Spalding University student joins Queer Kentucky as spring intern

Cassie Bilyeu

  1. What do you identify as? Why? Or why don’t you identify as anything?
    I’m a mostly probably binary trans woman. “Identify as…” is sometimes a troublesome term. There’s the feeling that one doesn’t identify as anything, rather, you simply are a thing. But it’s just semantics.
  2. What does the word Queer mean to you?
    It’s an umbrella term for an entire community of marginalized people based on sexuality or gender identity. Anyone who’s LGBTQIA+ is queer if they’re ok with the term. It’s been and still is used as a slur, but in reclaiming it we take power from the word and instead wear it like a cape.
  3. Where are you from and explain what it was like growing up/living in Kentucky?
    Born and raised in Louisville. Louisville, and more broadly all of Kentucky, is a liminal place on the border between North and South, East and West. It contains multitudes.
  4. What would you say to anyone struggling to come into their own identity?
    It’s hard. But the people in your life might surprise you with how accepting they are. Particularly if you’re an adult, you’ve probably surrounded yourself with kind people, and may even have a chosen family completely ready to accept every part of you. But I’m happier now than I’ve ever been before.
  5. How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?
    Figuring out how to carry and present yourself is a complex thing, particularly for trans people who’ve come out as adults. You have this defensive persona you’ve built up to protect yourself, and when you start relaxing you find out that you’re aren’t sure who you are. So I, like many others, am still in that process of self-discovery.
  6. What issues do you see in the queer community?
    We constantly tear each other down for not being the right kind of queer, or not believing what we’re supposed to believe. We all have more in things in common than we have things that separate us.
  7. What do you think would solve those issues?
    You’d have to ask someone way more knowledgeable and educated than me to answer that question. But to be reductive, kindness. Just be kind to each other and try and assume the best in people.
  8. Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?
    For a long time when I thought I was a bisexual guy, I absolutely felt like I didn’t have a place in the queer community. Bisexual people, especially those in relationships with people of the opposite sex, are often invisible, and it’s a struggle to embrace your identity without feeling like you’re invading queer spaces that aren’t meant for you. As a trans person, I feel more definitively part of the community now, particularly as I’m engaged to a woman. But the only thing that’s changed is how I present myself.
  9. Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)
    I feel at home in a cozy library in the winter, with the heater on and a cup of something warm and sweet and bitter, and a book that’s too big to hold comfortably in one hand.
  10. Who influenced the life you live now?
    My mom read Swiss Family Robinson to me before I could read, giving me a lifelong passion for fiction and stories of people surviving when everything is against them.