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Bonnie Meyer 'can't imagine' doing anything other than creating LGBTQ spaces

NKY Pride Festival to begin this weekend
Posted at 5:00 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 13:26:17-04

COVINGTON, Ky. — Bonnie Meyer grew up without any teachers who were role models beyond the classroom.

At least, none that she could openly see.

"I can't imagine what my life would have looked like if, in the '80s, I had a teacher who was openly queer and was able to be who they are and live their life and have a photo of their family on their desk," Meyer said. "That stuff matters -- I hear it from families and kids all the time."

It's part of why the founding director of Northern Kentucky University's Office of LGBTQ Programs and Services continues to add roles to her resume.

Meyer is also the co-chair of NKY Pride and the soon-to-open NKY Pride Center. And she has a doctorate in educational culture and curriculum, writing about her experience at NKU.

Bonnie Meyer and kids
Bonnie Meyer and her kids, Kyle and Alyssa, at Coney Island in New York City. Provided.

"I really can't imagine doing anything else but this work. It's very personal to me," she said. "I got into this LGBTQ role because I experienced discrimination in the past through employment discrimination and came out on the other side."

She met her wife, Katie, after attending an event to reclaim a feeling of safety in Covington in the wake of a hate crime. Meyer was a doctoral student at Miami University at the time, involved in Equality Ohio, but looking to get more involved in the regional LGBTQ community. She started volunteering with NKY Pride in 2011.

"Pride is great, but Pride should be 365 days a year," she said. "We wanted to be involved in a 365-days-a-year mission because we know LGBTQ people are a part of every community."

She and Katie worked with the then-organizers of NKY Pride Fest to develop a plan to keep the event going -- and growing. But everyone felt there was a need for something more, and something 365 days a year.

Bonnie Meyer and a rainbow crosswalk
Bonnie Meyer and her wife Katie help paint a rainbow crosswalk. Provided.

"Really, the original mission of the group was that we would move toward having a Pride Center and have a physical space to support youth," Meyer said.

The NKY Pride Center is scheduled to open in July on Pike Street in Covington, with small spaces for retail and support services.

"It started with the need of kids, with counselors looking out for LGBTQ youth and realizing a lot of services are Cincinnati-based, and we need Kentucky-based services," she said. "They need to have a space because they're meeting in places like libraries and coffee shops and homes all across Northern Kentucky."

It won't just be targeted toward youth, she said. There are plans for happy hours and social events and services for struggling LGBTQ people of all ages.

Bonnie Meyer at NKU
Bonnie Meyer is the founding director of LGBTQ Programs and Services at Northern Kentucky University. Provided.

Her focus continues to be young people, though, especially at her other job at NKU. The university hired her in 2013 to start its Office of LGBTQ Programs and Services after student and faculty leaders demanded one.

"It's everything from policy to student life to the academic offerings to campus safety to the facilities," Meyer said. "I think when I look back at my career, it will be one of the most rewarding things I've ever done."

Campus Pride Index just gave NKU a five-star rating, based on all those factors. The communities surrounding campus have started passing fairness ordinances, prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ community members.

"I don't think you can separate that when you have a thriving community on a regional campus and having a supporting community," Meyer said.

The Pride Center will continue that community work.

"We need to continually remind, especially young folks, that there are LGBTQA+ adults who are living out and openly and thriving to provide them that support and that model," Meyer said.

Bonnie Meyer and wife, Katie
Bonnie Meyer and her wife, Katie. Provided.

It's something Meyer didn't see before, but she won't let it go unseen now.

"I never imagined that I would even get to a place where I would be able to live openly and authentically and out as I am," she said. "So to get to where I am now, but also to be able to give back so much and to support youth is a dream I didn't even know I had 15 or 20 years ago."

By creating community spaces and influencing change across Northern Kentucky, Bonnie Meyer is one of the Tri-State's points of pride.

WCPO is committed to telling the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals in the Tri-State year-round. If you know someone who should be recognized as a Point of Pride, send an email to evan.millward@wcpo.com or newsdesk@wcpo.com