by Deantre Martin White supremacy and racial oppression are the cornerstones that have built Western civilization. No matter what, as long as you are black these things will perform against you. This article is an excerpt of a thesis paper I wrote in defense of how white supremacy performs in the LGBTQ+ community. Throughout the …
“From metro streets to Appalachian trails, these are our stories.”
Queer Kentucky is beyond happy to announce THIS many Pride celebrations throughout our state in 2019!
We love watching our community come together in different regions to lift their voices in LGBTQ+ pride. We will add more events as we learn about more events.
Owensboro Pride Picnic
English Park, Owensboro
Goebel Park, Covington
Big Four Lawn, Louisville
Courthouse plaza, Lexington
Western Kentucky Pride Festival
Noble Park, Paducah
Clear Creek Park, Shelbyville
Bardstown Road, Louisville
Mad City Pride
Mad City Pride
Old Capitol lawn, Frankfort
Pikeville City Park, Pikeville
Location TBA, Elizabethtown
by Tucker Keel
As April begins this year, you may have noticed an increase in the visibility of issues and causes related to Autism—This is no coincidence, as April is Autism Acceptance Month! Previously, this has been called Autism Awareness month. The change may seem subtle, but it is an important distinction.
In a world where people would rather expose their child to every deadly disease we’ve tried to cure for the past century than risk them having autism, acceptance is more needed than awareness. Even one of the most prominent public groups for autism focuses its efforts on ‘curing’ this part of people and ignores the actual input of those on the spectrum (your daily reminder to boycott autism speaks and use red and gold to show support rather than blue). I’m hoping this article can provide a different narrative.
Before I further explain, allow me to introduce myself. I am gay and 23. I have a BFA in Theatre and am ungracefully fumbling through young adulthood, as most twenty somethings are. I am single (howdy gents) and have started a new 9-5 job in marketing. I play video games and read Shakespeare.
I am also autistic.
Autism and being autistic can mean a lot of different things. In popular media we tend to get two main presentations: The Impersonal Savant and The Severe Case. The impersonal savant is a character like BBC’s version of Sherlock Holmes. These characters are socially inept, either callous or awkward, but practically brilliant. This sort of representation is not without its flaws (do we only value and accept these character because of their genius?), but it is generally positive!
The Severe Case is a bit stickier. This trope features a character with more visible and debilitating symptoms. Kazan from cult classic Cube is my go-to example for this character type. This version of autism is often used for the purpose of making a character ‘unique’ and ‘interesting’—a great way for a neutrotypical actor to show off their chops. However, these characters are definitely not without merit. Though these sorts of representations can be scary and uncomfortable for some, and are the kind most often used to in scare tactics about autism, it’s important to recognize the reality that autism can be quite intense. These sorts of characters are also usually positive! Often they come with the ultimate message that even somebody different can be good or helpful, especially if their personal needs are respected!
Still, just because representation is positive doesn’t make it fully representative. Being gay, it’s not uncommon to see stories of my sexuality simplified and split into simple categories. It’s often the starting block, and a very important step in media, to begin with stereotypes and dichotomies. As well, we can’t negate the stories of people in our community just because they fit a stereotype. But, much as we’re breaking molds in queer representation in media, and widening the conversation, I want to help others understand that being autistic doesn’t put me in one of these neat categories.
These images of autism are not the only way to be autistic.
So what is Autism? Well, previously, doctors weren’t all that clear about it either. There were five different diagnoses that all comprised ‘Autism’—One of these, Asperger’s Syndrome, was the initial terminology used by my college psychiatrist, and ‘Aspie’ was how I identified for a long time. This essentially put me in the category of ‘highest functioning’ autistic. However, language and medical knowledge is changing on this subject. Asperger’s, and the four other distinct diagnoses have now all been grouped as one: Autism Spectrum Disorder. ASD is then further classed by levels of care, rather than levels of functionality.
The language of ‘high functioning’ and ‘low functioning’ has historically been used for autism, and for many other disorders. This language is dehumanizing and invalidating for many, essentially putting our worth as people and the value of our experience on how effective we are in an economic system. To be ‘high functioning’ is to be pretending or complaining too much, to be making a fuss when you don’t need to. To be ‘low functioning’ is to be hopeless and tragic, to not be worth the effort to fix. I have Autism Spectrum Disorder, and would be classed as Care Level 1 of three possible care levels. This language puts the focus on our needs, not on our personal ability. Care levels can change, just as ‘function’ can, and the goal is always the personal improvement and health of the individual.
For myself, and I believe for others in the queer community, the word spectrum will resonate. We are learning more and more than sexuality is a spectrum, that gender is a spectrum, and that a spectrum is rarely a sliding scale between two specific extremes. It is much the same for Autism, with many social, intellectual, and behavioral differences between individuals. Trying to encompass all of what autism is in one article would be as impossible as briefly explaining the myriad experiences of the queer community, and it’s equally complex in its interplay with other issues and how identities.
However, what I can present somewhat more concisely is my experience with this spectrum.
Autism is classed primarily as a social disorder. For me, this has definitely been the main struggle. Social interaction has been a delicate and highly concentrated effort, fraught with fear and confusion. I am now and always have been termed ‘weird’, but I don’t think most people realize how very hard I work to seem as normal as I do. When I am confused or overwhelmed by social stimuli, I can shut down: it becomes hard to form words, and making any coherent kind of facial signal or even eye contact becomes difficult or impossible. Anything I hear gets processed literally on the first take, so sarcasm, figurative language, and hints are often things I have to guess at based on context. Sometimes people will insist that I’m clearly angry, happy, or sad when that’s not how I feel inside, and I’m often equally baffled by the emotional reactions of others. I make strange noises, I lack volume control, and I often talk too fast. There are things that are still surprising to this day with how much sense they make in the context of my autism.
Despite these oddities, I think many people would believe that I am fairly socially adept. I am outgoing, I am friendly and, I think, rather charming! To be autistic is not to fail socially, or be unrestrained. In fact, it is often the opposite—It is to have different hurdles to overcome and learn to deal with, in order to come up to the same level of others. Especially in women, where social conditioning tends to start very early and be very strong, the ‘signs’ of autism are frequently restrained or controlled. That’s why a diagnosis one would expect to be even across the sexes is given 4.2 times more often to boys than girls, with many women on the spectrum not understanding their experiences until adulthood.
I don’t think any of us have been lucky enough to avoid the circumstance of pretending to be straight, or cis, or binary. You become very careful—You notice how you hold your hands, how you cross your legs, the tone of voice you speak with. In many ways, this experience is similar to being autistic.You always have to be ‘on’. I have learned that what is natural to me is not what is expected, that it can even be hurtful, and I have had to make adjustments. I am not upset that I have learned these social skills, and though I appreciate patience and understanding, I do not expect people to take my occasional failings as inevitable or excusable. I am glad I have been held to standards and grown as a person, even if it wasn’t always in the ways I would have liked. It has been hard work but I’m proud of how well I do with people.
We all strive to be better people and do better by others, and in that sense I’m just like anybody else.
I don’t want to end this article on a note of struggle. This is how autism is often portrayed, and it’s part of why it is so feared—who hasn’t heard the argument that parents don’t want their kids to be gay or trans because they just don’t want their child to go through that kind of struggle? This too has impacted the Autistic community, and is part of why self advocates are so often overshadowed by parents or guardians ‘enduring the trials’ of caring for their loved ones. So, allow me to say it clearly: Autism is not bad!
One of the most common topics when discussing autism is ‘savant skill’ and special interests. I have certainly benefited from that! I am proud to be a national merit scholar and strongly believe that my natural skill with standardized testing comes from being autistic, along with many other areas of expertise and interest. Beyond that, I think the added effort I need to understand and empathize with others has given me unique abilities to hear and internalize other people’s struggles. Lack of empathy is often discussed when addressing autism—Hyper-empathy, another common symptom, is not.
And, though autism is often associated with ‘left brain’ skills, my experiences on the spectrum have definitely shaped who I am as an artist. I am a natural mimic: Echolalia, or the unsolicited repetition of auditory stimulus, is often associated with Autism and something I personally experience on a regular basis. Not only verbal tics, but physically, I have learned to adopt and borrow movements. This was partially adaptive, as I had noticed or been told about (read: mocked for) my unusual gait and mannerisms. I encountered one of my major acting struggles in my inability to create the faces for anger and sadness. I practiced and copied and even watched myself in the mirror. I have continued throughout my life to widen my physical and tonal vocabulary with stolen gestures and voices, practiced and rehearsed. My hyper-empathy is also an aid: Though my natural reactions to the emotions I feel from my characters might not play on stage, I can let these feelings guide me in which copied display I can pull from my wheelhouse. These things come more naturally now when I perform, but I fully believe that the intentional effort I have to put in has helped my command of them.
So there you have it. My story for Autism Acceptance. Autism is a struggle, for some much more than others, but it’s not something evil or scary. It can have real benefits, even beyond what is stereotypical. I urge all of you to look at Autism this month, not with awareness, but with acceptance.
We are people, and we are not victims struggling against some disease, but are full and developed human beings for whom being autistic is an important part of our identity.
And I think all of us in the queer community can relate to that.
By Deena Lilygren
In 2019, Queer Kentucky’s Instagram featured a snapshot of a young gay Kentuckian enjoying a drink on a Churchill Downs balcony. As always, the snapshot was accompanied by the subject’s bio, which in this case included a quotation about how hard it was to be a gay Republican. The queer community, he complained, is an unwelcoming place because his fellow gays are turned off when they find out he’s a Republican.
This happened few days after new information emerged about the Trump administration’s plans to draw very narrow lines regarding sex and gender, and in the same time period as Trump’s ban on transgender soldiers. It was a time when we were still agog over how much of Trump’s cabinet was openly homophobic.
In solidarity, Queer Kentucky followers pointed out en masse how tone-deaf it was to feature a self-pitying gay Republican at that point in time.
To them, it felt like the guy who just punched us in the face was now crying about how much his fist hurts. After all, Republicans like him put Trump in office.
Screenshots from this poor, persecuted Republican’s public Facebook account—as well as those of the friends he invited to the comment section—were quickly collected and passed around by internet sleuths. Predictably, there were abundant misogynist memes and comments–the same thing you’ll find on the page of almost any Trump supporter. One of their favorite schticks is to mock the queer community for standing against Islamophobia. The reality that many Republicans portray is that Muslims are required to murder all gays. However, this is not true.
The contempt definitely flows both ways.
Queer Kentucky listened to feedback, took down the post and issued an apology for the timing, but timing isn’t the real issue. The post was taken out of the archive after midterm elections because Queer Kentucky believes in the conversation the post created is important.
An Instagram post isn’t the issue. There’s a reason that LEO Weekly’s advice columnist Minda Honey has devoted at least two columns to readers facing dilemmas like whether to sleep with a Trump supporter (her verdict: no) or do business with a Trump supporter (also no). There’s a reason conservatives keep whining about how suddenly, since 2016, no one wants to fuck them.
Republican policies are the reason.
It takes either a troll or someone completely out of touch with reality to complain about the gay community not accepting the way they choose to vote.
Republicanism isn’t just another difference to embrace. It’s not a personality trait; it’s an action, with consequences. Just ask all those immigrant parents whose children were stolen (and remain stolen) by the Trump administration. Just ask the trans people who had military aspirations. It’s not being a Republican that’s objectionable; it’s voting Republican, especially in the time of Trump.
So why do queer people vote Republican? And why do we feel so furious and disoriented when they do? I decided to find out.
My first stop was the well-established Log Cabin Republicans. I figured they’d be interested in fostering understanding, but when I asked if they could explain how they reconcile being gay with Republican, the communications director responded with this email, which I suspect was already locked and loaded:
“This quote can be attributed to Gregory T. Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans regarding “reconciling” being a gay Republican:
If you get it, no explanation is necessary; if you don’t get it, no amount of explaining will do.
In other words, they can’t.
I contacted Jimmy LaSalvia, former co-founder of GOProud (exactly what it sounds like). He was unable to speak with me due to the conditions of his current project, but he suggested I read his book, No Hope: Why I Left the GOP and You Should Too.
And so I did. While his reasons for leaving weren’t surprising—homophobia in the GOP, the GOP’s unwillingness to evolve on social issues, period—the book didn’t provide me with any insights about what the Republican party had to offer the queer community.
LaSalvia uses the term “freethinker” to describe gay conservatives, which sounds about right. The most common reasoning I’ve heard from other LGBTQ Republicans is that they’ve transcended identity.
In their view, they’re sophisticated for not letting one identity trump the others. They’re actually very logical, in their opinion, as opposed to the overly emotional gay community.
For women, this will sound familiar. For decades, the “I’m a girl, but I relate more to guys, since girls are the worst!” line has been hooking young women desperate for a little respect—or, perhaps, safety. In pursuit of male approval, they take on misogynist beliefs, much like the gay Republican groups I explored on Facebook, which were full of mockery, disdain, and hatred for the gay community.
One post that gave me pause was a meme about CNN’s Don Lemon’s statement on how right-wing white men are the biggest domestic terror threat in the U.S. The group was furious about this injustice to white men (and, presumably, right-wingers, who have indeed committed the majority of domestic terrorism in this country). Reverse racism! Stupid libtards! Apparently, one thing queer Republicans can bond over is their need to uphold white supremacy.
The pursuit of a political group which has literally codified anti-queer values is misguided at best. In fact, one of the four components of Stockholm Syndrome is: “a hostage’s belief in the humanity of their captor, for the reason that when a victim holds the same values as the aggressor, they cease to be perceived as a threat.” It reminds me of the time my Buddhist, vegan friend declined insect repellent while camping lakeside, saying that the bugs would just sense her alliance with nature, and next day looked like a smallpox victim.
Lucky for queer Republicans, the ACLU is standing by.
LaSalvia’s rhetoric sounds a lot like the founding fathers—lots of passion for the rights of men exactly like himself. Much like Libertarian theory, the problem is government in general, and everything would just sort itself out if the government would stay in its own lane.
I call bullshit. This is the same “every man for himself” nonsense that defines the Republican party. Gay Republicans are just Republicans. What’s the difference between a queer person who votes to oppress vulnerable communities and a homophobe who votes to oppress vulnerable communities?
Should we be hand-wringing over whether our intolerance for intolerance is intolerant? Fuck no. Just as there wouldn’t be space for your homophobic uncle at the queer dinner table, there isn’t room for someone who votes for Republican policies.
It’s not just about sexuality and gender identity—it’s about solidarity with other groups that Republican policies routinely undermine.
Many Republican policies hurt black people, poor people, disabled people, women, immigrants, and certainly queer people. We don’t have to debate which party supports these groups more, because the parties have official platforms and legislation we can read (and I encourage you to do so).
Gay republicanism can be explained with a remix of the Log Cabin response: “If you’re selfish, you get it, no explanation is necessary; if you believe in solidarity, no amount of explaining will do.”
The Root’s Michael Harriot does a very funny “People we don’t eff with anymore,” a list of black people who have done things harmful to the black community, and while it’s a joke, it also does real work of sorting the bullshit. Harriot’s schtick resonates in this situation.
Congratulations, gay Republicans. You truly have transcended your gay identity.
Like all Americans, you’re free to vote however you like, but as a result, the queer community doesn’t eff with you anymore.