Education

Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky Ready to Fight With New Bill

by Ben Gierhart

In 2019, The Trevor Project, the country’s leading organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ young people, conducted a landmark national survey. This first-of-its-kind survey is the compilation of data from the responses of over 34,000 LGBTQ young people under 25 from all 50 states, and the results are sobering. According to the survey, 39 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months. Seventy-one percent reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two consecutive weeks in the past year. Two in three LGBTQ youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with youth who have undergone conversion therapy more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not.

In a culture where it’s easy to believe that the worst of heteronormative culture has passed, it is stunning to know that not only is conversion therapy still being practiced, it is still such a devastating and sometimes savage practice. Tanner Mobley, former advocacy intern and director at Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, agrees: “Learning that 23 percent of LGBTQ youth who undergo conversion therapy attempt suicide, I felt that I couldn’t wait around for someone to take on the fight to protect Kentucky’s youth from these dangerous practices.”

Prior to joining the campaign for the survey, Mobley admits that he naively believed that conversion therapy was a thing of the past. It wasn’t until he heard Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for The Trevor Project, recount his experience with conversion therapy that he learned the truth. In 2017, Mobley and Austin Adam, a friend of Mobley’s who was similarly inspired, reached out to the Fairness Campaign for guidance on submitting legislation.

What started as two co-sponsors on their bill grew to five the following year. “I created a Facebook event for folks interested in forming an organization to protect youth from conversion therapy, and in November 2018 a group of lawyers, mental health professionals, students and faith leaders came together to form Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky (BCTK),” reports Mobley.

As a result of Mobley and BCTK’s core organizers’ hard work, Representative Lisa Willner and Senator Morgan McGarvey supported BCTK’s bills in 2019 with a record number of 20 House co-sponsors and three Senate co-sponsors.

In the time since BCTK began, the Kentucky Youth Law Project has become BCTK’s fiscal sponsor. With their aid, BCTK has established a board, created a social media presence and started raising awareness on the issue of conversion therapy. BCTK has also successfully gained endorsements from over 50 organizations including the Kentucky Medical Association, the Kentucky Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers KY and the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition, all huge wins for the grassroots organization.

BCTK hopes to ride that momentum into the 2020 state legislative session with four years of experience under their belt as well as a host of creative strategies to implement.

One such strategy is the inception of the Ban Conversion Therapy Ambassador program. “Ambassadors help us raise awareness through gathering petition signatures, tabling, gathering data, and other important work,” says Mobley. These positions are available to anyone living in the state of Kentucky who are able to commit one to two hours a week for at least six months.

BCTK’s goals for the future are both logistical and legislative. They are currently seeking to expand their marketing team and bring on a faith organizer to help get Kentucky faith communities involved in their work, a major shot in the arm as the majority of the facilities and institutions that offer conversion therapy are religious or faith-based in some capacity.

Mobley is also optimistic that the latest iteration of the BCTK bill will receive bipartisan support. “…nearly half of the laws passed to protect LGBTQ youth from these harmful practices … were signed by GOP governors, including states like New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Nevada,” he says.

As for the bill itself, per Mobley, “It would prohibit state-licensed mental health professionals from engaging in efforts to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a young person under 18 years of age in Kentucky.” The language is firm in its aims, but what’s most remarkable about the bill is perhaps what is doesn’t do.

There is nothing in the bill that prohibits competent adults from seeking conversion therapy. BCTK’s position isn’t that they believe conversion therapy is beneficial for adults, but the strategy is that the bill’s specificity may appeal to the values of conservatives who may consider the constitutional right for adults to make their own decisions regarding treatment they believe to be necessary paramount. “Because the danger posed by conversion therapy is great, BCTK is focused on protecting children, youth and vulnerable adults,” adds Mobley.

The tactics involved in conversion therapy range from bizarre to nightmarish. It is an antiquated, ineffective, deadly practice, and it is time that the citizens of Kentucky unite to relegate it to a sad footnote in the history books. With movements like Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky active in our state, that dream is truly, finally possible.

To learn more about Ban Conversion Therapy Kentucky, apply to become a BCTK Ambassador (applications open on September 15) and donate to the Kentucky Youth Law Project, visit https://banconversiontherapyky.org/.

To read The Trevor Project’s 2019 survey, visit https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2019/?section=Introduction.

Georgetown, KY Passes LGBTQ Fairness Ordinance 5-3

Georgetown — With a vote of 5-3 tonight, the Scott County, Kentucky town of Georgetown, population 34,395, became the thirteenth city in the commonwealth with a Fairness Ordinance prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Georgetown is the latest in a string of Kentucky cities that have recently voted to approve Fairness Ordinances this year, including the Northern Kentucky town of Dayton last month and the Western Kentucky city Henderson in May.

After narrowly voting to table the issue more than two years ago, members of the Georgetown City Council recently encouraged Mayor Tom Prather to bring the Fairness Ordinance back before the council for another vote. For more than four years, grassroots organizers working with the Rolling Bluegrass Chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth (KFTC), Georgetown Fairness, and the Fairness Campaign have called on local leaders to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. In 2016, the first Georgetown Pride Community Picnic was held by local advocates to raise awareness of LGBTQ discrimination and build support for the local Fairness Ordinance.

Twelve other Kentucky cities have adopted local Fairness Ordinances, covering just over a quarter of the state’s population—Louisville (1999), Lexington (1999), Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), Maysville (2018), Henderson (2019), and Dayton (2019).

2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a Statewide Fairness Law, which has only ever received two informational hearings in the Kentucky General Assembly. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the measure.

Three Louisville-based artists selected for IDEAS xLab’s Our Emotional Wellbeing initiative

Our Emotional Wellbeing is a two-year initiative organized by IDEAS xLab, an artist-led nonprofit based in Louisville, KY.  This initiative is designed to measurably impact hope and belonging of young people 12 – 20 years old through an arts-based co-creation process.   

In partnership with Louisville Youth Group (LGBTQ+ young people under 21), and two after-school programs at Meyzeek Middle School, including Justice League and Kingdom Academy, IDEAS xLab identified Louisville-based artists to introduce to the participating students and young people. Each group of young people selected two artists to collaborate with in the coming year as they design and implement arts-based activities together. This will include creating artifacts for the JCPS Backpack for Success and supporting youth leadership development.    

“It was important to us that the young people meet the artists who were interested in being a part of this initiative, and to have the opportunity to build trust together through an artist-led activity designed by our team, before artists were selected for the collaboration,” shared artist Josh Miller, co-founder + CEO of IDEAS xLab. “To measure the impact of this process, we are working with University of Louisville’s Center for Creative Placehealing to see how participation impacts hope and belonging.”  

The artists selected for Our Emotional Wellbeing are Talesha Wilson, Jasmine “Jazzy J” Reed, and Shawn Wade.  

Jasmine “Jazzy J” Reed is a poet, writer, and youth advocate. Following her undergraduate career as a Psychology major at Eastern Kentucky University, Jazzy worked with the youth in social services for seven years before submitting to the alignment of her passion for writing. Click here to learn more.

Shawn Wade is creator + artist of – Artistry of a Dreamer, specializing in acrylic painting and custom designs. Wade’s work has been featured on multiple platforms in the fashion industry, further expanding to other avenues. Click here to learn more.

Talesha Wilson is an artist and Louisville, Kentucky native who has dedicated the last 10 years of her life to self-awareness, diversity and inclusion, and community engagement. Click here to learn more.

“We identified artists with the lived-experience of our partner communities, and are training them to think about impacting health, cultivating hope, justice, sustainability, and celebrating culture and identity,” shared poet, author and IDEAS xLab team member Hannah Drake. “We designed Our Emotional Wellbeing to not only impact the participants themselves, but to create a set of arts-activities that can be deployed in the years to come to drive similar outcomes. Whether it be by Jefferson County Public School students after school, teachers in the classroom or community centers.”  

Our Emotional Wellbeing embodies principles from the JCPS Backpack for Success including cultivating:  

• Resilient learners 

• Globally and culturally competent citizens 

• Emerging innovators  

• Effective communicators  

• Productive collaborators  

The initiative builds on years of experience and learning by IDEAS xLab, having seen how participating in artist-led initiatives can positively impact young people. Examples include the Justice League at Meyzeek Middle School, where students experienced a positive change from 6.3 to 9 on a 10-point scale in their ability to advocate for themselves and for others after the first year. 

“I’m so excited to be working with the students at Meyzeek Middle School through the Justice League and Kingdom Academy, because it gives me the opportunity to demonstrate and cultivate leadership, and impact wellbeing through art,” said Our Emotional Wellbeing artist Shawn Wade. “Being a self-taught painter/creator, I’ve explored different techniques that embody hope, learning and creativity. This co-creation process with the young people is an exciting way for us to better understand just how powerful the arts are, and how we can impact hope and belonging through this process.”  

The project, budgeted at $300,000 over two-years including the research and evaluation, has already raised over $213,400, including grants from the Sutherland Foundation, Brown-Forman, the Kentucky Civic Engagement Table and an Arts Fund Grant from Louisville Metro Government.  

In Fall 2020, a “Youth Wellbeing Summit” will be held for the participating young people and artists to share their experience with leaders and young people from across the community, and launch the arts-based set of activities/toolkit for supporting this type of approach by other organizations and artists.  

Starting in August, Our Emotional Wellbeing activities will take place at Meyzeek on Wednesdays from 2:30-4pm, and with LYG the first Friday and second Wednesday evening of each month. Not involved in either location? You still have time to get involved and to participate!  

Click here to learn more about Our Emotional Wellbeing! 

“A lot of what we do is centered around the comfort of other people. We consider other people too much and downplay and minimize who we are. We fear violent situations, backlash from expressing ourselves, fear of not bearing heard or seen or that too much focus will be on us. We should be exactly who we are unapologetically,” said Our Emotional Wellbeing artist Talesha Wilson. “Just because something makes someone uncomfortable doesn’t make it wrong – If I am being exactly who I am and it’s not harming anyone or myself, the discomfort of others is not any of my concern because it is something they have to change and I am not responsible for changing the thoughts of people who do not want that for themselves. I want to use my art and this process to support the young people at Louisville Youth Group in understanding that.” 

“I am elated about this collaboration with such brave camaraderie. I am motivated more than ever to experience what’s to come of such a fellowship as this,” shared Our Emotional Wellbeing artist Jazzy J. “I am already inspired by all that I have to learned so far, and for that I am grateful. This project grants me the opportunity to do work that is juxtapose to what will be the legacy and impact of Reedmywords.” 

Letter to the Editor: Openly gay Kentucky man to challenge Mitch McConnell for Senate

Jimmy Ausbrooks official Facebook

Dear Editor, 

I wanted to reach out to the readers of Queer Kentucky and announce my candidacy for the United States Senate. I am a native of Kentucky, a mental health counselor, and a proud gay man that advocates for the LGBTQ+ community. 

I grew up in rural Simpson County, raised by my grandparents and attended church regularly as a child. I feared coming out due to the stigma within both my family and the community I lived. Today, I live in the same community, but discovered the courage to live my life and pursue my career and my dreams. I graduated from college and took off to see the world. Those experiences allowed me to discover the man I am today.

I elected to go back to school after twenty years in retailmanagement and become a mental health counselor. I did accomplish my goal of becoming a counselor and now provide gay affirming therapy in addition to substance and mental health counseling. I strive to be a positive role model within not only mycommunity, but the state and hopefully soon on a national stage. I am the President of the Kentucky Association for LGBT Issues in Counseling (KALGBTIC), a Division of the Kentucky Counseling Association. I also serve as the Vice-President of the South Central Kentucky Mental Health Counseling Association and Chair the Advocacy Committee. In the past few months I have drafted letters to the Bowling Green City Commissioners advocating for the Fairness Ordinance. I plan to hold the first LGBT Mental Health Conference in the state early 2020 and win the 2020 Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate.  

I am running against the third most powerful Republican in the United States. I have the goal of defeating and unseating Mitch McConnell in 2020. It is time that Kentucky’s Pride is restored and true representation for Kentucky takes place. As a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community I was tired of business as usual in Washington. Seeing continued failure to get any work done in the U. S. Senate, like not bringing the Equality Act to the Senate floor. Our community deserves equal protect and equal representation.  

I support many progressive policy ideas like free education, student loan debt forgiveness, healthcare for all, mental healthcare expansions, affordable prescriptions, immigration reform, living wages, term limits, tax reform, common sense gun legislation, balancing the budget, climate change and most importantly equality for all, including women’s right to govern their own body and reproductive rights, in addition to EQUALITY for the LGBTQ+ community. 

I am a hardworking individual that lives paycheck to paycheck like so many American’s do, I don’t have deep pockets, wealthy friends, or special interest groups funding my campaign. I do have a passion, a vision, and heart. I would like to have the support of the LGBTQ+ community, labor unions, farmers, hardworking families, teachers, and any man or woman that is tired of not being represented in Washington. 

I want to restore the duty of Congress. I am about the people’s interest and not my personal interest, providing true leadership, and demanding both action and accountability from leadership. I am humbly asking for your support of my candidacy. I would like to request both an endorsement of Queer Kentucky and the support of Queer Kentucky readers. 

Together, we can give a voice to the voiceless, expand equal rights, and build a bridge to the Equality. My campaign is about building bridges not walls. Stand with me and you stand for Equality, you stand with me we can defeat and unseat Mitch McConnell and keep Kentucky moving forward. Together, we will change the direction on policy, equality, and basic human rights. 

Sincerely, 

Jimmy Ausbrooks, M. Ed., LPCA                                                                                                                     Candidate for the United States Senate 2020

The origin of the word ‘Gay’ in its Homosexual context

by N.  David Williams

Williams-Nichols Collection

Department of Archives & Special Collections

University of Louisville

Use of the word “gay” in a homosexual context may date to as long ago as Paris in the late 16th century, when homosexuals were reportedly called ‘gai,” but there are a couple of other intriguing and perhaps more provable theories.

The first asserts that the word derives from the late Victorian era.  At the time, East London was home to a great many male and female prostitutes.  It’s where Jack the Ripper made his name.  At some point ladies of the night came to be known as “gay ladies,” a natural nickname since “gay” originally meant merry, carefree, happy-go-lucky.  As the theory goes, when London’s police started cracking down on male prostitution in the 1890s, especially after the Cleveland Street Scandal and the arrest of playwright Oscar Wilde, some East London male prostitutes began dressing up in female attire to deceive the police.  Eventually they started calling themselves gay ladies.  Homosexual American military personnel wandering the streets of London during World War I may have picked up on the phrase and brought it back to the United States after 1918.

There is another more plausible theory which was discovered only during the course of this research.

In Abigail van Buren’s “Dear Abby” advice column of August 9, 1982 (#721 below), a reader objects to the use of the word “gay” to describe homosexuals and feels “queer” is more appropriate.  He didn’t like homosexuals much.  Abby responds that while no one really knows where the word “gay” in its homosexual context came from, it could have originated across the English Channel.  For a long time the French (as well as the British) did not allow women to perform on stage, so all the female parts had to be played by men.  Over time they came to be known as “les gais,” or the “merry ones.”  (This could be a variation of the “gai” theory in the first paragraph).  English tourists attending the French theater might easily have picked up on the phrase and brought it back home.  The male “gay ladies” of East London may also have heard about it.

Around 1920, during a time when homosexuality was widely condemned, the American homosexual subculture may have started using “gay” as a convenient code word just to survive.  If, for example, a homosexual man were at a party and started conversing with a man he found attractive, he might throw the word slyly into the conversation to see how the other man reacted.  If he showed any sign of recognition, a connection could be made and they could go from there.  No one else at the party would known what was going on.

First known public reference comes from a 1922 story by Gertrude Stein entitled Miss Furr & Miss Skeene, which subtly describes a lesbian relationship.  Bing Crosby warbled a tune called “Gay Love” in 1929.  Its lyrics refrained from revealing the sex of the love interest, leaving it to the imagination.  In 1933, the word as a homosexual descriptor appeared in Noel Erskine’s Dictionary of Underworld Slang, where it was spelled “gey.”  Cary Grant used it in a scene from 1938’s screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby, but most audiences would not have understood what he was talking about.

The word didn’t start percolating into mainstream culture until the 1950s and 1960s when it showed up occasionally in tabloid magazines.  It also started slipping into plays and movies.  Leonard Bernstein’s 1956 musical Candide includes a number called “Glitter and Be Gay.”  As a homosexual New Yorker, he undoubtedly understood the double entendre, as would have many New York theatergoers, but its meaning would have been lost on most audiences in the provinces.

Besides a fleeting reference in 1949, the first time the Courier-Journal used the word in its modern context was in a 1969 display ad for a homosexually-themed Hollywood movie entitled The Gay Deceivers.  In the early 1970s the newspaper started using it more widely as the Gay Liberation movement began making noise.  By 1980-81 the word’s traditional meaning had virtually disappeared from the newspaper.  Americans in general adopted it amazingly quickly.  It took only ten years for the new meaning to become dominant.

For all practical purposes “gay” is a brand new word with no connection to the older “gay” beyond its etymology.  It’s a word that homosexuals chose for themselves.  Despite efforts to replace it with “queer” or other terms over the last thirty years, it has become so ingrained in the language that it would be nearly impossible to dislodge it today.

Companion Studies

 There are many companion studies that have tabulated other homosexual words and phrases as published in the Courier-Journal.  All are housed under the name David Williams or N. David Williams at the Williams-Nichols Collection in the Department of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Louisville’s Ekstrom Library.

12th Kentucky city adopts LGBTQ+ Fairness Ordinance!

DAYTON — With a unanimous vote of 5-0 tonight, the Northern Kentucky town of Dayton, population 5,338, became the twelfth city in the Commonwealth with a Fairness Ordinance prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

“Dayton is extremely excited to be able to join the other eleven cities, out of 419 in the Commonwealth, to continue to be the welcoming community we know and love,” said Dayton Mayor Ben Baker upon the ordinance’s passage. “If any other river cities need help in embracing the Fairness Ordinance, please reach out. We urge our state leaders to adopt these protections—in Kentucky, y’all means all.”

Dayton City Councilman Joe Neary added, “I genuinely hope this carries up to the state level so cities don’t have to deal by this city by city. I can’t believe we’ll only be the twelfth in the Commonwealth.”

“We expect Dayton will be the first in a series of Northern Kentucky cities to adopt Fairness Ordinances,” shared Northern Kentucky Fairness leader Bonnie Meyer, who also helps run the Northern Kentucky Pride Festival. “We were proud to see Covington challenge its peer cities to follow their lead on LGBTQ rights.”

Eleven other Kentucky cities have adopted local Fairness Ordinances, covering just over a quarter of the state’s population—Louisville (1999), Lexington (1999), Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), Maysville (2018), and Henderson (2019). 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a Statewide Fairness Law, which has only ever received two informational hearings in the Kentucky General Assembly. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the measure.

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