LGBT rights

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.

Taylor County Library pride panelist reflects on rural upbringing, asks others to share their story

Jeremy McFarland, Campbellsville

Participating in the LGBTQ+ Pride Panel at Taylor County Library was one of the greatest honors of my life so far. While growing up as a transgender man in Taylor County, I never imagined something like the panel ever taking place. As a panelist, I and four other openly LGBTQ+ adults shared our stories, advice, and perspectives to an audience of young LGBTQ+ people and adults seeking to support those youth.

Growing up in Taylor County, I did not know a single openly LGBTQ+ adult while I was growing up, there were no resources or groups available to support or guide me, and the messages I received from my community were that LGBTQ+ people either didn’t exist in our small town or didn’t deserve to. This made coming out as transgender incredibly difficult, particularly because I didn’t have the words to explain what I was feeling and no one to go to once I figured it out. 

I spent a lot of growing up wanting to die. When my family tried to find help for me, we were repeatedly turned away. Despite the fact that I was actively planning to kill myself, no therapists in Taylor County were willing to accept me as a patient explicitly because I was transgender. Later on, once I started hormone replacement therapy, our local pharmacy was unwilling to fill my prescription. When I went to have my name changed, either through malice or ignorance, I was initially turned away by the judge. Even my parents, who at first struggled to understand what I was going through, lost friends and were denied services because they learned to love me as their son. 

Like so many others before me, I left my hometown the moment I was able to. I made a new home for myself with a beautiful, diverse, and loving chosen family in Bowling Green (ironically, a town that many have had to flee for reasons similar to my own), while many of my childhood friends moved on to find homes in other cities across the state, country, and even around the world. Despite so many of us running away from Campbellsville, we all seemed to come together in response to the public library’s Pride Panel and the controversy that has followed it. 

I can’t speak for everyone else, but, for me, being so rejected by my hometown has left a painful wound on my heart. I am past the bitterness of it all, but until Campbellsville is able to heal its bigotry, I don’t think I can fully heal, either. However, this event was a vital step in the right direction.

During the panel and at the subsequent board of trustees meeting, I was able to meet older LGBTQ people who have lived in Taylor County their entire lives. A part of me feels truly healed by knowing they were there the whole time, however, I am also pained that these adults shared my fears and felt they could not make themselves known before now. I also had the chance to meet some incredible trans boys who, with the love of their families and the support of their local library, have harnessed the strength and bravery to be open about their identities in a way I wasn’t able to at their age. Even more uplifting, tons of people from the community came out to show their support and thank the library at Thursday’s board of trustees meeting.

There is still so much work to be done, though. The Taylor County Fiscal Court (which includes Judge Executive Barry Smith, who publicly expressed his prejudicial views towards LGBTQ+ people in the community he was selected to serve) is at odds with library staff regarding this situation. If we want to ensure that the local library can continue to be a sanctuary for all members of our community, we must keep the conversation going.

This has been a coming out for the LGBTQ+ community in Taylor County and Campbellsville. For the first time, our existence is being publicly acknowledged. My greatest hope is that we do not allow this opportunity to pass us by. For the sake of LGBTQ+ youth currently growing up in Taylor County and Campbellsville, for the sake of those who had to leave and those brave enough to stay, and for the sake of honoring our own human dignity, we must not allow them to shut the closet doors on us again.

Please consider sharing your story by filling out this form or emailing us at stories@unheardky.com.

Feel free to reach out to this email if you would like to be kept in the loop about future responses to homophobia and transphobia in Taylor County.

 

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

UPDATED: Conservatives want officials in this Central Ky. town to ‘punish library’ after hosting LGBTQ+ Pride panel

UPDATE: According to The Taylor County Library Facebook account, they will be having a special session meeting to discuss the controversy in response to the library’s recent LGBTQ Pride Panel.

The event will take place in the community room at 1 p.m.

The public will be allowed to put their input in during the hour before the 1 p.m. meeting.

Queer Kentucky will keep you up to date on the outcome.

CAMPBELLSVILLE—Critics here are asking local officials to take punitive action against the Taylor County Public Library after it hosted an LGBTQ Pride panel Tuesday night, the first of its kind in this conservative central Kentucky town of about 11,000 that’s located roughly an hour and a half south of Louisville.

Queer Kentucky featured Dalton Bennett of the Taylor County Library last week who coordinated the event.

“This will be the first time merging my professional life with aspects of my personal life,” Dalton said. “Although the thought of backlash weighs heavy on my mind, I feel in my heart that this is to be one of the many pivotal milestones in my life.”

The panel, which included discussions with five openly gay people from across the state, is part of the library’s effort to offer relevant community and cultural events. But some social conservatives say the discussion puts “this Christian community on perilous grounds.”

One local woman told Taylor County magistrates at a special-called government meeting Tuesday night that the LGBTQ panel opened “a Pandora’s Box of political controversial events” and that she was offended by the library board’s “moral decline.” WATCH: Taylor County officials discuss the Pride Panel

The board of the Taylor County Public Library includes appointees made by both city and county government officials, but operates independently with funding from a mix federal, state and local tax revenue.

The woman in the video who addressed elected county magistrates Tuesday night asked Taylor County officials to consider removing library board members from their positions of power and to abolish any local tax money that supports the library and its programming.

Taylor County Judge-Executive Barry Smith, the county’s top-elected official, expressed his disapproval of the library’s Pride panel in a Facebook post earlier this month.

Smith wrote: “Regardless of what you might hear, I personally disagree with our library’s decision to host an LGBTQ pride event. While it is my sworn duty as your County Judge Executive to represent all Taylor Countians, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, my religious beliefs as a Christian teach me that homosexuality is both immoral and a sin. Thank you and god bless.”

Campbellsville resident Ashley Bell said she is close with many LGBT youth in the community, both out and closeted, and they are absolutely watching this and being hurt by it.

“Comparing the LGBT community to pedophiles and the KKK, especially in a public forum, is unconscionable and unforgivable,” she said. “Then to have elected officials agree with those sentiments is a disgrace.”

She added that her emotions are all over the place.

“Yesterday’s Pride panel was a beautiful event. I saw so many joyful tears in the room, but before it was even over, my inbox was blowing up with people talking about the fiscal court meeting. One gay friend in attendance was moved by the panel, but then had his gut wrenched by the video of the fiscal court meeting. It was heartbreaking,” Hall said.

Editors note: Spencer Jenkins, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Queer Kentucky attended this event as a panelist. The event was an amazing success within the walls of the Taylor County Library. Insightful, kind and educational conversations were had and we applaud the library in their educational and inclusivity efforts. We at Queer Kentucky believe that open conversations spark progressive movements and we hope more rural libraries follow Taylor County’s lead.

Campbellsville man advocates LGBTQ+ pride in rural Kentucky

Dalton, one day you will grow up to do great things – Dawn W.

My mom, a parent that deserves recognition, planted this phrase in my head when I was young. I suppose a mother can see beyond their child’s foggy, truth seeking eyes if only they take the time. In this case, my mother knew exactly what my purpose was before I could even consider taking a step. Our connection was, and still is, stronger than I could have ever asked for it to be; sometimes I like to think that we share the same brain, conscience, neurons, etc. This is why she probably knew I was gay before I knew it myself, but still, she persisted to care for me as if my attractions were a mere grain of sand in a bucket full of life. She is why I do; why I live; why I pursue the purpose I am slowly unfolding.

I came out when I was 17 in a car at the Skyline Theatre in Greensburg, Kentucky. Who knew Monster’s University would forever hold a significance in my life.

The choice to follow through with my heart’s decision was transcribed in the form of a letter because I knew that verbalizing it made things too quick of a reality (also, because I’ve been known to suppress my emotions and the Hoover Dam would’ve met its match that evening). Hearing the words from my mother’s lips, stating that she had already suspected, was a little strange at first. I mean, at the time, my juvenile reasoning tactics left me wishing she would have answered all of this for me and saved me from weeks of confusion. But, like her expectations, great things are to be discovered on our own. And she continued loving me just the same.

My first movement towards living my truth was during my freshman year of college. I was accepted to our local university, a conservative one at that, and anticipated 4 years of regret as leaving my small town was my only wish (some may even have said leaving was my only salvation). By chance, I attended an Art Club meeting; considering my Understanding Art class was canceled that day, I had nothing better to do. Looking back, this decision changed my life forever.

I managed to squeeze into the social bubble of the art department and later declaring myself an art major. We were a group of eclectic souls, misfits even, but we all shared the same passion for discovering our own potential and embracing each other’s individuality. One day, while decorating the department’s homecoming float, I was asked, out of the blue, if I was gay. Till this day, I can still remember the split second that time stood still as the eyes of my new friends focused on me, waiting for an answer. I said yes. I was finally free.

In 2012, I accepted a part-time summer position at the Taylor County Public Library in Campbellsville, KY with the intentions of this chapter being short lived. Little did I know, I would gradually climb the ranks, officially acquiring my own platform 7 years later as the Young Adult Services Librarian. Working for the public, as I am sure most of you know, has its moments (good and bad).

There have been numerous nights where I would lie awake at night stressing about events, to-do’s, and planning all because I wanted to meet the needs of my community. Aside from being in my head all the time, I also worried about the young adults in our community who so desperately seek identity, acceptance, and love; reflections of myself at 16-17.

But, would being gay prevent me from meeting those needs or create opportunities for learning and discovery? Would people judge my professional abilities based on the identity of my sexual orientation?  Such questions constantly preview in the back of my mind. But, I know, like my mother knew, that my purpose was to use my professional platform in order to accomplish that great thing: bringing awareness to my community and fight for an environment where people of all ages can feel accepted.

Currently, I am organizing a Pride Panel at our library this June in order to provide my community with an opportunity for education, insight, and storytelling from LGBTQ+ identifiers across the Bluegrass; a voice that has long been muffled in Campbellsville, KY. This will be the first time merging my professional life with aspects of my personal life. Although the thought of backlash weighs heavy on my mind, I feel in my heart that this is to be one of the many pivotal milestones in my life.

 We were all born to do great things, and our identities should never hinder us from accomplishing them. Rather, we should embrace who we are, and love others for who they are because you never know how they may affect your life for the better. I suppose my concluding statement is that we are unique, confident, and beautiful, but most importantly, we are all alike no matter our differences. And great things are what we share.  

 

-Dalton Bennett
Campbellsville, KY

 

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