fairness

Kentucky Fairness Campaign Director arrested for Protesting KFB Discrimination policies

Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman and fairness advocates Sonja De Vries and Carla Wallace were dragged out of the Kentucky State Fair’s ham breakfast for the Kentucky Farm Bureau Thursday morning.

The three were arrested after protesting KFB’s discriminatory policies against LGBTQ+ people.

Each year, Kentucky Farm Bureau Insurance customers are automatically charged a fee that enrolls them as compulsory members of the company’s 501(c)4 lobbying arm, which spent nearly $100,000 last year lobbying the Kentucky General Assembly on policies outlined in their printed policy book, which elected officials receive but policyholders do not.

The policy book includes positions that are anti-LGBTQ, anti-teacher, anti-union, anti-choice, anti-POC, pro-death penalty, and more, They recently added a policy targeting transgender students in Kentucky schools. Anyone can download a full copy of the 2019 Kentucky Farm Bureau Policies book at Fairness.org/KFB.

In 2015, three protesters were arrested for standing in silent protest of the policies at the Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled 2-1 against activists’ First Amendment and False Arrest claims against the Kentucky State Police in Hartman et al. v Thompson et al.

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.

Western Kentucky town approves LGBTQ+ Fairness Ordinance…Again!

HENDERSON — With a vote of three to two tonight, the Western Kentucky town of Henderson, population 28,657, became the eleventh city in the state to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. ,

A press release from the Fairness Campaign said that tonight’s Fairness Ordinance vote comes 20 years after the Henderson City Commission originally passed a Fairness Ordinance, which made it only the third Kentucky city in 1999 with LGBTQ protections alongside Louisville and Lexington.

In 2001, a new Henderson City Commission repealed the ordinance and did not consider it again until former Mayor Joan Hoffman brought the issue back up to commission last fall.

Many cities in Kentucky still don’t have laws protecting LGBTQ+ citizens. Earlier this month Queer Kentucky reported on Taylor County officials and conservatives protesting against a Pride Panel that took place at the Taylor County Library.

“Tonight’s historic vote for Fairness in Henderson should give hope to every LGBTQ Kentuckian that fairness can come home for them too,” said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign. “Even after Henderson repealed their original Fairness Ordinance, the issue never died here, and tonight is concrete proof that persistence pays off.”

Mayor Pro Tem Brad Staton, Commissioner X.R. Royster, and Commissioner Austin P. Vowels cast votes for the ordinance, while Mayor Steve Austin and Commissioner Patti Bugg voted against it.

Last month, nearly 100 Henderson residents attended a city-moderated town hall on the Fairness Ordinance, with most in attendance speaking in favor of the ordinance.

Ten 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), and Maysville (2018). Statewide Fairness Laws are annually introduced in the Kentucky General Assembly, but have never received votes in nearly 20 years. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the laws.

Bourbon County Brent

Brent Schanding, Bourbon County

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

For me, “queer” is anything different, alternative, out of the norm. It’s a counterculture — a way of life that’s on the fringe of what’s socially acceptable. As a person who’s always felt on the periphery, queer is an identity I’ve long embraced since I came out as a raucous Gen-X teenager in the 90s. I actually told my mom I was gay when I was 16, just after I’d been arrested for shoplifting. I had been running an underground retail operation out of my locker at school where I’d sell stolen clothes and accessories to my classmates. It was a pretty sophisticated business operation — I even took checks, haha!

On our long drive home from jail, I blurted out to my mother that I was gay. I reasoned she would have to deal with the larger issue of my sexuality instead of focusing on my punishment. I still got punished.

Also, I should note that I no longer shoplift, but I’m still very mischievous and have the brain of a hustling entrepreneur.

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

I grew up on a tobacco/horse/cattle farm in rural Bourbon County, about 30+ miles northeast of Lexington. I spent many of my summers barefoot, looking for flint rocks in fields, climbing trees, swimming in ponds and breaking green beans with my mammaw at the picnic table in her front yard.

We were very poor — probably below the poverty line at the time — but my brother and I didn’t know it because our mammaw largely insulated us from the social ills that often come with being at the bottom of the socioeconomic totem pole.

She used to tell us, “Just because you’re poor, doesn’t mean you have to be dirty.” She would scrub me in the bathtub and ferociously wash my head to the point that I’m now convinced most of my hair loss is because of her abrasive grooming techniques.

Growing up, my family went to church every Sunday; mom played piano and my mammaw prepared the bread and wine (actually it was Welch’s grape juice because the congregation was some conservative offshoot of Southern Baptists). One of my favorite childhood memories is hanging out with my mom and mammaw after church as they bussed the communion trays. My brother and I would “shoot” the remaining cups of grape juice and pretend like we were drunk at a bar!

Growing up in rural Kentucky, I often felt very isolated from civilization. We lived pretty far away from everything and if a family member was going into town, I was running to jump in the car to tag along. My FOMO was real.

I was the first kid on the school bus in the morning and the last kid off the bus in the afternoon, and the ride usually took well more than an hour.

Often I’d stand in the small space that separated my bus driver’s seat from the rest of the passengers and braid my bus driver’s hair while she drove us down bumpy country roads. Her name was Peggy George and she was more like a mentor/therapist/spiritual guru for an 8-year-old queer kid than a bus driver.

We had very adult conversations and she was probably the first person to see me for who I truly was without passing judgment.

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

We all feel like imposters sometimes. The struggle to find a sense of belonging is universal. But I’d encourage people to focus on defining their core values. Set ambitious goals and do whatever it takes to crush them. Try to live a life of joy and happiness. Each night, examine your day and ask yourself if it was a day you’d be willing to live again based on the choices you made.

If not, you have the power to make different choices. Too often, we let others dictate our identities based on who we think they want us to be. If people see you as a failure, you’ll likely live up to those expectations unless you stay focused on your own success. We must live intentionally and not allow others to create the narrative of our life. As a queer youth, I learned early to dismiss the haters in the hallways who felt I should act or dress a certain way.

When kids called me “fag,” “queer” or “homo” I understood that it was actually a reflection of their own identity as insecure assholes. It had nothing to do with my identity as an empowered punk queer who refused to take shit from anyone.

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

I think people are layered and complex, so I have several identities: I’m a skeptic, I’m an introvert, I’m an analyzer, I’m a planner, I’m a dreamer, I’m a creator, and I’m a stressed-out anxious mess sometimes … My sexual identity is also a part of who I am. And while being queer definitely influences my politics and worldview, it doesn’t wholly define me as a person. My identity is constantly evolving as I process new experiences and react to them. Though pockmarked and troubled, I wouldn’t trade my past for anything because those experiences have all shaped my current identity. And despite lots of  mistakes, I’m pretty OK and still very proud of who I am today. And I feel comfort in knowing that I can always change the me I will be in the future.

What issues do you see in the queer community?

I’m not a spokesperson for the queer community, but I believe our issues largely mirror those in greater society: Poverty, addiction, violence, discrimination, security, to name a few. The queer community is a microcosm of the larger community, so to me, it’s not “our issues” vs. “their issues” — it’s simply “issues.” As humans, we must all work together to resolve our problems for the betterment of humanity.

What do you think would solve those issues? 

Empathy, patience, understanding, communication and maybe a little bit of cannabis.

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

Yes, but often that’s because I have problems with allowing myself to feel vulnerable. I’ve also never wanted to fit in with the “mainstream.” I’ve always been pretty independent.

I’m not going to adapt or assimilate to join mainstream society if it means compromising who I am or any of my core values. No one should. This means I’m often outside the “inner circles” — but that’s a very comfortable place for me to be these days.

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

As a journalist, I often feel safe in newsrooms, surrounded by other freethinkers who are questioning the “whos, whats and whys” of our society in an effort to make sense of the crazy times we live in. I jive with idealists. I love hanging out in coffee shops with artists, philosophers, intellectuals and those who are interested in talking about ways to change the world. I also love being surrounded by nature and plants — being alone in a botanical gardens can definitely help reset my batteries. I also feel comfortable in chaos and unfamiliar settings. I love traveling to new, foreign places where I don’t speak the language because it’s very humbling. The more I learn about different people, places and cultures, the better I am at responding and adapting to adversity.

Who influenced the life you live now?

My therapist.

Also, I’ve always been motivated by critics and doubters. When someone doubts I can do something, it makes me more determined to do it. Proving haters wrong is like flipping them a hard middle finger — and sometimes being able to succeed and do that feels really good!

Black, Queer and Powerful

Kaila Adia Story, PhD

What does the word queer mean to you?

To me, Queer means not letting society, institutions, friends or loved ones define who you are, or you hope to be. It means defining yourself, for yourself. It means living freely, unapologetically and boldly. It means feeling so emboldened within your queer self that you free others. That you challenge others. It means that your queer presence frees those around you. It means working from your own center and letting others know and see that you are force of freedom and light who would rather live truthfully than silenced, stifled and afraid.

How do you identify? 

I identify as Black Feminist Lesbian Femme. A Black and Queer sexual identity and gender performance rooted in embodying a resistive Black femininity. It is one that transcends and challenges White supremacist, homo-normative, and patriarchal ideas of femininity and queerness as White. My identity also to me, challenges the hetero-patriarchal assertion that power is innate to manhood, maleness and/or masculinity.

Where are you originally from? And Explain how was it moving to/living in Kentucky? 

I’m originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was a great experience to grow up in Ann Arbor. I left when I was 18 to pursue my bachelors at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. After completing my B.A. in Women’s & Gender Studies, I moved to Philadelphia, PA to attend graduate school at Temple University. After receiving my M.A. in African American Studies and my PhD in African American Studies with a graduate certificate in Women’s & Gender Studies, I was hired by the University of Louisville’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies & Pan African Studies Departments as an Assistant Professor and Audre Lorde Endowed Chair in Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality Studies in 2007.

The Audre Lorde chair was created by Carla Wallace, longtime Louisville activist and one of the founders of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, KY. Carla’s monies were matched with monies from the Buck for Brains initiative in Louisville to create the endowed chair. Dr. Angela Y. Davis, who had taught at the University of Louisville and who was longtime friend of Carla’s named the endowed chair after Black feminist activist, warrior, poet, Audre Lorde. The Audre Lorde chair was designed to have a professor come to the University and through their scholarship, teaching, and activism create an ideological bridge between the departments of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and Pan African Studies, and also develop LGBTQ+ curriculum.

I was an integral part of establishing the LGBTQ+ Studies minor in 2009 in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Louisville. The Audre Lorde Chair has allowed me through my publications, presentations, forums, talks, and workshops, to create more visibility to my position, my departments, the University, and, ultimately, the larger Louisville community. I also served as one of the co-coordinators and members of the Fairness Campaign, when I arrived in Louisville and in 2012 me and my best friend Jaison Gardner were offered the opportunity to create a podcast for the local NPR affiliate here in Louisville, WFPL.

Our podcast, “Strange Fruit: Musings on Politics, Pop Culture and Black Gay Life,”  has recorded to date over 290+ episodes and we have been included in the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA), and were honored by Bluegrass Black Pride in Lexington with a 2017 Trailblazer Award, and a 2015 PRIDEINDEX.COM™ ESTEEM AWARD in Chicago for “Outstanding Podcast.” The show now has international listeners ship of more than 6,000 downloads weekly and 24,000 downloads each month. We have also been able to extend our reach of the podcast through in-person events like movie screenings and talkbacks at the Speed Cinema, the “Dialogues on Gender” Series in conjunction with the Speed Museum, and our recent lecture on diversity and inclusion for more than 400 people for Creative Mornings.

Now as an Associate Professor at U of L, and after having lived in Louisville for 12 years, I can truly say that I love the life I have created here. Im grateful for the people I’ve met, the movements and organizations I’ve joined and the community that surrounds me.

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

I think everyone’s journey to self-acceptance is different. Complex. So, I don’t want this to come across as advice. I can only speak to what helped me become more comfortable with who I am. I came out when I was 16 and I found that the more I struggled internally about my identity, the more I projected that discomfort to others, I was always met with questions like: “But you don’t look like a lesbian?” or “how can you really know for sure that you’re a lesbian?”. The questions really began to infuriate me, so I decided that I needed to really do some interior work within my own spirit to begin to project the proud lesbian I felt I could become. To silence the questions and queries. I found the more “out,” I was, the more comfortable I became with who I was as Black Lesbian Femme, the more I was met with affirmation, awe and in some instances praise. Books also helped me become more prideful with who I was and what community I was now a part of. Black Lesbian Feminism and Black Queer Theory solidified this pride. There writings and activism gave me the necessary experiential grounding, affirmation, and confidence in my identity as Black Lesbian Femme. I knew after reading and studying these theories that I am a part of a wondrous and magical community. A community that has always been here and has a fascinating and compelling history. The global community of queer folk.

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

As a Black lesbian feminist femme, I have constantly had to navigate radicalized and gendered projections upon my person. Many folks in the past refused to see and/or acknowledge that they were in the presence of a Black lesbian feminist femme. While my blackness in many queer and non-queer spaces made me extremely hyper-visible, it was always the combination of my radicalized difference and my performance of intentional femininity through my chosen Black femme identity that seemed to deem who I truly was, invisible.

This to me, hinted at the longstanding tradition of racial and gendered erasure that functions inside and outside of queer spaces. As such, my incidents with hyper-visibility and invisibility do not exist in isolation apart from other Black femmes and/or other queer Black women. The racist and heteronormative politics at work, within and outside of queer communities of work and leisure, continue to render Black femmes and others as either something they don’t declare themselves to be and/or erases the many signifiers they adopt to be seen as who they truly are. Eventually I had to realize, that my identity as a Black Feminist Lesbian femme had everything to do with the way I saw myself, and not the way others saw me. I wasn’t going to be “boxed” by anyone anymore.  I found through readings and talking with other Black femmes that a Black Femme Lesbian Feminist identity was an identity with Black feminist roots and revolutionary potentials.

Audre Lorde’s work on the Black and divine feminine also helped me to recognize that not only had the divine feminine been celebrated and exalted within ancient Black cultures, but it also solidified my own subjective feelings that my Black femme identity was an identity that came out of an ancient space of strength, power, and divinity, and not an identity that was based upon heteronormative complacency and/or socialized expectations of gender. My Black femme identity is based on a Black feminist tradition of recovering and resistance that seeks to undermine the racist and heteronormative assumptions that choose to see femininity as inherently White, and power as inherently male. For me, this is the definition of Black Femme-ness that sits well with my spirit, and it’s a definition that articulated who, in fact, I actually felt I was. As soon as I began embodying and performing my newfound identity in every space I entered, I still got looks of confusion and invasive questions as to who I was, but it certainly less than before.

What issues do you see in the queer community? 

Unfortunately, racism, sexism, homo-normativity, and transphobia are still ever present within many queer communities. Ours. Theirs. Every queer community. From the racism, fetishizing, and transphobia folks experience on the dating apps. To the blatant and covert expressions of racism in the nightclubs. To the questions and queries that non-binary folks are bombarded with on a daily basis by other queer folks. These are the issues that are bringing us harm, that are hurting our community.

What do you think would solve those issues? 

Education and activism are the keys to resolving these issues to me. Folks who exist in spaces of privilege within queer communities in terms of race, cis identity, gender identity, etc. need to work on being open to receive what Black queer folks, Black trans folks, Black Femmes, and Black Butch Queens have been saying for decades. Queer Liberation can’t happen when our community is still tethered to these repugnant and terroristic ideas about race, trans identities, or non-binary identities.

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

I don’t. I don’t consider White, Cis Gay Inc. the mainstream queer community either. I recognize that the Gay Inc. queer community is certainly the most visible, the most amplified, but that Ain’t my queer community. It’s never been. My queer community that I consider mainstream, meaning that it has always been the community that I see myself as a part of is the Black Queer community. Remember, I work from my own center. That center is Blackness and Queerness. Always. All ways.

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

When I’m at home with my wife and my parents. We have so much fun and they bring out the best version of me. They are literally home for me. I love them madly and I would be absolutely lost without them.

 

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