Being Queer

Country pride

 

J.C. Phelps, Russell County, Kentucky

I was raised in a small, rural lake community in Southern Kentucky.

Growing up in Russell County, being gay, queer, a part of the LGBTQ community, is a foreign concept to many.

Due to this reality, I, a gay man, incessantly try to live my life as freely, boldly, politically, and beautifully as possible.

It’s important in communities like my own to be visible. It changes everything.

Living in Louisville makes it easier, but I am, and will always be, country – and I’m proud of that. It made me the proud, confident man that I am today.

Pride 95’

Bob German, Kentucky

Pride – 1995! I’ve posted this picture before. It’s from the Pride march back in 1995. Yes 1995!! Shut up.

I’m marching this evening as a guest of one of our largest corporations in town. A friend works their. I believe the company is a sponsor. Back in 1995 there was NO way I’d ever thought this was possible.

My gay journey was complicated. And in stages.

The last part of this Journey was golf. I had come out in all areas of my life except at the golf course. In fact, for many years I had given up golf so as not to deal with it.

In 1999 I joined Valhalla Golf Club. I semi went back into the closet. Changing pronouns to “us” to “we” instead of him or my boyfriend or partner (never her).

Slowly I stopped that.

Then in 2002 our house was featured in the Courier – Journal. There we were.

I went to the course that Saturday morning. People were like nice article. I saw you in the paper. Stuff like that. I was sure some were saying things behind my back. Once the bag-room attendant said “ hello Mr. Gayman”. I let it slide.

I didn’t say much. I just was. Over time we got invited to weddings. Golf trips. Dinners. “ bob and friend” the invitations read.

These mostly straight white republicans changed their attitudes. At one wedding the kids of my golf buddy came up to me and thanked me for helping their dad change his attitudes. Once on a golf trip I hit a really bad shot and they tossed me a pink golf ball as a mulligan. We all laughed.

Pride is about pride. Pride in being who you are. No shame. Not everyone will get the acceptance in life I’ve experienced. I’m very blessed.

I’ll be marching for the young kid who thinks he can’t. That kid might even be myself!

Arsini Music

Arsini, 24, Kentucky

I have a lot of songs about it which I would love to share with you later, but aren’t ready and won’t be for a while. Check out Arsini Music, here!

I’d say queer means being anything other than cis and/or heterosexual.

I identify as gender fluid, but the label isn’t that important to me. I think a lot of people get too caught up in labels.

At the end of the day, we’re all just humans expressing ourselves.

I’ve lived in Kentucky since a young age. I haven’t really minded until a little more recently, now that I see how closed-minded some people that live here are. But there are a lot of really nice people in Kentucky and interesting varied cities like Louisville.

To any person struggling to come into their own identity, I’d say it isn’t worth worrying about, honestly. We are not necessarily going  anywhere after death.

As far as we know for sure, there is this one life. Why not live it being happy?

My own identity really just means I dress and act how I want. I didn’t always realize I was gender fluid, but I’ve always been that way and been my own person.

Some issues I see within the Queer community is that sometimes we over-complicate things. We are all just people. Also, people sometimes get the impression that Queer people are weak. This is because there are a fair amount that get offended very easily and are sometimes attacking people within our own Queer community. I do not do that and I think it confuses people outside our community.

I think solving the issue would be a long process if even possible, but we basically should not get too caught up in labels or words, but to focus on equality at its core.

I do feel excluded sometimes from the mainstream Queer community. Many accept me, but many also don’t. I can be sort of edgy with my art and it can rub people the wrong way.

But like I said, I believe in self expression. And I don’t think that needs to be limited because of what some people may think.

I feel at my best when surrounded by people who accept me as just another human being and don’t treat me any differently because of my gender fluidity. But I’m OK with people appreciating me for my girly side.

My fiance, @lauren.is.an.artist, influenced me to be more open about it than anyone else. It was something we would toy around with. But she has always been really supportive of making me feel comfortable in my own skin and with me expressing myself how I want to, just in general.

Bless the gender journeys

 

Morgan Frierson, Kentucky

Queer to me encompasses bits and pieces of all identities/genders/attractions. It is a term that illustrates purposeful ambiguity in the spectrum of love. This ambiguity brings confidence and comfort. It is freeing.

When first coming out eleven years ago, I felt I had to identify as “one” sexuality, “one” gender, and following suit of this, play “one” role.

My identity has fluctuated as I learn more about myself and gain life experiences. Past relationships, literature, friendships, new environments, strangers, family, and self-reflection have all helped me be able to have a more solid idea of who I am today.

When I was 17, I honestly didn’t even really know the difference between many LGBTQ terms regarding gender or sexual preference. When I first came out in high school, I identified as bisexual. A year or so later, I identified as lesbian. I am still learning more everyday as a member of the LGBTQ community. I honestly think I am still growing and finding my place. I’ve FINALLY learned, (and feeling very at peace with) the idea that it IS okay to view identity as a lifelong process.

Continuous self exploration brings continuous enlightenment. Most recently, I’ve discovered/explored/questioned my gender.

I don’t necessarily feel I identify as female, but something in between and closer to the male gender. I tend to dress more masculine and my sexual/relationship preference is women.

If identifying myself, queer/gender fluid/lesbian feels right.

I am originally from Scranton, Penn. and I’ve lived in Bay City, Mich. as well. The majority of my life, though, I have lived in Louisville, Ky. I have been here about twenty years and I consider Louisville to be my home. This city definitely helped me to feel comfortable about coming out. I feel grateful to have grown up in a city where I believe the LGBTQ community members are embraced. There are of course still issues, but I do believe Louisville to be more queer-friendly than other cities in Kentucky.

Aside from Louisville friends and family, the city itself brings safe spaces, bars, and events to promote the community. Overall, Louisville has been a great place to start my identity in the LGBTQ community. I’m excited to see how much more this city will progress.

Having this luxury, I have never felt I have had to hide my partners, refrain from holding hands or showing affection to women I’ve dated publicly. In my younger years, I had basketball teammates and track teammates who were also unafraid at an early age to be themselves or come out in the Louisville scene. Seeing others do this successfully made me feel more encouraged to come out. My best friends at the time were amazingly supportive but also had been suspecting/waiting for me to tell them. And I could feel that from them.

Once I built up the courage for this conversation, it was certainly a relief but honestly not as difficult of a task as I know others have had to deal with. There were a few friends/acquaintances that sort of distanced themselves, but years later some of the same people came back to apologize that they didn’t understand at that time.

I think I felt the most fear in coming out to my parents. My mom was mostly concerned that she felt I had been “hiding” something from her. She felt more of a disappointment in me that I had waited so long to tell her. Luckily for me though, my parents quickly adapted to my sexuality.

I know that coming out stories don’t always go that way for some. With that being said, I whole-heartedly appreciate and love the ability of my parents to grow and expand their minds as I was also doing the same in understanding more about myself everyday. With their open approach, they now have reached the level where they sincerely want me to be happy with another woman.

Any effort, no matter how small, towards self-reflection should be considered a success in revealing yourself to you. I have come across people/friends/family who have been able to state their identity firmly and quickly. However, I do think there are plenty of people out there, including myself, who have a longer journey of self-exploration. You are not alone.

Do not deny your greatness for someone else. Do not let partners, strangers, friends, and family tell you that you have to be a certain way.

If dressing, acting, loving or just being a certain way is not what someone else agrees with, fuck em.

Do what makes you feel good. Follow your intuition. Be free. Don’t be afraid of personal change. Keep an open mind that is always accepting of new experiences, people, genders, love, and opportunities. You benefit others as well as yourself. Be patient throughout this process.

I feel like I have had to “come out” several times in life as I discover more about myself over the years. If your heart wants something or someone and it is not what you’re used to, go for it. If you are questioning your gender but someone doesn’t understand your reasoning, that’s okay. You figure out what works for you. Embrace that.

Pray for the Prodigal Daughter That returned home a Son.

Ken, 23, Barren County, Kentucky

Pray for the Prodigal Daughter

That returned home a Son.

Praise for the Boy who journeyed into Manhood

without the guidance of a Father.

Blessed is he, with a new name.


Pray for the loss of a Sister,

Fleeting dreams of children that would not be born

Praise for the birth of a Brother!

The new dreams and ambition he brings!

Blessed is he, that has a choice, the illumination.


Pray for the awkward mistakes,

Faux pas and mystery of a freshly made Man

Praise for the New Man who peed in public toilets,

That undressed among other Men in the YMCA locker room

Blessed is he, with a new body. Freedom.


Pray for the secrets he keeps,

The lies he tells to lead his life

Praise for him! The honesty he lives!

the hidden knowledge he holds!

Blessed is he, for his breadth of experiences.


Pray for him, to hold his tongue

When others assume he is younger than he is.

Praise for the alto who would become a bass!

Blessed is he, with an unrestrained voice,

remind him of the restraint of the past.


Pray for his heart, his spirit

The Mormons, the fellows of his youth, reject him

Praise for his Friends! his Lovers!

For they have turned a hostile land into a hospitable one.

Blessed is he, to live in the Ohio River Valley.


Praise for the Prodigal Son!

That returned home A Man!

A Lover!

A Brother!

A Friend!

Blessed be the transforming power of testosterone!


Pray that the coffee stains,

are removed from his white shirt.

 

Simple enough, right?

 

Owen McClintic, 31, Kentucky by way of Indiana

I don’t get “clocked” as queer too often and I used to struggle with that.

Am I queer enough? Do I suppress my queerness because of internalized homophobia?

I don’t like makeup, I don’t like leather, I don’t have a diva, Im not into pups, I don’t like using the word ‘Fag’ colloquially, so do I even have a right to the word Queer?

I do. Queer is all of those things and none of those things. I am queer just by existing and that is enough for me today.

As a kid I knew I liked girls but I also knew I liked boys. So, just because I liked boys that meant I was gay.

Then I heard someone use the word bisexual in seventh grade. And it really was an “ah hah” moment. It meant that how I feel had a name and if it had a name, other people must feel this way. I am not alone.

Then as I grew and explored my sexuality, Bisexual wasn’t broad enough. My attraction was more than the gender binaries.

Pansexual, or Omnisexual seemed to be too haughty of terms for my physical attraction to physical beings.

So today, I just identify as queer. And i am queer enough because I identify as queer.

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