Note: This post was originally scheduled to appear on another site during Pride month, but due to a string of unfortunate circumstances it never happened, so I’m sharing it now. It’s a good one, folks, so buckle up and enjoy seeing Pride as it applies to both Appalachia and Centenary Rhodes, the protagonist of my Appalachian Elementals series, along with her wonderfully diverse family.
I thought I’d share Pride through the eyes of Centenary Rhode’s (Cent), the protagonist of my Appalachian Elementals series. Yes, this series is set in Southern Appalachia, the United States of America and, no, Pride is not a contradiction based on this geography. Appalachia has had a long dark shadow of poverty, close-mindedness, and other horrid stereotypes placed upon it but much of it, especially the worst bits, simply aren’t true. Appalachian natives are often misunderstood and commonly stereotyped by outsiders who know very little about our culture. That said, Cent and many of the other characters in my Appalachian Elementals series embrace the queer Appalachian experience on multiple levels, a unique blending of resistance, acceptance, and perseverance. They, like the rest of Appalachia, are as hearty as they come and, yes, it is entirely possible for them to get their red on (Dane Gow, I’m looking at you and the other Hunter fey) or dander up, though generally in the liberal sense. Again, Cent and her family are unique and complicated. They’re rainbow pinpoints in a red, mountainous sea, but they live in Appalachia happily because they’re Appalachian folk. And while Cent’s family, like mine, has been in Appalachia for multiple generations, Cent, in some form or another, has been here for over three thousand years, along with many ancient beings whose lives have interconnected.
Here’s the thing. In Appalachia, your business is your business; mine is mine. It’s that simple. And Cent’s family does their own thing whether others approve or not. They’re proud people, just like all other Appalachians, so they stand up for what they believe in. They not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk as well, and their family is centered in love, acceptance, and magic. Cent’s pansexual and non-binary and married to an Earth elemental. And Aubrey Rhodes, Cent’s cousin? Why, he’s gay and married to a water elemental. But the rest of Cent’s family? They’re a mix of magical beings and Humans who have all learned that being yourself is something to celebrate on a daily basis.
That’s Pride in its truest form.
At least it is in my opinion, but I digress. Aubrey regularly wears and jokes about his rainbow unicorn t-shirt, and Cent’s just as likely to wear a Pride shirt as she is to wear pan-colored laces with her tennis shoes. And Dane (I mentioned her earlier, remember?) will wear a Pride colors welding cap or even a kilt with Pride colors in the pleats to ritual circles whenever she feels the urge.
Pride, for Cent’s family, is being who you are without shame. It’s being a multi-lived witch, a thousand-year-old fey herbalist, a former preacher turned believer in magic, someone’s mentally ill mother, a four-hundred-million year old mountain spirit, a lesbian welder, a gay nurse, a transwoman medium, the great aunt to two awesome people who just so happen to be LGBTQIA, or even a quirky Victorian-era haint (ghost) without being ashamed of who you are or who you love.
Pride is also accepting others as they are. It’s family of choice blended with blood kin. It’s rainbow, sparkles, sunshine, love, laughter, and contentment in the midst of a vicious mountain snowstorm or amid a magical attack from an unknown enemy. Pride is unfurling your colors for the world to see and acknowledge others’ colors without passing judgment. And sometimes, at least for Cent’s family, it’s a pot of soup beans and cornbread at the family table followed by cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles, and maybe a nip or three of peach moonshine while the wee fairies dance outside the window.
And that feeling of unconditional love and acceptance, my dears, is what Pride is all about.
Want to know more about Cent and her magical family? You can find Jeanne and her books, past, present, and future, here (all titles are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other sellers as well):
Cleaning House (Appalachian Elementals #1)
Keeping House (Appalachian Elementals #2)
Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree (Appalachian Elementals side tale novella)