Excerpt, PM Press Blog

The Power of Saying “Nonbinary” in a Southern Accent

Read an excerpt from Y’all Means All, a new collection of essays about Appalachian queerness.

April 5th, 2022

The Appalachian hills are as gentle as they are queer. That’s the premise of Y’all Means All, a powerful new collection of essays that celebrate, affirm, and reclaim the region as a powerful source of LGBTQ+ thought, criticism, and activism. 

Edited by Z. Zane McNeill, an independent West Virginian scholar-activist who serves on the steering committee for the Appalachian Studies Association, the book gathers together an array of voices who write not from a place of merely defending Appalachia from outsider stereotypes and misconceptions, but from a deep well of love for a region that deserves more attention.

In the essay below, “All Them That Don’t Call Me They,” artist and writer sair goetz considers what it would be like to hear nonbinary language in their blended North Carolina-Oklahoma accent and ponders the affirmation that comes from speaking queer terminology that is most often used on the internet in their own regional dialect instead. In the digital age, as goetz observes, we don’t hear each other’s queer tongues often enough.All Them That Don’t Call Me They

by sair goetz


We often text rather than call, and we see each other on social media rather than IRL. We don’t hear each other’s voices. This silence can be particularly liberating for those of us whose vocal expression pins us to the gender we were assigned at birth.

Thee internet is the only place my larynx does not betray me.

You don’t assume my gender when you read my words offyour phone. My gendered voice, as well as my height and center of gravity, make little to no impact in the world of “sound off.” This genderlessness is a liberating silence. More affirming to me than knowing good selfie angles.

But the erasure of voice from the space of social media has also erased other traces of my vocal history.

The me who speaks naturally in my Southern accent is separated from the me who found a community of trans folks across the world over the internet. My Southern accent, often unconsciously buried under years of vocal conformity, comes out when I speak with other Southern people. That fact carries fear for me whenever I go back to the South. Often, when this accent comes out of my mouth, my sense of my own complex gender identity is further erased, and all that’s left is the voice of a Southern white woman.

Y’all Means All: The Emerging Voices Queering Appalachia