Wherever I go, I tend to strike up conversations with strangers from other parts of the United States. Sooner or later, I tell them that I am transgender and from Kentucky. People ask me how things are for me living here.
My response is that I am from Lexington, which is open-minded and accepting of diversity. Then I always say, "plus we have a fairness ordinance that protects many of my rights that other people in the rest of our commonwealth do not enjoy."
In fact, Lexington was the first of nine cities in Kentucky with laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. I had no idea how vital such laws were until I "came out" as transgender. Since I started writing about these issues, I have talked with several people from other parts of Kentucky who lost their jobs when they started their transition. I have heard from others who lost their housing due to discrimination, not to mention the many LGBTQ people who have to keep their secret or face harassment or violence.
The fairness ordinance makes Lexington a better and more equitable place to live and work for everyone, which does a lot to make our city welcoming, certainly more so than places with no such protections.
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Most people in Lexington are willing to "live and let live," no matter to whom we might be attracted or how we might express our gender.
This brings me to the rest of Kentucky. I love all the parts of my home state. I was born and raised in Louisville. As a kid we would travel down U.S. 31 to Tennessee, where my dad was from. Stopping at the Wigwam Village restaurant near Bowling Green (where advocates are pushing for a fairness ordinance) is still one of my favorite memories.
I went to high school and college in Lexington. My family vacations were always at Kentucky and Barkley Lakes in Western Kentucky. While in college I spent most every weekend at the Red River Gorge. Now I wonder if I would be welcomed at many of the places that I have such fond memories of.
Many transgender people live our lives openly. We stick out in a crowd because we do not fit gender norms.
I am tall, with hands and feet bigger that most women. I speak with a deep voice. I will not go stealth by wearing men's clothes and trying to act manly to gain acceptance. I am not afraid even though I am told I should use more caution when I go to certain places in our state.
Maybe I should. I am sure others stay away because of these perceptions.
I attended the Stanton City Council meeting Thursday night at the reading of a fairness ordinance brought by Michael Frazier, a Powell County resident who goes to the University of Kentucky.
He spoke before the group, which had a polite but lively debate. The council wanted to get more feedback and decided to give it 90 days until they voted. This seemed fair.
The one thing that appeared to resonate with the people attending was that they did not want to discriminate against anybody. There were several church leaders who gave positive remarks. It would be great to see them step up for fairness and get a law passed.
Until we can convince state legislators about the importance of a statewide fairness ordinance, we need to ask local leaders in communities across the state to implement them to have a better place for citizens to live and work.
Midway and Vicco showed that small cities in Kentucky can pass these laws. From what I heard from the leaders of Stanton, I have a lot of hope that they will pass a fairness ordinance because it is the right thing to do.