Queer activists stare down a barrel of hate in Eastern Kentucky park

by Spencer Jenkins

At Sanders Park in Corbin, KY, members and activists of the LGBTQ+ community rallied together on June 3rd to support one another. What should have been an uplifting event turned unsettling when faced with animosity and hate.

LGBTQ+ activist Trent Osborne said he and his friends were having a peaceful protest in direct action against hateful legislation plaguing Kentucky and the rest of the United States.

“The goal originally was to get a lot of people to come together and show that there’s a community in Corbin that will protect you,” Osborne said.  “I think is necessary, especially because it doesn’t feel like there are enough resources for people that are queer or LGBTQ.”

photo by Jonas Ray

Not too long into the celebration, Osborne’s friend, James Hensley, was approached by two men, and an altercation ensued. According to Osborne, two men approached —  one on a motorcycle and the other in a car. 

“They flipped us off and proceeded to pull over and approach us as if planned,” he said. “They began spouting slurs and hateful slander. The F-slur was said on multiple occasions when the two men approached, they each had their hands on their guns which were hidden in their pockets.” 

Osborne immediately noticed and confronted them, “asking why on earth they’d need to have weapons as none of us were armed nor threatening them,” he said. 

In the video that has gone semi-viral on social media, James can be seen bucking up with one of the men. One man appears to admit to carrying and shows a Ku Klux Klan membership card and spews threats in James’ direction.https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRoETWLM/


“I called him out for proudly brandishing a KKK card, and when I did, they laughed and were proud to be members,” Osborne said. “They even proudly proclaimed to be homophobic and racist. At one point the man who later pulled his weapon in the altercation looked at me and said, “I’ll burn you and that sign (a pride sign).”

In the video we can see the man with the card put it into James’ face and touch him, so James attempted to move his hand away from him. In doing so, the man began to slap at James, and then ultimately reached for his weapon, and unstrapped the holster in his pocket on the back of his pants. It can also be seen that the LGBTQ+ activists called him out for this. They begin screaming to others for help because there is now a gun threat. 

Hensley said he believed exactly what the men were doing.

“They wanted to come there and bait us into fighting them so they could get away with murder,” he said. After I smacked his hand away, I’ll be honest, I was ready to fight. Then, I noticed his hand on his gun.”

photo by Jonas Ray

Eventually, the video shows one of the agitators yelling, “come take care of these faggots then!” when the gun officially leaves the holster of one of the agitators.

The police demanded the man drop his weapon, and confiscated both it and the other man’s gun, which wasn’t holstered and just hidden in his shorts pocket. 

“They take the guns apart and remove the bullets that were in the chamber and ready” Osborne said. “The police then did  an investigation to find out what is happening, then ask us to leave as we have no permit, and they escort the men to their vehicles, giving their weapons back and send them off.” 

The Corbin area is also the birthplace of the bestselling novelist, Silas House. The Lark Ascending author is vocal about LGBTQ+ rights in our state and said this incident is especially sad for him to see.

“I know how hard so many people in Corbin have worked to make the town more welcoming and progressive,” House said. “There’s so much great grassroots work happening there. And I’m especially proud of these young people because they are brave to be among the first to do this kind of rally in Southeastern Kentucky. It’s one thing to speak up in places like Lexington and Louisville, but quite another to do it in a place where there is limited anonymity and often much more pushback.”

The identities of the agitating men have not been officially released an no arrests have been made. Attempts for comment from the Corbin Police Department were unsuccessful by publication time.