pansexual

12th Kentucky city adopts LGBTQ+ Fairness Ordinance!

DAYTON — With a unanimous vote of 5-0 tonight, the Northern Kentucky town of Dayton, population 5,338, became the twelfth city in the Commonwealth with a Fairness Ordinance prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

“Dayton is extremely excited to be able to join the other eleven cities, out of 419 in the Commonwealth, to continue to be the welcoming community we know and love,” said Dayton Mayor Ben Baker upon the ordinance’s passage. “If any other river cities need help in embracing the Fairness Ordinance, please reach out. We urge our state leaders to adopt these protections—in Kentucky, y’all means all.”

Dayton City Councilman Joe Neary added, “I genuinely hope this carries up to the state level so cities don’t have to deal by this city by city. I can’t believe we’ll only be the twelfth in the Commonwealth.”

“We expect Dayton will be the first in a series of Northern Kentucky cities to adopt Fairness Ordinances,” shared Northern Kentucky Fairness leader Bonnie Meyer, who also helps run the Northern Kentucky Pride Festival. “We were proud to see Covington challenge its peer cities to follow their lead on LGBTQ rights.”

Eleven other Kentucky cities have adopted local Fairness Ordinances, covering just over a quarter of the state’s population—Louisville (1999), Lexington (1999), Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), Maysville (2018), and Henderson (2019). 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a Statewide Fairness Law, which has only ever received two informational hearings in the Kentucky General Assembly. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the measure.

Night life entrepreneur, Louisville’s ‘Cherry’ Bomb blazes a Queer trail

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

Queer to me is the defiance of gender and sexuality. It’s anarchic. It’s as equally controlled or chaotic as you want to be. Some people use the term queer as an umbrella term for all people in the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and some people dislike the word because of it’s pejorative roots. But let’s get one thing straight – we aren’t – and anything we want to call ourselves shouldn’t be considered anything less than what we want it to be, even if it originated as a rude or hateful term. Being queer to me is not needing to be masculine or feminine or anything beyond or between. It’s absolving yourself of the guilt of saying “this isn’t what boys do” and allow yourself to express your feelings without any boxes. It’s moving past concern about what others may think about what makes you happy, or who makes you happy. It challenges what a partner or partners means for you, they can be masculine or feminine presenting, non-binary, trans, or any other identity or a combination of. I identify as queer.

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

For a long time I identified as just gay. Like a lot of young people growing up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s – I assumed for a long time that I was bisexual because of society telling me I should be one way, and my brain and heart telling me another. But as I have grown to love myself, and those around me more – I have identified as queer for the abilities to make the word what I want it to be. I am attracted to more than just cis males, I have built strong friendships and romantic relationships with people who identify all over the spectrum, and I don’t think just saying I’m gay can withhold my identity anymore. Though sometimes I use gay and queer interchangeably, I find less of an issue with reclamation of queer than I do gay, having grown up in the heyday of teenage boys calling everything under the sun gay when they disapproved. I have never been called a queer in a derogatory way, not saying this is the same for everyone, just my personal experience.

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

I am born and raised in Louisville KY. I grew up in a somewhat bizarre upbringing – as I can’t remember my parents ever being married (I think they divorced when I was 3?) and my mother raised myself and my sister in Louisville, while my dad had joint custody of us and lived on a farm in Elizabeth Indiana until I was about 9 or 10. We moved a lot, my mother got remarried to a wonderful man who taught me a lot about loving people who are not your blood family, but chosen family – and I gained two siblings from this marriage. My dad eventually remarried again and moved to the Highlands where I spent my teenage summers riding skateboards down Bardstown Road, going to shows at Pandamonium and the BRYCC House, and immersing myself in punk culture – where I learned a lot about saying fuck you to rules and boxes. I also learned a whole lot about queer theory, vegetarianism, anti – capitalism, atheism, and a whole bunch of other subjects through those older than me who were always quick to teach young kids that punk was more than just angry music – it was about fighting against what society says you should do. Living in Louisville is such a wonderful experience and I am so happy to see how the city has grown and become super accepting almost everything. I would see the artsy and

forward thinking thriving city during my custodial weekends spend in the Highlands, and the down home southern family experience with my mother in the south end. I feel like these two parts have made me who I am today.

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

Only you can decide who you are. And what you may be right now doesn’t have to be your final form. Humans are constantly evolving, your tastes will change as you grow, you will experience things for the first time and maybe hate them and years later you’ll do it again and love them. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers RIGHT NOW, some things just come with time. Your friends and family have must listen to your desires in identity when you speak about them, and you do not have to maintain a relationship with anyone who is toxic or blocks your happiness. There is always someone out there for you to connect with, and luckily in 2019 we can do so via the internet much easier than approaching someone in public.

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

My identity allows me to wear whatever I want, to connect with people over so many different topics, and to make strong bonds with my chosen family. It gives me an excuse to be me in whatever way that is for the day.

What issues do you see in the queer community?

If your fight isn’t intersectional, it isn’t a fight to be had. We create a lot of spaces for white, cisgendered, able bodied people without the second thought on if the space is welcoming, accessible, or comfortable for someone who is POC, non binary, trans, disabled, or any combination thereof. As a white queer man in society, I am afforded a lot more liberties than someone who is anything else. People fought so hard for gay marriage, but some forget that our battle will constantly assume new forms and we must continue to fight until everyone is on the same playing field. LGBTQ+ people (especially QTPOC) are more likely to commit suicide, be assaulted or murder, or find themselves homeless than their straight or cis counterparts.

While I have been lucky to not see much in my own community, I still see a whole lot of racism, sexism (that goes for y’all “vaginas are gross” gays out there), transphobia, and ignorance (especially involving HIV) in other places and it really bums me out.

What do you think would solve those issues?

Besides cis white gays pulling their heads out of their asses? Probably people educating themselves on how we have evolved and grown as a culture, as a community, and as something more than just a “disease” that they used to kill us for. Ask people their pronouns, work on volunteering your time somewhere, create a safe space for your friends to meet and enjoy themselves, recommend your friends you trust for jobs, check in on them (IMPORTANT!),

and most lastly, if you see something (and it’s safe) say something. Remove problematic language from your vocabulary, get tested and don’t refer to being HIV negative as “clean”, and that you vote with your dollar aka stop giving shitty companies money!

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

I don’t really know what I call mainstream anymore? Sure I love drag performances (support your local queens as much as you do Ru girls!), I enjoy the first couple Lady Gaga records, I saw Cher perform earlier this year, I’ve been to gay bars in other cities and gay weddings here and far. I probably still know most of the words to La Vie Boheme from RENT. I go to Pride most years and sometimes in other cities. I think most things that are “typically queer” can be fun, and some of them I don’t care for. Just like I enjoy listening to Beyonce as much as I do Converge, watching MS3TK as I do ANTM, and seeing bands play in the basement of Spinelli’s downtown as I do travelling 3 hours to watch Lizzo perform – I don’t expect everyone to enjoy the things I do, and what they enjoy (so long as it isn’t hurting anyone) doesn’t bother me. My only hope is that mainstream queer culture is inclusive to ALL LGBTQ+ people as it grows, and not just the white ones.

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

Some of you probably know me from my proclivities as DJ, or playing an instrument in a band – and that’s a feeling I always find to be one of the best. Expressing my art for people to consume and enjoy themselves. I feel at my best surrounded by friends dancing, watching drag, sharing a meal, or relaxing at someone’s house. My chosen family makes me feel as safe as my real one does, and I would give my last dollar to any one of them should they need it.

Who influenced the life you live now?

My mother. She’s always accepted me for who I am. She let me be a weird theatre kid (bet you didn’t see that coming, did ya?) through middle school, a wild and loud music playing young adult, and has always told me she loves me for the person I grew up to be. She taught me a lot about compassion, about putting others before yourself when need be, how to listen, how to laugh things off, how to cook, and most importantly, how to accept everyone for who they are no matter who you think they should be. She was always letting 5 and 6 of my same aged step-brother and I’s friends stay the night on weekends. She drove us to Bardstown road to go to shows or terrorize the neighborhood. She’s accepted every partner I’ve brought to a family function and still reminds me constantly that a smile is the best gift you can give to someone you don’t know yet.

I’ve met a lot of people over the years, probably too many to name, who have shown me new and exciting things in the world and expanded my mind in how people evolve and grow. I am truly blessed to have such a great partner, friends, and co-workers. To work for a company who gives young LGBTQ+ a place to serve good food, listen to Panic At the Disco and connect with all kinds of people local and visiting. Bars and spaces who give me the room to throw parties focused for queer people, drag shows, or a space where people can enjoy themselves. Older LGBTQ+ people who show me that getting older shouldn’t be something we’re afraid of, but something we should look forward to. And those who have educated me and given me the opportunity to learn about the way other people are and present themselves, you are the true stars.

I invite all of you reading this to connect with me, let’s build a stronger network of queer people to create our own spaces and allow ourselves to celebrate life together. Let’s bounce ideas off each other. Let’s all remind each other that we are not alone in this world, and that our uniqueness is what makes all of us incredible people.

Catch me at any of these and come say hi. Let’s be friends!

Titty Tiki Tuesday at the Limbo (a weekly drag and variety show, every TUESDAY) Qiergarten at the Limbo (a LGBTQ+ patio party – June 1st and July 6th are the next ones) House is Home at ALEX&NDER (a super cute day party June 9th thrown by some of the best DJs in the city – Rhythm Science Sound)

Emo Nite (yes, like you used to listen to in 8th grade) at Barbarella – June 14th

HAUS Louisville at Barbarella (a monthly drag & burlesque show & dance party) – June 15th

Stop the Pan and Bi erasure

Kalee Johnson

What does the word queer mean to you?

Historically I’ve been called queer in ways that were detrimental and harmful to me, and I know that many, many others have shared that experience. There’s a lot of hate that lived behind the word queer, and that hatred fueled those who used it against me. When I think of the word queer now, and how it applies to my life and transformation, the first concept that comes to my mind is strength. Queer people continue to fight for fair and equal treatment. There are struggles all queer people have lived through whether it be societal, mental, or emotional. I think openly identifying as queer shows incredible strength in choosing to live as authentically as possible. By taking back the word queer, I feel I’ve been able to take back the parts of myself that were damaged by others.

How do you identify, Why?

I have spent a lot of time exploring who I am, and I feel, for maybe the first time, that pansexuality fits with my identity. I have lived most of my life identifying as bisexual, however four years ago I began researching pansexuality for a grad school project and it was like a lightning flash of positive feelings. Sexuality is a spectrum and identifying as bisexual was a big part of my queer experience. Now, however, I truly feel like pansexuality aligns with how I live and love; with a fierceness that is not limited to biological sex, gender, or gender identity. I am new to this part of my identity. I don’t have it all figured out just yet, and I’m okay with that.

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

I grew up in Southern Indiana, actually, and only visited Louisville occasionally as I grew older. I lived closeted until my early twenties. I moved back from out of state and Louisville felt like where I wanted to be. I never felt comfortable to be truly myself before Louisville. Maybe it was a combination of age and the inclusiveness of the city. For me, the LGBTQ+ visibility was such a positive and overwhelming circumstance of living in a progressive city. Not to mention the nightlife was magical, and the women were entrancing.  The vibes of the city made me more comfortable with my sexuality.

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

First and foremost, be patient with yourself, even as difficult as that may be. It may not all happen at the “right time,” but it will happen as you learn and grow. Love yourself, because you are worthy and valid no matter how you present or what you identify as. As cliché as it sounds, I implore you to be true to yourself, because no one knows you better than you and it’s ok to not have everything figured out. And try to have fun, because in the end, you’ll thank yourself for stepping out of your comfort zones and diving head first into self-love.

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

I work in mental health, so it’s important for me to promote visibility by creating a safe space for my clients. I keep LGBTQ+ magazines in my office. I talk drag race with clients in session to help them feel more at ease and supported. I am open to talking about my sexuality to clients if I feel it could help the therapeutic relationship. Queer people are so likely to experience mental health issues, so one of my biggest priorities is to foster an open and accepting environment.

What issues do you see in the queer community?

I am married to a man, however contrary to popular belief, my current partnership in no way negates my sexuality or identity. This erasure of Pan/Bi identity is a huge problem in the queer community. Misconceptions that people who identify as Pan/Bi as being just gay, straight, or maybe “haven’t figured it out yet.” I’ve had my identity questioned and denied, and I know others in the queer community share these experiences.

What do you think would solve those issues?

Identities are fluid, and no one should ever be shamed for moving in and out of the bisexual or pansexual community. The more visibility and nurturance we can create, the better. We need to accept each other’s identities in full. Our voices need to be present, supported, and visible. When folks speak out and openly discuss their pansexuality or bisexuality, awareness and understanding increases. I think we’ve come a long way in terms of acceptance, but that doesn’t mean this issue isn’t still very nuanced and complex.

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

My entire life I struggled to understand how I could be so open to love, when all I was taught was how to be straight. Entering the LGBTQ+ community changed my life for the better, but it was still really hard to open up to my friends about who I am and then I was met with concern about if I “really meant it” or if I was “just confused.” I have struggled with feeling like I belong and being part of the community since I have been with my husband. I’ve been mislabeled as an ally and while that’s a great thing to be it’s been hurtful to me because I feel like my experience shouldn’t be invalidated and that I am queer too.

Where do you feel “at your best”

My heart is with theater arts. I love singing, dancing, and creating. Recently I started acting again, and I’ve been in two musicals in the past year. Being on stage is so freeing to me. I struggle with anxiety and while learning a role and being part of a production is anxiety provoking, I have never felt so at ease as when I am performing. Aside from being in shows, I have always loved being in the audience at plays and especially drag performances. Drag is an obsession of mine. I have been going to drag shows since I was 18, and I am so grateful for what that did for my tiny queer heart. As a more seasoned and queerer adult, going to Play means so much to me. It’s the only place where I truly feel comfortable and I have a great community of friends there, too. Talking drag race with people is nice but supporting local drag is most important to me.  

Who influence the life you live now?

I am very close with my grandparents. I had my first mental health episode when I was 19 and my grandparents really helped me through it. They live in Evansville, so we don’t get to see each other as often as we would like but we do talk on the phone almost every day. My grandparents have loved and supported me through many life challenges and I am so thankful for their kindness.  My grandparents had differing opinions on LGBTQ+ issues and for a while that was hard on our relationship. I was not out with them for most of my life, however we worked through difficult conversations and I am proud of their growth. My Pepaw always asks for pictures of the queens I’m going to see, and my Memaw tells me of any queer issues in the news. They’re pretty cute, and I am lucky they’re mine.

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.

Queer Yogi empowers others through inclusivity, love

Elliot, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky

What does the word Queer mean to you?

I think to me, queer means unique, not limited to the rules of mainstream society. it’s the freedom to be different from what’s expected.

What do you identify as, or do you identify at all?

I’m a fat, white, atheist, pansexual, agender spoonie. (The Spoon Theory)

WHO ARE YOU?! What are you up to in this world and talk about your business.

Ha! Who am I? I’d love it if someone else could answer that for me. I feel like I’m just starting to figure that out. For so much of my life, I’ve lived to make other people happy & tried to meet their expectations. When I got together with my current girlfriend, she asked me what I wanted out of a relationship. I told her that I had no idea because no one had ever asked me that before. The thought that I could just be me & people could accept me or not & even if they didn’t, that was ok hadn’t ever occurred to me.

I was constantly trying to fit myself into what other people expected I should be. Now, I’m trying to figure out who I am & then just be that person.

In my yoga life, I started change.yoga. I teach a few group classes that I work to make accessible to anyone & everyone. I like to say that I teach to people who, for whatever reason, don’t feel comfortable going to a ‘regular’ class or studio. I also do skillshares, that I call Yoga Confidence, for people who are hesitant to try yoga. They may be intimidated by the Sanskrit or the religious statues & imagery, or the usual ‘I’m not flexible enough,’ whatever the reason, I try to give them info so they can pick the classes & studio that’s right for them (or to start a home practice). And then I do skillshares for teachers that I call, “Stretching Diversity.” I do them for people who are already teachers but I’m also trying to work with as many teacher training programs to help educate new teachers before they even start. When I’m not doing yoga, I’m a freelance marketing consultant & my business is called frankHYPE. Lately I’ve been mixing the two worlds & many of my clients are yoga (or other wellness professionals). They’re also individuals or small businesses who assume that marketing support would be too expensive for them. So I work to give them a few hours of support a month at reasonable rates. I can’t take on all of their marketing needs but I can work with them to help craft a strategy that works for them & then implement a lot of the routine needs that can often bog down micropreneurs.

How did you start your yoga journey?

In college I took a world religions class & yoga was mentioned. I didn’t really know what it was but i knew it was this ‘new’ thing (at least in my world) people were doing to get in shape so I wanted to try it out. My first class was in a school gym after class. I don’t really remember much about the class other than I liked it. After that I did yoga off & on for about 15 years. I always really liked it but life would get in the way & I’d stop practicing. I eventually started going several times a week to studio classes & started learning about the 8 limbs, meditation, pranayama & all the other stuff that makes up yoga that you don’t see in the magazines. I started noticing how much it was helping me mentally & physically & was actually pretty mad.

I’d gone to countless doctors & therapists over the years for my different chronic conditions & no one had ever suggested doing asana or meditation.

It’s a little better now but still extremely undervalued. So I just wanted to shout it out to everyone. I didn’t expect to become a teacher but that’s where I’ve ended up, for now anyway, so I’m just hoping that I can help people avoid some of the struggles & pain that I experienced.

What inspired you to lean into all-inclusive yoga?

Well, I didn’t really have a choice. with my body & my life, if I was going to do yoga, it had to be all-inclusive. and I realized if I needed this, there were probably a bunch of other people who needed it too.

What do you believe the consequences are of teaching yoga without awarenss of privledge?

I think we risk doing real harm to people when we don’t try to address our privilege. We’re never going to be perfect & that stops a lot of people from trying, we feel too afraid or paralyzed.

But if we don’t put the work in to try to break down barriers that are exclusive we’re just reinforcing the marginalization that occurs in our larger society.

Often we want to think of our mats as automatically neutral spaces but they’re not. That doesn’t happen automatically. We have to do the work. If we’re going to create these spaces & invite people to them, we have the responsibility to do it as safely as possible. Otherwise, people come to us and the spaces we’ve created with their guard down, expecting to be safe, because that’s what we’ve told them, only to find themselves experiencing the same microaggressions, prejudice, & trauma they experience off the mat.

How did you come into your queerness and do you feel like a stronger person because of your journey? Why or why not?

Oh, that’s a long complicated story. I first came out to a few people 20-ish years ago in high school. I came out to a few other people over the years but it’s only been in the past few years that I’ve come out completely to my family & everyone. I kind of went in the other direction & just put everything out there publicly. I knew my queerness would be a problem for lots of people, that I would make lots of people who were close to me uncomfortable.

That’s a hard place to be. So, both consciously & unconsciously I kept it a secret. Eventually hiding who I was just simply became too much & I couldn’t keep the secret anymore. I couldn’t keep pretending I was someone else. It was a hard transition and a lot of what I was afraid of did happen. But it’s been worth it. I’ve found a community that’s been supportive more than I could have imagined. I’ve never experienced acceptance like this from anyone before. That’s not to say everything’s perfect but it’s so much better than before.

If you could tell anyone struggling to come in their identity, what would it be?

Take your time. Focus on yourself. And don’t be afraid if you don’t have all the answers right away (or ever). Obviously your safety comes first so don’t do anything that endangers you. But don’t be afraid to step away from people & relationships that aren’t supportive of you, even family. And I don’t mean ones that just tolerate you. Do what you can to find people who truly accept you for who you are. This doesn’t happen overnight, it isn’t easy, & won’t always happen for everyone.

But, looking back on my experiences, those would be the goals I’d go for if I had to do it again. I was so afraid of losing what I had even though I was, at best, being tolerated, that I couldn’t see what I’d gain by being around people who accepted me. If I would’ve known what was possible, I would’ve come out a long time ago.

Do you have a favorite yoga pose?

I’ve always really liked pigeon but lately I’ve been spending a lot of time in child’s pose. I also really, really love reclined, supported hero’s pose. A lot has changed in my practice since I had 3 surgeries in 4 months in 2017 so I’m still learning again what my body needs & likes now.

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