Joy Wilson, 39, Lexington, Kentucky
Queer is a personally affirming identity that encompasses a larger umbrella of an LGBT scope. I identify as queer and use the pronouns she, her, they and them. I identify as dyke as well, so I can say the word casually. It’s a confident self-affirming female and I think it’s (the word dyke) making a comeback. We are reprogramming and reclaiming that language.
I never identified well as a lesbian and I never felt at any point in time I was a part of that community. Had I been 20 years younger, I would have had more thought about gender, gender non-conforming and gender reassignment. That concept was not even a thing in Kentucky when I was growing up. Until I knew I was gay I didn’t know what gay was.
I graduated high school in 1996. There was no RuPaul or Ellen. The only thing my parents had to go on was Indigo girls and Freddy Mercury of Queen. Ellen didn’t come out on TV until I was in college. It’s pretty wild to think about being a teenager in Kentucky.
I feel like I had a pretty blue-collar family in the middle to upper class and I was raised in the church. Ministers were on my mom’s side of the family or big people in the church. I played sports and all my free time played out in the church. That was the standard childhood of that region.
I had a conservative family but super loving family. When they found out I was gay they were completely accepting, but concerned about me living in Lexington—rightfully so. I moved out of there once I graduated.
Moving to Louisville was better then Lexington because there was a small Queer scene in Louisville.
It’s very important to really try to find a community that suites you. If you’re not in a community that feels right to you, move to one that does. Even with times changing, I feel like it’s really important to fit into a community where you fit.
I don’t fit in with lesbians here because I didn’t “look like” the other lesbians. I found my community in Chicago. I lived five years in Chicago and it took that to feel confident with myself.
For me, by the time I left for Chicago in early to mid 30s, I needed to have that time for a community and realized there were other people like me. I didn’t have to explain why I didn’t shave my legs or under arms.
I can’t say enough about location and being in communities and the people that you’re around. It’s either the most helpful or detrimental to your growth.
Now I am a parent to my girlfriend’s kids in Missouri and I’m comfortable in a city where people ask me about my gender all the time. It’s so helpful to figure out who you are and be really true to that. I felt I was flailing before Chicago.
Being a parent is by far the hardest experience I’ve ever encountered. I’m coming in after a cis white male was in their household. Now, I’m in a stepparent role to 3 and 5 year old girls.
We live in a very upper class neighborhood in Columbia and I’ll be out mowing the lawn with tattoos everywhere, with breasts and it’s a constant…
“what the fuck is that?”
That’s what creates change. It’s the sign of the times because I’ve found nothing but great people there.
My looks is a very stereotypical queer look wearing non-gender specific clothing. I look like a cut out of the machine that looks like Chicago Queer.
In a rural town, it’s a daily conversation or a passing glare that I have to communicate about or process internally. I also think about that when I get dressed going out in public. I don’t want to overdo it. I won’t be masking who I am when I go out because I want myself to be visible. Never try and hide who you are. Before I lived in Chicago, I did try to hide who I was.