LGBT rights

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!

‘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!

Kentucky’s Gender inclusive apparel brand gives back

What is BLoFISH?

We are a clothing company based in Louisville, KY. Known for our amazingly soft fabrics, All 4 All message, being gender neutral, and our 10% giveback program. We were founded in 2014 and opened our first store in Louisville in 2016. We are still small, but have a solid online presence and have sold to 20 cites, all 50 states, and 7 countries.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to ensure everyone has the same opportunities in life. Whether that be in traditional economic opportunities, education, racial equality, gender equality, or anything else. We believe in our “All 4 All” mission. No matter one’s sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or abilities everyone should have the same opportunities centered around equality. The message is deeply ingrained into our company’s culture and customers, with 10% of every sale going directly to social justice issues.

How do you financially give back to communities? How do you give back differently than larger corporations?

We believe in the power of grassroots organizations, particularly those who are on the ground doing the non-profit work that has a direct visible impact on the communities they are located in. We do give to national organizations, but we prefer to give to causes that support the communities we know our money will make the most impact.

Our business model is revolutionary and much different than what corporations are doing now, particularly in our industry. To put it simply for every $100 in sales we donate $10 to organizations we believe have an impact on the world. While 10% may not sound like a lot, it is exponentially higher than most corporations. Effectively, we created the ultimate Public Benefit Corporation before it was even a thing. How can we do this? We treat our accounting as if the 10% never existed, we work 10% harder, keep lower inventory counts, don’t take (and never will take) crazy bonuses or salaries, and don’t (and never will) have multi-million dollar campuses costing even more millions to maintain.

Here are some numbers:

  • At $100k in sales, we donated $10k to organizations.
  • At $1 million in sales, we will donate $100k to organizations.
  • At $100 million in sales, we will donate $10 million to organizations.
  • As a $1 billion dollar company (knock on wood) we will donate $100 million to organizations.

To put that into comparison, a company in the same industry (and pays their top 6 positions $21 million dollars a year) did $3.8 billion last year. They haven’t released a charitable report online since 2016, but on it they show their foundation has only given on average $400K a year. With our model, alone in 2018 we would have give $380 million to charity. https://www.aeo-inc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/AEO_CSR.pdf (page 9)

Another question we get often with this model and the look of our stores is “how expensive is it?” Our prices are in-line with all the major players, including Nike, American Eagle, Abercrombie, and less expensive than the likes of Lululemon and Bonobos while still using fabrics that are fantastic. I can’t tell you the amount of people who walk by and are surprised when they find out our prices despite the clean, expensive look of our stores.

Going a little off topic. I think one thing average Americans struggle with in terms to the wealthy in this country is just how big those numbers are. While it may seem like a company donating $400k a year, it’s all relative. Here’s what that looks like next to their 2018 profit.

$1,370,000,000

$400,000        

Try and type that top number in your phone calculator. Unless you turn it sideways it’s not even possible. That is 1,370 MILLIONS. No wonder we have a hard time comprehending just how rich the uber wealthy are.

How are your employees paid and how are you paid?

We are still a small company, but we’ve tried to build a culture here where we pay everyone a decent wage, but still work hard. Everyone we’ve brought on full-time has been paid the same, which makes for a cool work-place. Hopefully we can keep it up as we grow. One thing I really believe in is people taking responsibility for themselves, which includes taking as much time off as long as they can find someone to pick up on their responsibilities. It makes it tough being small, but so far we’ve been able to pull it off and should only get easier as we have more resources.

As for myself, I still haven’t taken a dime out of BLoFISH. Luckily I’ve been able to support myself enough in other ways. I don’t plan on taking anything out of BLoFISH so long as I see new products and expansion that needs to be done, which won’t be for a while. There are tons of designs and tons of people who haven’t been touched by BLoFISH, and until that’s done or we have enough resources I can’t see myself taking money out of the company.

What other communities would you like to reach out to?

We’ve hit on a lot of different communities, so there’s not one specific we feel like we need to reach out to. We obviously want to expand, and with that we will be able to copy some of the grassroots giving we’ve been able to do here in Louisville and extend our reach to other communities.

The LGBTQ+ community, the sexual assault awareness community, the trans community, the animal rescue community, human trafficking community, the veteran community, and many others have all been great to work with. It’s nice to be able to connect different types of people who may not otherwise meet. Many of these communities have goals that overlap, and it’s our job to not only give these communities the resources they need, but to connect them so there is an even bigger coalition to go forward and make changes the world needs, many of which aren’t that far out of reach or don’t require extreme resources.

Do you plan to bring your business to areas such as Appalachia, western Ky, etc.?

Yes. We want BLoFISH in as many places as possible, particularly in places that may not have the access to resources or support like many people here in Louisville have, and we know the power that one of our locations can have on a community. With that being said, we are limited in resources, and that’s where social media is amazing. We are able to reach people all over the country.

We recently did a podcast with a transgender veteran from Eastern Tennessee. He talked a lot about how he was surprised how many people were actually supportive of him when they found out about the transition, and while everyone was not supportive, many more than he thought were. So getting our message out in these places is so important to us, and until we can get the resources for physical locations we will do our best to reach out through social media.

What have some of the positive reactions been to your company? What have some of the negative reactions been?

The positive reactions have far overwhelmed the negative for sure. We’ve had people talk about how they wanted a place to feel welcomed, a place that is actually genuine, and some of the most emotional moments have taken place at our community events. The reaction to our products and fabrics have also been positive, which is important, because ultimately that’s the core and the reason we are able to give back so much. I would encourage people to check out our BLoFISH Speakeasy Podcast to hear some stories and see how we interact with the community.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-blofish-speakeasy/id1272938560?mt=2

As a company centered around social justice we’ve had our fair share of negative comments you might expect, but surprisingly we have had a little bit of push back from some people in the LBGTQ+ community saying our stuff isn’t gender neutral enough. Most of those people haven’t been in the store, but some are right we need to keep pushing boundaries. The key I have to balance is still making things accessible to everyone, while still being profitable on those products.  Being small is tough, and all the new designs are capital intensive, meaning we have to charge more for the products. Some of the same people complaining haven’t been in to test our more “fashion-oriented” designs so it makes it tough in this market to keep producing them. It’s still just my money so far, so we don’t have a multi-million dollar (or anywhere close) resource to tap in to. We’ve had a few people complain about price, but we try and stay in-line with the bigger brands like Nike, AE, and Gap. We will never be as cheap as somewhere like Aeropostale because of the quality of fabrics and products we have, but $46 for our joggers and $25 for hats is right in-line with the brands I mentioned. We have also had some people talk about our sizing system and how we display it, and it’s something we are looking into along with everything else, trying to be as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Why is gender neutral so important, and why does a white cis male care?

When I first started the company the idea of having a place where everyone could come in and buy what they wanted regardless of who they were seemed like a crazy idea (and to many still is today). I think gender neutral is the best way to describe what we are doing, but I’m not sure the adjective fits the way it should. I see what we are doing as label-less, we don’t care how you identify, we just think everyone should have the same opportunity to shop and wear awesome things without worrying about people looking down on them because they are in the wrong section or in the wrong class to buy things. In the past few years gender neutral has almost taken on a moniker of its own and people think it should look one way or another. I push against that, and think people should be able to buy and wear whatever they want, whether they identify as “gender neutral” or male or female or gender fluid, and that’s the perspective I design from.

As a white cis male I believe, and have since I can remember, a responsibility to step up and speak up for those who don’t have the same privileges as me. And that goes beyond being just a cis white male, into a cis white male who grew up with everything I needed. I didn’t have to struggle for a ride to baseball practice or worry about how I was going to get to school. I think we have a tendency to use labels as a way to build walls, and if everyone would look at each other in a sense of their privileges and access as opposed to their race and gender the world would be better for it. I will continue to stand up for all those who didn’t and don’t have the same opportunities I had, and am extremely lucky to have a platform and a business like BLoFISH to help spread that message.  

Who are YOU? What is Logan about?

I’m a crazy 31 year old person who is crazy enough to think it’s possible to create a new business model and flip the entire retail industry on its head while spreading a great message and making a REAL difference in the communities we are in.

What makes BLoFISH stand out among other retail companies in the nation?

You mean besides having better products, people, community, and business model? Not too much.

From Brazil to the Bluegrass

Matheus Rezende-McCubbins

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

Queer to me means to embrace all parts of who you are, and being proud to be a part of a community that fights everyday for nothing but acceptance and recognition of our rights.

To be queer is also a part of a political, cultural and economic disruption of what is by some defined as “standard”… englobing the entire LGBTQI+ community as a family, and to know that you can be loved and accepted regardless of how you dress, how you look, or how you identify. With that being said, I identify as a cisgender gay man, who wants to contribute what I can to ensure inclusivity and to spread love to all my Queer community out there.

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

I am finally comfortable with the fact I am a cisgender gay men. It took me a while to figure out who I was, and where I would fit while growing up. I didn’t have any queer people around me…not even on T.V. (we had four channels back then), so you can imagine how lost I was when I started to feel attracted to boys…while being a boy! I had a to go through a lot before understanding the differences between sexual orientation, and gender identity.

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

I was born and raised in Brazil, land of soccer, Carnaval, and happy people. Also a country that kills the most LGBTQI+ people on the globe.

Unfortunately that had it’s role in one of the reasons I decided to move away. I was a little concerned about moving to the conservative state of Kentucky. Thankfully, I found Louisville to be a progressively Queer-friendly city, and I’ve met amazing people that helped me to finally fully accept myself for who I am.

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

You can be going through a rocky road right now, and you might feel lost with understanding the feelings you have about yourself. Be patient, try to find others that are going/have been through the same,  surround yourself with people that love and accept you for being your colourful self even if it’s not your “birth family,” and you will find nothing but joy when you learn to love YOURSELF.

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

I try not to let the way I identify myself to be the only way I live my life. Some days I like to just feel my oats and embrace more of the colors on the board, and that’s why I love the amplitude of being Queer, you don’t have to put yourself inside a four walled room… I definitely need more windows than that!

What issues do you see in the queer community?

It’s crazy to think we would have issues inside our own community that already suffers so much with everything else on the outside just for existing. But unfortunately, this is a very harsh reality. Growing up I remember always being bullied for being too girly, or for having a high pitch voice. Ironically, one of the bullies would come out as gay just a few years later.

There’s still a lot of internal homophobia within our community, specially when sub-categories are created to label people based on their own individualities. I can’t count how many times I heard someone was “too fem” or “didn’t have the Instagram body” therefore they were automatically not a “match.”

What do you think would solve those issues?

Acceptance is the key. The Queer community needs to grow together to be able to face obstacles daily, as well as to create more support systems to protect our own, while educating other people.

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

Being away from my home country and family has taught me that the “where” I feel at my best is not a place, but anywhere I can be surrounded by the people that make me complete.

Who influenced the life you live now?

My mom, my husband, Britney Spears and some of the most amazing people I met when I came to the U.S. back in 2014 for my study abroad program.

My mom for raising me to be a good freaking human being. My husband, that joined me on this life adventure, and that is the reason why I can call Kentucky home.

Britney for getting me through some tough times when I was just a baby gay boy, amen Blackout era.

As well as my Ohana, all the amazing people I met in 2014 that were my support system when I finally opened myself to who I really am.

Flowers In His Hair

Wesley Vaughn, Clay, Kentucky

Being gay has given me a more liberated attitude. I don’t concern myself with behaving in a way that is traditionally masculine, nor traditionally feminine. I feel that I can behave and express myself the way I want without any concern of violating some sort of rule about how I have to act or look. I often wear flowers in my hair. I also get dirty and do major home renovation. Many people would see these characteristics as being incompatible. However, I just see them as parts of myself and feel that they fit together very well. I would like to see more people shed their preconceived ideas on what it means to be a man, a woman, straight, gay, queer, transgender, and anything else we identify as. We are all humans and are capable of so much. Identify as whatever you feel, but don’t let that box you in.

Queer simply means “different” to me. I have to admit, queer often has a negative connotation in my mind. I realize that the LGBTQ community has repurposed the word, and I am comfortable using queer in this new context. However, each time I hear the word queer, I can’t help but hear the voices of kids on the playground calling one another “queer” as a way of tormenting one another.

I grew up in a small town in Western Kentucky called Clay. It had a population of two thousand or so and was somewhat isolated. Growing up in a small town was great. It was safe and quiet. My friends and I could walk around and hang out anytime we wanted without any real fear of some of the crazy stuff that can take place in a larger city. Once I was eighteen and came out as gay, I was fortunate to still feel accepted in my hometown. I have definitely been more fortunate than many of my friends who grew up gay in small communities. My family was respected and my coming out was well received, at least on the surface. I knew there was plenty of talk behind closed doors. I had no remorse about my decision to live honestly, and so the talk didn’t have much of an affect on me.

Be the person you want to be. Pursue the things in life that you want to pursue. Like I mentioned earlier, don’t let your identity define the way you live. You can be a makeup artist or a mechanic, or both. Forget about the labels society has placed onto everything and live the way you want. I also recommend never saying never. As i’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that every person is always changing and adapting. Things I once said I would never ever do I now find myself much more open to. Be yourself and stand by your beliefs. However, if over time you feel those beliefs begin to change, take time to evaluate and explore those feelings. Explore new ideas you are confronted with, so long as they are safe and healthy. Never be afraid to make changes. Staying the same on principal alone can make you miserable and full of regret.

I think that the issues in the queer community are very similar to issues in the local community around them. Having traveled some and interacting with various queer communities around the world, it seems like the real issues there are a reflection of the larger community around them. If an area suffers from racism, then the queer community seems to also display racism. Areas where the population in not sex-positive, the queer community will also suffer from its own version of sexual shame. If a city has a drug epidemic, the queer community there will also have a drug problem. Don’t get me wrong, there are probably some issues within the queer community that are disproportionate to the population as a whole. For example, I often see other gay men who are caught up in materialism. 

However, I think there is a bit of a misconception within the queer community. The misconception is in saying there is ONE queer community. People often talk about feeling ostracized from the queer community, and make broad blanket statements about the community as a whole. The reality of the matter is that we are extremely diverse and have formed many different communities. Queer individuals are so often guilty of making huge generalizations about “the queer community” that just plain don’t fit everyone, or even a significant portion of everyone.

I think we have to stop seeing ourselves as being so different from one another. After all, isn’t that what we’re fighting for? We want to be given the same rights and opportunities as everyone else – be seen as equals. We all need to stop lingering on the things that push us apart and embrace our differences with one another the way we’re asking to outside world to accept each of us. No, we will never all be best friends. There are too many of us, and we are all so different! But we can get along, watch out for one another, and stand together as a united group. Look past the difference in skin color, body types, gender identity, and see one another as humans with similar struggles. Queer individuals make up a significant percentage of the world population. If we could ALL be kinder, more patient, and understanding with one another across every sect of the queer community, wouldn’t that be a wonderful example to set for the rest of the world?

‘Ban conversion therapy Kentucky’ Executive Director’s call to action

For me the word queer is liberating. Growing up in Southern Indiana, where there was minimal support for LGBTQ people, I didn’t know what supportive LGBTQ spaces looked like.

Moving to Louisville, Kentucky, I started coming into my queer identity and learning how my other identities influence the way I exist in various spaces. For myself, the queer community has given me purpose.

Being involved in activism and fighting for the queer community is a passion of mine.

I am heading a project to make conversion therapy illegal for minors in Kentucky. Hearing the horror stories from survivors of conversion therapy, we wanted to take action to show queer kids that someone is fighting for them. No one should have to experience this torture and should be able to be happy and celebrate who they are.

Though we have made significant strides as a community in the United States– our fight is far from over. In addition to the work we have ahead of us as a country, we as community have so much work to do.

I believe that Queer people and all people will never truly experience liberation until we as a community actively address the oppression that still exists in queer spaces.

We will not truly be a community until we fully support queer folks who are black and brown, undocumented queer folks, our queer folks with disabilities, queer folks of all body types, as well as many other identities that intersect with queerness.

I am excited for the progress that will come with future generations — it seems that today’s youth are more caring and unapologetic in their queer identities than ever before.

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