appalachia

12th Kentucky city adopts LGBTQ+ Fairness Ordinance!

DAYTON — With a unanimous vote of 5-0 tonight, the Northern Kentucky town of Dayton, population 5,338, became the twelfth city in the Commonwealth with a Fairness Ordinance prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

“Dayton is extremely excited to be able to join the other eleven cities, out of 419 in the Commonwealth, to continue to be the welcoming community we know and love,” said Dayton Mayor Ben Baker upon the ordinance’s passage. “If any other river cities need help in embracing the Fairness Ordinance, please reach out. We urge our state leaders to adopt these protections—in Kentucky, y’all means all.”

Dayton City Councilman Joe Neary added, “I genuinely hope this carries up to the state level so cities don’t have to deal by this city by city. I can’t believe we’ll only be the twelfth in the Commonwealth.”

“We expect Dayton will be the first in a series of Northern Kentucky cities to adopt Fairness Ordinances,” shared Northern Kentucky Fairness leader Bonnie Meyer, who also helps run the Northern Kentucky Pride Festival. “We were proud to see Covington challenge its peer cities to follow their lead on LGBTQ rights.”

Eleven other Kentucky cities have adopted local Fairness Ordinances, covering just over a quarter of the state’s population—Louisville (1999), Lexington (1999), Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), Maysville (2018), and Henderson (2019). 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a Statewide Fairness Law, which has only ever received two informational hearings in the Kentucky General Assembly. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the measure.

The Queer Kentuckian behind our Twitter account: Christian from Ashland

The word queer to me can mean a lot of things. As a queer person you sometimes think about when people refer to things as queer.

Does someone who identifies as a male wearing a crop top make them more queer or one who likes football is less queer? I think it just boils down to the person identifying as queer.

There shouldn’t be a queer spectrum. I identify as a male with he/him pronouns and I haven’t really put much more thought into that aspect of my life because it’s not the most important part I’m concerned with.

I’m from Ashland, eastern Kentucky, and I loved growing up there. Being queer wasn’t something that really affected my life and friendships there.

I have a loving and accepting family and friend group from back home, I was the gay theater kid so it probably didn’t shock too many people when I came out.

Not like anything actually changed about my life and for a town in eastern Kentucky it was pretty accepting overall. You should always come out on your own terms, it’s your timeline on when you feel you are ready.

I know people who have come out super young and later in life. Start by telling one person, that’s what I did and the weight is immediately off your shoulders and you can take a deep breath. No rush in when you decide to tell the next person.

There are issues in every community but one I think I see the most in ours is just self confidence and self love. It’s something I struggle and it’s something we aren’t really open enough about. Maybe if more people were open about it, it would help but instead we see the Twitter gays with a 6 pack complaining about their weight.

Not that they can’t have self confidence issues but how would that make someone who doesn’t look like that feel? It’s a never ending circle honestly. I’m not even sure what I would refer to as the “mainstream” community. Does that mean I’m excluded? Im not really sure, but I love my queer community here in Louisville so that’s my main concern.

I feel at my best when I’m just surrounded by my friends and laughing. It’s really that simple.

My mom and Robin Williams influenced my life. My mom is the nicest person on the face of the planet and Robin Williams was just always my comedic hero and I truly thinking making someone laugh can make their day just a little bit better.

I feel like their are so many queer performers we don’t see enough in mainstream music. Troye Sivan and Sam Smith aren’t the only queer musicians. I love Tegan and Sara, Perfume Genius, Years and Years and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s important to support any queer artist and you can broaden your horizon a little bit in the process.

Night life entrepreneur, Louisville’s ‘Cherry’ Bomb blazes a Queer trail

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

Queer to me is the defiance of gender and sexuality. It’s anarchic. It’s as equally controlled or chaotic as you want to be. Some people use the term queer as an umbrella term for all people in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and some people dislike the word because of it’s pejorative roots. But let’s get one thing straight – we aren’t – and anything we want to call ourselves shouldn’t be considered anything less than what we want it to be, even if it originated as a rude or hateful term. Being queer to me is not needing to be masculine or feminine or anything beyond or between. It’s absolving yourself of the guilt of saying “this isn’t what boys do” and allow yourself to express your feelings without any boxes. It’s moving past concern about what others may think about what makes you happy, or who makes you happy. It challenges what a partner or partners means for you, they can be masculine or feminine presenting, non-binary, trans, or any other identity or a combination of. I identify as queer.

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

For a long time I identified as just gay. Like a lot of young people growing up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s – I assumed for a long time that I was bisexual because of society telling me I should be one way, and my brain and heart telling me another. But as I have grown to love myself, and those around me more – I have identified as queer for the abilities to make the word what I want it to be. I am attracted to more than just cis males, I have built strong friendships and romantic relationships with people who identify all over the spectrum, and I don’t think just saying I’m gay can withhold my identity anymore. Though sometimes I use gay and queer interchangeably, I find less of an issue with reclamation of queer than I do gay, having grown up in the heyday of teenage boys calling everything under the sun gay when they disapproved. I have never been called a queer in a derogatory way, not saying this is the same for everyone, just my personal experience.

Where are you originally from and explain how was it growing up/living in Kentucky?

I am born and raised in Louisville KY. I grew up in a somewhat bizarre upbringing – as I can’t remember my parents ever being married (I think they divorced when I was 3?) and my mother raised myself and my sister in Louisville, while my dad had joint custody of us and lived on a farm in Elizabeth Indiana until I was about 9 or 10. We moved a lot, my mother got remarried to a wonderful man who taught me a lot about loving people who are not your blood family, but chosen family – and I gained two siblings from this marriage. My dad eventually remarried again and moved to the Highlands where I spent my teenage summers riding skateboards down Bardstown Road, going to shows at Pandamonium and the BRYCC House, and immersing myself in punk culture – where I learned a lot about saying fuck you to rules and boxes. I also learned a whole lot about queer theory, vegetarianism, anti – capitalism, atheism, and a whole bunch of other subjects through those older than me who were always quick to teach young kids that punk was more than just angry music – it was about fighting against what society says you should do. Living in Louisville is such a wonderful experience and I am so happy to see how the city has grown and become super accepting almost everything. I would see the artsy and

forward thinking thriving city during my custodial weekends spend in the Highlands, and the down home southern family experience with my mother in the south end. I feel like these two parts have made me who I am today.

What would you say to any person struggling to come into their own identity?

Only you can decide who you are. And what you may be right now doesn’t have to be your final form. Humans are constantly evolving, your tastes will change as you grow, you will experience things for the first time and maybe hate them and years later you’ll do it again and love them. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers RIGHT NOW, some things just come with time. Your friends and family have must listen to your desires in identity when you speak about them, and you do not have to maintain a relationship with anyone who is toxic or blocks your happiness. There is always someone out there for you to connect with, and luckily in 2019 we can do so via the internet much easier than approaching someone in public.

How does your own identity run how you carry yourself? Or does it?

My identity allows me to wear whatever I want, to connect with people over so many different topics, and to make strong bonds with my chosen family. It gives me an excuse to be me in whatever way that is for the day.

What issues do you see in the queer community?

If your fight isn’t intersectional, it isn’t a fight to be had. We create a lot of spaces for white, cisgendered, able bodied people without the second thought on if the space is welcoming, accessible, or comfortable for someone who is POC, non binary, trans, disabled, or any combination thereof. As a white queer man in society, I am afforded a lot more liberties than someone who is anything else. People fought so hard for gay marriage, but some forget that our battle will constantly assume new forms and we must continue to fight until everyone is on the same playing field. LGBTQ+ people (especially QTPOC) are more likely to commit suicide, be assaulted or murder, or find themselves homeless than their straight or cis counterparts.

While I have been lucky to not see much in my own community, I still see a whole lot of racism, sexism (that goes for y’all “vaginas are gross” gays out there), transphobia, and ignorance (especially involving HIV) in other places and it really bums me out.

What do you think would solve those issues?

Besides cis white gays pulling their heads out of their asses? Probably people educating themselves on how we have evolved and grown as a culture, as a community, and as something more than just a “disease” that they used to kill us for. Ask people their pronouns, work on volunteering your time somewhere, create a safe space for your friends to meet and enjoy themselves, recommend your friends you trust for jobs, check in on them (IMPORTANT!),

and most lastly, if you see something (and it’s safe) say something. Remove problematic language from your vocabulary, get tested and don’t refer to being HIV negative as “clean”, and that you vote with your dollar aka stop giving shitty companies money!

Do you feel excluded from the “mainstream” queer community? Why or why not?

I don’t really know what I call mainstream anymore? Sure I love drag performances (support your local queens as much as you do Ru girls!), I enjoy the first couple Lady Gaga records, I saw Cher perform earlier this year, I’ve been to gay bars in other cities and gay weddings here and far. I probably still know most of the words to La Vie Boheme from RENT. I go to Pride most years and sometimes in other cities. I think most things that are “typically queer” can be fun, and some of them I don’t care for. Just like I enjoy listening to Beyonce as much as I do Converge, watching MS3TK as I do ANTM, and seeing bands play in the basement of Spinelli’s downtown as I do travelling 3 hours to watch Lizzo perform – I don’t expect everyone to enjoy the things I do, and what they enjoy (so long as it isn’t hurting anyone) doesn’t bother me. My only hope is that mainstream queer culture is inclusive to ALL LGBTQ+ people as it grows, and not just the white ones.

Where do you feel “at your best” (safe, happy, fabulous, comfortable, etc)

Some of you probably know me from my proclivities as DJ, or playing an instrument in a band – and that’s a feeling I always find to be one of the best. Expressing my art for people to consume and enjoy themselves. I feel at my best surrounded by friends dancing, watching drag, sharing a meal, or relaxing at someone’s house. My chosen family makes me feel as safe as my real one does, and I would give my last dollar to any one of them should they need it.

Who influenced the life you live now?

My mother. She’s always accepted me for who I am. She let me be a weird theatre kid (bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya?) through middle school, a wild and loud music playing young adult, and has always told me she loves me for the person I grew up to be. She taught me a lot about compassion, about putting others before yourself when need be, how to listen, how to laugh things off, how to cook, and most importantly, how to accept everyone for who they are no matter who you think they should be. She was always letting 5 and 6 of my same aged step-brother and I’s friends stay the night on weekends. She drove us to Bardstown road to go to shows or terrorize the neighborhood. She’s accepted every partner I’ve brought to a family function and still reminds me constantly that a smile is the best gift you can give to someone you don’t know yet.

I’ve met a lot of people over the years, probably too many to name, who have shown me new and exciting things in the world and expanded my mind in how people evolve and grow. I am truly blessed to have such a great partner, friends, and co-workers. To work for a company who gives young LGBTQ+ a place to serve good food, listen to Panic At the Disco and connect with all kinds of people local and visiting. Bars and spaces who give me the room to throw parties focused for queer people, drag shows, or a space where people can enjoy themselves. Older LGBTQ+ people who show me that getting older shouldn’t be something we’re afraid of, but something we should look forward to. And those who have educated me and given me the opportunity to learn about the way other people are and present themselves, you are the true stars.

I invite all of you reading this to connect with me, let’s build a stronger network of queer people to create our own spaces and allow ourselves to celebrate life together. Let’s bounce ideas off each other. Let’s all remind each other that we are not alone in this world, and that our uniqueness is what makes all of us incredible people.

Catch me at any of these and come say hi. Let’s be friends!

Titty Tiki Tuesday at the Limbo (a weekly drag and variety show, every TUESDAY) Qiergarten at the Limbo (a LGBTQ+ patio party – June 1st and July 6th are the next ones) House is Home at ALEX&NDER (a super cute day party June 9th thrown by some of the best DJs in the city – Rhythm Science Sound)

Emo Nite (yes, like you used to listen to in 8th grade) at Barbarella – June 14th

HAUS Louisville at Barbarella (a monthly drag & burlesque show & dance party) – June 15th

Happy Pride y’all — Jarred Johnson

by Jarred Johnson

Before this week, it had been years since I heard the word “faggot” used as a slur. There on a crowded subway car in New York on my commute home, a man bumped into another. “Back off me, faggot,” he said.

Knocked back, bones rattled, fear webbed out in my gut. Muscle memory took me back ten years.

The word spit at me in the locker room before soccer practice, yelled at me by boys in my neighborhood, breathed down my neck by the player I guarded in middle school basketball. It was a poison, a parasite, an image of myself I ran from for twenty years and parts of which I am secretly still running from.

I grew up gay in the Christian south, in Appalachia, in a culture where masculinity was strong, rugged, calloused and emotionless. Exclusively. This view carried over into the church. Every Wednesday while I led worship in youth group, men from the congregation met for a class called “Man Up” about being the godly authorities they were commanded to be.

This map shows Appalachia. The pink heart is home.

“Our culture is attacking what it means to be a man,” the pastor said from the pulpit. “We have to take that back.”

The ad printed and hung on an easel in the foyer each week showed a black-and-white photo of a man’s flexed back. Entering church each Sunday, I was reminded of my sinfulness: my stomach bottomed out when I saw that picture. I liked those muscles. I was an abomination.

In church and school I was taught to “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” My whole life I went to a private, nondenominational Christian school. Five days a week we had Bible class. I remember a lesson in 8th grade in which my teacher compared queer people to pedophiles. “If homosexuals can say they were born that way, so can a child sex offender,” he said.

Church and school were my only social circles. Since I went to a Christian school, this meant I was taught about god six days a week. Even in poor eastern Kentucky, privileged parents would pay a hefty price to send their kids to Christian school. These parents, including my own, wanted their kids taught Christian values and protected from a threatening secular worldview invasive in our culture through academia, politics and media.

In my rural, Christian bubble, homophobia was rampant. I was called a fag for liking volleyball, for the clothes I wore, for the way I spoke and walked, for liking music and theater and for writing. I cannot decipher to what extent my interests were innate and to what extent they were products of homophobia itself — my attempts to find environments where masculine predators were absent.

I first downloaded gay apps when I was sixteen. My first crushes were on boys I met on Tumblr from other states and countries. With no prospect of actually meeting them, I fully dove into the fantasies of being with them, exchanging regular photos and messages.

My first date with a guy was at the local mall in 10th grade when I dragged one of my best girl friends and the only liberal in my high school along with me to meet a boy from a different school who had messaged me on Facebook. The rumors about my sexuality obviously reached further than just my social circle.

He was too feminine. Convinced being with someone like him would out me, I never saw him again. Years later and much more comfortable with myself, returning to Somerset to visit family, I found him on Grindr. “I’m much more masc now,” he bragged.

Despite all of this, I denied my sexuality until I was twenty. I pursued girls and had girlfriends. I understood my feelings for men to be deviant and shameful — something I should deny and squelch.

The spring semester of my sophomore year of college I studied in Berlin. Distanced for the first time from home and culture, I allowed myself to try on gayness for the first time. I went on dates. I told my new friends I was gay. I knew then I would never try dating women again. Interestingly, at the same time I was embracing my sexuality for the first time, I started loving where I was from, even though I grew up convinced I was different than everyone else there.

Shortly after my return from Germany I came out to my parents. In dramatic fashion, the three of us seated around our kitchen table, I told them I was gay. Their response was simple and has not changed: “You’re not,” my mom said curtly. “You’re confused.”

City Hall in Saarbruecken, Germany, where I lived in 2017 when the country legalized gay marriage.

That night as I sat in the bathroom mulling over the traumatic events of the night I listened to my mother and father talk downstairs. “Should we cut him off? Stop paying his car insurance and his cell phone bill?” my mother asked.

“No, Annie. We can’t do that,” my dad answered.

That moment pulses like an electric wire in my head, coming back to me occasionally uninvited and unannounced. How different things could have been had that question lingered in the air longer, had my father answered differently.

I love my family and my hometown, but because I am gay I am exiled from them. I would not be welcomed by many in the community or in many workplaces. Since there is no law protecting LGBT people from workplace discrimination, I could even be fired for it. Since I am single, finding a partner would be incredibly difficult. The mental and emotional stress of being surrounded by people who deny my existence and scoff when I am being my most true self would make me miserable.

In some ways I am lucky. I still have a relationship with all of my family. My mother and I talk every morning. My father writes me letters inside Christmas cards mailed to his mattress store months ago, and we chat on the phone. But beneath the surface are underlying tensions that sometimes rip to the surface and push us apart for a time.

Recently, on a day I was home sick from work, my mom called to tell me about a dream she had the night before. In it she saw an older gay man kiss me, opening his mouth so wide that my entire head fit in it, replacing the head of her son with his unrecognizable, distorted, sideways face.

“I was yelling ‘What happened to my son?!’” she said. “Where is my son?!”

This is how she feels about me. That I have lost my way. That I am completely different than I was before I came out.

Events like these happen often with my mother. When she visited New York and found out the volleyball league I am in is a gay league, when my sister showed her a photo of me in makeup, when visiting her and she caught me looking at a shirtless man on instagram.

My first gay volleyball team; my first vibrant gay community.

These moments are not isolated. They are strung together tightly, an undercurrent rushing beneath every laugh we share and sweet word we exchange. Beneath our love for one another is the knowledge that I am something that hurts her deeply — that she will never accept the fullness of who I am, will never acknowledge that pivotal, intimate part of me as anything other than a sinful misunderstanding that I wrongfully decided was my identity.

“Disgusting” and an “abomination” are the words my mother most often uses when describing me and this vital part of my identity. When I have tried arguing with her about why I do not believe being gay is wrong, attempting to show her scholarship refuting traditional interpretations of the Bible verses she uses to justify her fears and hatred, she refuses to even look at my sources. Fully convinced she is right and that nothing can change her mind, the conversation is left with nowhere to go. From a majority of Christians this is the same attitude I have encountered.

The same goes for most of my immediate family: my sisters, my nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins. We love each other. That is understood. But we do not talk about my being gay. They do not support this. The politicians they elect create laws and policies that make life more difficult for me.

I recognize things will get worse. The day will certainly come when I want to be home for Christmas or Thanksgiving with my boyfriend or husband, and that will not be possible. I do not know what will happen then.

One Sunday while living in Chicago I tried going to an open-and-affirming church. In an indie theater I worshipped besides queer and trans folk. The pastor invited me to coffee that week. “I am so sorry for the way the church has treated you,” she said to me while we chatted in a café. “The church has denied itself all the contributions of the LGBT community.”

Being fabulous at Chicago Pride. Clock the eyeshadow.

I thought back to my times leading worship in high school. Perhaps I could have continued this had I not felt unwelcome.

It is time the church recognizes that its stance toward homosexuality is not commanded by God. The “Christian” stance toward homosexuality is based in culture and fear, not in the Bible, which is merely used as a justification for many Christians’ culturally-imparted disdain, misunderstanding and fear of queer and trans people.

For centuries, the church’s stance on homosexuality has sank its fangs into the way we see queer people. The church is directly to blame for tearing apart the families of queer people and for the deaths of members of the LGBT community: the lives lost to suicides and addictions, homelessness, severe depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders.

Responding to a Facebook status I created in June 2018 about the bullying I endured in school, a former teacher of mine who was also a pastor messaged me. “I am so sorry,” he wrote. “If I had known that was going on, I would have done something.”

But what would you have done? It was your religion and your leadership that cultivated the hatred and fear of me that my peers expressed. It was your Bible that they used to justify their actions. It was the culture you created in the hallways of that school, in the locker rooms and bathrooms, in your classroom, even, in your textbooks and assignments, that allowed their cruelty to thrive and blossom. Your indifference toward this hatred, your denial that sexual orientations other than heterosexual even existed, your ignorance of queer people and how they lived, your prudishness toward sex in general, the blind back you turned when you heard a student say “That’s gay” as a pejorative — these actions condoned my predators and encouraged their actions.

This Pride season I reflect back on the long, painful journey that has led to me where I am: from Christian eastern Kentucky to Germany to Chicago and now to New York. To me, Pride contains all of that story.

Unabashedly and irrevocably, I am an Eastern Kentuckian, an Appalachian and a Southerner. I carry these identities in my blood and on my tongue: “Howdy,” I like to start emails; “Tschüss, ya’ll,” I say to my German coworkers when I leave for the day.

I often think about the subtle ways that falling asleep each night to the sound of beagles barking and cicadas singing — waking to the smell of switchgrass and little bluestem, the sun rising over the rolling foothills of the Appalachians, barely another home in sight — affected me and made me different from my friends who grew up in suburbs and cities. That will always be who I am and where I am from, and I trust that one day I will return someplace close to there.

This is not much different from my sexuality. Reflecting back on my boyhood, I recognize I am different now. Now, without shame and as unchangeable as where I am from, I embrace my queerness. I wear it in the gait of my hips, the flick of my wrist and the lilt of my voice.

This weekend, wearing a rainbow button-up, daisy dukes and a rhinestone belt, I will celebrate Pride in New York in 2019, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots where queer and trans people of color paved the way for my own more subtle liberation: the recognition that being who I am and from where I am from are not discrepancies, but interwoven identities, tangled tightly together like strands of DNA or the tributaries of the Cumberland River.

Like the cicadas of my boyhood or a church choir, my voice rises, joining the thousands of queer folk surrounding me, becoming a chorus. “Happy Pride, Ya’ll,” I sing.

Big Sandy LGBT+ Safe Zone to host Pride Picnic in Floyd County

PRESTONSBURG — The Big Sandy LGBT+ Safe Zone, Inc. is hosting a Pride Picnic on Monday, June 24th. The event will be held at the Dewey Dam Spillway at Shelter #4.  

Kyle May, president and founder of BSSZ, said the picnic came about because a community member suggested having a Pride Picnic so that the community could come together and have fun while getting to know the board members (leadership of the organization/those representing the area and community) and to network with one another.

“We know that socialization with other people who identify as LGBT+ or as an ally is important for people within the LGBT+ community, particularly those in rural communities, because of the strong feelings of loneliness and isolation experienced by people,” May said.

BSSZ will have balloons marking the shelter to help identify at which location we will be gathering.  

The picnic will begin around 6 p.m. and last until approximately 8 p.m.  BSSZ will be offering FREE pizza and other foods/nonalcoholic beverages.  

There will be games, activities, and plenty of time to socialize with each other.  The BSSZ Pride Picnic is a family-friendly event open to the general public, including, but not limited to, people who identify as LGBT+, friends and family of people who identify as LGBT+, and allies of the LGBT+ community.  

The Pride Picnic is important to have because it allows people in LGBT+ community to know that they are not alone, said May. It also emphasizes the fact that we belong in communities no matter where we live.

“I have noticed that LGBTQ+ acceptance has been evolving in Eastern Kentucky,” he said. “There are more LGBTQ+ resources making their way into the area and there are more people confidently and visibly supporting the LGBTQ+ community.”

Folks are more than welcome to bring sealed foods or supplies if you would like to contribute, however, it is not necessary.  For more information, please contact BSSZ at bigsandysafezone@gmail.com.

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