Jeremy McFarland, Campbellsville
Participating in the LGBTQ+ Pride Panel at Taylor County Library was one of the greatest honors of my life so far. While growing up as a transgender man in Taylor County, I never imagined something like the panel ever taking place. As a panelist, I and four other openly LGBTQ+ adults shared our stories, advice, and perspectives to an audience of young LGBTQ+ people and adults seeking to support those youth.
Growing up in Taylor County, I did not know a single openly LGBTQ+ adult while I was growing up, there were no resources or groups available to support or guide me, and the messages I received from my community were that LGBTQ+ people either didn’t exist in our small town or didn’t deserve to. This made coming out as transgender incredibly difficult, particularly because I didn’t have the words to explain what I was feeling and no one to go to once I figured it out.
I spent a lot of growing up wanting to die. When my family tried to find help for me, we were repeatedly turned away. Despite the fact that I was actively planning to kill myself, no therapists in Taylor County were willing to accept me as a patient explicitly because I was transgender. Later on, once I started hormone replacement therapy, our local pharmacy was unwilling to fill my prescription. When I went to have my name changed, either through malice or ignorance, I was initially turned away by the judge. Even my parents, who at first struggled to understand what I was going through, lost friends and were denied services because they learned to love me as their son.
Like so many others before me, I left my hometown the moment I was able to. I made a new home for myself with a beautiful, diverse, and loving chosen family in Bowling Green (ironically, a town that many have had to flee for reasons similar to my own), while many of my childhood friends moved on to find homes in other cities across the state, country, and even around the world. Despite so many of us running away from Campbellsville, we all seemed to come together in response to the public library’s Pride Panel and the controversy that has followed it.
I can’t speak for everyone else, but, for me, being so rejected by my hometown has left a painful wound on my heart. I am past the bitterness of it all, but until Campbellsville is able to heal its bigotry, I don’t think I can fully heal, either. However, this event was a vital step in the right direction.
During the panel and at the subsequent board of trustees meeting, I was able to meet older LGBTQ people who have lived in Taylor County their entire lives. A part of me feels truly healed by knowing they were there the whole time, however, I am also pained that these adults shared my fears and felt they could not make themselves known before now. I also had the chance to meet some incredible trans boys who, with the love of their families and the support of their local library, have harnessed the strength and bravery to be open about their identities in a way I wasn’t able to at their age. Even more uplifting, tons of people from the community came out to show their support and thank the library at Thursday’s board of trustees meeting.
There is still so much work to be done, though. The Taylor County Fiscal Court (which includes Judge Executive Barry Smith, who publicly expressed his prejudicial views towards LGBTQ+ people in the community he was selected to serve) is at odds with library staff regarding this situation. If we want to ensure that the local library can continue to be a sanctuary for all members of our community, we must keep the conversation going.
This has been a coming out for the LGBTQ+ community in Taylor County and Campbellsville. For the first time, our existence is being publicly acknowledged. My greatest hope is that we do not allow this opportunity to pass us by. For the sake of LGBTQ+ youth currently growing up in Taylor County and Campbellsville, for the sake of those who had to leave and those brave enough to stay, and for the sake of honoring our own human dignity, we must not allow them to shut the closet doors on us again.
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