The Queer Appalachia Project is birthed by the loss of these two amazing phenomenal women. We hope to preserve and carry on their spirit of combining art, community, country / rural roots & queer identity.
If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at 1-877-565-8860. LGBT youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 can also be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.
Bryn Kelly (1981-2016) Waterloo, OH
Bryn Kelly was a writer, activist, artist and Granny Witch, but most of all, she was quick witted with a biting, insightful intelligence and wore her roots like jewels. She grew up on the border of West Virginia and Ohio. Bryn fell in love with zines and feminist writing at age 16. She wrote her first zine at 17, Granny Witch Squares, which explored the nuanced correlations of the AIDS Quilt and her Appalachian folk art roots. Bryn put roots down in Brooklyn New York, and her art and activism took her all over the country.
Our zine, Electric Dirt, was a concept that Bryn had been marinating on since she was 16 years old. Bryn's vision was a patchwork of country queer porn, art, homespun traditions, intersectional badass politics, pop-culture, and accessibility.
Some of her credits and accomplishments include:
Lambda Literary Fellowship winner
Whitney Museum of American Art, VisualAIDS performer
Honored by The Body (HIV resource) as one of 2015's Trans 100
Host of the Gay Ole Opry
Co-founder of Theater Transgression, a transgender multimedia performance collective
Co-creator and cast member of the touring roadshow, Fully Functional Cabaret
Autoharp player and singer for country queer southern gospel reinterpretation group, the Invert Family Singers
Her writings have been published in the anthology Trans/Love: Radical Sex, Love and Relationships Beyond the Gender Binary, the journal Time is Not A Line: Reflections on HIV/AIDS Now, commissioned by the New Museum, in digital literary magazine PrettyQueer.com, and on Showtime Network’s OurChart.com. She also wrote pseudonymously as Dearhussy and Partybottom on Tumblr.
“She made country queer in the city look gorgeous and proud. I loved the way Bryn was fiercely committed to her Appalachian roots—making the most beautiful quilts, homemade apple butter, the bluegrass music she played and sang." - Heather Acs
The Lambda Literary Foundation's Bryn Kelly Scholarship for Trans Women /Trans Femme Writers.
Amanda Arkansassy Harris (1984-2016) Lanoke, AR
Amanda Arkansassy Harris was a queer high femme charmer from the South. Amanda put roots down in Brooklyn and San Francisco, but there was never any doubt that home was Lanoke, Arkansas. She wore her roots like jewels. She was a photographer, producer, activist, educator, writer, ally and dear friend to many.
Amanda's body of work includes:
The Queer South: Alternative Expressions in the Bible Belt
Y'all Come Back Show: Stories of Queer Southern Migration
Exodus: Visions of the Queer South
Femmespace: Reclaiming Sites of Marginalization, Erasure and Invisibility Through Portraiture
Co-Curator: National Queer Arts Festival
Amanda's publishing credits include:
Lambda Literary Award Winning Glitter & Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy
G.R.I.T.S. - Girls Raised In the South: An Anthology of Southern Queer Womyns' Voices and Their Allies
Al Jazeera, Sex, Race and Art in the South
Amanda's art explored how we relate to our queer rural identities through language.
Rooted: You stayed within the immediate geographic vicinity of your birth.
Uprooted: Your birth region is socioeconomically devastated, such as some areas of extraction states like West Virginia & Kentucky. The only work available is in shrinking dying industries like coal and fracking. Your family, education, and community have raised you to leave for your survival. In central Appalachia, young children learn sayings like "Reading wRiting and the Road to Roanoke".
Migrated: Home is not something that changes with you, even though your address might. You put down roots on your journey but you always feel connected to the earth and dirt that bore you.
Came Back Y'all: Maybe you were Uprooted or Migrated, but you came home.