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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.

The Queer Kentuckian behind our Twitter account: Christian from Ashland

The word queer to me can mean a lot of things. As a queer person you sometimes think about when people refer to things as queer.

Does someone who identifies as a male wearing a crop top make them more queer or one who likes football is less queer? I think it just boils down to the person identifying as queer.

There shouldn’t be a queer spectrum. I identify as a male with he/him pronouns and I haven’t really put much more thought into that aspect of my life because it’s not the most important part I’m concerned with.

I’m from Ashland, eastern Kentucky, and I loved growing up there. Being queer wasn’t something that really affected my life and friendships there.

I have a loving and accepting family and friend group from back home, I was the gay theater kid so it probably didn’t shock too many people when I came out.

Not like anything actually changed about my life and for a town in eastern Kentucky it was pretty accepting overall. You should always come out on your own terms, it’s your timeline on when you feel you are ready.

I know people who have come out super young and later in life. Start by telling one person, that’s what I did and the weight is immediately off your shoulders and you can take a deep breath. No rush in when you decide to tell the next person.

There are issues in every community but one I think I see the most in ours is just self confidence and self love. It’s something I struggle and it’s something we aren’t really open enough about. Maybe if more people were open about it, it would help but instead we see the Twitter gays with a 6 pack complaining about their weight.

Not that they can’t have self confidence issues but how would that make someone who doesn’t look like that feel? It’s a never ending circle honestly. I’m not even sure what I would refer to as the “mainstream” community. Does that mean I’m excluded? Im not really sure, but I love my queer community here in Louisville so that’s my main concern.

I feel at my best when I’m just surrounded by my friends and laughing. It’s really that simple.

My mom and Robin Williams influenced my life. My mom is the nicest person on the face of the planet and Robin Williams was just always my comedic hero and I truly thinking making someone laugh can make their day just a little bit better.

I feel like their are so many queer performers we don’t see enough in mainstream music. Troye Sivan and Sam Smith aren’t the only queer musicians. I love Tegan and Sara, Perfume Genius, Years and Years and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s important to support any queer artist and you can broaden your horizon a little bit in the process.

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

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.  

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