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LGBTQ Life in Watauga County, North Carolina, 1969-2009

While Watauga County, North Carolina, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, remains rural and retains many conservative mores, its university, Appalachian State University, acts as a liberalizing factor in the area. ASU, as Watauga County’s main employer and the primary draw for in-migration, has similarly acted as a focal point for cultural activities and community development, especially with many students and employees active in civic and political organizations. Within the span of a century, attitudes toward LGBT people have moved from complete silence to one of open tolerance in many segments of the county.


Abbreviated Timeline

  • 1976: Appalachian State University (ASU) Women’s Studies Program founds and Counseling Center homosexual support group begins
  • 1979: ASU official recognizes Appalachian Gay Awareness Association (AGAA) after much controversy (disbands by 1986)
  • 1987: Watauga County’s first reported AIDS case soon followed by first reported HIV+ ASU student
  • 1988: Community-based AIDS support group begins (disbands in 1995)
  • 1989: PFLAG chapter begins
  • 1990: Sexual Awareness Group of Appalachian (SAGA) begins meeting at ASU
  • March, 1991: Gays and Lesbians of Watauga (GLOW) organizes, receives a bomb threat, and ceases meeting
  • Fall, 1991: ASU's first Gay Studies course is offered
  • December, 1992: Mountain AIDS Support Committee set up in Boone (disbands in 2001)
  • January, 1993: ASU student reports a gay-related assault
  • 1993: Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) of the High Country opens
  • 1993: ASU adds “sexual orientation” to its Equal Employment Opportunity statement
  • 1995: Delta Love Delta sponsors first Miss Gay Boone World pageant
  • 1997: Boone Gay Pride march
  • October, 2000: First annual “Queer Film Series” at ASU
  • 2003-2004: Watauga High School students attempt to organize a gay-straight alliance; Watauga County School Board says no
  • 2005: First annual Boone Pride
  • Fall 2007: ASU student organization transACTION begins
  • October, 2008: ASU's LGBT Center opens
  • Spring, 2008: ASU adds “gender identity and expression” to its Equal Employment Opportunity policy
  • October, 2008: Watauga High School principal approves Gay-Straight Alliance
  • March, 2009: Town of Boone votes unanimously to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” to its Equal Employment Opportunity Statement, to oppose NC Senate Bill 272, which calls for a state-wide vote for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman, and to support NC House Bill 207, “The Safer Communities Act.”


Staley, Kathryn. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life at Appalachian State University.” Master’s Thesis, Appalachian State University, 2009.

Written by Kathy Staley, 2010 | | || | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |