What does the word queer mean to you?
What I love about the word “queer” is that it can mean anything you want it to; it can be as much or as little of a label as you need for your identity, and its fluidity and freedom I think are really beautiful. When I first came out, I identified as queer because I wasn’t really sure what I was, but I knew I wasn’t “straight.” Hanging on to an open and fluid orientation really helped me make sense of who I was without compromising any authenticity.
How do you identify?
I’m a gay cis male.
Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything at all?
To me, my sexuality just started to really become clear once I accepted that I wasn’t “straight.” After calling myself queer for a while, I’m now confident in asserting myself as gay because that’s who I am and I’m proud of it!
Where are you originally from and explain how was it growing up/living in Kentucky?
I’m from this area and while I went away for college, the bulk of my adult maturation happened here. I think Louisville is an amazing place to explore your sexuality and identity, and it has ample resources in both organizations and individuals to help you do so. But I know that that’s rare for a state like Kentucky. I’m hoping with the work that important organizations like the Fairness Campaign are doing across the state, smaller town questioning folks will be able to discover themselves without fear or inhibition.
What would you say to any person struggling to come into their own identity?
I would say that the first step is to just be open to the possibilities. I know how it can feel when you think you’re straight, or want to believe you are, and then you realize you’re not; unfortunately, there can be some fear with that realization, which of course is problematic in its own way. But once I called myself queer and then gay, I was able to take the deepest exhale of my life and I subsequently found such a beautiful community that I feel so fortunate to be a part of. Some of the best things in my life stem from being gay, and once you navigate past the anxiety of the unknown, you will find those things too.
How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
I think it just helps me be more confident because I am certain in who I am. By embracing my identity, I inherently feel more at peace with myself, which I suppose can translate to confidence, comfort and even assertiveness at times.
What issues do you see in the queer community?
I think the biggest, or certainly one of the biggest, issues facing the queer community is that we do not always fight for each other. Yes, white gay males are perhaps more “accepted” by mainstream society, but what about trans folks, or LGBTQ people of color? White gay men are often the culprits of this: of feeling like the war is won because we can walk down the street holding our boyfriend’s hand. But we must continue to fight for those who still are uneasy walking down the street; we must give a voice to them and use our privilege to increase their visibility, which I hope will lead to a more inclusive, diverse and loving society.
Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
I really don’t feel excluded because, whether I like it or not, I am pretty “mainstream” gay. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing, but like I said, I have to be cognizant of my privilege and utilize it to make better the lives of those aren’t as privileged.
Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)?
I am at my best when I’m on the couch with my boyfriend, at dinner with my best friends or in a theatre. My boyfriend Charlie is the greatest person I have ever known and he constantly pushes me to be the best version of myself, for which my gratitude is endless. My two best friends are always there for me – to hear me complain, to help me with tasks, to field my anxieties or to pour me shots – and I cannot express what that unconditional support means to me. And acting, directing or producing in theatre is where my truest passion lies. Being a part of creating the magic of live theatre is one of the most rewarding things I’ve discovered in life, and without it, I don’t really know who I’d be. Theatre, in its intrinsic collaboration and artistry, has also been a space in which I feel safest, and I think it’s provided me, along with myriad LGBTQ individuals, with a sort of haven.
Who influenced the life you live now?
I’d like to say that I’m a blend of myself, my parents, my brother, my boyfriend and my friends, but I know there are community role models I look to for inspiration on how to always be better. Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman has been pretty influential as far as using his position of privilege to give a voice to those who are relentlessly marginalized. Also, Theatre  Co-Artistic Directors Gil Reyes and Amy Attaway are two arts professionals I would be happy to emulate if I could find the talent, professionalism and creativity they both possess. I’m sure the list is endless of those who have impacted my identity, but for every single of them, I am truly grateful because, for better or worse, I kind of like who I am.