LGBT Life in Watauga County, North Carolina, 1990-2009
Watauga County's LGBT life outside of Appalachian State University was fairly barren until the mid-1990s. Friends met at dinners, parties, and softball games; however, the first community-based LGBT organization was not created until approximately 1989. The following two decades saw the formation of several LGBT groups. For the most part, few flourished until Boone Pride was formed in 2004.
During the early 1990s, the energy of the Queer Nation-ACT-UP era entered Boone. A few ASU students were active in ACT-UP chapters in Atlanta and this activism timed at the right moment, led to the formation of a new lesbian and gay student organization, Sexual Awareness Group at Appalachian. Community members have always been welcome to attend SAGA; however, the majority of attendees are college students from ASU and Lees-McRae College. A local organization, Gays and Lesbians of Watauga (GLOW), was also formed during this era; however, indecision about activities and a bomb threat led to its quick demise.
Simultaneously, the Christian community began counseling gay men who wished to be heterosexual. The consequence of this was double. An Exodus International chapter opened in Watauga County remaining active for two decades. One of the men left reparative therapy and began attending a Metropolitan Community Church in Johnson City, Tennessee. Evan Smith helped co-found MCC of the High Country and also went on to become an officer of ASU’s lesbian and gay student organization. This church converted to the Christ’s Church United denomination and continues to meet weekly.
Despite the high number of non-accepting churches in Watauga County, several additional local churches also welcome LGBTIQ congregants. The Boone Friends Meeting, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, High Country United Church of Christ, and Boone Unitarian Universalist Fellowship have active LGBT members. During the 2000s, Watauga County’s LGBT population saw a surge in activity. For several years, PFLAG met regularly with its focus being increasing tolerance within the county and addressing the level of anti-LGBTQ harassment within the local schools. (See Watauga High School LGBT Activism, 1999-2009) Both LGBTQ individuals and their family and friends attended.
In 2005, Boone Pride held its first event, a dance party at the Broyhill Inn and Conference Center. This annual event expanded each year and includes additional events such as a family picnic, movies, workshops, and a musical festival. Pride also sponsors a scholarship for area students and donates LGBTQ books and films to Watauga County’s public library. In 2009, the non-profit organization renamed itself High Country Pride to reflect with its broader base of attendees.
During this time, regular social activities began increasing. Laurie Weiner and Carol Quintero moved to the High Country and brought with them a desire to meet like-minded women. Weiner started a Women’s Chat Group while Quintero began a monthly women’s dinner group. Within two years, they developed an extensive list-serv of more than 200 area lesbians and bisexual women informing them of area events. Local men saw the success of Quintero’s group and a monthly men's dining group formed.
Although most LGBTQ activities in Watauga County are social in nature, some political activities occur outside PFLAG's work in the local schools. After Proposition 8 passed in California, a group of LGBTQ activists began meeting under the name of Boone Impact. With the focus of marital equality, they held monthly activities for several months. They held a march through Boone and the campus of ASU during a football game. Boone Impact also sponsored a rally outside the county courthouse with several same sex and transgender couples attempting to apply for marriage licenses. Members also urged Boone’s Town Council to add sexual orientation and gender identity to its employment statement and to resolve to reject a Senate Bill 272, a North Carolina bill that would have required the electorate to vote about adding a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman.
- Staley, Kathryn. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life at Appalachian State University.” Master’s Thesis, Appalachian State University, 2009, p. 156.
- Staley, Kathryn. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life at Appalachian State University.” Master’s Thesis, Appalachian State University, 2009, pp. 145, 152.
- Nicholson, Scott. “Boone Pride Celebrates Five Years.” Watauga Mountain Times, 11 June 2009, 16.
- Laurie Weiner, Interview with Kathy Staley, March 2010.
- Carol Quintero, Interview with Kathy Staley, March 2010.
- ”Rallying for Equality,” Watauga Mountain Times, 20 November 2008, p. 31.
- Brewer, David. “Crowd Gathers at Watauga Courthouse for National Freedom to Marry Day Event.”High Country Press, p. 15.
- Sztukowski, Edward. “Town Rejects Marriage Definition Bill.” The Appalachian, 26 March 2009, p. 1.