gender fluid

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.

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

Papa John’s employee furthers company’s diversity and inclusion

Meghan Stevens

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

I don’t think we can really break down the meaning of what it means to be Queer without recognizing the historical hurt and inherent insult that comes along with it. In the past, it has been weaponized as a pejorative that’s been hurled at LGBTQ+ people for decades.  I don’t believe we can disregard its historical context as it becomes more popularized. Today, I see folks across the LGBTQ+ spectrum working to reclaim it. For some people it’s an act of healing. For others, it’s a painful memory of what they were called to their faces and behind their backs.

To me, Queer is an all-encompassing identity under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, a term used to describe people who do not identify as cisgender and heterosexual. Categorically I would fall under this header, but I personally identify as a gender non-conforming lesbian. I’m attracted to people who identify and present as female/feminine. I also identify as a woman but do not subscribe to the gender conforming binary. I believe I can identify as a woman without feeling obligated to shoulder every characteristically feminine marker society can place on us. I work hard to help people see past the binary; to look outside of what expectations the public has placed on us and how we present in association with our gender.

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

I was born into a Military family and came back to Louisville permanently when I was around 2-3 years old. I’ve been in Louisville since then and it certainly is my home. I consider myself very lucky to live in the most progressive city in the state. Attending Butler High School in Jefferson County where I was able to help start the Gay-Straight Alliance was an exciting and freeing experience. I felt like our voices, even as as teenagers, were welcomed and supported.

I attended Morehead State University in Rowan County from 2009-2013 for my undergrad degree and it was a very different experience. It’s a much more rural county with some of the unfortunate stereotypes attached to it. I didn’t come out till after I had moved back to Louisville because a supportive environment was much harder to find in a red county.

Since moving back to Louisville in 2013 I’ve had the chance to travel to different communities nationally and experience what being an LGBTQ+ person is like in much larger and more accepting cities, as well as more closed-minded and smaller communities. While Louisville is not perfect, I am so grateful for the progress this city has made and continues to make.

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

Take your time. There is no rush and no timelines matter but your own. You don’t have to have it all figured out by a specific time and there is no final answer. Our identities flex and change over time so be open to new experiences that will allow you to learn more about yourself at a deeply personal level. Research online and try to find a community with similar interests to yours. In person and online support can give you a peer group to discuss new ideas and odds are, someone has experienced something similar to what you are going through now. Be patient, trust your gut, and surround yourself with affirming family and friends.

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

For 10+ years I identified as bisexual. I told myself that I could date and have relationships with women till I got older, grew out of it, and I’d marry a man. The more time passed, the more unrealistic that seemed. This ‘phase’ of being attracted to women didn’t end and I was vehemently against marriage as a concept at the time. It took a lot of therapy and self-discovery to come to terms with my identity as a lesbian and the closet I had to come out of. After doing that personal work I was proud of the hurdles I had overcome and the effort it took to get to this place. Now that I am out in my personal and professional life, it has opened doors for me that I never would have expected.

Professionally, I’ve been with the same company for 11+ years. I started at Papa John’s when I was 17 and a Junior in high school. I worked at corporate and franchise Papa John’s restaurants throughout high school and all 4 years of college. During my time in the field I was never comfortable enough to come out to my coworkers. I was afraid that disclosing would put me at risk for losing my job or the target of unfair treatment. After completing my undergrad, I was fortunate enough to land a job at the corporate office.

Since 2014 I have worked on various teams within Papa John’s headquarters and gotten to work under incredibly influential and inspiring people. Most important to me was the creation of our Diversity & Inclusion committee. I was chosen to sit on the committee from its inception and it’s changed my outlook on what corporations and their employees can do to push for change. I’m active on committees such as corporate social responsibility and community relations. I participate actively and consult with various employee resource groups (ERG) and I’m the current president of the LEAP (LGBTQ+ for Equity, Advocacy, and Promotion) ERG. Getting to help facilitate change from the inside has been such an eye-opening experience and one I plan to grow into a future career.

Since our ERG formation, we have been relentless about examining our policies and practices to transition to a more inclusive work place where people don’t have to worry about job security because of who they are. In the past year our ERG has been fortunate enough to update our EEO statement to include sexual orientation and gender identity, added gender neutral restrooms, and confirmed compliance with the World Professional Association for Trans Health standards for employee benefits. We are also in the process of researching the creation of a gender transition workplace policy as well as completing the Corporate Equality Index with the Human Rights Campaign. Locally, we’ve sponsored initiatives with Kentuckiana Pride Foundation and Louisville Pride Festival along with the UofL LGBTQ+ center and the Louisville Youth Group. It’s been such a humbling experience to be a part of this monumental culture change that we’ve been working at for the last year. Getting to dig into corporate advocacy has been a true joy and an experience that I will continue to peruse. I’m thankful that I get to use my activism and advocacy background in a meaningful way that will impact people’s lives.

Getting to bring my whole self to work not only benefits my sense of belonging but provides the company with a deeper knowledge of LGBTQ+ experiences learn and grow from. I’m thankful that I get to leverage my identity for the betterment our employees and customers alike.

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

Thankfully, I do not feel excluded from the mainstream queer community. Being a woman in LGBTQ+ spaces mostly dominated by men can feel uneven when misogyny comes into play. But overall as a gay white woman, I don’t face the same alienation that more vulnerable parts of our community do. This is my driving motivation to create a safer and more affirming community for folks within the LGBTQ+ community.

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

I will always feel safest around my loved ones and people I trust including my close friends and family. My partner and I travel frequently and love getting to see other LGBTQ+ landmarks, hot spots, and bars when possible. I feel most powerful at work and in meetings getting to lead initiatives for social and policy change.

Who influenced the life you live now?

From the beginning my mother, aunt, and grandmother have all had a huge influence on my life. They raised me to be a self-assured, confident, and outspoken individual.

Throughout my school years, teachers who took a stand for minorities and socially/economically disadvantaged groups were superheroes in my eyes. Seeing people use their privilege to help make the world better for those who don’t have what they do was an awakening for me. Currently queer, trans, and cisgender women of color have some of the biggest hurdles and struggles facing them in society. I am continually in awe of their strength and determination to continue to show up and do the work when the system is actively working against them. The bravery they continue to show day in and day out is incredibly inspiring and strengthens my conviction to continue playing my part in making our communities safer for them. Even as queer woman, my privilege as a white person affords me opportunities that I am called to use to advocate for folks with the deck stacked against them.

‘The simplest thing is – You are not alone’

What does the word queer mean to you?

To me queer has always equated with “outside of the other categories you’ve given me to choose from.” Which I like personally and I have always admired those who had adopted the label early. But then I catch the juxtaposition of choosing the “other” label (behold, it’s still a label) and wonder about the irony.

How do you identify?

Definitely queer, but my vernacular has always leaned toward “I’m gay” in conversation. The girl that I had a crush on in second grade called me gay, and I thought she meant happy. I had never heard the term before. She was right, and it stuck.

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

Right. I don’t think about much day-to-day anymore. I’m very fortunate that I live most of my life in a set of environments that I contact more acceptance than judgement for behavior related to my sexuality.

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

I’m originally from a small town of 3,000 people in WV, called Weston. It’s very similar to small towns here in Kentucky. I had a very good childhood, with very loving family, but I perceived a lack of gay men and women in town – and the ridicule and judgement that seemed to be part of the lives of those I knew. I certainly knew my predilections were something to hide or repress. I had to move away from home to feel like I could be myself openly. I transferred to Centre College after my freshman year of college. Kentucky has been home ever since.

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

Shew. It feels presumptuous to even try! It’s so personal. The simplest thing is – You are not alone. The right people will love you for being exactly who you are. It takes time. It’s time worth taking.

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

I think I had so much early teasing and ridicule for acting/looking “like a tomboy,” or dressing in a way that doesn’t match my personal gender, that I have learned to be confident in a fluid or non-binary gender aesthetic. I’m comfortable with my androgyny, but it’s been an evolution of years, and is still evolving really.

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

No, I don’t feel excluded. I’ll quote Margaret Cho here on a somewhat related topic: “You feel left out? It’s like a group outing! Nobody’s invited. Everybody just knows to come!”

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

At my home, and with my loved ones.

Who influenced the life you live now?

Family (given and chosen), and a plethora of art and artists.

‘It takes confidence to break the rules’

To mean queer means the freedom to be as “weird” as your heart desires. I think that’s why conservatives hate us so much, we get to live out their wildest dreams & darkest fantasies like it’s everyday life.

I identify as PRINCE! I don’t feel the need nor the obligation to anyone (besides who I’m fucking) to clarify. I’m androgynous. I’m very in touch with both male & females sides of myself.

I’ve always just been obsessed with being pretty. That translates beyond gender. As I’ve gotten older pretty has evolved into sexy, as such my style has as well.

I’m a mission kid, very similar to an army brat I’ve lived all over. Born in Morocco, moved to Atlanta when I was about 5, then settled in Louisville around middle school. No matter where I go in the states, Louisville always feels like home tho. It’s slow enough to build a practical life, yet fast enough to explore your options while doing so. I love being apart of the city’s growth as opposed to going to a bigger more established city tryna find your footing.

I’d tell anyone struggling with their identity to just be themselves. There’s no rule book on the game of life, but I guaran-Fucking-tee, it sucks getting to the end of it and realizing how much time and energy you wasted trying to please everyone but yourself. I’ve been there. Coming from a strict ass religious(mission) family, having 4 older brothers, moving to the south. All I wanted, all I tried to do was be a normal “boy” but that’s not who I am. I’ve always beat to my own drum. I was the first boy cheerleader in elementary school. I used to design and sew my own Barbie clothes. Even started my own business selling doll outfits in the 3rd grade. Happiness lives where honesty begins. Free yourself, live your best life. Fuck whoever doesn’t get it, it’s YOUR life.

I carry myself fearlessly, I think that’s a very literal interpretation of my identity. It takes confidence to break the rules. It takes balls to be a “boy” in daisy dukes, no matter how hard I have to hide them. I love myself, and I think that’s one thing that’s been consistent in my life. My bravery, my confidence, in myself.

I see the queer community as very cliquy, and almost segregated honestly. For us to be a rainbow, we lack diversity as a whole. The queer community (much like the black community) could rule the world, if they just stopped feeding into the stereotypes they used to fight against. I wish we supported each more outside of PRIDE. I wish we loved each other more outside of white straight male Americans standard of beauty. Don’t get me wrong, the queer community is definitely making moves to make sure we’re represented, just not has strong a force as I feel we could be. Gay people also need to free Nowhere and other spaces that we helped make popular as they no longer cater to our culture. It’s time for us to create a new wave of energy, as we control what’s cool!

We have to stop supporting businesses that don’t cater to our power. We bring people, we bring money, we bring creativity & energy. That’s something you truly can’t put a value on. We need to support queer events & queer curators more. It isn’t easy being a POC queer androgynous kid in Kentucky. On paper the odds are definitely stacked against me, but created a land to myself. I don’t look for acceptance from anyone, and I think people gravitate towards that. I try to create spaces that are all inclusive, and I think my events reflect that. Rather I’m providing a twerk fest dance party or a mental health support group, I want any & everyone to feel welcomed, appreciated, & valued.

I don’t really feel excluded for anything mainstream, as I’ve somehow made my way by my own rules into that space. I’d say I’m more aloof to people, like they know of my existence, but they don’t really know me. I often show up to parties by myself, but know everyone at them. I was the first “boy”/androgynous mermaid at Forecastle, and it was amazing. They really believed in me, as I’ve participated in party cove a few times. And it was a wild experience. I made my own costume, and it was definitely over the top. But I tell you what it was so much love in the crowd! They didn’t give a shit if I was a guy or a girl, they just loved that I loved them being there. I think the world could use more of that in all communities.

I feel at my best… Most of the time. I know that’s kinda corny, but it’s true. I’ve been on a spiritual, self care journey over the last year, & I’m truly happy in my skin. Everyday. Not all day everyday, but everyday. I’ve never felt more focused on my creative projects, I’ve never felt more loved by my family & friends, I’ve never felt more sexy, or confident.

My biggest life influence is my Mama Critt (my grandmother). She was this beautiful creole woman, with impeccable style, gorgeous flowing silver hair, and a sassy ass attitude that would rival any Dynasty diva. I remember everything always being perfectly coordinated. The earrings had to match the necklace, the clutch had to match the shoes, it was always a spectacle to watch her get ready. She drove a mint green Cadillac, and everyone in town knew her. They still do. She was a double amputee, both legs below the knee. It was hard to watch her go through that change. But she was a fighter, much of where I get that attitude from. It was the late 90’s early 00’s and the technology isn’t what it’s like today. She hated her new flat legs, so she marched into her doctors office demanding legs she could wear her heels with. And I’ll be damned if she not only got them, but she walked in the no assistance. Slow mind you, but she was walking. I remember being a kid so inspired by her audacity, to still want to feel like her true self. No matter what life threw her way. I miss her greatly, but I know she glows from within everything I am. A fabulous, intelligent, radiant, unapologetic, Black Kween!

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