John Brooks

John Brooks

With her recent hyperbolic and vitriolic column ("Guest columnist: Not proud of Capital Pride Kentucky," Oct. 23), attorney Phyllis Sower vividly demonstrates why public celebrations of LGBTQ Pride and Fairness Ordinances are still absolutely necessary. 

I am no longer a Frankfort resident and was unable to attend this year’s Frankfort Pride, but as a native Frankfortian and a gay man, I have been thrilled to see such public hometown support.

During my youth in Frankfort I saw no public — or private, for that matter — representation or reflection of who I was; subsequently I thought I was alone. I was also raised in a church in which I was told explicitly and implicitly that people like me were fundamentally flawed. My school and church could have been sources of love and acceptance — instead they were the opposite. Despite a stable and loving family environment, these facts created a broader reality in which I did not feel safe, welcome or even fully human, and this led to struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts.

My story is but one of many similar stories. In high school (and beyond), I found friends who accepted and loved me in my entirety and encountered adults who managed to telegraph an openness and an acceptance at a time when it was dangerous to do so.

But, of course, in certain localities it still is dangerous to do so. Just this week news broke that a heterosexual employee of a Catholic school in Indiana was fired simply for making public statements in support of LGBTQ colleagues who were themselves terminated because of their sexual orientation. These employees have filed federal lawsuits claiming discrimination. Because there is currently no federal law explicitly protecting LGBTQ citizens, it is unclear what the outcome of these lawsuits will be.

What is clear, based on her comments, is that Sower thinks it is perfectly acceptable to fire people based on their sexual orientation or simply because they are accepting of the sexual orientation of colleagues. 

Sower asks, “What is the purpose of our city government?” It certainly isn’t simply to abide by the strictures of “those who follow orthodox Biblical truth,” or as in this case, how one person defines said truth. Frankfort city government does indeed represent all citizens, including its LGBTQ citizens, who have a right to be seen, heard, and yes, even celebrated after decades and generations of oppression, victimization, intimidation and even worse. The city’s overt embrace of LGBTQ symbology is a simple and compassionate gesture that lets us know that we belong, too. 

With regard to the Kentucky Fried Sisters, what they do is a form of performance art and whether or not one is offended (by clothing and makeup?), the fact is that the Sisters do a lot of good. They have raised incredible amounts of money for charities all over the country.

Sower may be surprised to learn that in a 2008 book titled "Catholic and Queer," the Sisters explained that “their mode of dress was meant not only to employ the fabulous attire that had been forsaken by Catholic non-cloistered orders, but that their dedication to community service is an attempt to honor and emulate [the] unstinting devotion of actual nuns who work within their neighborhoods.” That doesn’t sound at all to me like mockery or hate speech. 

Fairness ordinances and communities that advertise themselves as open and welcoming to all people are attractive to expanding or relocating businesses. Statistics show that the vast majority of Americans have no issue with LQBTQ equality, and this is particularly the case among young people. If Frankfort wants to continue to grow, attract new residents, and be relevant in the 21st century economy, the Fairness Ordinance and an embrace of Pride events are necessities. 

The reality Sower seems to wish upon us is emotionless, dispassionate and completely lacking in any sort of empathy for the experiences of others. She even parrots the tired but all too common complaint made by those who oppose LGBTQ equality of conflating our visibility with “promoting sexual behavior.”

Just like heterosexuals, those of us in the LGBTQ community are complex human beings; our sexuality is part of who we are, but it isn’t everything. And that’s the thing about pride events — it is about us, but it’s also about you. Pride events endeavor to bring people together.

I hope to attend next year’s Frankfort Pride event. It’s a good thing for my hometown. It would have been a great thing for me as a young person — it might have saved me a lot of suffering.

To Pride’s opponents, I ask why not try to have some fun? Lighten up. Talk to your neighbors, your fellow citizens and human beings. You might be surprised how much we have in common or how much we can accomplish together with kindness, compassion and acceptance.

John Brooks is an artist and gallerist who lives in Louisville. He can be emailed at johnebrooks@gmail.com.

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