Amelia Pantalos, Louisville, Kentucky
What does the word queer mean to you?
I like the word queer, it’s expansive to me. It describes the attitude of being indifferent to, dismissive of, or in direct opposition to mainstream expectations of beliefs and behaviors. And “queer” doesn’t have the word “sex” in it, which I like, because queerness is about a lot more than sexual attraction.
Where are you originally from? What has been your experience growing up and/or living in Kentucky?
We moved from Utah to Kentucky right after I turned 12, and Louisville is my home—I went away for grad school for four years, and came back here on purpose. (Although Louisville is my home, I love this whole damn commonwealth and all the many, many people working to create change here).
I keep needing to say something here to acknowledge that short be being male, I have all the privileges a queer person can have—I’m white, cisgender, straight-passing, etc. Have I had negative experiences that were a direct result of my queerness? Absolutely. But my list of grievances is shorter than one might expect. So instead of telling you about what cis men have approached me to say while on a date with another queer person, I want to tell you about the loving queer community I have found here. That community was one of the things I missed the most about Louisville in the time I was away at school. I wish everyone were as fortunate as I am to have multiple people in my life that make me feel so seen and heard.
What would you say to any person struggling to come into their own identity?
Don’t panic! It’s okay to not know, or to find that something that used to be true isn’t anymore. It’s okay to be afraid. Always be open to making discoveries about yourself, over and over.
How does your own identity affect how you carry yourself? Or does it?
It’s been a part of me for so long that in some ways it’s hard to say. I think that in some ways being queer has freed me from the pressure to meet certain expectations or have specific ways of being—like, if I’ve already fucked up the foundation, why bother? But also, my queerness intersects with my millennial-ness, my privileges, and probably lots of other factors that shape how I move through the world.
Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
I’m not exceptionally visibly queer, so making connections with other queer folks in the wild can be challenging—especially since I don’t really enjoy the sensory experience of “mainstream” queer venues like bars, clubs, or Pride. I consume a lot of queer news media, which makes me feel connected to queers elsewhere (but not necessarily locally), and that is something that I’ve found to be really affirming to my own sense of queer identity when I’ve been single a long time or in a relationship where I’m read as straight.
Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)?
In the kitchen, cooking or baking for people I love.