The LGBTQ+ Experience in Appalachia: OU Student Elizabeth Elrod Shares Her Story

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When Scioto County native Elizabeth Elrod came out as transgender woman, she was ostracized by her family, students at the school she was attending, and even members of her church.

“My mom told me to be a man, or I wasn’t welcome under her roof. So, I left,” said Elrod, a queer activist and a senior in Ohio University’s music therapy program.

Elrod’s story is one that is familiar to many LGBTQ+ people who grew up in Appalachia and other rural parts of the country. Five such stories are chronicled over the course of six years of filming by Out in Rural America, a documentary film WOUB-TV will broadcast Thursday, June 17 at 10 p.m. ET.

Out In Rural America

The years that led up to Elrod’s public acknowledgement of her authentic gender were difficult. For three years she was addicted to methamphetamine, which, paired with the loss of the support of the people she loved, was devastating to her mental health. Elrod was hospitalized for suicidal ideation – but it was in the psychiatric ward that she discovered her passion for using music to help others.

“There was a recreation room where most of the patients spent their time and there happened to be a piano. I’ve played piano since I was five years old. So, it was natural for me to play the piano, to pass the time. As I got to know the other clients, I started learning what their favorite songs were. And I started realizing that certain songs could calm someone having a panic attack or bring out hope in someone who was suicidal. This was the defining event in my life that made me realize that I wanted to study music therapy,” said Elrod. “I had withdrawn from OU after three semesters of studying music education previously, and I had laid down roots in Athens. So it only felt natural to return to Ohio University. I also have to mention that the music therapy program here is phenomenal!”

Elrod, who has been clean for over three years, helped plan and stage the first Portsmouth, Ohio LGBTQ+ Pride festival in 2018, as well as assist in starting and continuing a support group for LGBTQ+ adults as a part of programming at the Portsmouth Welcoming Community.

Listen to more of Elrod’s story, embedded above.