Education

Western Kentucky town approves LGBTQ+ Fairness Ordinance…Again!

HENDERSON — With a vote of three to two tonight, the Western Kentucky town of Henderson, population 28,657, became the eleventh city in the state to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. ,

A press release from the Fairness Campaign said that tonight’s Fairness Ordinance vote comes 20 years after the Henderson City Commission originally passed a Fairness Ordinance, which made it only the third Kentucky city in 1999 with LGBTQ protections alongside Louisville and Lexington.

In 2001, a new Henderson City Commission repealed the ordinance and did not consider it again until former Mayor Joan Hoffman brought the issue back up to commission last fall.

Many cities in Kentucky still don’t have laws protecting LGBTQ+ citizens. Earlier this month Queer Kentucky reported on Taylor County officials and conservatives protesting against a Pride Panel that took place at the Taylor County Library.

“Tonight’s historic vote for Fairness in Henderson should give hope to every LGBTQ Kentuckian that fairness can come home for them too,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign. “Even after Henderson repealed their original Fairness Ordinance, the issue never died here, and tonight is concrete proof that persistence pays off.”

Mayor Pro Tem Brad Staton, Commissioner X.R. Royster, and Commissioner Austin P. Vowels cast votes for the ordinance, while Mayor Steve Austin and Commissioner Patti Bugg voted against it.

Last month, nearly 100 Henderson residents attended a city-moderated town hall on the Fairness Ordinance, with most in attendance speaking in favor of the ordinance.

Ten 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), and Maysville (2018). Statewide Fairness Laws are annually introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly, but have never received votes in nearly 20 years. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the laws.

Queer Kentuckians and Allies gather in support of Taylor County Library

In a standing room only event, community members of Taylor County came together on Thursday to tell their heart-filled LGBTQ+ stories to the Board of Trustees of the Taylor County Library.

This public event arose after backlash from conservative community members concerning an LGBTQ+ Pride Panel that took place on June 18 at the Taylor County Library.

The panel, which included discussions with five openly queer people from across the state, is part of the library’s effort to offer relevant community and cultural events.

The community members who spoke to the board of trustees are hoping to keep LGBTQ+ programming alive. Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman came out to show support as well.

“It sounds like its time to start talking about a fairness ordinance,” Hartman said.

Folks who have long left Taylor County showed up to support their hometown. Wes Phillips, Lexington, said he was disappointed that this backlash even happened, but is excited to work towards progression.

“I’ve always taken a back seat to it [LGBTQ+ advocacy],” he said. I felt like anything I would say wouldn’t matter, but after today I see things a lot differently. This kind of has me amped up, and wanting to do more”

One after one, LGBTQ+ youth and adults told their stories to the board of trustees. Stories of transitioning trans youth to mothers of gay sons pleading to keep programming like the Pride Panel going.

Alex Brockman, Campbellsville, said she’s grown up next to the people on both sides and has had to bite her tongue on numerous occasions when controversial topics have arisen.

“Being a future educator, I have to really be careful about taking a stance in politics, but for me this isn’t a political issue; it’s a moral one,” she said. “Many people have tried to condemn those that identify as LGBTQ+ by spewing Bible verses that are taken out of context. As a Christian, I believe that it is our duty to love one another as Jesus loves us. It is not our place to judge others (Matthew 7:1-3). Furthermore, there should be a clear division between church and state. Our country was built upon this fundamental principle.”

This is the only safe space I am aware of in Central Kentucky, Brockman added.

The public event wrapped up when the board of trustees needed to meet in a closed meeting with city officials.

UPDATED: Conservatives want officials in this Central Ky. town to ‘punish library’ after hosting LGBTQ+ Pride panel

UPDATE: According to The Taylor County Library Facebook account, they will be having a special session meeting to discuss the controversy in response to the library’s recent LGBTQ Pride Panel.

The event will take place in the community room at 1 p.m.

The public will be allowed to put their input in during the hour before the 1 p.m. meeting.

Queer Kentucky will keep you up to date on the outcome.

CAMPBELLSVILLE—Critics here are asking local officials to take punitive action against the Taylor County Public Library after it hosted an LGBTQ Pride panel Tuesday night, the first of its kind in this conservative central Kentucky town of about 11,000 that’s located roughly an hour and a half south of Louisville.

Queer Kentucky featured Dalton Bennett of the Taylor County Library last week who coordinated the event.

“This will be the first time merging my professional life with aspects of my personal life,” Dalton said. “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.”

The panel, which included discussions with five openly gay people from across the state, is part of the library’s effort to offer relevant community and cultural events. But some social conservatives say the discussion puts “this Christian community on perilous grounds.”

One local woman told Taylor County magistrates at a special-called government meeting Tuesday night that the LGBTQ panel opened “a Pandora’s Box of political controversial events” and that she was offended by the library board’s “moral decline.” WATCH: Taylor County officials discuss the Pride Panel

The board of the Taylor County Public Library includes appointees made by both city and county government officials, but operates independently with funding from a mix federal, state and local tax revenue.

The woman in the video who addressed elected county magistrates Tuesday night asked Taylor County officials to consider removing library board members from their positions of power and to abolish any local tax money that supports the library and its programming.

Taylor County Judge-Executive Barry Smith, the county’s top-elected official, expressed his disapproval of the library’s Pride panel in a Facebook post earlier this month.

Smith wrote: “Regardless of what you might hear, I personally disagree with our library’s decision to host an LGBTQ pride event. While it is my sworn duty as your County Judge Executive to represent all Taylor Countians, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, my religious beliefs as a Christian teach me that homosexuality is both immoral and a sin. Thank you and god bless.”

Campbellsville resident Ashley Bell said she is close with many LGBT youth in the community, both out and closeted, and they are absolutely watching this and being hurt by it.

“Comparing the LGBT community to pedophiles and the KKK, especially in a public forum, is unconscionable and unforgivable,” she said. “Then to have elected officials agree with those sentiments is a disgrace.”

She added that her emotions are all over the place.

“Yesterday’s Pride panel was a beautiful event. I saw so many joyful tears in the room, but before it was even over, my inbox was blowing up with people talking about the fiscal court meeting. One gay friend in attendance was moved by the panel, but then had his gut wrenched by the video of the fiscal court meeting. It was heartbreaking,” Hall said.

Editors note: Spencer Jenkins, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Queer Kentucky attended this event as a panelist. The event was an amazing success within the walls of the Taylor County Library. Insightful, kind and educational conversations were had and we applaud the library in their educational and inclusivity efforts. We at Queer Kentucky believe that open conversations spark progressive movements and we hope more rural libraries follow Taylor County’s lead.

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

 

How you can help support Louisville’s homeless youth LGBTQ+ population? Hint: Drink up

By Brent Schanding During the month of June, Proof on Main at 21c Museum Hotel Louisville will donate all proceeds from the sale of its Sweet Evening Breeze mocktail to the Sweet Evening Breeze LGBTQ+ shelter, which is expected to open as early as this winter. Proof will also host a drag brunch at 11 a.m. on …

How you can help support Louisville’s homeless youth LGBTQ+ population? Hint: Drink up Read More »

PnP culture is killing us: Queer man leaves the parTy, embraces pride

Story by Jimmy Cheatham, Lexington

Art by Joshua Riley

Queer. To me, that word means living outside of the heteronormative/cisnormative world that we see everywhere we look. I’ve been queer long before I identified as a cis gay man. Growing up in rural Kentuckiana I always knew there was something queer about me and that I did not fit into the mold that my society and culture expected of me. I’m 35, and while we still have a long way to go, LGBTQ+ representation was not a thing you saw in the media when I was a child and it certainly wasn’t taught in grade school. To Wong Foo was released in 1995, I was 12. Ellen came out on her television series in 1997, I was 14. Will & Grace first aired in September 1998, I was 15. Prior to this, I had no knowledge of any LGBTQ+ culture and thought my queerness was something to reject. Conforming to the norm felt obligatory, yet was unachievable.

Addict. Such a cringeworthy term to most. Not something one would aspire to become. The word itself comes from the Latin word addictus which means to sacrifice, sell out, betray, or abandon. Those definitions ring true to me. What began as recreational drug and alcohol use at 16 to escape my inability to erase my queerness, eventually led me to inadvertently sacrifice everything else of any value in my life. Smoking weed and drinking booze led to snorting coke and popping pills. Every line I said I would never cross, was eventually crossed with ease. I would never be a “junkie”, I may do a lot of things, but I’ll never be as bad as “that person” …until I became “that person.” By the age of 25 I was injecting meth and life was a spiraling shit storm with a one-way ticket to rock bottom. Rock bottom happened in 2012, at 28, when I was arrested and eventually told I had 2 options: jail or rehab. A queen would never choose jail, so I chose the latter. I’m grateful that I didn’t choose to keep digging to make my bottom even lower {insert gay joke here}.

Recovery. A refreshing term that insinuates survival. That’s what it means to me. I survived a sinking ship. Addiction typically leads to either jails, institutions, or recovery if you’re lucky. The unlucky ones get buried. With the rate that our fellow humans are perishing from overdose related death, I consider myself to be very fortunate. When I began my journey of recovery, I didn’t really know who Jimmy was because I had spent so many years hidden behind the veil of substances. After completing a 28-day treatment program, I entered a long-term 12-month recovery program for men. I began to get a sense of who I was and who I wanted to be. A vision for a future began to materialize and, for once in a long time, I had hope. I worked low paying jobs in the beginning, but I was the happiest I had ever been. I made friends who were also in recovery and I no longer felt alone in life. Eventually I began to unlearn all those toxic ideas about my queerness and I began to embrace it lovingly. Not only was I recovering from addiction to substances, but I was also recovering from the indoctrination of dangerous societal and cultural beliefs and dogma that being LGBTQ+ was inherently wrong. The need to feel like I had to conform slipped away and I embraced, and am still in the process of embracing, every little part of me. There are no good or bad parts, there only parts that are more difficult to embrace.

Pride. One definition is “delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship.” That is the definition that most resonates with me. I take delight in being a gay man. I take pride in standing as an ally to every person who identifies as LGBTQ+. Being a minority has taught me to empathize with others who are oppressed and marginalized, and I am proud of that. I am proud that I took adversity, in the form of addiction, and turned it into a strength in my life. I am turning my life experience into a career and will be entering grad school in the fall, with an end goal of becoming a clinical social worker and helping other LGBTQ+ individuals with substance misuse issues. I am so proud that I have chosen to travel this path. As queer folx, we all face many obstacles in life, even if substances aren’t a part of everyone’s story. No matter the obstacles, there is always hope to be found and pride to be had.

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