Queer Kentucky founder, Spencer Jenkins talks future, funding Queer Entrepreneurs

Interview by Sam Osborne, Fringe Zine

What does the word queer mean to you? How do you identify?

The word Queer brings me peace. By definition it basically means weird or different and there’s always been a piece of me that never felt a part of the status quo. I’ve always felt a little on the outside of inner circles and that I didn’t belong in spaces where I “looked like I was supposed to belong.”

I identify as a Gay and Queer cis-gender male. I identify as this because it’s how I feel. When I think of the word “gay,” I think of it as a word that describes what I’m attracted to as far as sex and relationships. But Queer gives me the freedom of not having to fit the hetero-normative lives that I see a lot of other Gay cis-males leading.

The word Queer empowers me. It empowers me to live authentically and do the things that make me happy. If I want to be more “feminine” at times, then I’m allowed to be so. If I find myself attracted to someone who identifies as Trans or non-binary, I am allowed to have those feelings. Queer is just so much more open and inclusive to me than other identifiers in the world, and I love it.

I understand that some folks see it as a derogatory term. It has been used in that way and I’ve been on the receiving end of that, but we’re taking the word back. It’s our word and I won’t let some asshole make our communities word a weapon of theirs.

Inception of Queer Kentucky

So I was a journalist always. A little kid who had his Goosebumps branded notebook with him at all times. Eventually studied journalism in high school and college and went along to write for community newspapers in Oregon, Tennessee and Kentucky. However at the time when I worked these reporting jobs I was struggling immensely with an opiate and eventually heroin addiction. I could barely even keep my reporting jobs because I was so fucked up all the time. I even had a publisher pull me into their office after a staff meeting to address my “nodding off” during the meeting.

Eventually I started the path of recovery and once my head began to clear I wanted to go back to writing. But I didn’t want to go back to small town reporting covering 99.9% mainstream heterosexual activities. I’ve gotten to a point in my life where if I’m not doing and something I love, then I don’t want to do it and don’t have to. I have a passion for Queer advocacy in our state so I thought why not build a platform for it?

I was always a huge fan of Humans of New York and the lifestyle brand Kentucky for Kentucky…so I thought why not combine the two and make it Queer Kentucky? Kentucky is lacking a platform for voices to be heard and hopefully this will grow into the largest platform for Queer Kentucky Voices.

I started Queer Kentucky in March of 2017 designing the brand with Kendall Regan at Morels cafe. I was a nervous wreck and all over the place with my vision for Queer Kentucky. I was kind of intimated by Kendall at first because she’s very successful and a well-known designer in town and I’m over here like, “uhmmm I have this idea, but I don’t know what I’m really doing and I like to work backwards.” Luckily she kind of translated my own thoughts for me and it’s been amazing working with her ever since.

My first subject was Ty Francis. Ty and I have been friends and have run in the same circles for years. I’ve always thought he was a very interesting person with a chíc aesthetic. I also didn’t want to immediately feature a bunch of cis white people because I didn’t want to paint a picture of non-inclusivity. Ty was fun to work with and basically set the groundwork for how I would work with people. I was nervous when I interviewed him because I had no idea what would become of Queer Kentucky. After I posted his feature and he shared it on his social media, my followers started picking up.

Along the way through the first year, Queer Kentucky had some contracted writers. These writers have been people who identify as anything other than what I identify as. I don’t see a need to have another white male cis writer at this time. My own privileges can distort my view so I’ve really focused on getting writers that are different than me. Queer people of color, Trans, non-binary, Lesbian and more.

The ultimate goal of Queer Kentucky is to have investigative journalists cover the Queer Kentucky community. We also want to be able to provide resources to the community too. We are about to begin a project on compiling a lists of primary care providers in the state that are queer friendly.

Queer Recovery

So I wouldn’t say that Queer Kentucky is a completely “sober” publication, because let’s be real — we partner with Queer bars like The Limbo. However, yes, an important aspect of Queer Kentucky is to raise awareness of the drug epidemic that is riddling our bluegrass state and provide resources on how to achieve a personal recovery path.

I’m in search of an investigative reporter to cover the Queer meth epidemic in the state. It’s one of the silent killers of our community and it’s time we actually talk about it.

Queer Yoga

During my recovery journey, I found yoga of 12 step recovery at 502 Power Yoga. I had already been into yoga at 502 for sometime, but never really made a connection with my mind and body because that wasn’t my goal. I was there for egotistical reasons for a very long time.

Yoga of 12-step Recovery which was led by Rebecca Burnett and now Renee Beard really changed my life. And it was cool how I saw it change others and the community it created. I got my certification in Yoga of 12 step recovery through the Y12SR certification program and after that, I obtained my 200 Hour yoga certification at 270 Power Yoga through the Baptiste Institute.

I really wanted to create a recovery yoga catered to queer people. There are so many Queer issues that people are not comfortable talking about or feel that they can’t talk about in traditional 12-step meetings. Queer Yoga of 12-Step recovery is a space to talk about anything. We also use Queer oriented recovery literature.

The Future

By the end of 2019 and early 2020, I’d like to have 8-12 long form investigative and/or stories that are not feature articles. However we will continue to keep producing feature articles.

We’d also like to see our platform rise to a national level through the stories we tell and then we can really raise the Queer southern voice.

Also, by the end of 2019, we will be giving $2,500 – $5,000 to a Queer Kentuckian that wants to start their own business. We’re already working with folks who have the same mission as us and we’re excited to receive funding to help other Queer people start a business.

Starting a business is rough and tough shit. There’s so much that goes into it and there is little to no support in Kentucky when it comes to Queer owned businesses…especially if you have a Queer mission driven business!

I never want to see another Queer person struggle to have a successful business as long as I live. I don’t want to see trans-women excluded from female entrepreneurship programs or see any Queer person excluded from entrepreneurship programs for that matter.

I believe that a lot of Queer people don’t start businesses because they’re terrified in doing so. Why are they terrified? Why have Queer people always been terrified? Many of us believe that no one will believe in us and that no one will invest in our dreams other than ourselves.

It’s time for that to fucking change.

So stay on the look out Queer Kentucky entrepreneurs! Applications to come out soon!

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