell my mother that her roommate and I were seeing each other. So, it was a very strange, but my mother was real cool with it. She knew what was going on, not a big deal.” (Ellern, 2021) Activism and local history are tied in the solidarity and collective experiences they can represent. One example is found in an article Dawn Neatherly wrote in the Western Carolinian in 1988. This article dispels myths about homosexuality that may have spread around campus. One myth reads, “All homosexuals are effeminate men and masculine women, and thus easily identified,” which is corrected with, “There are just as many different types of homosexuals as there are heterosexuals. No one set of characteristics identifies a gay man or lesbian.”

Figure 1HL_WesternCarolinianClipping_1988-11-17_Vol54_No14_04-05_01

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