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The Queens of Queen City | Maryland, US
By Michael Snyder
Published April 2023
America is, by admission of most of its political leaders, a nation shaped by deeply held religious beliefs and cultural values. And perhaps nowhere is this truer than in Appalachia, a mountainous swath of America’s eastern midsection, known for its Rust Belt work ethic and its Bible Belt conservatism. Here, Cumberland, Maryland was once the “Queen City,” a hub of industry and culture. But the story of Cumberland has paralleled that of many once-great cities throughout the Appalachian region: the gradual departure of industry and, with it, a slow descent into economic stagnation and cultural decline.
But even here, flowers are growing in the cracked pavement: a queer community has banded together, created a thriving drag scene, and—against all odds—built the largest Pride movement in the region. The “Queens of Queen City” is a documentary project exploring the courage, risks, and repercussions of openly expressing LGBTQ identities in rural, conservative America. The project charts the course of this queer community over five years as they struggle with loss, bigotry, and acts of arson, to build an inclusive, vibrant community.
This project is funded in part by the Pulitzer Center and will be published in the summer issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review.
Artist, educator, and environmental activist, Michael O. Snyder is a photographer and filmmaker who uses his combined knowledge of visual storytelling and conservation to create narratives that drive social impact. Michael is a Portrait of Humanity Award Winner, a Climate Journalism Fellow at the Bertha Foundation, a Blue Earth Alliance Photographer, a National Geographic Contributor, and a Resident Artist at the McGuffey Art Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, among others.