"It's not necessarily an inviting place, but some of the people make it worthwhile:" Surveying Everyday Queer Geographies of the Fort Bragg Region

Authors: Nathan McMenamin*, University of North Carolina - Greensboro
Topics: Queer and Trans Geographies, Qualitative Methods, Cultural Geography
Keywords: queer, everyday, militarism, rural, suburban, digital, North Carolina
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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Despite increasing attention to geographies of gender and sexuality since the 1990’s, much of the literature has tended towards urban queer place-making and less often examined the state of rural queer geographies of smaller cities and rural areas of conservative places. Thus, this paper examines the state of queer identity and belonging in rural and suburban spaces in the context of a hegemonic military culture in and around Fort Bragg, North Carolina. More broadly, it sheds light on nontraditional aspects of queer geographies by identifying modes of queer life that exist despite the dearth of factors that are thought to sustain queer culture. Using a qualitative, ethnographic approach, 28 interviews were conducted with members of the queer community to assess the nature of community formation in and around the field site.
Preliminary findings from this research have coalesced around four emerging themes: 1.) a regional cultural conservatism that constrains queer identity, 2.) the ways in which economic spillover interacts with aspects of queer social reproduction, which informs 3.) the dearth of physical, queer-centric spaces, the lack thereof creating 4.) a resultant dependence on digital spaces that reproduce certain aspects of the dominant conservative culture. These findings reveal queer geographies that transcend the urban gayborhoods dominated by white, cisgender, middle-class gay men and embody queer lifeways across an array of identities. These everyday experiences and spaces of queerness in a rural, southern, military area illuminate the ways in which the social landscape continues to shift in the American South.

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