Louisville Youth Group

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.

Activist and entrepreneur works to transform lives, shift culture

Josh Miller  

What does the word queer mean to you?

I love the phrase “a glorious amalgamation.” Partially, because it just feels extra – in the best kind of way. And, because I think it encapsulates what it means to be queer. It’s a mashup of cultural underpinnings, of expressions from across the spectrum, a makeshift celebration that pulls from many lived experiences to create the way I show-up, and you show-up.  

There is a general sense to me that being queer is daring and great. It’s also dangerous. Let’s not pretend that when new and different ways of thinking and appearing come together, it doesn’t challenge the status quo. But isn’t that part of why it’s important? To slowly chip away at the very limiting idea of what we can be.

How do you identify?

I identify as a queer Kentuckian. A cis-gender gay man whose physical appearance could be considered androgynous or non-binary. There isn’t a specific niche into which I fit. That can be empowering and isolating at the same time.

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

My family lived on Lookout Mountain, a 15-minute drive from Chattanooga, TN. I’m the oldest of five kids, and was homeschooled until my 10th grade year of high-school. We grew up in a small neighborhood that was primarily conservative and religious.

Being gay was not ok, it was a sin.  

I remember spending Sunday mornings getting my three younger sisters ready for church. From hair to nails and outfits, it was one of the ways I was able to enjoy the creative and beauty loving side of myself. It was a time we shared together that I’ll always cherish.  

I was outed at the beginning of my Junior year as I turned 17. For a year, things were extremely tense.

My parents, the church, the school I attended, all trying to dictate what parts of Josh were acceptable. Being gay was not one of them.

After a year-long power struggle, there were two paths forward. Move out and figure things out on my own with no car, savings, job, or place to live. Or, move to southern Indiana with family. Graduating from high-school and attending college was the stepping stone I knew was necessary to move forward in life, at least for me, so I moved to Indiana, and I’m continuously grateful for my aunt and cousins who have and continue supporting and loving me.

It was in the art room at Floyd Central in Indiana during my senior year, where I started wearing makeup. I was introduced to it through my friend Amelia, who painted me for the first time as a work of art. It was an enlightening experience, and I’ve worn makeup pretty consistently since then. I’m thankful that I had family, related and found, who embraced me. Not the perfect year by any means, but a great step forward.  

And that’s how I got to Kentucky, hopping over the river from the Knobs to attend Bellarmine, being part of NFocus Louisville Magazine, completing my MBA through IU, and meeting my partner Theo Edmonds and launching IDEAS xLab.  

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

My dear friend, team member at IDEAS xLab, and poet/author/activist Hannah Drake wrote a poem called “Power,” in which she says, “There is someone waiting for you to be all that you can be, so that they can be all that they can be.” I think about that statement a lot. We let fear drive so much of how we show-up. But what does it mean for us to courageously embrace our intersection of identities, knowing that it may not only improve our quality of life, but that of others as well?

I also think about how much my understanding of myself has evolved since leaving Chattanooga.

As we continue to learn about the world, we’re able to make space for better understanding who we are – and what we want and value. I would encourage people across all ages to take an approach rooted in curiosity.

Seek to understand the people you interact with, challenge the stories you tell yourself – both about who you are, and about others. All of that allows us to show-up more authentically.  

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

Over the past 12-16 months, a few major shifts have taken place for me as I strive to find balance and better understand how my identity relates to and impacts all facets of my life.  

One was that I stopped drinking alcohol. For years, well, since high-school, drinking was one of my primary coping mechanisms.

There was something cool about chugging vodka in the woods by the fire in high-school, which people found impressive.

Turns out – it impacted how my brain processed alcohol – something I denied for a long time. And, the story I told myself was that I needed it to be social, needed it to show-up in the way I wanted, needed it to belong. In fact, it undermined all of those things.  

I remember standing on the bridge over the creek at Theo’s parents house in Eastern Kentucky, and having a “meeting of the minds” so to speak. Half of my brain prioritized the things I’m proud of and want to excel at. The other half made a list of the things in my life that could undermine what I’m working toward. Alcohol was at the top of the list.

Derby day 2018 was my last day of drinking. It was a great day. Got to enjoy a Mint Julep, spent time with Derby Diversity & Business Summit (DDBS) attendees, and that was it. No drama, no blackout. A year later, and DDBS had a featured mocktail during social gatherings, and The Mocktail Project (founded by Jesse Hawkins) had a booth at Churchill Downs for Oaks and Derby – so I’ve shifted my energy to supporting making spaces welcoming for those who do and don’t imbibe. I recognize how fortunate I am that it was not because of a DUI (or worse) that I stopped, I’m grateful that it didn’t take something like that to help me reevaluate how to move forward in my relationship with drinking.

That shift also required that I relearn what it meant to be social, to recognize that I did have the power to show-up without a martini in my hand, which is why I’m thankful that Theo and I were able to participate in the Aspen Institute Executive Seminar last year.

Through text-based dialogue, I was able take a hard look at my inner motivations, values, leadership and their connection to my identity. During the seminar, I was reminded that, “Being visible can shift culture, often requiring that we trade comfort now so that future generations can excel beyond current limitations.” That’s the analect I wrote, inspired by Confucius, that I shared on the closing night. It isn’t just about showing up as someone who gets misgendered most of the time, because my long hair, makeup, and clothing fit into society’s generally outdated mental model of traits that are solely feminine. It applies to being the only Black person in a white space, being the only Woman in a predominately male industry, being LGBTQ+ in a majority straight space, etc.  

This year, our team of artists at IDEAS xLab – which is the nonprofit Theo and I co-founded and I now lead, focused on leveraging the power of community creativity and culture to transform lives – launched Our Emotional Wellbeing, a project in partnership with organizations including Louisville Youth Group, which serves LGBTQ+ youth under 21.  

It was a mashup of my experiences and our team discussions that informed the creation of the first activity I led – Showing Up 100 – which combined portraiture and collage as a way for participants to visualize the person they are inside. The person they are when no one is watching. The person that brings them joy. As I thought about my relation to the project during one of my early morning runs – and it’s connection to identity, to being in Kentucky – I reflected, and wrote the piece below which I read to the young people before the arts activity.  

Hot pink and burnt orange  

Josh Miller #WrittenWhileRunning #runJMrun

I ran across the bridge  

Pausing to capture the whisps of hot pink cotton candy  

and lavender sky  

My camera refused to acknowledge its beauty  

Depicting hues of burnt orange instead  

 

I wondered how my camera’s struggle to grasp what was so visible to me  

Reflected how people’s lived experience  

Colored their perception  

Their interaction with me, with us  

 

With those of us who  

Show up  

Wondering if people see the greatness  

Emblazoned across our being  

 

I thought back to high school  

When the emo boys in girls jeans were cool  

But the gay in girl jeans was suspended  

 

The look of someone I knew  

Standing in my way as I went to enter the men’s room  

Questioning my gender, my intelligence  

Do you know where you’re going?  

“Yes,” I said greeting him by name

Someone I had worked with for years

“Have a great morning”  

Invisible flames of resentment immediately licking my back

 

The thought of needing a drink  

A way to cope  

It was only 11am  

Thankfully, sobriety has been a welcome relief this past year  

Breaking from the idea that drowning those feelings made things better  

Those thoughts of standing at the conference room table for work  

Wondering if the (mostly straight white men) staring back at me  

Were making decisions about my worth, my capacity as a professional  

Based on the visible difference of gender and expression  

Makeup and androgynous attire  

 

All of these things required  

Naming them  

Challenging them  

That is what creates change and power  

About Josh Miller:

Originally from Chattanooga, TN, Josh is the co-founder + CEO of IDEAS xLab – an artist-led nonprofit based in Louisville, KY that leverages the power of community creativity and culture to transform people’s lives in support of a more healthy, just, and hopeful society.

He is an artist with a background in entrepreneurship, art and business administration, and editorial production – and explores the world through photography (and a lot of running), documenting his journey through joshmiller.ventures. In addition to his outdoor explorations, Josh celebrates the brilliance and strength of marginalized people including LGBTQ+ and Black communities through photography and collaborative storytelling.  

Josh was selected for Louisville Business First’s Forty under 40, and is a distance runner, the Co-Chair of the Louisville Health Advisory Board’s Communications Committee, a TEDx speaker, an advisor for the Derby Diversity & Business Summit, and founding Board Member of Civitas: Regional LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce headquartered in Louisville, KY.  

Pride in the Bluegrass!

“From metro streets to Appalachian trails, these are our stories.”

Queer Kentucky is beyond happy to announce THIS many Pride celebrations throughout our state in 2019!

We love watching our community come together in different regions to lift their voices in LGBTQ+ pride. We will add more events as we learn about more events.

June 2

Owensboro Pride Picnic
English Park, Owensboro

June 9

NKY Pride

Goebel Park, Covington

June 14-15

Kentuckiana Pride

Big Four Lawn, Louisville

June 28-29

Lexington Pride Festival

Courthouse plaza, Lexington

August 24-25
Western Kentucky Pride Festival

Noble Park, Paducah

September 13-15

Kentucky Black Pride Festival

Lexington

Sept. 14

Shelbyville Pride

Clear Creek Park, Shelbyville

Sept. 21

Louisville Pride Festival

Bardstown Road, Louisville

Sept. 28

Mad City Pride

Downtown, Madisonville

Sept. 28

Mad City Pride

Downtown, Madisonville

October 12

Capital Pride KY

Old Capitol lawn, Frankfort

October 12

Pikeville Pride Celebration

Pikeville City Park, Pikeville

https://www.facebook.com/bgfairness/

Oct. 12

Elizabethtown Pride

Location TBA, Elizabethtown

Queer, challenging and free

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

Queer means I am brave enough to try, it means freedom, it means the ability to imagine a world without racism, without sexism, without transphobia, and homophobia and brave enough to practice unlearning to see it come to past. It means that I brave enough to exist. It means I am Trans- GNC. I am divine. It means keep going, motivation. It’s a challenge especially the being part.

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

I identity with as many things as possible, and at the same none at all. I am a Chris. I am specific Chris type of Chris to my peoples. I am Black Chris-Anansi-Ellagua-Eshu-Slaughter Young-Duke-Butler- Thomas-Wilson. Years of information in my DNA. And so much more. To be Chris the being is hard, because we in society are attached to everything.

We are obsessed with body parts.

I am too because I live in this society, I make mistakes, then I correct myself. I correct myself when I am not around my gender-non-conforming friends and practice their pronouns. I practice correcting my thoughts, when I think about them in the wrong pronoun.

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

I am original from Florida. I lived in the Tampa Bay Area. I don’t know, I cannot speak for Black Queer Kentucky, because I am not from Black queer Kentucky. I can only speak on my experience, as an activist and organizer for Black lives Matter. If you want information about Black Queer Kentucky find them, If want information about artists, activist, poet, Chris than hear I am. I am want to find Black Queer Kentucky and build relationships with them. That is all, and do my advocacy work.

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

Shit accepting yourself is hard. Be gentle with yourself. It has taken me 28 years to accept who I am, and I am still accepting. It’s Challenging. Some days it easy, some days it’s just fucking hard.

I try to carry myself according to my principles.  My principles allow me to sleep at night.

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

Yes, there’s obviously not Trans-GNC in mainstream media.

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

I don’t think I ever feel at my best, I think I am always improving… that is purpose of human evolution in my opinion. I think if I accomplish the goals I set out to do I am winning. Winning in some area may not be my best in life though.

I am at my best when I am accepting that I am both light and dark. The dark parts of me, my skin color, the innocent part.. remember we humans started in darkness and we come out towards a light… in the middle.

I am feel best when darkness is understood, not as something always evil.

Safe isn’t a real word for me, safety is an allusion. Nothing is fucking safe. Secure for me is a better word. When I feel most secure sometimes is when I am speaking to my elders on the phone, they keep reassuring me that I am on right path. I am most secure in the arms of my lovers. My partners.

A lot of things make me happy, Ice cream, you can always bribe me with cream soda and pizza, and good head. I do like my nails to get done, etc. I am bit of a fem boy at times.


A poem to express me

I am that breeze that blows across your face, on hot summers day 

You know the one you was prayed to the Goddess for, 

I am the words that enter your mouth, when you think you have nothing left to say, 

I am resistance, been resisting since my creation, 

breed to be nothing more than what I am, 

And I am light, 

I am darkness, 

I am light wrapped in dark skinned, 

With a dash a of glitter star stuff, 

I am made from star dust, 

I am star shinning bright in the sky to give hope,

I am the rage that demands change, 

I am reason Masha P. Johnson throw the shot glass, 

I am the reason why, Harriet Tubman was a war strategist, why Langston wrote poems, 

And Zora spent time watching God, as she rained and blew her breath in Florida, 

That same breath that was, the breeze that ran across your face on those hot summer days, 

When you prayed for me, 

I am prayers answers, 

I am the reason why, our ancestor died, and were reborn, to died again

To rebel just to died, 

Because they knew fighting for freedom was worth dying for, 

I am their freedom, 

I am their broken bones put back together, 

I am their sorrow turned into joy, 

I am their unbroken hands, 

I am their unbroken spirit,

I am their culture reborn, 

I am free, from chains that enslaved them, 

I am their wildest dreams, walking, living, breathing, surviving, 

I am their hope, their star, their dreams, their sun, so naturally there I go rising, 

I am love, loved

I am Black joy, magic 

I am powerful,

I am living resistance, 

I am everything I need to be, in this moment,

I am enough,

I am water, constantly adapting to change 

I am worthy of all the love, I am trying to give away, 

I am free, 

I am me, 

I am Chris Black trans/gnc human being     

‘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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