Campbellsville man advocates LGBTQ+ pride in rural Kentucky

Dalton, one day you will grow up to do great things – Dawn W.

My mom, a parent that deserves recognition, planted this phrase in my head when I was young. I suppose a mother can see beyond their child’s foggy, truth seeking eyes if only they take the time. In this case, my mother knew exactly what my purpose was before I could even consider taking a step. Our connection was, and still is, stronger than I could have ever asked for it to be; sometimes I like to think that we share the same brain, conscience, neurons, etc. This is why she probably knew I was gay before I knew it myself, but still, she persisted to care for me as if my attractions were a mere grain of sand in a bucket full of life. She is why I do; why I live; why I pursue the purpose I am slowly unfolding.

I came out when I was 17 in a car at the Skyline Theatre in Greensburg, Kentucky. Who knew Monster’s University would forever hold a significance in my life.

The choice to follow through with my heart’s decision was transcribed in the form of a letter because I knew that verbalizing it made things too quick of a reality (also, because I’ve been known to suppress my emotions and the Hoover Dam would’ve met its match that evening). Hearing the words from my mother’s lips, stating that she had already suspected, was a little strange at first. I mean, at the time, my juvenile reasoning tactics left me wishing she would have answered all of this for me and saved me from weeks of confusion. But, like her expectations, great things are to be discovered on our own. And she continued loving me just the same.

My first movement towards living my truth was during my freshman year of college. I was accepted to our local university, a conservative one at that, and anticipated 4 years of regret as leaving my small town was my only wish (some may even have said leaving was my only salvation). By chance, I attended an Art Club meeting; considering my Understanding Art class was canceled that day, I had nothing better to do. Looking back, this decision changed my life forever.

I managed to squeeze into the social bubble of the art department and later declaring myself an art major. We were a group of eclectic souls, misfits even, but we all shared the same passion for discovering our own potential and embracing each other’s individuality. One day, while decorating the department’s homecoming float, I was asked, out of the blue, if I was gay. Till this day, I can still remember the split second that time stood still as the eyes of my new friends focused on me, waiting for an answer. I said yes. I was finally free.

In 2012, I accepted a part-time summer position at the Taylor County Public Library in Campbellsville, KY with the intentions of this chapter being short lived. Little did I know, I would gradually climb the ranks, officially acquiring my own platform 7 years later as the Young Adult Services Librarian. Working for the public, as I am sure most of you know, has its moments (good and bad).

There have been numerous nights where I would lie awake at night stressing about events, to-do’s, and planning all because I wanted to meet the needs of my community. Aside from being in my head all the time, I also worried about the young adults in our community who so desperately seek identity, acceptance, and love; reflections of myself at 16-17.

But, would being gay prevent me from meeting those needs or create opportunities for learning and discovery? Would people judge my professional abilities based on the identity of my sexual orientation?  Such questions constantly preview in the back of my mind. But, I know, like my mother knew, that my purpose was to use my professional platform in order to accomplish that great thing: bringing awareness to my community and fight for an environment where people of all ages can feel accepted.

Currently, I am organizing a Pride Panel at our library this June in order to provide my community with an opportunity for education, insight, and storytelling from LGBTQ+ identifiers across the Bluegrass; a voice that has long been muffled in Campbellsville, KY. This will be the first time merging my professional life with aspects of my personal life. Although the thought of backlash weighs heavy on my mind, I feel in my heart that this is to be one of the many pivotal milestones in my life.

 We were all born to do great things, and our identities should never hinder us from accomplishing them. Rather, we should embrace who we are, and love others for who they are because you never know how they may affect your life for the better. I suppose my concluding statement is that we are unique, confident, and beautiful, but most importantly, we are all alike no matter our differences. And great things are what we share.  


-Dalton Bennett
Campbellsville, KY