Travis Rountree 1
Interviewee: Travis Rountree
Interviewer: Rachel Shaw
Date: June 24, 2021
Location: Jackson County
Summary: Travis Rountree was born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. Rountree discusses his
time in western North Carolina, his coming out journey, and academic work. Rountree is heavily
involved in the local Jackson County community as he planned Sylva’s First Pride and is an
active member of Sylva’s Queer Support and Education.
START OF THE INTERVIEW
Rachel Shaw: Today's date it Thursday, June 24th. My name is Rachel, and I'm talking with
Travis who was born in...
Travis Rountree: I was born on February 3, 1982 in Richmond, Virginia.
RS: And their preferred pronouns are...
RS: And you have been living in Sylva for how many years?
TR: It'll be two years, July 4th.
RS: Okay. So how would you describe yourself?
TR: So I would say I'm a cis-gendered gay man. Sometimes I describe myself, my political views
and my teaching pedagogy as queer. Sometimes Quare, which is southern queer, which I play
around with, but I'm a gay man. Yeah.
RS: Okay. And where do you usually like to start your story?
TR: I love that question. So my coming out story, I came out at 26. So I was a bit of a late
bloomer, and my grandfather had passed away, my first grandparent that I lost. I grew up with
both sets of grandparents, and actually my great grandma, and a couple of great aunts, too,
which was kind of cool. But when my grandfather died, I kind of went through, "Wow, life is
short." So I need to be who I am. So I came out at 26 in Boone, North Carolina when I was there
at App State. I had been through graduate school and then was teaching, adjuncting there. And
I was dating a guy for probably, I guess, six months before I came out to my folks, and I came
out at the beach to them. And I'll never forget my sister, we were having drinks at the beach or
whatever. My sister brought me a drink with a pink straw, and I'm like, "Really? A pink straw?"
Which is really kind of funny because ideas of gender and all that stuff, which is ridiculous.
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But I came out to my folks. It was kind of hard at first for my family. My dad's a very, play
football, John Wayne sort of type of person. And my mom, they both struggled with it. And I
think still it's not... The saying goes, "When you come out, you put your parents in the closet."
So I think in some ways they still struggle with it. They still love me and support me. They want
to come to Pride that I’m organizing here. They've gone to a drag show, which is awesome.
I took them to one in Louisville, and my friend Anthony, who's performer name is Leah, had a
booth and everything set up. And my dad was just like, "Bourbon, keep it coming." And my
mom, they were kind of like, "Eh," at first, but then really got into it. My mom wanted to stay,
actually for the two o'clock AM show. She was throwing dollars. It was amazing.
So they are very supportive, and my sister's been supportive. She was the second person I think
I came out to, maybe first person, I can't remember. But she's always supportive, too. So that's
sort of I guess where my queer story begins. Growing up in Richmond, I was raised in a
Southern Baptist environment. We kind of hopped around churches. My uncle was a Baptist
preacher. We went to their church for a long time, and then I went to Catholic high school, a
Catholic military, all boys high school. So that was interesting as a Southern Baptist. During high
school, I had a girlfriend, but I really had no idea of who I was. I was busy. When I got to college,
I was like, "Oh my God, all this free time." It was a JRTC program. I ran all four years of track. I
did rifle team. I had no time to myself. So I really couldn't figure out who I was until college.
I went to James Madison University for four years and then got my graduate degree at
Appalachian State and a PhD at Louisville, was in Indiana for two years, and now I'm at
Western. Yeah, all of those have been great experiences. I'm so happy I've learned so much in
all of those places and established myself as a queer person I think in all of those places, as well,
too. Yeah. That's sort of where my coming out story began I guess. Yeah.
RS: Thank you for sharing. So how did you get back to western North Carolina after coming
from Boone? Did you feel a connection at Boone that made you want to come back to western
TR: Very much so. Growing up in Richmond, I love Richmond, Virginia. It'll always be where I
grew up and home, but I've always felt a certain draw to the mountains. When I went to JMU, I
felt drawn there and got really connected there and actually was a member of the Moose
Lodge there, too, at 21 years old. It was really hilarious. When you get sworn in or whatever, it
was like, "I'm 40 years old, and I work at the plant and have three kids." Then it was me, and I'm
like, "21. I'm a junior at JMU." So I was also drawn there. And I took Appalachian studies course
in Appalachian literature there, as well.
So when I got into Boone, I just totally was drawn in to the region and just felt at home there.
And Boone is kind of, and you’ll hear this from people who live there, it's like a magical place.
People often say that the boomerang, people move to Asheville and then back to Boone, but
that didn't quite work for me. Yeah, I've always felt drawn there. I went to Louisville. Louisville
was great. I really missed the mountains. I had really plugged into the Louisville queer culture
there, too, worked with the archive there. And then Indiana, I lived with my partner, which was
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the best part, I think, that we were together, but it's Mike Pence country. It's like cows and
cornfields. The University was great. Indiana University East was amazing, and I had a great
support structure there and made great friends, but it never felt like home.
In Western, my buddy, Bradshaw, who I went to App State with, told me about the position
here, and I interviewed. My partner, actually, had gotten his PhD and got a job up north at
Massachusetts Maritime. And then I got this position. And I'm like, "It's great." I did step down
from being a writing program administrator, but I've sort of done so much here that it's kind of
admin work, too, but it's been really, really great here. In fact, during my job interview, my
department chair was interviewing and stuff. I was like, "Yeah, this is pretty much my dream
job." And he was like, "Yeah, you shouldn't say that when you interview." He's like, "You just
lost all bargaining with me." Yeah, I'll stay here until I retire, honestly. It's just so great. I love it
RS: Okay. This is just me king of being an English nerd. So do you have any Appalachian
literature, queer Appalachian literature that you'd like to recommend at all?
TR: Yes. Silas House is fantastic. Oh, gosh. Silas House, Jeff Bane's great. There's a novel, all my
queer stuff is right behind me. There is a novel, Sugar Run by Mesh Maren, M-E-S-H M-A-R-E-N,
which is great, and that's one of the first lesbian novels written about Appalachia. Well,
Dorothy Allison always counts. She's probably the very first, and she also falls under Grit Lit,
which is the southern category of literature, really gritty, working class literature. And Sugar
Run is kind of like that, too. Carter Sickle's The Prettiest Star, that was about a year old, but I get
chills thinking about that novel. It's one of the best novels, I think, I've ever read.
It's about a man who comes home. He contracts AIDS, the HIV virus and comes home from New
York City to Appalachian Ohio where he... Sorry, spoiler alert, but he passes away, but it's about
his reconciliation there with his home and about his coming out there. And it's told from his
mom's point of view, his sister's, his point of view, and his grandma's. And it's just... That's one
of the few books that I literally bought five or six copies for people just to read. I'm like, "You
need this." And it's just now out in paperback, too. So that's great. There's actually two
collections. One, LGBTQ in Appalachia, LGBTQ Literature and Poetry, I think, in Appalachia,
which is published by West Virginia University Press, and then there's Storytelling in Queer
Appalachia, which my partner, Caleb, and I are in. We have a chapter in about being run out of
a bar in Hillsville, Virginia, where my book is about.
So that's fun, productive trauma. Storytelling in Queer Appalachia is more theoretical, but it's a
great collection. Yeah. So that's a few. If you look in the LGBTQ literature and poetry book that I
mentioned, they have a whole bibliography of stuff. It's popping in the field. It's really starting
to explode. In fact, University of Kentucky Press is calling for queer fiction, queer publications,
indigenous publications and people of color publications. And I have a book contract with
University of Kentucky Press, and they're amazing just for that reason. Oh, Jason Howard is
another person that's great, another queer writer in Appalachia. Doris Davenport is a poet out
of Georgia. She came to Appalachian State and was just awesome. She's fantastic.
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TR: So those are a few that you can start with.
RS: Thank you.
TR: If you haven't ready your Dorothy Allison, you must. You have to read Bastard Out of
Carolina tomorrow. It'll break your heart, and I taught it and it was horrifying, but it's really,
RS: I have stars around her name, so I hope I'll remember it. But thank you for the
recommendations. I'm quite excited to dive into that. But just kind of going back, I know you
mentioned it before we started talking about Appalachian literature, but you are planning
Sylva's first Pride. So what just really pushed you to get this project rolling to decide that you
were going to be the first person to organize Sylva's Pride?
TR: I'm crazy enough, I guess, to do it. No, I didn't start this archive, actually. Sarah Steiner
started this archive with drag performer's interviews, and it kind of started from my work with
this. I started an archive at Indiana University East, that sort of started a movement up there, as
well, too, with queer folks. I had a second level writing course that I had to go around and
collect stories, like I've done with this archive, as well, and got a grant to do, actually several
grants, to do it up there and got a local poet and stuff there. Not local, but he grew up in
Indiana, in the area, and I brought him, gave him some money from the grant to come back and
do a presentation.
But with this, this archive, we got an internal provost grant to start me, Sarah Steiner and Erin
Callahan, who was a linguist in the English department with me, and I think through doing this
grant and through collecting these stories, from not only students, faculty, staff members, folks
from the community, I realized there's such a rich history here of queer folks. Going back to a
group called Out in the Mountains that was established, I think, in the 60s, I need to do better
research on that, but these groups come in waves. And Asheville has a Pride, and we know that
Asheville is a thriving community. They have Blue Ridge Pride there. That's actually when I lived
in Boone where we would go to the "big city" was Asheville, and it was a big... That's where we
would go to feel comfortable, my person I was with at the time, to go to the club there and
Woo, shout out to Scandals. That's where we used to go. But I just thought Sylva has this rich
history. Why don't we celebrate this? That, and besides that, I'm a part of another group here.
So there's sort of a trifecta that's starting to form, and it's great that I'm... Weird that I'm being
interviewed now, but it's also incredible because these groups are really starting up. So I can
sort of touch base of the beginning of what I like to call it's a queer movement here in Sylva, like
in western Carolina. So it's Sylva Pride, which I started, and it's not just me. I have a whole
planning committee, but I sort of struck the match to get going.
There's another group called Sylva Queer Support and Education, and that's sort of like a PFLAG
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group. So when that group kind of got going here, there were lots of folks, young people in that
group who said they weren't comfortable here or they had issues in the high schools here, or
they had issues with certain organizations here and needed help. And one of the first things
that they said is that they would like a Pride to happen here. And I've always toyed around with
starting one. And I was like, "That's it. If we have people uncomfortable in this community, we
have to make them feel comfortable as a Pride and as an outreach organization."
So Pride should happen September 4th from 11 to four. We're going to have bands playing.
There'll be booths for nonprofits and organizations in the area, booths, I mean like tables set up
at Bridge Park down here next to the creek. There'll be a Pride Parade at 12:30. Then after that,
there'll be a daytime adult, or not adult, family friendly drag show probably at 1:30, whenever
we get back from the parade. Then there'll be bands after that, and then that night, there'll be
an adult-themed drag show at Lazy Hiker. So it's all... So I have not started. We're not an official
501C3 Nonprofit yet, but I'd like to become that so that we can advocate, not only advocate,
but also provide events for folks in the area like drag queens or pay drag queens, but also have
drag shows in the area or bring special scholars here, or folks to talk, to be able to pay folks to
talk, to be able to pay... This is like pie in the sky, but bringing someone from Queer Eye to
come to talk to us during Pride or to provide even support and to work alongside Western's ICA
group, doing that type of thing.
So saying that, I started Pride because of what these young folks said, and we had a picnic. The
Sylva Queer Support and Education group had a picnic, and I think 75% of the folx, maybe 50,
50 to 75% of the folx there were younger people, which is great. This is amazing. That's the
future. They're the future of this. There's another group, too, that's forming that's really great.
So there was a vote. Actually, it's kind of hilarious. I was in a faculty workshop on including
indigenous pedagogy, in your classroom. So they were like, "Reach out to indigenous groups in
your area." Obviously, they had Cherokee. So I got on their website and looked at their paper,
and it was like, "Oh, yeah, by the way, same sex marriage was turned down or didn't go before
the tribal council to even go up for a vote." It was not even brought up. It was kicked back.
So there's a group that formed because of that, and it's a group of LGBTQ folks or two-spirited
people over there that are doing protests, making signs and are becoming pretty great. I don't
know a lot of the history about that, but I do know that two-spirited people have a vast history
going away back, and that there's lots of scholarship and lots of fiction that's written about that
and non-fiction, too, as well. So that's critical, I think, as well, up there. So we have kind of a
trifecta here of folks. I have to have this in my interview. This is my cat, Bean.
RS: Whoa! What's your cat's name?
TR: He's name's Bean. Hold on. Of course, if we're doing this at my house, I have to have both
of my cats in. This is Luna. She's a black kitty. Bean's a orange tabby. That's just going to be in
my interview now. It's fine. But anyway, those three groups in Sylva are sort of what's starting
the movement here. I will say, with the archive, I'm working with Blue Ridge Pride, and this
whole collection is under the umbrella of Blue Ridge Pride, as well. They do incredible work up
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there. And Asheville has several nonprofits. And that's what I'm trying to get down here for
Pride, too, just to either get chapters here or just to make folks know that they're 45 minutes
away. They're not far. I love teaching. Teaching is my first and foremost love, but I feel like this
is what I've been put here to do, honestly.
RS: So just kind of going back to the Sylva Queer Support and Education group, could you tell
me more about it? I'm just really unfamiliar with PFLAG in general, and I just want to, for more
clarification on what the group does.
TR: Yeah. So what that group is trying to do is somewhat like PFLAG. There's still a lot of talk
about... Because they are literally just forming, as well, about joining, starting a PFLAG here.
There's certain restrictions and things that you cannot do in a PFLAG group or if you declare
yourself a 501C3, you can't do that, certain political things, that type of thing. So they are really
just kind of an advocacy group for LGBTQ folks in the area. So they want to have outreach for K
through 12 folks. The want to have outreach for students and parents. I know PFLAG groups
sometimes have little younger group settings or gatherings for just the kids, just the youth, and
then another set of meetings for the parents to talk, and they go through different... There's lot
of materials that PFLAG has and other stuff. There's lots of stuff out there that you can use.
So it's more like advocacy, that type of thing, for younger folks, I think, is their main priority. We
actually had a meeting yesterday to kind of distinguish ourselves. So Sylva Pride is going to be
more event based. So I guess I'm the party planner or something, and they're more advocacy
based. Jen, who runs it, and Susan, Susan's a faculty member at Western, and Jen is a licensed
therapist. So that's kind of, she has her own practice here and does work with neurodivergent
trans folks, which is really cool. Yeah, she was telling me about that yesterday. Very cool.
RS: And then just kind of bridging off from what you were saying, how are you intersectionality
in all these groups in general, with Sylva Pride and also the Sylva Queer Support and Education,
how are incorporating that, or what have you learned additionally to provide new perspectives?
TR: So I think that's a great question, too, and something that I'm very much considering about
Sylva Pride because in my work with Appalachian Mountain Studies Association, I'm the chair of
the diversity and inclusion committee, and we have a very big focus on intersectionality. And
actually, I helped write an anti-racism statement last year when everything, when all the things
were happening then. So for Sylva Pride, I really would like to give people of color and also the
group of Cherokee priority. If there's musicians, I would love to provide them with priority
because they should have priority over anyone here in my opinion.
But if I can find some more folks to do that, then I want to do it. And I think with resources, too,
I think it's critically important to make known and also talk about those issues as well. I am a
voracious reader. I just finished, what is it, All Boys Aren't Blue, I think is what it was called, and
it was just an amazing text about intersectionality, and I think the more... And again, this is
something else that Queer Support could do is to raise those issues and to have folks... I mean,
if we could have the author of that text come and talk to us, it'd be amazing.
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Yeah. I think it's an issue with us that we need to pay attention to, and that I'm trying to pay
attention to as we're forming. I was very cognizant when putting the board together to have
people on color on the board, to have people from all walks of life on that board, as well, too. I
should say planning committee because we're not really a board. We're not really a committee
either, but I guess we will be if we have to go big time.
RS: So I know we've already talked about Sylva Pride, and I just want to go back to it because
have you just had any difficult hurdles while planning Sylva Pride? I just imagine for planning
such an event there has to be something that's gone wrong.
RS: I don't want to curse it.
TR: Knock on wood. No, not terribly yet. I will say there was an editorial in the paper that was,
as an English professor, not very well written in my opinion. That was complaining about it
being on Labor Day weekend. And I'm like, sorry about it. That's the only time that we can
schedule it. And also, Labor Day celebrates everyone, including queer folks. So your point's kind
of mute. So I did have that. One thing, I was involved with Reconcile Sylva and the marches
against the statue that's still up there, but one thing is that there's going to be backlash. There's
going to be people talking on Facebook and on social media and all that.
Okay. Great. Let's record that and put it in the archive then and have it be more reason to have
Pride now. Now, I will say, anybody threatens, if I get one single threat anywhere, social media,
regardless, it's going straight to the cops, going straight to the police. I have zero tolerance
about that at all. Yeah, and the police department's been really helpful already so far with
working with it. One thing that we're sort of still working towards is closing the street. It takes a
lot of money and protection to close the streets to move the cars around, especially since
there's become a big thing happening here. I think that needs to happen. I don't think we can fit
on the sidewalk anymore.
So, sorry not sorry. And if we need to raise up money, we can. That's not an issue. Another
group that I haven't mentioned is Calliope Stage Group, which is a local theater organization
here in Sylva that started, they got the same grant. Ashley Wasmund is her name, got the grant
to start a local theater company, and I actually have a piece in there based loosely off some of
the stuff in the archive. And that's a great, incredible group that's again, a big advocacy group
here as well, too. There's actually... I helped organize so many drag shows, it's absurd, but
there's a drag show on Saturday that's to benefit. Calliope does a youth, a kid's camp for
theater, and so all the money from the drag show is going to go towards the kid's camp for
scholarships for folks to come to that.
RS: Wow, that is great.
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TR: Yeah. It's incredible. Even Ashley was saying one of the most powerful moments during that
camp was that this young person was just kind of withdrawn the whole time, and a lot of them
were like that because of COVID anyway, but just the whole time was really withdrawn. The
person came out and said that they were trans and that they felt this way about their body and
about their life and about their identity. And then their performance, just whole new person
when they came out. That gives me chills again. And during the actual production, they didn't
have time to change the person's pronouns, but the other actors in the play automatically
changed them. So it was... That's why I want to do Pride. That's why I want to do this work here.
If we can make folks like that feel comfortable and welcome and that their identity is welcome
here, I think that's the work that we can do. And of course, there's a great Willy Nelson quote
that says, "If we ain't having fun, we ain't doing it right."
RS: Very true.
TR: Always have to have fun. If you're not having fun, you're not. I always love my job, not every
aspect of it, but for the most part, I'm privileged to be in the position that I'm at. So I'm trying
to pass that privilege on to other folks, too.
RS: Okay. And would you like to talk about your work with Reconcile Sylva at all, if you'd like?
TR: So it was a good group. I think when a lot of this stuff with the sort of social movement that
happened after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and all of the sort of marches and things that
happened, Black Lives Matter marches, I felt compelled to join in and wanted to do something,
and did. I didn't go to the first march here, but I think there was maybe two other ones, at least
one other one. I spoke about the statue. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, I went to high
school downtown, I ran around these statues. I saw them every day for four years pretty much.
And not only that, we were 30 minutes from downtown, too. My dad worked down there. I'm
born and bred away from my great grandparents in Richmond.
And I was ignorant about the statuary, why it was put up. I mean, to realize it was put up in the
20s or even before that during Jim Crow is just absurd. And I wrote a pretty good editorial in
the Sylva Herald as well too, about my feelings towards that. And these are not only
monuments about racist monuments, but these are also folks who were probably homophobic.
I mean, I can easily say that. And I sort of addressed that in my book chapter, as well, in
Storytelling in Queer Appalachia. So the group, we did a lot of really great, the march, and then
we did some protesting at the statue, and we were doing that a lot. But that takes a lot of
energy, a lot of extended energy to do for a long time. And then when Biden got elected and
things started to change and the vote was done, we were just kind of fizzled out.
And honestly, one of my really good friends here Erika, who passed away tragically, kind of
fizzled out after she died, too. But they're changing the name on the statue, which to me is
ludicrous. It's absurd. Take it down. If it's become an emblem of hate, take it down. That does
not belong in my city or in my town. And it's not in my city in Richmond, Virginia. They're gone.
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Good. Put them somewhere else. Put them in a park or a put them in a graveyard. We have so
many of those here where people can go and acknowledge and that type of thing. Looking at
statuary, I have another colleague of mine at Indiana University East, has done research on
Lenin statues and how they have just parks of Lenin statues that you can walk through. There's
plants and stuff growing on them and that type of thing.
So we have lots of options of moving them other places. Yeah. I think they need to be moved,
and I think it's high time that we acknowledge Cherokee folks here, folks whose land this is in
big ways. I know that Western has a continued partnership with the EBCI and has the statue on
campus, but we continue to work with them, too, and that's one of my goals as well, too, one of
the things that I need to work on is to reach out and to work and to learn. And one of the
biggest things I think I can do as a cis man, gay man, white man, is just to sit and listen and
learn. And I think that's one thing that I got out of Reconcile Sylva is you can't put the work on
folks who are oppressed. You have to do your own work to read and to learn, and I think that's
one of the most powerful things that I'm doing now. I'm consuming everything that I can over
this summer, and I like to.
I mean, as faculty members, we can audit courses. It's amazing. You just take a course for free.
It's crazy. So I would love to take a Cherokee language course. That would be so cool. So yeah, I
know that was sort of a long-winded question about Reconcile. Reconcile, it's still going. There's
still social media on there. I'm just don't have... With Pride and everything I'm organizing, I just
don't have time for it anymore. But I'm all about the cause.
RS: And then just, you mentioned a couple of times your book and whatnot. What inspires your
writing, especially how does your queerness inspire your writing?
TR: I like that question. Okay. So let's see. So my book is from my dissertation, and my
dissertation came from a project that I did as a masters student at Appalachian. It's about the
shootout in Hillsville, Virginia in 1912 when a man, Floyd Allen, came into the courthouse and
was put on trial. And basically, shots rang out in the courthouse, and folks were killed.
Obviously, many people were harmed, and it was front page news until the Titanic sank 1912.
So it was a lot of media coverage, ballads were written about it. There's old novels that are
written about it as well, too. There's actually graphic comic books that came out about it that
are so cool. I just love that.
There's a rock opera that was written about it, and there's lots of museums. There's three
different museums that I analyze in the book and look at how the story is retold and the
rhetorical circulation of that story. So how is it retold? How do they pick it up and guide you
through the story in certain ways? And my last chapter looks at the women of the shootout
who have been largely ignored in the telling of it. And I went to the archives in the library of
Virginia and looked at letters from them and the play that's written from a lot of the women's
point of view, I analyze what they say there, too.
So that's the book. There's not a lot of queerness in that book at all whatsoever. Yeah. Pretty
Travis Rountree 10
much zero, but that's a more public memory. When this happened, too, it was the start of the
hillbilly figure, as well, too, and the gangster figure. So you'll see in an op-ed, in a political
cartoon, the Allens are portrayed kind of like a gangster figure. So it's fascinating. And I love it.
I've been doing that for probably over ten years now, and I've not grown tired of it at all, and
I'm excited to work back on the book whenever I pick it back up. It's out to reviewers now. I'm
going to probably turn 40 years old and have a book baby.
TR: I know. Thank you. So we'll see. But as far as my other work, so after the book, I have taken
this sort of queer turn. Like I said, the book chapter in... I don't think I have it here. Oh, here it
is. In this book, Storytelling in Queer Appalachia, I'm holding the book now. I know this is going
to be in transcript, which is available at City Lights and at your local book seller [laugh]. It's also
at the library. But in that chapt... God, I'm plugging the book in the archive. Good Lord. But in
that chapter, Caleb and I do talk about queer methodology and methods because when I was
interviewing folks there in Hillsville, I was dressed very much as I am now except I have shorts
on. I was very cowboy boots, khaki pants, collared shirt, and I knew that I was doing that.
And then we went out to eat after I'd finished my interviews, and Caleb was in a tank top, I
don't know why this sticks in my mind, a tank top with cats playing pool on it. I don't know. And
I think I had on a Cincinnati shirt and hat. We both had on shorts and flip flops because it was
July in Virginia. So our chapter is about queer researching and how you present yourself and
how you can be interpreted in embodiment and also precarity because I was asked... This guy
came up to us and was talking to us. This is the title of our book, by the way, and just came up
and asked, "Are Y'all Homos?" So I'm like, "Thanks. Title of our chapter. Great."
But in that conversation, too, he did tell us, "Well, you got about 10 to 15 minutes to get out of
here before people show up and there could be trouble." Or there will be trouble, is what
happened. And folks in motorcycle cuts started showing up. So Caleb and I got our food and ran
out the back door, quite literally. And we were lucky too with that that we didn't get hurt
because we both know, there are horror stories about folks getting gay bashed and that type of
thing. So that chapter, Caleb and I wrote together and has very much, we depend on a lot of
queer scholarship as well there. I just finished another book chapter on The Tacky South.
There's a singer songwriter out of Texas called Robert Earl Keen who is a big, Robert Earl Keen
Jr., who's a big singer songwriter there. And the collection is on The Tacky South. So I look at
two of his songs. One is Merry Christmas From the Gamily, which is, Montgomery Gentry
covered it, but his version's better. But it's about kind of if you've seen Christmas Vacation kind
of like a family like that. It's very much in line with my family, too, which I love, a sort of
working class, tacky version of the south and west folks. But I talk about in that book chapter
about how that sort of working class stuff allowed him to write the song called The Great Hank,
which is when he puts Hank Williams in drag and has him perform. And it's so good!
Travis Rountree 11
It's such a great song. So I look at that and the reasoning behind that and how tackiness is
portrayed in there because drag is always tacky and campy and wonderful and beautiful and
makes fun of gender and that type of thing. The absurdity of the gender binary is basically what
drag is, which is why I love it. So yeah. And I'm leaning more into queer stuff, writing about
queer things now, too. Yeah. That's that question.
RS: Do you know what has pushed you to write more about queer things? Has it been your
involvement with the archive or the archive's past? Or was it just a gradual occurrence?
TR: I think it was a gradual occurrence. I'm not giving up my public memory stuff and nor should
I. I mean, you can still do... I mean, this archive is a public memory in a sense. It's a digital public
memory. And there's an article in me that's going to come out about that at some point, too,
about not only this but using archiving, queer archives in a composition classroom so the
wrapping it around pedagogy, as well, because I've done this several times, at least twice, three
times technically. I did it in Louisville, too. But incorporating that into the classroom. So I think
the archiving stuff has kind of pushed me along, too, and also I've just kind of, again with the
Willy Nelson quote, “If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.”
I have another article in me that's going to be about prosthetic memory in the movie Dumpling,
the prosthetic memory of Dolly Parton and how she's not even in the movie, but her celebrity is
in the movie and that allows for intersectional feminine power in that movie. That's some fancy
academic shit right there.
RS: I'm so tempted to pull out my Dolly Parton tape that I have on my shelf.
RS: She looks like a cottage core lesbian in it, so I just love it so much.
TR: I want to see that for real now. Do you have it?
RS: Yeah. Of course. Here she is.
RS: This is the original, 1991 version. This is my favorite picture of her. Wait, no. You can't see it.
Hold on, sorry.
TR: Hold it that way. Yes. I love that! So good. So in my living room, I have, it's a Dolly Tarot. It's
a print off of Etsy, and it's one my favorite Dolly things. And I think I've become a huge fan of
hers even though shamefully have never been, excuse me, to Dollywood, which is ridiculous,
but I'm going to go this summer or in the fall, but I think she's done so much for the region but
also for queer folks, too, and she says she has a gay dance album that she has in her vault that
she's going to release at some point. But there's been a lot of queer stuff written around her as
Travis Rountree 12
well, which I'm here for. One of my absolute dreams, and I think once I get through this Pride
stuff, if I can apply for a grant to go and research in the Country Music Hall of Fame, I would
just... That's one of my dreams to do.
One of the podcasts that I listen to, Cocaine and Rhinestones, is Tyler Mahan Coe is David Allen
Coe's son. David Allen Coe is a problematic figure in several ways, but Tyler Mahan Coe went
and interviewed or went into the Country Music Hall of Fame and did all this research, and I'm a
big country music fan, and probably know a lot more about George Jones and Johnny Cash and
Jim Carter Cash and Patsy Cline than like anybody naturally should, but I love it. Yeah, and I
think a lot of the stuff, too, can be wrapped up in the classroom, can be wrapped in what I'm
already doing with research, as well. Yeah. I love that stuff so much.
RS: Well, I do not have any more questions for you. Is there anything else you would like to add
or want to talk about?
TR: I think just one of the last things is just to kind of reiterate the history that we have in this
region of LGBTQ folks and just, that's one of the reasons that I'm doing this work as well as the
younger people here who don't feel a place or who feel ashamed of who they are or feel not
safe. I want them never to feel that way in this town. And I know there's certain places that
they are, and that they have to be uncomfortable in, but I want them to know also that there
are people here like us that are there by their side and are mentors for them as well. So sorry.
End on a sober note there. Also, my cat just meowed, too. So that's funny. Well, great. Yeah.
I'm going to stop recording since we're done.
RS: Thank you so much.
TR: Yes, thank you.