JP Davis, Ashland, Kentucky
What does the word queer mean to you? How do you identify?
For me, the term Queer signifies Freedom. Freedom to be oneself without fear of bias, discrimination, persecution, or hate. For someone who proudly identifies as Queer is making a statement of strength, empowerment, and leadership. For me, I identify both as a gay man and as Queer.
Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything at all?
I think it’s important to identify and be able to talk about it with others. Our culture traditionally avoids the subject of sexuality and I think it’s our responsibility to remind folks sexuality is not black & white. There’s a lot people don’t understand because we don’t expose it and we don’t talk about it- therefore it aids in negative judgement.
Where are you originally from and explain how was it growing up/living in Kentucky?
Ashland, Kentucky. I loved growing up in Ashland and I’m grateful to have that experience. I was never comfortable admitting who I was in Ashland and I feared it most of my life. I didn’t come out until I was studying abroad working on my masters and I met a beautiful person I called my boyfriend throughout the summer. I pledged to never live unauthentically ever again. I’ll never forget experiencing those feelings & emotions for the first time, and thinking, ‘Wow. This is beautiful. I’ve wasted so much time.’ Never again.
What would you say to any person struggling to come into their own identity?
I’d say a lot of things. I usually recommend a few books, including “Velvet Rage.” I also reinforce the importance of what truly matters: education, character, honesty, integrity, love, compassion, etc. There’s so many people in this world walking around, making decisions, and yielding power- from a very insecure, weak, and troubled place. Queer people are strong. We yield power in our experience & knowledge. We yield power for our love, care, & compassion for others. We know what it feels like to be judged as a second class citizen. Queer people are beautiful people.
How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
I’m confident. Because of my past experiences, I’ve learned to not let others dictate who I am, how I should sound, what I should dress, who I should be, etc. I do not ask permission. I juggle being civically engaged in this city and it’s hard. It’s especially hard when “powerful” people try to control you or shut you down. I am myself 100% of the time. I love & live my life to the fullest every day. No turning back.
What issues do you see in the queer community?
I’d like to see LGBTQ people support each other more. I see a lot of silos & clicks. I’d love to see a more inclusive LGTBQ community. I still see a divided LGTBQ community racially as well. We still have a lot of work to do. I’d also like to see more opportunities between older LGBTQ professionals & younger LGBTQ professionals. I’d like to see more efforts to support internships, job placement, board leadership, community engagement & more.
What do you think would solve those issues?
Engagement. Just more folks getting involved- stepping up.
Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
I do not feel excluded, no. I feel very included. But I’m also a very visible LGBTQ person living in Louisville. I’m not worried about me. I’m worried what I can do to make sure others feel included, especially younger LGBTQ people.
Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc) Who influenced the life you live now?
Owsley Brown Frazier has been the biggest influence in my life. Keith Inman is a close friend. Dr. Phil Laemmle has been an incredible friend & mentor to me. Julie Kroger, Jenny Sawyer, Kathleen Smith at one time was a great mentor to me. My current boss, Christen Boone has been an instrumental influence. I feel my best when I’m exploring the unknown. I’m a curious person and I love learning from others and understanding things from a unique perspective. I love experiencing new cultures, foods, and places. At the end of the day, I’m a very passionate person. I pour everything into my work. I feel at my best while doing my work in the community. I LOVE making big shit happen in Louisville that impacts others in a transformative way.