Anne Miller is the owner of Suspend, an aerial and circus gym in Louisville, KY. She has created the definition of a safe space; every single person that walks into the room at Suspend feel valued, welcomed, and accepted for who they are. As an instructor, Anne takes great care to make sure that students’ bodies are being accommodated for, as well as making sure other instructors are informed so that they can feel included, but also kept safe. For example, when a new student came to the studio who was a transgender man, she took personal time and effort to help him work through many of the physical challenges of transitioning after having had top surgery, as well as guiding us as instructors so that we could be supportive as well and accommodating as well. Suspend’s space is very queer-heavy with well over half of its student and instructor population identifying as LGBTQ. Anne herself recently came out of a very tough marriage with her ex husband and has been very open about her own sexuality. Despite all the challenges she faced, she never gave up on the business and, more specifically, the people in it. The fact that she runs a aerial arts and circus studio is particularly empowering to our community because of the emphasis on body positivity and development of personal strength. For me personally, working in this environment has allowed me to work on resolving many years of body issues, to feel physically strong and empowered as a result, and to have a sense of community where I can be honest and my true self about these accomplishments, as well as my struggles. I am merely one example out of many. I frequently hear people cite that Suspend is the reason they were able to find a sense of home in Louisville, and that culture of welcome and support for diverse individuals is something that Anne has fostered in her organization since day one. Anne provides many opportunities for her instructors and students to perform, including at Pride for the past two years, as well as other professional opportunities. She truly paves the way for many people to start building their careers as performers and aerialists, often sacrificing her own personal gain to do so. There are many students of Suspend that have struggled to find a way to consistently afford classes. Anne is always able to find ways to help them so that they can continue to be a part of the community and to keep practicing aerial arts. Please feel free to reach out to me for more information on how Anne has been a true leader for empowering the LGBTQ+ community. I am proud and excited to have the opportunity to nominate her!
What do you identify as? Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything?
I identify as queer. Parsing into a finer grained label feels less authentic to me, at the present time.
What does the word Queer mean to you?
I see ‘queer’ as a reclamation of a once derogatory term used to describe anyone outside the heteronormative majority. It feels like a fairly inclusive term for a heterogenous group of people, allowing for variance in expression and experience.
Where are you from and explain what it was like growing up/living in Kentucky?
I grew up in New England. I initially moved to Kentucky for a few years as a late teen, and was assaulted by one of the first people I outed myself to. My peer group in New England was very liberal, and very queer, so this experience radically impacted my feelings about being safe and out in Kentucky. It’s something I still struggle with.
What would you say to anyone struggling to come into their own identity?
Seeking authenticity is a life long pursuit. I believe we are all in a constant state of change, and becoming. The best advice I have is to surround yourself with people who have the capacity to take you where you are, be that friends, loved ones, mentors, or therapists. Finding safe spaces to work through psychological resistance (be that the effects of the larger macrocosm –such as culture, or individual things –such as ego) is paramount to truly getting to know who you are, and accepting that person.
How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
My identity is in a constant state of evolution, as I encounter new life experiences that help me further refine who I am. I operate at any given time under the lenses of several different facets of my perception of my identity, and I would say that I work towards integration, but I am not always successful at this.
What issues do you see in the queer community?
I believe the issues within the queer community are much less substantial than the issues affecting the queer community in a systemic way. None of us are able to escape the effects of culture.
What do you think would solve those issues?
Mass societal change. Radical acceptance.
Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
In such a diverse community, I am not exactly sure what “mainstream” means. I’m fairly femme, and people have made assumptions about me in the past based on my life experiences and my appearance, but I think that had more to do with internalized homophobia and the personal insecurities of those involved.
Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)
I feel the most myself when I am in the air, be that performing, or teaching through Suspend. I feel most alive when I am learning new things. I feel most comfortable when I am around people who I love, who love me (I’m an introvert, no matter how I try to mask that). I feel most safe at home. I feel at my best when I feel a sense of flow, when my internal experience is mirrored by the world outside myself.
Who influenced the life you live now?
I have been influenced by every person who I have crossed paths with. Some have been positive interactions, that have led to growth, and others have been negative, that have also led to growth. I am strongly influenced by art, and artists (be that writers, musicians, dancers, or visual artists). I like people who are willing to take risks for things they believe in, who are passionate, and engaged. I want to live an integrated, authentic life, and most enjoy spending time with people who also value this.