Katlyn McGraw is cofounder of Gayborhood Events, an organization that focuses on creating events for Louisville’s Queer community with a focus on providing inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ women, nonbinary and trans folx.
What do you identify as? Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything?
I currently identify as lesbian. The reason I say currently, is that at the age of 19, I came out as bisexual, which I identified as for 13 years. It’s kind of a long story, but several big life events led me to question my sexuality even more including, but not limited to, the death of someone very close to me, embracing my sexuality, and basically, realizing that loving women was no longer something that was just part of me, but something that took over me. You’ve heard of compulsory heterosexuality or compulsory bisexuality?
What does the word Queer mean to you?
Queer is an all encapsulating term to me. Queer seems to reach all corners of the community and, also, I think it feels more accessible to the general public. Queer is nonspecific, which is what I think people like about it, nonspecific to gender, and nonspecific to sexuality. I think it’s a great term for when you’re not really sure where you’re at and also for when you’re extremely sure of where you’re at.
Where are you from and explain what it was like growing up/living in Kentucky?
I was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, on a farm at the outskirts of town. Living in a more rural setting made it hard to socialize as a young woman. I spent a lot of time with my nose in books, feeling different. City life was difficult to access at times. Looking back, I think I needed to see those other different people so I didn’t feel so isolated. Now, living in Kentucky is much easier, mostly because I know who I am and I’m happy with myself. However, I am ready to leave and enjoy a larger city. I adore rural life, but I rely heavily on community and city life.
What would you say to anyone struggling to come into their own identity?
Trust yourself. Trust your gut. Fuck what other people think. The norm is not actually the norm. Norms are ideas colonialism and white patriarchy have forced upon us. They are not real. Once you let go of all that, and learn to love yourself, all the shit will melt away. I mean, not really, but you’ll feel so much better.
How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
I think grappling with identity forces us as queer people to take hard looks at who we love, what we love, and what the fuck matters. Because of that, I think we have a different level of confidence and self-assuredness than most. So, I think my identity just makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin.
What issues do you see in the queer community?
Well, as with any community, we all got problems. But, I would say a major problem is the extremely high rate of death of poc trans folx and lack of rights and space for qpoc. Some other problems are exclusion of trans people and sex workers, misogyny within the community, homophobia within the community, anti masc and anti butch womxn ideologies, the disappearance and lack of support of queer womxn owned businesses, and the large gap in pay between groups and the type of privilege that gives to those groups.
What do you think would solve those issues?
Awareness, self-education, writing your representatives, smashing the state, sharing information on social media, using your place of privilege to give less privileged groups a platform, elevate the voices of qpoc, fucking elevate qpoc, challenge your own privileged thinking and the systems that led you to that way of thinking.
Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
Hmm, this is tough because I think it changes based on the environment you are in. The short answer is yes. Sometimes, in Kentucky, I feel there are few places for queer womxn to go, that are specifically carved out for us.
Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)
I feel my best on my bicycle racing through the streets, connecting with friends and family that fulfill me, at home with a book, or dancing to music.
Who influenced the life you live now?
Wow, so many. The most important and influential was Angela Wood, because she was unapologetically herself.