In the world before the one we now live in, today Lexington would have celebrated its LGBTQ+ community at its annual Pride Festival, one of the city’s largest and merriest community events.
In the world before the one we now live in, today the temperatures would have risen above 90 degrees, the summer sun trying to scorch the energy out of thousands of festival goers from all over Kentucky, drag queens clad in rainbow glitter, vendors, local organizers, and college students committed to social justice.
Because of COVID-19, the annual Pride Festival was postponed until October 2020.
Instead, today the LGBTQ+ community stood in solidarity with the Black Lives Matters movement in Lexington at a Pride Protest March. And though it rained, Lexington’s drag queens, too, showed up and marched.
In honor of Pride Month, today Kurt and I share the photographs of Shady Coutour, Petty Giuliana Poussey, and Uma Jewels. We begin with Shady’s story about finding the courage to live one’s own truth:
“As I stand at the entrance of my home, adorned in intricate crystal jewels and enveloped in a custom violet sequin gown, I feel beautiful. Beside me, my betrothed, grinning at me with a thousand-watt smile. The neighbor’s daughter splashes playfully in her miniature pool next door, giddy with laughter as she embarks on an imaginary adventure. Cars enter our townhome community; residents are rushing home from work to start dinner and enjoy their evening. An older resident sets out on his daily walk with his adorable Shiba Inu, the dog taking the lead as he tracks the familiar path. Birds chatter perched on their rooftop abodes as the sun peeks out behind the overcast sky. It’s a warm June afternoon, but there is a slight spring breeze in the air. As if on cue, the wind sweeps in and sets my purple tresses alight with movement. The locks dance in front of my vision as I look out on a beautiful day; I breathe in the crisp air and let out a sigh of contempt pleasure. Positioned in our manicured lawn feet away from bushes of roses and patches of daylilies, entangled in the normalcy of our neighborhood, my love and I stand in blaring technicolor as proud Queens. An interracial queer couple dressed as fairytale royalty, set in broad daylight amongst the watching eyes of neighbors; we smile for the camera, without hesitation or fear, boldly standing in our truth.
Finding the courage to stand in your truth is a journey fraught with battles of sadness and disappointment. We assimilate into the world and follow the path set before us, one that doesn’t upset social constructs or societal norms. I remember those early battles, growing up as a poor black boy with an immense imagination but having no outlet for my fantasies. My life was written for me by my parents, my religion, my peers, society, and history. Even in childhood, we are told who we are, what we should aspire to, and have limitations placed upon us. Shackled with the fear of societal disappointment, I grew into a stranger, a mere shell of the person I knew I was. Going about life as if cast on a television show, merely playing a role, following the script written for me. I played the part of the lost boy, the quiet sometimes funny but always apprehensive, never sure of themselves. Never popular nor good looking, more of a background character instead of the ensemble. Living in the silence of my childhood evils and secrets of my inner truth, I emerged into early adulthood more lost than ever. Riddled with depression from unresolved family dramas and disheartened with the pain of living a lie, I contemplated leaving this world for another. I always thought death was the only solution to ending my misery, but I discovered rebirth was the actual ascension from my despair.
The road to self-discovery is lonely; you can surround yourself with love and encouragement from friends and family, but it’s a personal decision. A decision to shed the shell of normalcy and break the chains of mediocrity is one of the terrifying choices you can make. As frightening as it may be to break free of the bonds of complacency, not changing scared me more. I decided to leave behind the life chosen for me and forged into the unknown, discovering my true self, and living my life free of past constraints. In freeing myself, I found peace and then came love, the elusive dream we all wish for. Love was a faraway land that I didn’t think I would find, but I stumbled into its hidden garden the moment I stopped searching. With love came hope, the promise of dreams come true, and wishes turned into reality. Accepting my truth brought me peace and opened my heart to love and changed my very existence. I am the author of my desire; I no longer trek the path assigned to me but create my road to destiny. My adventure awaits, and with my beloved at my side, we will chase the wonders of life, without fear, forever entwined in our great love.”