recovery

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.

Entrepreneur seeks to establish Black, Queer sober spaces

by Arielle Clark, MBA (she/her/hers)

The Louisville LGBTQ+ scene is inundated with white, gay people and is steeped in alcohol culture.

 There, I said it. And did I stutter? Insert shrug emoji here.

Louisville is my home. I was born in a Louisville hospital, raised in a Louisville home, and attended Louisville schools (and have the student loan debt to prove it).

Louisville is where I had my first crush on a woman, realized what “not being straight” is, and came in to my blackness via reading and rereading Audre Lorde.

Louisville is where I have fallen in love, had my heart broken, and cut off 10 inches of my hair as a result of a bad breakup.

Louisville is where I have planted my roots, grown, been pruned, and have blossomed into whom I am today — an out, loud, proud, queer, black woman.

As I’ve loved and learned and grown in this city, I’ve started to look around and go, “Goddamn, where can I hang out with some black, queer folks that isn’t centered on alcohol in my own hometown?”

As I wander through Louisville, trying to find my space, I make an internal list in my head as I drive down street after street or scour Google for sober, black, queer spots for women.

So far, I have come up empty. While there may be informal spaces for us (perhaps Safai? Maybe Wild Dog Rose when it had a physical space? I’m drawing a blank), there are no designated spaces for me, for us, the black, queer women, the chocolate chips floating in seemingly-endless bowls of milk that seem like oceans to us.

My sisters and I meet informally in majority-white spaces, on high alert as we hear people use African-American Vernacular English effortlessly while simultaneously telling each other that “All Lives Matter” and “if black people just listened to the police and did what they said, there wouldn’t be any problems.”

We rant about how Tinder, Bumble, and Her are full of people with Ru Paul’s Drag Race as their favorite show in their profiles and “no blacks” a few lines down.

We empathize with one another as we talk about how the white people we’ve slept with have said shit out the side of their necks like, “I’ve never been with a black girl” or “you’re my African queen” and “I don’t see color.”

When we finally relax enough to enjoy each others’ company despite being constantly critiqued by the white gaze, a white man comes up and proclaims, “Yas, queen! You are slaying that whole look. I am shook.”

We sigh, pay our checks, and leave.

As an out, queer, black woman, I long for a sober space that caters to us. I long for a space where we can come together and commiserate.

Right now, we are floating so far apart, drowning in milk, barely able to see one another as our heads bob up and down in the waves of whiteness and alcohol.

We’re trying to stay afloat while simultaneously being hunted as fetishes as sharks taking chunks of our culture to use as their own.

At the age of 27 (going on 28), I’ve had enough.

I cannot wait any longer for a space to appear, so I am making secret moves to create one. If y’all need me, I’ll be hustling to finally make a headquarters for us — a home in our hometown, a bowl full of chocolate chips melting together.

Check back in a year or so. I’m determined to make this happen. I don’t want to be drowning in a bowl of milk anymore; I’m lactose intolerant as it is. And alcohol makes my head hurt.

Stay strong out there, black, queer women. Our space is coming soon.

PnP culture is killing us: Queer man leaves the parTy, embraces pride

Story by Jimmy Cheatham, Lexington

Art by Joshua Riley

Queer. To me, that word means living outside of the heteronormative/cisnormative world that we see everywhere we look. I’ve been queer long before I identified as a cis gay man. Growing up in rural Kentuckiana I always knew there was something queer about me and that I did not fit into the mold that my society and culture expected of me. I’m 35, and while we still have a long way to go, LGBTQ+ representation was not a thing you saw in the media when I was a child and it certainly wasn’t taught in grade school. To Wong Foo was released in 1995, I was 12. Ellen came out on her television series in 1997, I was 14. Will & Grace first aired in September 1998, I was 15. Prior to this, I had no knowledge of any LGBTQ+ culture and thought my queerness was something to reject. Conforming to the norm felt obligatory, yet was unachievable.

Addict. Such a cringeworthy term to most. Not something one would aspire to become. The word itself comes from the Latin word addictus which means to sacrifice, sell out, betray, or abandon. Those definitions ring true to me. What began as recreational drug and alcohol use at 16 to escape my inability to erase my queerness, eventually led me to inadvertently sacrifice everything else of any value in my life. Smoking weed and drinking booze led to snorting coke and popping pills. Every line I said I would never cross, was eventually crossed with ease. I would never be a “junkie”, I may do a lot of things, but I’ll never be as bad as “that person” …until I became “that person.” By the age of 25 I was injecting meth and life was a spiraling shit storm with a one-way ticket to rock bottom. Rock bottom happened in 2012, at 28, when I was arrested and eventually told I had 2 options: jail or rehab. A queen would never choose jail, so I chose the latter. I’m grateful that I didn’t choose to keep digging to make my bottom even lower {insert gay joke here}.

Recovery. A refreshing term that insinuates survival. That’s what it means to me. I survived a sinking ship. Addiction typically leads to either jails, institutions, or recovery if you’re lucky. The unlucky ones get buried. With the rate that our fellow humans are perishing from overdose related death, I consider myself to be very fortunate. When I began my journey of recovery, I didn’t really know who Jimmy was because I had spent so many years hidden behind the veil of substances. After completing a 28-day treatment program, I entered a long-term 12-month recovery program for men. I began to get a sense of who I was and who I wanted to be. A vision for a future began to materialize and, for once in a long time, I had hope. I worked low paying jobs in the beginning, but I was the happiest I had ever been. I made friends who were also in recovery and I no longer felt alone in life. Eventually I began to unlearn all those toxic ideas about my queerness and I began to embrace it lovingly. Not only was I recovering from addiction to substances, but I was also recovering from the indoctrination of dangerous societal and cultural beliefs and dogma that being LGBTQ+ was inherently wrong. The need to feel like I had to conform slipped away and I embraced, and am still in the process of embracing, every little part of me. There are no good or bad parts, there only parts that are more difficult to embrace.

Pride. One definition is “delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship.” That is the definition that most resonates with me. I take delight in being a gay man. I take pride in standing as an ally to every person who identifies as LGBTQ+. Being a minority has taught me to empathize with others who are oppressed and marginalized, and I am proud of that. I am proud that I took adversity, in the form of addiction, and turned it into a strength in my life. I am turning my life experience into a career and will be entering grad school in the fall, with an end goal of becoming a clinical social worker and helping other LGBTQ+ individuals with substance misuse issues. I am so proud that I have chosen to travel this path. As queer folx, we all face many obstacles in life, even if substances aren’t a part of everyone’s story. No matter the obstacles, there is always hope to be found and pride to be had.

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.

‘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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