Amid NKY Pride celebration, organizers want to highlight obstacles still facing LGBTQ people

COVINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky has been a red state since the dawn of the new millennium, but Bonnie Meyer and the other organizers of NKY Pride want to highlight the other colors that make the Bluegrass State more diverse than its national reputation might suggest.

"Regardless of background, regardless of identity, our festival is intentionally very welcoming," Meyer said.

That's why its motto is "Ya'll means all!" 

Amid celebrations of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer culture, including a pride parade and festival on Sunday afternoon, Meyer said she hopes she's able to highlight the more serious issues facing LGBTQ people in the modern United States.

"We don't always recognize that it's still completely legal to fire a person or deny them housing or accommodation in most states in this country, still today, based on a person's sexual orientation or gender," she said.

Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana are among those states. Although all have recognized same-sex marriage since 2015, none of the three has a statewide law specifically meant to protect LGBTQ people from being fired, refused housing, bullied in schools or barred from "public accommodations" such as restrooms.

The stress of existing on a tightrope -- protected and accepted in some ways but not others -- filters down to the most vulnerable LGBTQ people: Children.

"Not only are they experiencing heartbreaking levels of stress, anxiety and rejection, many also feel overwhelmingly unsafe," Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin said.

A new Human Rights Campaign survey indicated that while their straight peers worry most about grades, LGBTQ teenagers worry most about more fundamental issues: Whether their loved ones will support them for who they are, whether they will be bullied in school and whether they can freely participate in social activities their peers enjoy.

More than 60 percent of transgender teenagers who responded to the survey said they had "never" been a part of a youth group, sports team or community service organization, and 59 percent hadn't ever held a paying job.

Less than 20 percent believed they would be able to find a good job, marry someone they loved, raise children or become an active community member if they stayed in their hometown. How many believed they could simply "be happy" in the same place? Fourteen percent. 

"This is extremely difficult for a kid to go through," 14-year-old transgender activist Riggins Schrader said. "Showing kindness and acceptance will only make it easier."

Schrader successfully transitioned with support from his family and friends. He and Cicchinelli both believe that, while they push for society to become more accepting, LGBTQ teenagers should have better access to supplemental support from doctors, social workers and therapists.

The good news from that HRC survey is that, despite obstacles, 91 percent of respondents said they felt pride in being an LGBTQ person and believed the future could get better.

The Rev. Peter D'Angio of Trinity Episcopal Church thinks so, too.

"As intolerance and hatred rise in this country, we need strong voices of faith countering that," he said.

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