Lussi Brown Coffee Bar, owner
What does the word queer mean to you? How do you identify? Why? Or if you don’t identify as anything (say, with any particular label), why don’t you?
The word “queer” is one of the most powerful words we claim. There are so many types of people in the LGBTQ* spectrum, and we’ve always been proud to be an all-inclusive community. The word queer creates a sense of togetherness and community amongst all of our different “titles” if you will. The word queer has the power to bring us ALL together, challenge binaries, and allow space to breathe for those still figuring it out.
Where are you from? What was it like growing up/living in Kentucky?
I was born and raised in Richmond, KY and now live in Lexington. I’ve always been a “Central Kentuckian”. Honestly, even though Kentucky lies on the top of the Bible Belt which makes us tilt a little more in the conservative religious direction politically and culturally, no matter where you are or go it’s all in what you make it.
What would you say to someone who is struggling to come into their own identity?
I worked at a camp for a few summers and mainly mentored high school students. I always found it strange when we were supposed to just give young people information and tell them to believe it without questioning it (too much) especially at an age when they’re really figuring out themselves and the world. I always asked them… “Are you following or doing things because of tradition, or do you really believe them as truths? Maybe it’s time to explore YOUR truth. And not everyone’s truth is the same.”
That’s my challenge to everyone in almost every aspect of life and coming into their own identity. Religion, sexuality, relationships, whatever. Are you going through the motions because it’s just what you’ve always done? Or is it time to dive in and really find out who you are? Diving in isn’t always easy, but as someone who has gone through it, I’ve never felt more free, more myself, more deeply happy than when I became open to new ideas and I found MY truth.
How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
I’m unapologetic in how I live my life now. It took a long time to get there, and there are some instances when I want to hide or dull down my queerness. We all experience that. But at the end of the day, I fully feel like me. There are levels of fluidity that will always be there and nothing is black and white, but I know I’m a queer cis-female that loves tattoos and drinks too much coffee. And that confidence makes the world mine.
What problems/issues do you see in the queer community? What do you think would solve those problems/issues?
Revisiting the term “queer” as an all-encompassing identity I think helps combat the labels and binaries and identities we all obsess over sometimes. We’re taken over by needing a flag that represents you when next year you could be a whole different human. Gender and sexuality are on a spectrum (lookup The Genderbread Person if you need a reference). Not all people in the LGBTQ* community are open to educating themselves about identities outside of how THEY identify. We deal with that enough with mainstream culture. We need to be more educated, meet different people, try new things, go to a new bar, to fully be the all-inclusive queer community we claim and want to be.
Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
Sometimes yes sometimes no. I think lesbians always have been somewhat excluded, and a lot of that is based on mainstream culture as well. Not being covered in makeup or wearing heels. Easy jokes based on lesbian stereotypes of UHauls and Birkenstocks. The “Lavender Menace” movement was done because lesbians weren’t included in women’s movement of the 70’s (as well as the gay movement). But, and we all know this, when it comes down to it no one can handle it or take care of it like a lesbian can. We grow up in the oppressive lives of little girls AND the oddities of being a gay kid and come out stronger. So, whatever, exclude us, we’ll be busy making sure it all comes together in the end. 🙂
Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc.)?
At my coffee shop. In my element. I own Lussi Brown Coffee Bar in Downtown Lexington, KY. My co-founder and I started the shop to bring something new to Lexington and the shop’s purpose grew into something more. It became another safe place for queer people to come. I’ve had many gay first dates, and meetups and meetings all in our little shop, and unfortunately those aren’t welcome everywhere. I’m proud to have a space queer people can come and be themselves. There’s where I feel at my best.
Who influenced the life you live now?
I’ve been involved with the Lexington Pride Festival committee for the last five years. Through the PCSO (Pride Community Services Organization), which is over the Lex Pride Fest, I have met so many amazing, dedicated, smart, open, wonderful people from all different walks of life. Those people influence and inspire me every day. Passionate people getting involved in the community inspires me to do more.