Being Queer

Friday Flowers

Kenyatta, 24, Louisville

What does the word queer mean to you?

The work Queer to me means someone who’s not afraid to be themselves and live free without a care in the world.

How do you identify?

I identify myself as a non-binary pansexual.

I’ve came to a point in my life where where you not only have to accept the masculine but you also have to accept the feminine to be aligned with what the universe has to offer.

I also don’t really like to label myself but I do to help others try to understand but everyone isn’t meant to be understood. When you label yourself I feel you just put yourself in a box just to fit society but I commend those who don’t identify.

Where are you originally from and explain how was it growing up/living in Kentucky?

Born and raid here in Louisville, Kentucky. I grew up in Clarksdale Housing Project. I was always loved playing outside and very fascinated with nature. I didn’t play too well with others I was the one throwing sand and had all the popsicle sticks in my behavior pocket at the end of the day so school was never cake for me at all. I always enjoyed art class my favorite thing to draw was flowers when it was Friday.

What would you say to any person struggling to come into their own identity?

Do it on your own time. Don’t let anyone for you to do anything you’re not ready to. Go within and love yourself and due time you’ll be ready.

How does your own identity run how you carry yourself?

Coming into my identity allowed me to not follow societies ideal of what I should be. My sexuality allowed me to realize I don’t have to fit one specific role in society I can play multiple.

What issues do you see in the queer community?

Some people here build their own categories and stereotypes about each other which builds a “wall” and puts tension within the community.

What do you think would solve those issues?

Some people should try to step outside of their comfort zone and actually get to know someone before you make assumptions about them.

Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community?

I feel excluded from mainstream queer community cause I’m not a sir, a twink, an otter, a bear, and you catch my drift. Sometimes I got out and they throw specific events for main categories I just don’t fit into at all and would never classify myself as one just to fit in.

Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)

I feel happy when I’m on the go I’m a Capricorn so I like to stay productive especially when I’m working. I’m the night owl and the early riser. Who said you need 8 hours of sleep? That’s for lazy people. I love to catch the early morning fresh air before everyone gets out and hop in their cares and start polluting the air.

Who influenced the life you live now?

Dr. Mufundishi Baba Serikali. He’s my spiritual father and Mufundishi. He not only introduced me to meditation but he also introduced me to Tai Chi which taught me to be more mindful and conscious. Tai Chi is an ancient, yet modern, form of meditative exercise, effective regardless of age and physical ability, and practiced by millions of people worldwide. The study and practice of Tai Chi is based on the belief that health is not just the absence of disease, but is a true balance of physical, emotional and social well-being.

Tai Chi

• Improves balance to prevent falls

• Lowers high blood pressure

• Improves shallow breathing

• Facilitates curing respiratory illnesses such as asthma, colds & bronchitis

• Strengthens joints in knees, ankles, wrists & hips

• Aids in physical & emotional adjustment during menopause

• Improves posture, aligns the spine & strengthens the lower back

• Helps to metabolize blood sugars

Pronouns Matter, using them with respect saves lives

by Sarah Gardiner

Pronouns matter. Apart from name, they are the main way we address other humans in conversation, thought, and identity. So understanding them and getting them right is vital.

Let’s start by defining the concept. Pronouns are the words we use when referring to another person. The three sets you will hear most often are:

The feminine: she/her/hers

The non-binary/gendered: singular they/them/theirs

The masculine: he/him/his

While other sets exist, these are the ones by far most utilized in everyday language. The feminine and masculine are the most commonly used because of the ingrained binary that society has faced prior, but it can be harmful to guess pronouns. If you have not been expressly told someone’s gender, do not assume it.

The singular “they” (which has a long history of non-gendered use within the English language, dating back to the 1400’s and used by authors like Jane Austen and Shakespeare) is the most commonly adopted gender-neutral noun, though others do exist. We already use “they” in everyday language. Think of the phrases: “Who do they think they are?” or “You showed them!” We use this language daily, so we have all the skills already. We just need to learn to use them.

Learning new pronouns when your brain has been wired to the binary normative of feminine and masculine can take practice, but learning and growing are an important part of our community and being a human in general. Don’t be afraid to mess up — messing up is part of life. As long as you learn from mistakes, get better, try harder, and be more considerate.

Pronouns are some of the most fundamental ways we can be good allies and considerate humans. To respect someone’s pronouns is to respect them, their experience, and their identity. Pronouns can evolve as well, both situationally and because of the fluidity of gender. Respecting pronouns is one the simplest, easiest, and most fundamental ways to show respect and consideration for others.

Listen and respect when someone tells you how to refer to them and understand that they owe you no explanation if their pronouns or identity do shift. Believe and respect what people tell you. It is not for you to question. It is not yours to decide. What people say about who they are is valid. No questions asked.

From Lewis County to Louisville

Kaleb McCane, Lewis County

I’m from Vanceburg, KY. I love it in Lewis County, but moving to Louisville was a great decision for me because getting out of the small town environment allowed me to grow as my own person and learn who I truly am. It also taught me how to think independently in many aspects of life. With that being said, growing up there was great.

I’m extremely close to my family, specifically my mom. I’m also still friends with some people I grew up with because with such a small amount of people in a county, you really learn everything about each other growing up. With Lewis County being such a small town full of traditionally conservative people, I was afraid to come out, but truthfully, everyone from back home that knows doesn’t treat me differently or feel differently.

To any person struggling to come into their own identity, I would say stay true to YOU and don’t let anyone interfere. There will always be people trying to knock you down no matter what. Gay, straight, male, female, black, white and everything in-between. But you have to think that at the end of the day, the main person you have is yourself, so if you’re not living up to your full potential of who and what you want to be, you’re only hurting yourself.

Honestly, how I identify doesn’t affect how I carry myself. I act the same now as I did when I identified as straight and was dating girls and when I first came out and everything about being gay was new to me.

I see a few major issues in the queer community – one of which is the standard at which gay men (I only specifically say gay men because that’s what I have seen the most of and have experience with. I know we aren’t the only ones who deal with this) hold themselves to when it comes to psychical appearance.

In the gay community, we are expected to always be dressed well, skinny, muscular, etc. I like to say I am straight skinny but gay fat. In our community if you don’t have a flat stomach or abs, you’re “fat” or “chunky” – which is absolutely ridiculous.

Our community is hated on and discriminated against enough as is, we don’t need to go after our own brothers and sisters. I just wish we could let one another live our best lives while supporting each other no matter what, not tear each other down.

Another big issue that I see and personally deal with myself is politics. I have met so many people that I have hit it off with as friends but then they figure out that I am a republican. Then the whole dynamic of our friendship changes. It almost seems as if they are unaccepting of me not only as a friend but as a member of the community.

I think this is ridiculous as well. Just because we don’t have the same political views/opinions doesn’t mean that I am a terrible person or have turned my back on my community. People’s opinions differ, which is okay. That’s what makes America and our democracy great.

I think if our community took a step back to reflect on ourselves and realize that being gay, lesbian, trans, pansexual, whatever, doesn’t mean that you have to fit into the stereotypical mold that is the LGBTQIA community. We want and expect to be accepted by everyone outside our community but can’t even be accepting of one another. How is that supposed to work? If people outside of our community see us turning on each other and not respecting each other, why would they feel the need/want to respect and accept us?

To answer whether or not I feel excluded from the mainstream queer community, I guess I would have to say I can say both yes and no. No, because I do live up to the stereotypical queer standards; take that as you will. As far as politically, I do somewhat feel excluded. I was raised in a very conservative family and even after moving and learning my own political stance, I still consider myself a proud Libertarian-Republican. Obviously, on some social issues – like gay marriage – I tend to go more towards the center-left, but I still stick to most conservative beliefs. It actually has caused multiple spats between me and friends in the queer community. One of the main arguments I hear is that republicans don’t agree with my lifestyle, but I like to remind them that there are other gay republicans/conservatives out there and that there are many other components in politics besides gay marriage that typically take priority.

I feel my best – which I would describe as safe, happy and comfortable – when I am with my friends, loved ones, and other members of the queer community. Whether it is hanging out at home, going out to the bars, social events like pride, etc. I always feel my best when I am with these people.

I can’t really pinpoint one person who I can say influenced me to life the life I live now. My mother is and always has been my biggest supporter in life. She’s always pushed me to do and be my best. She has always been there for me and encouraged me to chase my dreams, whatever they were. So in part, I can say she is one of the people who have made the biggest impact. But there has also been other people along the way who have done the same. My English teacher/drama club director was basically my second mother during all four years of high school, friends and fraternity brothers I made when I moved to Louisville all helped me realize and come to terms with who I really am and who I want to be. So, all-in-all, many people in my short 22, almost 23, years of life have influenced me to live the life I live today.

 

 

 

Manhattan visits Kentucky, reflects on southern roots

Queer? To be completely honest, the meaning of the word Queer has been a bit of a conundrum. The definition, personally, changes daily.

When I was initially introduced to the concept of what I think Queer is today, which I think is something quite radical, I didn’t think I was radical enough. What I’ve come to associate queerness with are people who don’t have rigid, black and white definitions of their sexuality and gender.

That’s exactly where I find myself, in a grey area. I prefer humans who identify as men, that’s not to say I’ve never felt attracted to someone who identifies as a woman, sexually. If I have to tick a gender box, I would tick male. However, I don’t subscribe to the stereotypical ideas of what society would consider to masculine. I don’t identify as female, but I certainly am effeminate. For me, this is my queerness.

I would say these are ideas and notions I’ve come to recently. I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi where the culture is very binary. Gay vs Straight – Man, Woman. I’ve lived in New York for ten years, I think this has changed slightly back home.

However, when I was coming of age I didn’t have any references for anything beyond the stereotypes. It was a constant struggle to find where I fit in.

After my recent visit to Kentucky, I’m noticing a change in the south. I think with dawn of social media more people in rural and conservative areas have access to representation and like minded individuals that one may not have known existed. It’s allowed LGBTQIA+ community to form a more global network which is beautiful. Especially for young people – if I had the knowledge that people like me existed in the world when I was coming of age, or examples of people living their life beyond societies definition, everything could have been different.

It’s all so overwhelming, I wish that boxes and definitions and binaries didn’t exist. Can you imagine a world where people just exist freely as they are? No need to create subcultures and sub-subcultures and communities within communities for protection and identification?

I’m not sure I’ll ever see this problem solved as long as we’re human but if we’re aware it’s a start. What’s wild is it’s all just a human attempt to belong but in this attempt to belong we create new communities or scenes that become exclusionary.

The best example that comes to mind is high school, there are kids that don’t identify with the mainstream so they refuse to conform and choose to rebel. In their rebellion they join the goth scene or alt scene, now their rebellion has become about conforming with a new group of like minded individuals that reject a group of people that they feel rejected them.

As it relates to Queers specifically, this behaviour was for protection and safety, mental and physical. I think it’s important and healthy to respect the past, but we have to look towards the future and build on ideas that are actually inclusive.

Gay cis white men have gained a lot and move through the world with much more ease, what’s important now is to use that privilege support and uplift more marginalized members of our collective community.

Free mom hugs in Pikeville

Marty Wayman, Frankfort

I have a son with autism, a gay son, a “son of my heart,” who came out as trans at the beginning of the year. He’s 16, and one of the reasons Free Mom Hugs has been an organization which I choose to support with all of my energy.

Free Mom Hugs, and assorted offshoots, is an organization started by Sara Cunningham, a mother in Oklahoma. Their goals are:

To be a group of affirming parents who love their LGBTQ+ kids unconditionally and take those hugs of love and acceptance to others. For some, those hugs can be the difference between life or death. We aim to eliminate LGBTQ+ prejudice, and end the abusive practice of conversion therapy. We stand with and love our LGBTQ+ children.

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They started out with parades, but have since branched out into larger, more inclusive efforts. Churches can often be the basis for these offshoot groups . At our events, we often hear:

I haven’t been hugged my mom since I came out.”

My Grandparents won’t talk to me anymore.”

I didn’t find out until after the funeral that my dad died, no one told me.”

Those comments broke their hearts, and mine.

To support and share hugs and love in a judgement-free embrace is a vital thing for individuals of all ages.

Moms, dads, grandparents, big sisters, little brothers, chaplain hugs, a dog to hug—we’ve done it all.

Our volunteers often come from FB pages and one-on-one conversations between people who just want to give back in some small way. We’ve had nothing but happiness and love from our volunteers who often feel they get back even more care than they give.

We try to ensure everyone gets 2-3 hugs, a sticker that says, “Hugged and Loved,” and beads for a “hug to go!” We build mirrors built with self-affirming quotes and signs welcoming people of all religions, sizes, and cultures. All are welcome in our arms.

This is the best and most important thing that I’ve ever done.  The feeling I get by sharing my love is better than any of the opening night excitement I’ve felt on the hundreds of plays I’ve been apart of.  It makes me want to do more for community. In the coming months, we are planning events to support young LQBTQ+ people through the holidays, as family gatherings are a tough time for many people.

One of the things that most encouraged me to get involved with Free Mom Hugs is the work they do outside of festivals and parades. They sit with those who need a friend at the hospital. They will fill in as a parental figure at a wedding. They are astounding.

I’ve worked on assorted boards and fundraisers for LGBTQ+ groups over many decades, but this organization just fit. We all need a hug sometimes.

My favorite part of events is the surprise, big hugs I have with people who may not seem they need one. I will often ask them to, “Bring it in here,” with my arms wide open, and off we go. This has led to amazing hugs with people of all ages, sizes, colors, genders.

My other favorite part is the comments. “Can I have another, my grandma won’t hug me anymore,” and baby, I sure will! I give great hugs.

I’ve yet to have a difficult moment working with the group. I’ve heard about other festivals where some trouble was brewing, but the Free Hugs people helped to diffuse it. I’d like to think that I could help do that as well. I have not had anyone put me in a difficult situation, or need help, but I feel prepared to do so if the need arises.

And when you are wearing the Free Mom Hugs shirt, you will be asked to hug everywhere, even in massively crowded restaurants. When asked, I always say yes. A hug always calms people down!

Pikeville Pride was tremendous. We had had our second Capital Pride here in my hometown of Frankfort the week before and doubled size from year one to year two! I think that will happen in Pikeville as well. The brightness and excitements in the faces of attendees was amazing. Many couldn’t believe it was happening in their town, and the opportunity to hug them was such a gift.

Wow, what an amazing group of festival organizers and participants! We were so delighted to be included!

For us “huggers,” the important thing about Free Hugs is love and acceptance. We want LGBTQ+ youth to have a pair of warm arms, and to come back for more whenever they need.  We want LGBTQ+ adults to know that we love them.  We want festival goers, families, couples, seniors, and kids to know that they are welcome, accepted, we are glad that they are here.

Let your worries go if this is your first time at an event like Pride! If you have any pain in your heart, let me lend you mine for a bit to carry that weight.

 

QKY and VOA Fit talk PrEP

By Pablo Archilapablo chill

HIV is 100% preventable. We aren’t just limited to condoms and hand jobs anymore, there’s medicine that can prevent HIV infection called PrEP. PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a once daily pill taken to prevent HIV infection. Think of it as the birth control for HIV. Meaning, it only works if you take it.

Deciding to get on PrEP is entirely up to you. Once you’ve decided that you want to do it, here’s how you get it. Only doctors and APRNs can prescribe PrEP. So if you have a PCP that you’re already established with, and feel comfortable with, you should go to them and have a conversation about getting on PrEP. If you don’t, find one. Whether or not you chose to get on PrEP, going to your doctor is so important, especially for queer folks who can have non-traditional health needs. Depending on where you live, finding an LGBTQ*competent physician can actually be somewhat easy, and there’s plenty of databases online for doctors sensitive to queer healthcare.

Once you have a prescription, now it’s time to get help paying for it. On its own, a one-month supply of PrEP can cost around $1,300, in addition to doctors and lab visits. Most insurances, including Medicaid, cover it. However, it may not cover all of it; here’s where Gilead, the manufactures of PrEP, can help. If you make less than about $50k a year, they should be able to cover all of it. They have a voucher, or co-pay, card that you can sign up for online at gileadadvancingaccess.com to help offset the cost, possibly at no cost to you. There are also resources if you have no insurance too.

Once you have the meds, doctors say you should wait about 2 weeks after taking it daily, to be protected by it, and have sex. You can chose to also use condoms to provide more protection, especially against other STIs, as PrEP only protects against HIV. However, studies have shown that PrEP is helping to reduce chlamydia and gonorrhea infections by up to 40%. Remember, you should be seeing your doctor and doing labs every 3-6 months while on PrEP to make sure it’s working well and not causing any health issues. PrEP does have side effects, and its long-term effects are not known completely. Talk to your doctor regularly.

Although you should take your meds every day, ideally within an hour window, missing a few doses here and there shouldn’t hinder its effectiveness. Most healthcare professionals won’t tell you this, but studies have shown that even taking it 4 times a week still provides the same protection as those who take it every day. You should still do your best to stay on track with dosing.

To sum it up:

  1. Decide that you want PrEP
  2. Find a doctor that will prescribe it to you
  3. Get help paying for it
  4. Take as directed
  5. Attend your follow-up appointments

 


VOA PrEP Guide Click link for full PDF versions of the below images.

VOA PrEP Guide

VOA PrEP Guide 2.jpg

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