Queer Kentucky

A Western Kentucky Queer

Austin Norrid, Hopkinsville

The word queer to me is about chosen family. For many queer folks, relationships with our given families can be strained at times, but we have the opportunity to create families of our own within the queer community. What the word queer offers that LGBTQ* doesn’t, is one word for our entire family to embrace and call our own.

I identify as queer.

I’m originally from Hopkinsville, KY. Growing up I had no examples of out queer people who were my age, and very limited examples of older people who were out.  I went to a small school with only 33 people in my graduating class. I was the only one to come out before graduating, which at times was isolating.

To people who are struggling to come into their own identity, I’d say that living your authentic self doesn’t require a specific label first. Experiment. Experience. Try new things and meet knew people. Ask questions. Finding yourself is an act of liberation and rebellion against heteropatriarchy. The tendency to compare yourself to others is neither queer nor liberating.

My identity influences my teaching praxis as I strive to be a positive example of a queer adult, which I didn’t always have when I was in school.

In the queer (and especially gay male) community I often see folks being shamed for being “femme.” This is just an aspect of heteropatriarchy. Queer bodies that are masculine are valued over those that are femme, much as our culture values male bodies over female bodies. Until we as a community can learn to value queer femme bodies, we will continue to be enacting the violence of heteropatriarchy on ourselves.

I don’t feel a need to search for a “mainstream” queer community because I feel I have made my own queer community.

I feel my happiest when I am making music with my students in South Louisville and when I am relaxing with my partner, Sanjay.

All of the queer pioneers like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and Harvey Milk have definitely influenced me the most. As a teacher, I feel that it is my duty to advocate for the needs of my students, especially the needs of my queer and POC students. When they are in my classroom I want to make sure they know they are safe, respected, loved, and valued, and that I will fight to make the world a better place for them.

Wordsmith rediscovers home in Queer Kentucky

Sarah Gardiner – Gay/Lesbian, She/Her/Hers

Owner of Nanny Goat Books, writer, editor, and small-press publisher

Queer is a word I’ve only recently adopted. When I came out at 19, Gay was the umbrella term used for anyone in my LGBTQ+ circle. I was living in DC at the time, and though the community was incredibly inclusive, diverse, and of course, political, “standard” terminology was still the go-to for those around me.

Though I am a lesbian, that was never a word I adopted or was used to describe me, and queer was simply not used at all. Perhaps that was due to the age of many in my circle who had lived through a time when that word was thrown at them like a bullet rather than a badge. Or perhaps it was because we were still fighting for marriage equality and many felt that simplified language would help us win our basic rights. Whatever it was, it is changing, and I couldn’t be happier by that shift.

The first time I heard queer as a positive identifier, it felt radical and beautiful. It was the perfect fit for the umbrella of a community made of up so many unique and diverse members. It felt like the opposite of standard. We’ve always been radical, and words that support our fight are more important now than ever.

I’m from Louisville and, after being away for a while, moved back over a year ago. Moving back to Kentucky has been one of the most incredible decisions of my life. I left to go out and explore other places and, particularly after I came out, much of that exploration revolved around discovering queerness elsewhere. When I left Kentucky at 18, I had no idea just how wonderfully queer the state can be. I was pulled toward more “traditionally” LGBTQ+ spaces, but in doing so I missed the beauty of Kentucky and our community. Coming home and rediscovering that community has been wonderful on so many levels.

To any/all struggling with their identity, You are not alone. I know exactly where you have been. We all do. And it isn’t easy, but it is the most beautiful journey I have ever been on, and I believe you will feel the same with some time. The journey is the difficult part, but there is a community out here for you who have been through it and support you every step of the way. I was lucky enough to have many incredible influences within the community while coming out and as I found my footing in life. The care of others and the knowledge that I was not alone in my journey helped me become the proudly queer person I am today. In the end, it is amazing where life takes you after all the twists and turns. And that destination is beautiful beyond belief.

My queer identity influences so much of how I carry myself and interact in this world. From the way I present myself to the people I surround myself with, LGBTQ+ culture is at the core of who I am. As a writer, publisher, and bookstore owner, I also find myself considering how I can promote queer writing and ideas on a daily level. Amplifying the voices of the community is one of my driving factors personally and professionally.

Because of this, I feel at my best, on a day to day basis, at my bookstore. It is a place I built with my own two hands and a place really filled with care and love. Plus, who doesn’t like to be surrounded by books everyday?

On days I am out of the office, I find nothing more relaxing than being out strolling through the the rolling hills and trails that make Kentucky so uniquely beautiful. I grew up hiking down to Harrod’s Creek through winding paths cut in forests that felt untouched by time and society. These woods and rolling hills were what called me back home to the to the land I love. The spirit of this state has a way of seeding itself deep into the hearts of Kentuckians. This place is ours.

Friday Flowers

Kenyatta, 24, Louisville

What does the word queer mean to you?

The work Queer to me means someone who’s not afraid to be themselves and live free without a care in the world.

How do you identify?

I identify myself as a non-binary pansexual.

I’ve came to a point in my life where where you not only have to accept the masculine but you also have to accept the feminine to be aligned with what the universe has to offer.

I also don’t really like to label myself but I do to help others try to understand but everyone isn’t meant to be understood. When you label yourself I feel you just put yourself in a box just to fit society but I commend those who don’t identify.

Where are you originally from and explain how was it growing up/living in Kentucky?

Born and raid here in Louisville, Kentucky. I grew up in Clarksdale Housing Project. I was always loved playing outside and very fascinated with nature. I didn’t play too well with others I was the one throwing sand and had all the popsicle sticks in my behavior pocket at the end of the day so school was never cake for me at all. I always enjoyed art class my favorite thing to draw was flowers when it was Friday.

What would you say to any person struggling to come into their own identity?

Do it on your own time. Don’t let anyone for you to do anything you’re not ready to. Go within and love yourself and due time you’ll be ready.

How does your own identity run how you carry yourself?

Coming into my identity allowed me to not follow societies ideal of what I should be. My sexuality allowed me to realize I don’t have to fit one specific role in society I can play multiple.

What issues do you see in the queer community?

Some people here build their own categories and stereotypes about each other which builds a “wall” and puts tension within the community.

What do you think would solve those issues?

Some people should try to step outside of their comfort zone and actually get to know someone before you make assumptions about them.

Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community?

I feel excluded from mainstream queer community cause I’m not a sir, a twink, an otter, a bear, and you catch my drift. Sometimes I got out and they throw specific events for main categories I just don’t fit into at all and would never classify myself as one just to fit in.

Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)

I feel happy when I’m on the go I’m a Capricorn so I like to stay productive especially when I’m working. I’m the night owl and the early riser. Who said you need 8 hours of sleep? That’s for lazy people. I love to catch the early morning fresh air before everyone gets out and hop in their cares and start polluting the air.

Who influenced the life you live now?

Dr. Mufundishi Baba Serikali. He’s my spiritual father and Mufundishi. He not only introduced me to meditation but he also introduced me to Tai Chi which taught me to be more mindful and conscious. Tai Chi is an ancient, yet modern, form of meditative exercise, effective regardless of age and physical ability, and practiced by millions of people worldwide. The study and practice of Tai Chi is based on the belief that health is not just the absence of disease, but is a true balance of physical, emotional and social well-being.

Tai Chi

• Improves balance to prevent falls

• Lowers high blood pressure

• Improves shallow breathing

• Facilitates curing respiratory illnesses such as asthma, colds & bronchitis

• Strengthens joints in knees, ankles, wrists & hips

• Aids in physical & emotional adjustment during menopause

• Improves posture, aligns the spine & strengthens the lower back

• Helps to metabolize blood sugars

Pronouns Matter, using them with respect saves lives

by Sarah Gardiner

Pronouns matter. Apart from name, they are the main way we address other humans in conversation, thought, and identity. So understanding them and getting them right is vital.

Let’s start by defining the concept. Pronouns are the words we use when referring to another person. The three sets you will hear most often are:

The feminine: she/her/hers

The non-binary/gendered: singular they/them/theirs

The masculine: he/him/his

While other sets exist, these are the ones by far most utilized in everyday language. The feminine and masculine are the most commonly used because of the ingrained binary that society has faced prior, but it can be harmful to guess pronouns. If you have not been expressly told someone’s gender, do not assume it.

The singular “they” (which has a long history of non-gendered use within the English language, dating back to the 1400’s and used by authors like Jane Austen and Shakespeare) is the most commonly adopted gender-neutral noun, though others do exist. We already use “they” in everyday language. Think of the phrases: “Who do they think they are?” or “You showed them!” We use this language daily, so we have all the skills already. We just need to learn to use them.

Learning new pronouns when your brain has been wired to the binary normative of feminine and masculine can take practice, but learning and growing are an important part of our community and being a human in general. Don’t be afraid to mess up — messing up is part of life. As long as you learn from mistakes, get better, try harder, and be more considerate.

Pronouns are some of the most fundamental ways we can be good allies and considerate humans. To respect someone’s pronouns is to respect them, their experience, and their identity. Pronouns can evolve as well, both situationally and because of the fluidity of gender. Respecting pronouns is one the simplest, easiest, and most fundamental ways to show respect and consideration for others.

Listen and respect when someone tells you how to refer to them and understand that they owe you no explanation if their pronouns or identity do shift. Believe and respect what people tell you. It is not for you to question. It is not yours to decide. What people say about who they are is valid. No questions asked.

From Lewis County to Louisville

Kaleb McCane, Lewis County

I’m from Vanceburg, KY. I love it in Lewis County, but moving to Louisville was a great decision for me because getting out of the small town environment allowed me to grow as my own person and learn who I truly am. It also taught me how to think independently in many aspects of life. With that being said, growing up there was great.

I’m extremely close to my family, specifically my mom. I’m also still friends with some people I grew up with because with such a small amount of people in a county, you really learn everything about each other growing up. With Lewis County being such a small town full of traditionally conservative people, I was afraid to come out, but truthfully, everyone from back home that knows doesn’t treat me differently or feel differently.

To any person struggling to come into their own identity, I would say stay true to YOU and don’t let anyone interfere. There will always be people trying to knock you down no matter what. Gay, straight, male, female, black, white and everything in-between. But you have to think that at the end of the day, the main person you have is yourself, so if you’re not living up to your full potential of who and what you want to be, you’re only hurting yourself.

Honestly, how I identify doesn’t affect how I carry myself. I act the same now as I did when I identified as straight and was dating girls and when I first came out and everything about being gay was new to me.

I see a few major issues in the queer community – one of which is the standard at which gay men (I only specifically say gay men because that’s what I have seen the most of and have experience with. I know we aren’t the only ones who deal with this) hold themselves to when it comes to psychical appearance.

In the gay community, we are expected to always be dressed well, skinny, muscular, etc. I like to say I am straight skinny but gay fat. In our community if you don’t have a flat stomach or abs, you’re “fat” or “chunky” – which is absolutely ridiculous.

Our community is hated on and discriminated against enough as is, we don’t need to go after our own brothers and sisters. I just wish we could let one another live our best lives while supporting each other no matter what, not tear each other down.

Another big issue that I see and personally deal with myself is politics. I have met so many people that I have hit it off with as friends but then they figure out that I am a republican. Then the whole dynamic of our friendship changes. It almost seems as if they are unaccepting of me not only as a friend but as a member of the community.

I think this is ridiculous as well. Just because we don’t have the same political views/opinions doesn’t mean that I am a terrible person or have turned my back on my community. People’s opinions differ, which is okay. That’s what makes America and our democracy great.

I think if our community took a step back to reflect on ourselves and realize that being gay, lesbian, trans, pansexual, whatever, doesn’t mean that you have to fit into the stereotypical mold that is the LGBTQIA community. We want and expect to be accepted by everyone outside our community but can’t even be accepting of one another. How is that supposed to work? If people outside of our community see us turning on each other and not respecting each other, why would they feel the need/want to respect and accept us?

To answer whether or not I feel excluded from the mainstream queer community, I guess I would have to say I can say both yes and no. No, because I do live up to the stereotypical queer standards; take that as you will. As far as politically, I do somewhat feel excluded. I was raised in a very conservative family and even after moving and learning my own political stance, I still consider myself a proud Libertarian-Republican. Obviously, on some social issues – like gay marriage – I tend to go more towards the center-left, but I still stick to most conservative beliefs. It actually has caused multiple spats between me and friends in the queer community. One of the main arguments I hear is that republicans don’t agree with my lifestyle, but I like to remind them that there are other gay republicans/conservatives out there and that there are many other components in politics besides gay marriage that typically take priority.

I feel my best – which I would describe as safe, happy and comfortable – when I am with my friends, loved ones, and other members of the queer community. Whether it is hanging out at home, going out to the bars, social events like pride, etc. I always feel my best when I am with these people.

I can’t really pinpoint one person who I can say influenced me to life the life I live now. My mother is and always has been my biggest supporter in life. She’s always pushed me to do and be my best. She has always been there for me and encouraged me to chase my dreams, whatever they were. So in part, I can say she is one of the people who have made the biggest impact. But there has also been other people along the way who have done the same. My English teacher/drama club director was basically my second mother during all four years of high school, friends and fraternity brothers I made when I moved to Louisville all helped me realize and come to terms with who I really am and who I want to be. So, all-in-all, many people in my short 22, almost 23, years of life have influenced me to live the life I live today.

 

 

 

Manhattan visits Kentucky, reflects on southern roots

Queer? To be completely honest, the meaning of the word Queer has been a bit of a conundrum. The definition, personally, changes daily.

When I was initially introduced to the concept of what I think Queer is today, which I think is something quite radical, I didn’t think I was radical enough. What I’ve come to associate queerness with are people who don’t have rigid, black and white definitions of their sexuality and gender.

That’s exactly where I find myself, in a grey area. I prefer humans who identify as men, that’s not to say I’ve never felt attracted to someone who identifies as a woman, sexually. If I have to tick a gender box, I would tick male. However, I don’t subscribe to the stereotypical ideas of what society would consider to masculine. I don’t identify as female, but I certainly am effeminate. For me, this is my queerness.

I would say these are ideas and notions I’ve come to recently. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi where the culture is very binary. Gay vs Straight – Man, Woman. I’ve lived in New York for ten years, I think this has changed slightly back home.

However, when I was coming of age I didn’t have any references for anything beyond the stereotypes. It was a constant struggle to find where I fit in.

After my recent visit to Kentucky, I’m noticing a change in the south. I think with dawn of social media more people in rural and conservative areas have access to representation and like minded individuals that one may not have known existed. It’s allowed LGBTQIA+ community to form a more global network which is beautiful. Especially for young people – if I had the knowledge that people like me existed in the world when I was coming of age, or examples of people living their life beyond societies definition, everything could have been different.

It’s all so overwhelming, I wish that boxes and definitions and binaries didn’t exist. Can you imagine a world where people just exist freely as they are? No need to create subcultures and sub-subcultures and communities within communities for protection and identification?

I’m not sure I’ll ever see this problem solved as long as we’re human but if we’re aware it’s a start. What’s wild is it’s all just a human attempt to belong but in this attempt to belong we create new communities or scenes that become exclusionary.

The best example that comes to mind is high school, there are kids that don’t identify with the mainstream so they refuse to conform and choose to rebel. In their rebellion they join the goth scene or alt scene, now their rebellion has become about conforming with a new group of like minded individuals that reject a group of people that they feel rejected them.

As it relates to Queers specifically, this behaviour was for protection and safety, mental and physical. I think it’s important and healthy to respect the past, but we have to look towards the future and build on ideas that are actually inclusive.

Gay cis white men have gained a lot and move through the world with much more ease, what’s important now is to use that privilege support and uplift more marginalized members of our collective community.

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