poetry

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.

A trans man’s voice on queerness, privilege and intersectionality

Adrian Sibernagel

The label with which I most identify is “queer.” I also identify as trans (because I transitioned), bisexual (because I am attracted to more than one gender), and male (because that’s how I see and experience my own gender). But what draws me to the label “queer” is that it implies a fluidity, an open-endedness, and a critical dimension, that all those other labels lack. Specifically, I appreciate the way the term signifies a refusal to oversimplify my own body, desires, history, and experiences. It’s been a long journey for me to get to a place where I can admit that identifying as x, y, or z (gay, trans, bi, male, etc.) isn’t as simple as being “born this way.” While there is no denying the role played by biology in all of this, identities are not the direct or automatic outcome of a particular hormone, body part, or chromosome.

Rather, they are highly complex, invisible, socially-constructed yet remarkably real, structures composed of beliefs, experiences desires, memories, actions and reactions, accidents and choices.

While I’m not from here, and while it may not be your average queer’s dream destination, Kentucky, and Louisville especially, has been incredibly kind to me. It’s here that I grew to understand and honor my need to transition. It’s here that I found an employer and a work family that’s been nothing but affirming, accepting, and supportive. It’s here that I met my partner, who has stood by me and supported me throughout this difficult but amazing journey. Yes, I’ve had some bad experiences with transphobes and homophobes in my time here, and yes we have a long way to go as a city, as a state, as a world. But that’s the case pretty much everywhere.

To anyone struggling to come into their own identity I’d say take your time. Don’t do anything you don’t want to do until you’re ready. But if you’re ready, don’t let anyone stop you. No one knows you better than you, though there are plenty of people who think they do! If you’re questioning, try this thought experiment.

Ask yourself what you would do and what your life would look like if nobody else (your parents, friends, church family, significant other, etc.) was in the picture. If no one was pressuring you to be a certain way, who would you date? How would you dress? What name/pronouns would you use? Being honest with yourself and getting clear on your most basic wants and needs is the first step to “coming into your own,” and it’s a very important step!

First and foremost, as a white man who “passes” as cis, I try to remain aware of my privilege. Yes, I am trans, and it’s rough out here for trans people. But I also have a lot of privileges, at least in certain contexts, that women, non-binary people, people of color, gender-nonconforming people, and disabled people, do not. In contexts where I’m assumed to be a white cis man, I am careful to be aware of my white privilege and the way that privilege tips pretty much all circumstances in my favor. I’m aware of the space I take up. I’m aware of how my actions and words and silence might come across to others. I try to be an ally. I try to listen, and apologize when I make mistakes. If I can use any of my power or privilege to benefit others (assuming that gesture is welcomed) I try to do that. The operative word here is “try.” I am far from perfect.

In the queer community I see a lot of transphobia. I mean seriously, I wish I was joking!

There is also a good bit of misogyny, biphobia, and racism. I think the only thing we can do about this, and what I’m trying to do personally, is to be brutally honest with ourselves about our biases toward each other and toward ourselves. And from there try to figure out where these biases come from, and begin the long, grueling process of dismantling them. We need to get better about recognizing our blind spots and allowing others to fill them in. Men need to listen to women and trust them when they speak about their experiences. Same goes for white people in regard to people of color, and cis people in regard to trans people. There is no magic cure. The system is fucked. We’re all fucked. But we have to start somewhere, and a place where we can all start is by really listening to others and learning from them.

I’m naturally drawn to people with a more radical, critical perspective on gender and sexuality, so I tend to avoid “mainstream” queer spaces as a general rule. This may also be because I’m sober, and “mainstream” queer spaces normally equal bars and clubs. These things aside, I also just find that “mainstream” queer culture is often synonymous with “stereotypical” queer culture, which often mimics and perpetuates sexism, heteronormative gender roles, and other binaries that I find kind of boring.

Like I said, people in general need to be more critical of themselves, and not just cishet people.

I’m at my best/happiest when I’m alone at a coffee shop writing poetry and/or when I’m at the gym. You can normally find me in one of those two places when I’m not at Heine Brothers’ Douglass Loop, the coffee shop I manage. But I’m also really happy and “myself” at work too. I really am quite lucky!

Speaking of poetry, I have a poetry book coming out in April from The Operating System, a queer and trans-run small press and arts organization that’s based in Brooklyn. The book is called Transitional Object and you can preorder it by clicking the link.

The people who most influence my life right now include: my incredible partner (who is also my best ally) and my incredible friends, some of whom live here in Louisville, some of whom live elsewhere. I am very lucky in both of these departments. Also in the cat department. That’s right, I’m talking about you Wally and Flower.

Gay Gratitude, reflection on addiction and coming out

I would’ve loved the word “Queer” over the other words used to describe me when I was growing up.

It was not an acceptable thing in the 90’s to be gay in Louisville, Ky. I was sick, depressed, and full of fear my whole life.

I knew I was attracted to men as far as I can remember. My earliest memory was when I was four. I had a crush and it was not a woman. Paralyzed by fear I hid side by side with a girlfriend thinking I was fooling folks. What I didn’t know is that you’d have to be deaf or blind NOT to know and thats even questionable. I’ve always be an effeminate male and it brought discrimination, hate and cruelty from a lot of people.

My brother had my back my whole life and I’m so grateful for him. My Uncle Kenny and David accepted me even though they knew I was not like other people. So the word “Queer” and its definition may ring true. I refer to myself as Two-spirited and in the Native American culture it is a gift to walk this path. I’m at peace with who I am and I’m not any better or worse than any other creature walking our earth.

My Gay “Bible” if you will is called “The Velvet Rage” Overcoming the Pain of Growing up Gay in a Straight Mans World by Alan Downs Ph. d.

This book had a major impact on my life. It was written in 2008 & I came out in 1996. I say that to say this:

I spent twelve years of my life drowning myself in drugs and alcohol. I was drinking and drugging just so I could accept myself and it didn’t work. Coming up for air while living in New York City, I found a community of men just like me. These men loved me until I learned to accept myself. I learned to walk with confidence, self esteem and acceptance. I knew that not everyone agreed with my lifestyle but there is nothing I can do to change who I am. I would not have chosen a life of discrimination, hate, and a hell of a gay bashing in my twenties — It was time to tie up my boot straps and walk into the person that creator intended me to be.

I want anyone coming up in our community to know that you are the only you! You need to know that “YOU MATTER” and you are the only person that can serve the purpose you were brought here to do. Take risks, jump with no net, walk in faith not fear, and don’t get stuck in the box of “I can’t” — that only leads to could have, would have, and should have.

I’d like to share this poem by Marianne Williamson one of the best spiritualist of our time:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

I don’t speak on behalf of our whole community. I’ve learned that starts discussions, opinions and controversies. I can talk about my own experience and I struggled with something for years. I had internal homophobia for years, and I was afraid of my own people. This kept me feeling separate, different and alone within my own community.

I was harder on my own kind and myself. It didn’t matter what others were saying because I was opinionated, stuck in being right and political on what I thought. What I know today is we love each other where we’re at. Everyone deserves their process because that process creates magnificent human beings into voices for the ones that are coming up behind them. Shared experience and loads of hope create more and more pathways to standing together for what matters most and thats rights for everyone not a separation based on sexuality.

Pray for the Prodigal Daughter That returned home a Son.

Ken, 23, Barren County, Kentucky

Pray for the Prodigal Daughter

That returned home a Son.

Praise for the Boy who journeyed into Manhood

without the guidance of a Father.

Blessed is he, with a new name.


Pray for the loss of a Sister,

Fleeting dreams of children that would not be born

Praise for the birth of a Brother!

The new dreams and ambition he brings!

Blessed is he, that has a choice, the illumination.


Pray for the awkward mistakes,

Faux pas and mystery of a freshly made Man

Praise for the New Man who peed in public toilets,

That undressed among other Men in the YMCA locker room

Blessed is he, with a new body. Freedom.


Pray for the secrets he keeps,

The lies he tells to lead his life

Praise for him! The honesty he lives!

the hidden knowledge he holds!

Blessed is he, for his breadth of experiences.


Pray for him, to hold his tongue

When others assume he is younger than he is.

Praise for the alto who would become a bass!

Blessed is he, with an unrestrained voice,

remind him of the restraint of the past.


Pray for his heart, his spirit

The Mormons, the fellows of his youth, reject him

Praise for his Friends! his Lovers!

For they have turned a hostile land into a hospitable one.

Blessed is he, to live in the Ohio River Valley.


Praise for the Prodigal Son!

That returned home A Man!

A Lover!

A Brother!

A Friend!

Blessed be the transforming power of testosterone!


Pray that the coffee stains,

are removed from his white shirt.

 

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