A Queer Kentucky safe space: Old Louisville Coffee Co-op

Queer Kentucky has partnered with Louisville Magazine for our fourth print issue. We asked Louisvillians and Kentuckians at large about their queerness and its relationship to the city, where they feel at home, who was there for them when it felt like nobody else was, the biggest issues facing Louisville’s queer communities, and much more. We would love it if you — whether you live in Louisville or not — would answer the questions too. If you’d like to, you can find the interview here. In this issue, you will find stories of Queer Kentuckians telling tales of their beloved safe spaces, paying tribute to the loved ones who uplifted them when no one else would, laughing about their coming out stories, and so much more. Kentucky, and Louisville, have a lot of work left to do when it comes to embracing the queer community. But hey, it’s not as bad as people think it is. Read on, you’ll see. You can purchase the print version of this issue here.

photos by Jon Cherry

Rebekah Frank, Buechel

Besides your own house — or the house of family or friends — what Louisville place makes you feel at home?

The Old Louisville Coffee Co-op. I really love the people who work there. Community is the vibe. It’s a coffee shop, a workspace, a meeting area, a teeny-tiny performance space, a hangout, a place to kill time, a place to be alone. Honestly, that’s more than any home has ever offered me. I love the ‘community-funding’ option, I love that teachers and students get discounts, I love that there are flyers everywhere for local resources and events, I love that they keep Narcan and Plan B and condoms and dental dams in the bathrooms. People will take the time to learn your name if they cross your path often enough. It feels healthy. It feels like progress.

Who was the person you chose to come out to?

The first person I came out to was my mom. I was 12 years old. I chose to come out to her first because, even though it was terrifying, I knew she was a safe person. I think that conversation went something like, ‘Mom, I’m bisexual.’ And she looked at me, a little surprised, then she just looked very curious and said,‘ OK.What does that mean for you, exactly?’ So, I explained it in my own words, and she just smiled at me and thanked me for telling her, told me she loved me and gave me a hug. And then she probably told me some stories about people she’s known in her life who were also LGBTQ+. I think she wanted to make sure I knew that she had seen the pain that being closeted causes, and that she would never intentionally make me feel that way and that I could always tell her big stuff like this.And she continues to hold that space for me almost 20 years later.

Old Louisville Coffee Co-op illustration by Andy Mendoza

Why’d you pick that photo?

Choosing a picture that made me feel nostalgic was difficult. I’ve spent enough time in therapy to know that wishing things could go back to the way they were isn’t an option. But this photo screams ‘late ’90s’ to me. I was probably five or six? I know my grandmother bought that outfit for me because it matches and has dogs on it. I don’t know what the swim goggles are about.There are so many VHS tapes in the background! Y2K hadn’t happened yet! So many things hadn’t happened yet. 

submitted photo