OUT in the High Country is a grassroots group of community members and professionals who are aiming to create capacity for serving LGBTQ+ individuals in the High Country counties of Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Wilkes, and Alleghany through community focused trainings that provide basic educational information as well as foster conversations about LGBTQ+ issues unique to the High Country.
OUT in the High Country also aims to help create visibility and community for individuals who identify and advocate allies and will begin hosting community meetings and support groups soon!
OUT in the High Country was conceived of in October, 2015 by KC Buchanan and Maggie Hawkinson. At the time, they were both seniors in the Bachelor of Social Work program at Appalachian State University, and had recently attended a conference on Queer Youth in NC. They left the Conference feeling, more so than ever, that the High Country was deeply lacking in resources and safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals, especially LGBTQ+ youth who are figuring out their identities. It also became more apparent that there was a broader lack of community available for LGBTQ+ persons in the region.
Because of these issues, they wanted to help create an opportunity to bring people together and offer training on LGBTQ+ basics so as to start bringing the needs of the population into the eyes of community members from all corners. It became their vision to see the High Country counties of Watauga, Ashe, Avery, Alleghany, and Wilkes, begin to properly serve and respectfully acknowledge LGBTQ+ individuals and their needs.
From there, they sought out the help of other allied community members to help them in this endeavor, and shortly thereafter, 5 additional visionaries joined the effort, and thus, the first Planning Committee for OUT in the High Country was created.
After a series of brainstorming meetings and long conversations, OUT in the High Country began to take form, and at first, took on the name “Queer in the High Country.” Not long after the Planning Committee began to find a direction for their efforts, a very important partnership for OUT in the High Country (OHC) was formed with the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE).
CSE began assisting OHC in finding a more clear direction for their vision of bringing a large scale training conference to the High Country. From these conversations, rapid growth began to happen. OHC’s flagship event really started coming together, and not long after, Queer in the High Country became OUT in the High Country. Just as this positive force was gaining momentum, things had also taken a negative turn in NC, and more than ever, the great need for these efforts became more apparent with the passing of House Bill 2 (HB2).
After a few more months, many, many more long meetings, deep conversations, and a lot more hard work by everyone on the Leadership Team, OHC’s first event, the flagship OUT in the High Country Conference, finally came together in October of 2016.
OHC has since hosted a second training conference in October 2017 as well as a few smaller in-service trainings with various groups, and is now aiming to host community meetups and support groups for Transgender and Nonbinary folx as well as for Parents of LGBTQ+ children and youth in 2018!
From all of us on the OHC team, thank you for participating in OUT in the High Country trainings, events, meetups, and socials, and we hope you will continue to help us be a part of the change we want to see happen in our community.