Sarah Gardiner – Gay/Lesbian, She/Her/Hers
Owner of Nanny Goat Books, writer, editor, and small-press publisher
Queer is a word I’ve only recently adopted. When I came out at 19, Gay was the umbrella term used for anyone in my LGBTQ+ circle. I was living in DC at the time, and though the community was incredibly inclusive, diverse, and of course, political, “standard” terminology was still the go-to for those around me.
Though I am a lesbian, that was never a word I adopted or was used to describe me, and queer was simply not used at all. Perhaps that was due to the age of many in my circle who had lived through a time when that word was thrown at them like a bullet rather than a badge. Or perhaps it was because we were still fighting for marriage equality and many felt that simplified language would help us win our basic rights. Whatever it was, it is changing, and I couldn’t be happier by that shift.
The first time I heard queer as a positive identifier, it felt radical and beautiful. It was the perfect fit for the umbrella of a community made of up so many unique and diverse members. It felt like the opposite of standard. We’ve always been radical, and words that support our fight are more important now than ever.
I’m from Louisville and, after being away for a while, moved back over a year ago. Moving back to Kentucky has been one of the most incredible decisions of my life. I left to go out and explore other places and, particularly after I came out, much of that exploration revolved around discovering queerness elsewhere. When I left Kentucky at 18, I had no idea just how wonderfully queer the state can be. I was pulled toward more “traditionally” LGBTQ+ spaces, but in doing so I missed the beauty of Kentucky and our community. Coming home and rediscovering that community has been wonderful on so many levels.
To any/all struggling with their identity, You are not alone. I know exactly where you have been. We all do. And it isn’t easy, but it is the most beautiful journey I have ever been on, and I believe you will feel the same with some time. The journey is the difficult part, but there is a community out here for you who have been through it and support you every step of the way. I was lucky enough to have many incredible influences within the community while coming out and as I found my footing in life. The care of others and the knowledge that I was not alone in my journey helped me become the proudly queer person I am today. In the end, it is amazing where life takes you after all the twists and turns. And that destination is beautiful beyond belief.
My queer identity influences so much of how I carry myself and interact in this world. From the way I present myself to the people I surround myself with, LGBTQ+ culture is at the core of who I am. As a writer, publisher, and bookstore owner, I also find myself considering how I can promote queer writing and ideas on a daily level. Amplifying the voices of the community is one of my driving factors personally and professionally.
Because of this, I feel at my best, on a day to day basis, at my bookstore. It is a place I built with my own two hands and a place really filled with care and love. Plus, who doesn’t like to be surrounded by books everyday?
On days I am out of the office, I find nothing more relaxing than being out strolling through the the rolling hills and trails that make Kentucky so uniquely beautiful. I grew up hiking down to Harrod’s Creek through winding paths cut in forests that felt untouched by time and society. These woods and rolling hills were what called me back home to the to the land I love. The spirit of this state has a way of seeding itself deep into the hearts of Kentuckians. This place is ours.