LGBT Issues Across Appalachia


This week on Inside Appalachia we’re revisiting an episode from earlier this year, exploring issues in our region’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We’ll hear from a teenager getting ready for an LGBT formal. We’ll learn how difficult it can be to access healthcare in eastern Kentucky for one gender nonconforming Appalachian. We’ll also take a look at efforts in West Virginia to provide legal protection to people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Rainbow Formal

Here in West Virginia, a group of LGBT teens have decided to unite, to give each other hope, and to have a good time. We’ll hear about this Rainbow Formal, the first of its kind in the state.

West Virginia is also one of the many states where legislators have not passed laws that would ban employment and housing discrimination — as well as discrimination in restaurants, hotels, parks and other public places — based on sexual orientation or gender identity. WVPB’s Dave Mistich will tell us about how LGBT-rights advocates have adjusted their strategy to get safeguards in place at the municipal level.


Credit Molly Born/ WVPB

Transgender Closet 

Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, is one school that has taken steps to be inclusive to LGBT people and those questioning their identity. They even have a store where transgender students can get free clothes. WVPB’s Roxy Todd will tell us about Marshall’s efforts — and how person has experienced discrimination on campus.

A Pastor’s Perspective

We’ll also hear about a church in north central West Virginia where the pastor faced criticism for her support of the LGBT community. After Valerie Gittings said that being gay was not a sin, her church was kicked out of the state’s Baptist Convention, but her stance on gays and lesbians created some unexpected unifications for both the church and orphaned Christians, including Kevin and Sergio Aldana.

“This church is going through the same thing that Sergio and I went through. We have always been discriminated against and were pretty much cast out. This church was cast out. This church is feeling just a fraction of what we felt,” Kevin Aldana said.

These stories, said Inside Appalachia host Jessica Lilly, seem to point to a time of transition, when people are looking for ways to be themselves comfortably in society, and society, more and more, is looking for ways to understand, accept and be welcoming. 

“When I spoke with Pastor Gittings, she pointed out something that isn’t often thought about anymore. That at one time Christians used Biblical references to justify slavery and racism. This idea is now considered absurd and is rejected. We still have work to do, but hopefully we’re on our way to understanding each other exactly as we are,” Lilly said.