I was born in Louisville, Kentucky. My grandmother delivered me in our home on Frankfort Avenue, in my mother’s bed. Growing up I spent my time split between my dad’s shotgun in the Highlands, my mother’s apartment and my grandmother’s farm in rural Southern Indiana. The farm is called Rainbow Circle Farm and growing up there had a serious influence over my life. My grandmother and her partner used most of their 3.5 acres for organic garden. My mother worked days as a bar manager, and my father was a mechanic, so i spent most of my time at the farm. We worked in the beds on the weekends as a family and during the week my aunt, cousins and I could take advantage of the swimming pool, barn, trampoline and tall climbing trees.
My grandmother was and still is very active in her queer community so there have always been extra “aunts”, “uncles” and supportive friends around. We danced around the maypole, celebrated the equinox, attended the Womyn’s Festival in Michigan and there were always at least 6-8 of us together. My mother, aunts, grandmother, father and uncles all taught me about the importance of acceptance and love. I grew up in the sheltered cocoon of a rainbow family who were color blind and I had no idea at the time how lucky I was.
It wasn’t until I started attending public school that I learned about racism, homophobia, and general bigotry. The first time that I got called a lesbian I was 6, and it was solely because the other kid knew that my grandmothers were gay. The disdain on my classmate’s face is something that I will never forget, and I couldn’t understand why being a lesbian would be a bad thing. I had known since I was maybe 5 that I was attracted to both boys and girls and had no idea that anything was wrong with that. As I got older I came to realize that in public settings my aunt called one of her mothers, “aunt”. It didn’t register until later why she had to do something like that, simply to protect herself and our family.
When I was in 7th grade a friendship developed into me having my first girlfriend. A teacher discovered our secret and the school called our parents. My mother’s response was classic Mama Cat, “Why are you calling me at work for THIS, they are 13?!” My girlfriend’s family had the opposite reaction and we were forbidden from seeing each other. Our classmates slowly started to find out about us and from there the ridicule started. Even though I had been taught my entire life that it didn’t matter who you loved, nor that I had the utmost support at home, I decided to break it off with my girl and never speak of my queerness again. People at school never let me live it down and stuffing such an organic part of myself away for so long is a large part of where my struggle with depression and anxiety began. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how much internalized homophobia I had, because I never had an issue with anyone else’s choices, just my own. Lucky for me I am now in therapy and have the support system that I need to help me learn to cope with my mental illness.
When I moved back to Kentucky I realized that I have a community again. Meeting my people, including my partner, and bearing witness to their transparency about their mental health and their sexuality has truly given me the strength that I need to keep moving forward and learning to love myself. Visibility has been such an important part of my family and my life and it continues to inspire me every single day. It is my hope that with more transparency less kids will feel the need to internalize their true feelings and sexuality. I also hope that maybe someone else who is dealing with the shame that I put on myself for so long can avoid those feelings and be brave enough to live their truth. What it comes down to is while I spent much of my life avoiding it, queerness has always meant unconditional love, openness and community. I was raised to be accepting and I will never again do myself the disservice of not loving ME, in all of my queer glory. Once you love yourself, everything else gets easier.