Spencer Jenkins: You can thrive and be yourself in ‘Queer Kentucky’

Queer Kentucky came to life when Spencer Jenkins decided it was past time for him to start living life to its fullest. 

He founded Queer Kentucky, an LGBTQ+ publication and diversity, equity and inclusion consulting nonprofit, which started his healing and since significantly impacted the lives of queer Southerners and Appalachians. Jenkins, a Louisville native, also co-hosts the Beards and Lavender podcast.

“Building Queer Kentucky has been the most amazing journey possible,” he said. “The amount of trauma that happened to lead to Queer Kentucky is absurd, but it has been a healing thing for me. And I have watched it become a healing thing for others as well.”

The organization started as a simple, free WordPress site for Jenkins to highlight LGBTQ+ voices and lives in Kentucky. Now, the organization, coming up on its fifth anniversary, works to “bolster and enhance queer culture and health” through storytelling, education and visibility. 

And visibility was what started it all for Jenkins. 

“I always felt incredibly alone as a queer person,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t queer enough to join certain groups. I wasn’t comfortable with myself, so I isolated myself.”

Growing up in the early 2000s, he said, he watched as “Queer As Folk,” and other LGBTQ+ media came out, but he found difficulty connecting — to see himself, an average queer Kentuckian represented fully. Jenkins yearned for normalcy and locality in queer culture. 

“There was nothing that said, ‘I am a normal fucking person. I’m queer. I live in your state, and you don’t have to leave. You don’t have to run away. You can be your authentic self and thrive here.’”

Since building on that idea, Jenkins said Queer Kentucky has made other people feel less alone in their communities. Jenkins and the Queer Kentucky team have worked with leaders in Louisville to put non-binary people and Black, Brown and Indigenous people at the forefront of change in the area. 

It has been a pleasant surprise, Jenkins said, to meet so many company leaders and community business owners that buy-in 100% to the mission of trans-inclusive workshops. In 2021, over 500 people participated in Trans-Inclusive workshops conducted by the Queer Kentucky team.

In addition to diversity and inclusion training and storytelling, Jenkins makes it a priority to pivot when his community is in need. Queer Kentucky recently raised over $12,000 for LGBTQ+ storm victims in Western Kentucky.

Moving forward in 2022, Queer Kentucky will continue telling the stories of Queer Southerners through its storytelling platform. And Jenkins hopes to expand their mission of education. 

If you’d like to learn more about Jenkins and the team at Queer Kentucky, follow them on Instagram, TikTok and Facebook or visit their website.

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