First part of the Appalachian Narratives series begins with ‘Notes on Identity’

Tijah Bumgarner, assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and Daniel Dean, assistant professor in the School of Art and Design at Marshall University, presented a film screening titled “Notes on Identity” which focused on LGBTQIA and what it was like to be queer in Appalachia. This is part of the Appalachian Narratives series which includes six events going on throughout the month of February. stated, “far too long, depictions of these regions have been white-washed and have made invisible the communities of color that live and struggle alongside us.”

Gina Mamone and Kayleigh Phillips, West Virginia natives, showed a short film by Xander Stewart and read from their magazine both titled “Electric Dirt.”

“That film was a love letter to rural queers,” Mamone said. “We were saying we’re not going to explain why we exist and why it’s okay for us to exist, because we know that we do. We just wanted to say we see you.”

Jo Gates, sophomore online journalism and public relations double major, created the film “Effeminates” and what started as a class project became a chance to say something.

“This experience drove me crazy, because it was so hard working with film,” Gates said. “It was also really rewarding, because I wanted to inform people about something I’m passionate about, and this was my chance to do that.”

Mamone and Phillips said they were excited to share their knowledge and talk about what it was like to be queer in Appalachia.

“I went to Marshall, and this place is tied to my own coming out,” Mamone said. “So much of the project (“Electric Dirt”) came from here, so I was happy to be able to come back to educate.”

Along with “Electric Dirt” and “Effeminates” guests also watched short films “Not a Daughter” and “Cryptid Crush” by filmmakers Oakley Fugate and Annalee Bell.

“I was so excited to do this and be given this opportunity, because I don’t think a lot of queer people have this opportunity, especially on campus,” Gates said.

Mamone said they were excited to see students like Gates involved in this connected community and people using technology to make art and impactful thing and to see it spark a change.

“Everything is so connected; it blows my mind that I wake up and talk to 40,000 people every day,” Mamone said. “I can’t wait to see more content like this.”

After the film screening and a reading by Mamone and Phillips, the event was opened up to questions where students and community members asked Phillips, Mamone and Gates about

the films that were shown, the process with making films, the website run by Mamone and personal experiences of being queer in Appalachia.

“I feel like I’ve been very lucky to be a queer artist that’s self-supporting,” Mamone said. “I feel like if you’re true to the stuff you’re passionate about, you can find a way to make room for yourself.”

Michaela Crittenden can be contacted at [email protected].