Queer Kentucky Feature: ‘For me to be queer is to be black and to be black is to be queer’

Mariah Mays

What does the word queer mean to you?
In all technicality queer means strange or odd, but how does one person claim what’s strange or odd?  Because you choose not to conform to societal expectations, or adapt to what’s accepted or passing? For me to be queer is to be black and to be black is to be queer.  Neither of which was a choice, nor would I choose to be anything else. Queer is beautiful.

What are your pronouns? Why are they important?
I personally describe myself as a person with feminine masculinity, or masculine femininity. Either/or is fine but I don’t fit into one single construct.

Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything at all?

Where are you originally from and explain how was it growing up/living in Kentucky?
I was born in Germany (army brat). I’ve been in Louisville the majority of my life though. I did live in New Albany for a brief period in my childhood.

What would you say to any person struggling to come into their own identity?
At the end of the day, you have to do what makes your personal self happy. The extent of that is entirely up to you.  Just know that there is nothing wrong with putting yourself first and figuring out what that looks like to you. If “people” are the issue, then know that the people that are for you will naturally fall into place in your life.

How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
I suppose it does but it doesn’t. I’m just comfortable with how I carry myself. I learn something new about myself everyday and I carry myself in a way that makes me happy.  Sometimes I want to throw on some nail polish and makeup and other times basketball shorts and a t shirt. I’m just comfortable in my skin.

What issues do you see in the queer community?
Racism and transphobia unfortunately.

What do you think would solve those issues?
Unity and equality ultimately would ideally solve these issues.  Whether or not the queer community is ready to have that conversation is an entirely different story.

Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
Of course, but what POC trans person wouldn’t?  We are the minority within the minority.

Do you feel safe as a trans or nonbinary person?
I would say most of the time yes and no, but only because I don’t put myself into spaces that will put myself at risk.  Does that limit where I may go day to day yes, but I’m also aware of my surroundings at all times. I have to be.

Do you feel safe as a BIPOC trans or nonbinary person? (Stemming off of previous question)
This is the no side of it. I very rarely travel anywhere that I know for a fact I could be at risk. If it’s not racism in the queer community or racism in the community in general then it’s transphobia. I have 2 targets on my back at all times from different corners.

Who influenced the life you live now?
Myself.  I’m still learning and developing into a better version of what feels good to me all the time. But that takes time and trial and error. I am living for me now and that feels good. I will say having amazing people surrounding me has been incredible. Support systems are necessary. The way I see it, your life influence in color is black and white. White being your past and what you already know about yourself. Black is your future, there are no answers there it’s just the unknown of what’s to come. So you are constantly living in this grey area every second of every day, getting to know different pieces of you! Most of my personal influence is shown throughout my artwork as far as personal self expression you can check out on Instagram @chefvoodoo502

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