Queer Northern Kentucky leader talks diversity, equity and inclusion

Courtney Reynolds
Brice Mickey

Please tell us your quick and dirty bio

I’m a Cincinnati-area native. Born and raised on the westside of town. Just barely graduated Walnut Hills High School and then ended up at UC, where I thrived (the second time around). It was there I discovered conversations around Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) through a nationally recognized intergroup dialogue program called RAPP (Racial Awareness Program). Since then I’ve taken every opportunity to be involved in these conversations that I can find, whether that’s through speaking at GLSEN’s Annual Youth Summit in Northern Kentucky or as a panelist for the City of Cincinnati’s LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Employee Resource Group, City Pride. I was also very purposeful in finding work opportunities that aligned with my passion like supporting underrepresented emerging leaders with Public Allies Cincinnati or working to make our local institutions more inclusive through  training at Avant Consulting Group or community engagement at Cohear. 

How did you really find the passion for the work you do? 

As I mentioned in the last question, RAPP was where it all started. That program started by the late, great Linda Bates Parker in 1986 changed my whole life. Suddenly I had language to describe the power dynamics I saw at play in my everyday interactions. I wasn’t less-than because I was fat or Black or queer, but I was socialized to believe so. I received messages, both covert and overt, to reward me for certain behaviors and/or identities, while I was punished for others. I stuck with the program for years because of all of the lightbulb moments, the language, and most of all, the support. I was never in a fraternity or sorority, but I imagine the support I received and continue to receive from my former peers is similar. I am network rich with people who understand the fundamentals of privilege and oppression, both interpersonally and institutionally. 

How strong do you think the LGBTQ+ community is in Northern Kentucky and the tri-state?

I absolutely believe the LGBTQ+ community in the Tri-state and especially Northern Kentucky is strong and vibrant. What I can’t say definitively is whether that is because of or in spite of the community around us at large. I believe adversity, just or unjust, builds character and resilience and I can say, without getting into the details or the history, our community is extremely resilient and has a lot of character. It may not be the easiest thing to spot “your people,” but when you do, they are usually exceptional, because they’ve had to be to thrive in spaces that weren’t necessarily built with them in mind. 

How was it when you were first in this area?

I’ve always been in this area so I don’t know anywhere else. That being said, I can remember having very racialized experiences from a very young age. I remember our room in kindergarten being split into Black and white students one day (no idea why). I was “dating” a white girl at the time and when she pulled me to the white side of the room, but my teacher grabbed me by the arm and said no you belong on this side and pulled me toward the Black side. I am multi-racial for context – half Black, quarter white, quarter Japanese. I was both and there was no Japanese side of the room so in that moment I knew I was othered and put into a box, but I had no language for that. I can also remember serious bullying because of my queerness and my weight. 

Are you comfortable telling your own coming out story?

I love this question and I laugh at it because as I’m sure so many of your readers are aware, there is no one definitive story for a lot of us. In many ways this article is the first time I’ve said it outloud in a way that others can read. I even texted my boss to say that I was nervous to say I’m queer in this piece while she cheered me on. Sometimes I choose to come out in my DE&I workshops to drive a point home, but there are other times I do not whether that’s for pedagogical reasons or safety (which is always a consideration). 

How well do you think youth are supported locally?

I think we have some great resources in Northern KY and the tri-state area at large. The biggest issue I see is the disconnect between the resources and the people that need them most. It’s great to have a GSA, but if the LGBTQIA+ students at your school are being bullied, how many of them are too afraid to attend? Support groups are awesome, but if parents are ignorant of the benefits or unable to afford to get there, how can those in need attend? Are our LGBTQIA+ inclusive spaces  racist, sexist, classist, ableist because if so, they really aren’t LGBTQIA+ inclusive. 

What do we absolutely need in our community but is lacking?

I wish there was more of a sense of community in our spaces. We’ve lost so many spaces that were dedicated to queer people meeting up. I think that is to a large extent because we feel more welcome in spaces that were exclusively cishet, which is largely positive. At the same time, there are less spaces dedicated to uplifting us specifically and I think we need those or we need to find a way to do that in these new spaces. 

What is the future for Brice?

I imagine my future will be based around growing a community of advocates here in Cincinnati. I told my mentor once that I was jealous of her and the impact she’s had all over the world because she travels and does so much community work. She told me to my surprise that she was jealous of me because of the tremendous impact I’ve had just here in one city. She said, “I’ve had a bunch of little impacts all over because I’ve never stayed in any one place for too long. You’ve had a huge impact in Cincinnati because you are basically an institution in and of yourself.” I want to do right by hometown and I see so much potential.