Paducah LGBT Welcome Center Director of Operations to be honored at Queer Kentucky Awards in June

He helped organize the first pride event in Paducah, Ky. He also started a local 501(c)(3) organization welcome center in the area with educational programs and support groups for trans people. He fought in Paducah for the passage of the fairness ordinance.

He has literally showed me what could be done to help the people in the area. He started a movement not centered around addiction but instead awareness and education.

What do you identify as? Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything?
I identify as a gay male, I prefer to not label myself, as I strongly believe that we are all equal and labels just cause differences and ways for others to segregate members of our community

What does the word Queer mean to you?
To me, Queer is the embodiment of the LGBTQ community standing up and taking back our lives, our culture, and our heritage. Queer is the ability to know that we are different and to own it and to love ourselves and each other for our differences.

Where are you from and explain what it was like growing up/living in Kentucky?
I grew up in rural Oregon, and came out in the early 2000’s life was a little different there and then, and I never truly had opposition to my sexuality. Being gay was just part of who I was, I had amazing friends and a loving family. My Mother and Grandmother were two of my biggest supporters.

I moved to Kentucky in 2016 and soon discovered that living in Western Kentucky is a lot different than even “conservative” rural Oregon. My first impression was “this is not going to work for me, I am a strong proud gay man.” I met my Spouse Anthony in July of 2016 and told him that we need to do something to make a difference.

In 2017 we joined the local MCC church and met some amazing friends such as my Co-Founders of the Paducah LGBT Welcome Center and Western Kentucky Pride Festival Donna and Elizabeth Riley, and Mitzi Kirkwood. As we started talking to people about the dreams, and the visions that we had doors were slammed in our faces at every turn. But we persevered to plan both of these historic things for all of our region.

What would you say to anyone struggling to come into their own identity?
I say daily to anyone that comes into the center that is struggling with identity issues that no matter what we are here for them 24/7. No one truly knows the struggles that each individual is going through but if we sit down together and work through it no challenge is too small if we work through it as a family

How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
My identity is a part of me but isn’t all that I am, I refuse to let my identity dictate the who, what, where, or why in my life. I am very proud of my “gayness” and I will do all that I can to ensure that no person in our service area is treated as less than because of their identity

What issues do you see in the queer community?
I see too much Separation in the gay community today instead of standing tall together, each group is so focused on their own issues that they refuse to fight together, and make their combined communities better. Transphobia and Racism are still very high even within our own community, and it is saddening. as well as the stigmas on health and mental health issues. If we could stop focusing on the superficial issues and the issues that truly matter our area would be better.

What do you think would solve those issues?
People need to surround themselves with constant education and love. I think if we could focus on safe, sober spaces, instead of everything revolving around places that profit off of weaknesses, and moral ambiguity we could support the organizations and the associations that truly care about our community. We have to make the change that we need! The time is now to hold our elected officials responsible for our communities, and the amounts of equality, and protections that we receive, GET OUT AND VOTE!!!!

Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
I don’t feel excluded from the mainstream queer community because I feel like most of the LGBT community in Western Kentucky is on the same metaphoric page. I feel that certain cliques or people with radical beliefs exist in every community, and this day in age people fall on all degrees of the political and religious spectrums which can cause some friction or divide.

Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)
I feel I’m at my best when I am surrounded by those that I love, rather it is at church, or at the Welcome Center working to better the lives of all we serve in Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Northwest Tennessee, and South East Missouri, or at home with my loving fiance and my Yorkie, and my old fat cat.

Who influenced the life you live now?
My Mother and my Grandmother taught me to love myself no matter what, and all the Civil rights activists that came before us. I try my hardest to live up to their example.

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