Kansas City PrideFest

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Michael West

Michael West:

Winner of the PrideFest 2017 Slogan Contest
“Stand Up, Stand Out, Stand Proud”

“Being out at work and within the community has helped connect me with so many great people that I may never have known if I had stayed closeted..”

My story of coming out starts when I was around 18, when I first came out to my mom via a friend of mine calling her and giving her the news, because I was too chicken. Even though I knew she knew I was gay, I still had a personal dilemma with actually saying the words “I’m Gay”. Growing up, I knew being gay was not normal and not widely accepted and living in small towns, there wasn’t much of a support system to rely on. Moving down here to Kansas City I think helped me ease into being more comfortable with it. I met other gay people and befriended them, in fact, I think the first person I came out to was my gay friend who for a long time thought I was straight and just really accepting of the gay lifestyle, boy was he surprised.

A short time later, I met my partner for life Larry, and we have been together now for over 17 years. Larry was a repeat customer of mine and one day we decided to go out, I still don’t know how he knew I was gay, but I’m really glad he figured it out. Kansas City has really provided me with many opportunities, from getting a great job to meeting many inspiration people within the LGBTQ community. Through the many outlets here in Kansas City, I have been able to meet and work with amazing charitable groups, such as “The Whole Person”, “Artists Helping the Homeless, the AIDS Walk, Making Strides, etc. Being out at work and within the community has helped connect me with so many great people, that I may never have known if I had stayed closeted. The LGBT community in Kansas City and surrounding metro is a vibrant one and very committed to helping others of all walks of life, not just others in the LGBT people.

This year I am honored that my slogan, “Stand Up, Stand Out, Stand Proud” was selected to be the slogan for the 2017 Gay PrideFest. I feel that after all we have gone through lately within the LGBTQ community, the Pulse nightclub massacre, politics beating us down left and right, the transgender bathroom debate, marriage equality and so on and so on. We need to as a community continue to Stand Up for our rights, Stand Out so the world can see us and hear our voices and Stand Proud to be a part of such a great LGBTQ community. We can never again let our voices be silenced and our rights taken away. The men and women who took a stand at Stonewall back in 1969 deserve to be honored and we can do that by continuing the fight for equal rights and freedoms.

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Tiffany Johnson

Tiffany Johnson

“My name is Tiffany … I’m pansexual and I fall in love with personalities not labels.”

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas CityI have lived in Kansas City since the age of 3 years old until now (except 6 years of my life when I moved away for college). At the age of 12 I had an idea I liked girls and not just guys. I did not bother to think deeply about it until the age of 14 when my best friend came out as bisexual. I realized then that I had a crush on her. The other students were pretty accepting of her. So I finally came out. At the time my label was “bisexual”. However, I was not accepted. It turned into a nightmare. Students called me names, laughed at me, pushed me into lockers, put death threats in my locker, wrote horrible things about me in others yearbooks, and said horrible things to my face. It was so bad I was pulled out of school but my mother did not know the true reasoning. She thought it was because I was outspoken.

I was home schooled for a short time. During this time I had no friends. When I returned to school I went to different school district. I remained in the closet while I was there. I only was out to my 2 best friends. Then college came and I became the Vice-President of the Gay-Straight Alliance. Out of fear from what happened to me when I was younger, I only outed myself to a few people. I presented myself as an ally. I finally became tired of not being true to myself and came out again as bisexual because that is what I felt I was at the time. I always knew I was very accepting of everyone no matter what but I did not see that that played into my orientation at that time.

I was still in the closet to my mother. I dated boys to make it easier on myself but had fun with a couple of girls. At the age of 20, I could not resist my urge to be with a girl again so I started dating and started a relationship with a girl that turned into a long-term relationship. This encouraged me to come out to my mother. I was tired of being in the closet. I wanted out and I wanted the world to know. However, due to the high of finally really being with a girl I came out as lesbian. After almost 4 and half years that relationship ended. I debated with myself about what gender I was the most interested in. This was when the truth came out. At the age of 25, just 2 years ago, I finally found out how my acceptance of everyone was part of my orientation. I started dating a girl who started opening up and came out as transgender. Some of my friends were like “I thought you were a lesbian?”, “Are you okay with this?”, “How can you be okay with this and so accepting?”. I embraced it! Not only did my transgender boyfriend realize his true self the experience allowed me to find my true pansexual orientation.

Since coming out as pansexual I get a lot of questions. Even within the LGBT community some people understand but some do not. They say I am confused, I cannot like everything, etc. I do not focus on whether you’re straight, bisexual, transgender, genderfluid, bigender, genderqueer, male, female, hermaphrodite, tall, short, black, white, or pink, etc. I fall in love with personalities not the labels.

For more information on Pansexuality: stop-homophobia.com/pansexuality.htm

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Hunter Wills

Hunter Wills

“My chosen name is Hunter … I came out to my close friends and family as Trans last March and have been in the process of transitioning ever since.”

LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas CityMy chosen name is Hunter. I have lived and been a part of the Kansas City lgbt community for a little over 13 years. I came out to my close friends and family as Trans last March and have been in the process of transitioning ever since.

There is a fair amount of support for Trans people in Kansas City but it’s not always just out there for you to see. The likeme lighthouse has definitely been a benefit and somewhere that is safe for everyone.

While I talk about the general community as a whole in KC my support system in itself has been phenomenal from my mom’s, to my friends, right down to my hairstylist. I love this town and the people in it and one day when I leave I will take their kindness and openness with me and share it like it has been shared with me.

For more information: originalplumbing.com and point5cc.com


The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Mads Billings

Mads Billings

“My name is Mads Billings, I am a 22 year old gender fluid, and I am an aromantic asexual. But more importantly: I am a human. And this is my story.”

LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas CityAn aromantic, or “aro” (pronounced “a row”), is someone who does not experience romantic attraction. An asexual, or “ace,” is someone who does not experience sexual attraction.

Growing up I always thought myself to just be neutral, being both an aro and gender fluid I’ve always kind of walked the middle line. I never fit in with any social group when young; girls thought I was too tomboy, and boys didn’t want to hang out with a girl, so besides the small group I found I didn’t get much attention or appreciation from anyone. Because of that I thought that when those around me started talking about dating and kissing, it was simply because I didn’t fit in that I didn’t want to join in the conversation. I saw nothing wrong with how I felt, since there was nothing I was feeling. Of course I got comments, things like “you just haven’t met the right person,” “you’re a late bloomer,” and my personal favorite: “maybe there’s something wrong with you.” But despite the hate the world gave me I still didn’t see a problem. It wasn’t until I got into a sticky situation when I was 17 that the search for a word for how I felt even begun. After that I would hop from relationship to relationship, trying to prove to not only those around me, but to myself, that I COULD function like a “normal” human being.

For nearly three years I did everything in my power to pretend to be someone else, I blamed everything I thought was wrong with me on my mental state and swept it under the rug. It wasn’t until I moved back into my mother’s house at age 20 that I reevaluated my life. I started doing searches on Google, and it took me a while but I came across a website that brought me to tears. It was a group on Tumblr where asexuals could send in questions looking for advice. Each ask was almost like it was sent in from a part of me I had been repressing for so long. And slowly the pieces fit together.

Finding an identity for myself, after nearly 21 years of stumbling around in the darkness, opened the door to a whole other world. Finding my identity gave me the confidence, and the voice, that I never had before. I began opening up to people more, trying to help others the way I felt that group helped me. Now, at 22, I am an LGBT activist, I’ve helped run online support groups, I’ve answered questions about sexual and romantic orientation, and am currently in the process of getting a support group made for asexual and aromantic individuals in the KCMO area. Asexuality and Aromanticism are severely overlooked and misunderstood orientations, and I want to help spread the word. People like us ARE out there. People like us DO exist. And we are wanting to be heard, just like all other LGBT groups.

If you are interested in more information on asexuality and aromanticism, or if you are interested in being a part of the ace/aro support group please send me an email at silverbillings@gmail.com. You can also visit: asexuality.org

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Akeah Frazier

Akeah Frazier

I just want to give all of my friends who have been there for me since coming out a shout out. Without them, loving & supporting me I probably wouldn’t be out or open about my sexuality.

LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas CityI’ve had some family support but I’ve have had a lot more support from friends. It was about year ago after being bullied at school, where I stopped caring what others thought of me. Yes, there has been some rough patches but I’ve closed that chapter and learned to forgive anyone who has ever brought me down. I’ve learned holding grudges really get you no where.

I’ve come to conclusion that I’m gonna be myself & live life to the fullest. I will date who I like, love who I love & marry who I want to marry. It may not be what most people like, but eventually they’ll learn to deal with it. Love knows no gender and I’m proud to be who I am!

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Zachary Mallory

Zachary Mallory

“Being in the LGBTQIA community of Kansas City has shaped me into the person I am today. This community has empowered me and inspired me to my full potential. Being in this community has risen me from being the victim to becoming a national advocate.”

LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas CityNot everyone can say that they live in such an amazing city as Kansas City. Diversity is Kansas City’s specialty. Kansas City has been nothing but the best for me. The community is what keeps me going and inspiring others to share their stories. Being born and raised in a community that not only accepts you, but embraces you to see your full potential is what everyone dreams of. Because of this community, it has made me live my life the way that I want to.

Thanks to the community of Kansas City I have spoken at numerous events throughout the Kansas City Metro, and that has advanced my advocacy to the National level. It’s all because of this community that I am proud to call home. I can speak at events and not have to worry about backlash of those who are not supportive of me. I can be on the news and see both negative and positive comments, with the positivity over running the negative.

Check out this video of Zach sharing his personal story: LGBTQ Activist Zach Mallory


The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Ashley K

Ashley Kendrick

“We are lucky to have a city that accepts our community and supports us with equality. I never take it for granted.”

LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas CityI am so grateful to live in a city that not only accepts me for who I am; but embraces me fully.  I think about all the people in our history that have had to endure extreme prejudices and judgement so that I can live an open, loving life in this city and I am eternally thankful to them.  I may not know their names or their stories but I do know that for the first time in recent history I can love my soon-to-be wife in public.  I can hold her hand and laugh while I touch her shoulder or hug her – and the world around me smiles back. I can run a successful business while also being openly gay. We are lucky to have a city that accepts our community and supports us with equality. I never take it for granted.   We are all making the world a better place for living our truths and paving an easier path for LGBT generations to follow and know that they are exactly who they are supposed to be while being supported.

Ashley Kendrick | Chartwell Realty | D: 816.699.7566 | www.ashleykendrick.com

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Mike G

Mike Green

“I have enough courage to be proud of who I am and proud to be a G in the LGBTQIA community of Kansas City.”

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City“Learning to love the person you are has been a challenge for me. Being a member of the gay community sometimes leaves me feeling on the outside and definitely not included. The way I look on the outside and how I present myself is left to a lot of scrutiny.  Love may sometimes be the cure but getting it and feeling it is another story. I have been blessed with a loving and supportive family that love me for me. If they can love me then I can love me. Their love is my cure. I’m fortunate enough to know that there are others just like me. Even though I don’t participate as much as I would like I know there is somewhere I can feel included. I wanna give a shout out to the KC Bear Mafia, a group founded on inclusion in the KC area, no matter what you identify with. The events, outings, dinners, and charity events give me the opportunity to be and feel included, a part of something. I have enough courage to be proud of who I am and proud to be a G in the LGBTQIA community of Kansas City.”


The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City: Mat B

Mat Bridegan (winner of the 2015 PrideFest theme with Love is the Cure)

“My tough road is a real blessing … The most I had to do, was accept myself and shut out what others think … Always remember no matter the situation good or bad that Love is The Cure.”

The LGBTQIA Humans of Kansas City“I’m truly grateful that I have the opportunity to tell readers about my journey as a young gay man in Kansas City! Sure life’s a tough road, but luckily my tough road is a real blessing. I didn’t have to be poor, I didn’t have to have no friends, commit a crime, or even get into fights. The most I had to do was accept myself and shut out what others think. At the age of 14 I came to terms with being gay – meaning I was openly gay. I had an amazing high school and college experience. After graduating from UCA-Conway I moved back to KC. In 2008 everything became clear. Stepping into Outabounds Sports Bar – who would have thought I would be hooked? Taking on the doorman position would soon lead to me managing the bar all together. In 2009 I won the title of Mr. Gay Pride KC. Now, I’m looking back at the past eight years, the ups and downs I have been through, the great memories already made – looking forward to making new ones – and noticing how strong it made me in creating who I am today. I can proudly say it’s because of the Kansas City LGBT community. Thank You! I’m excited to see what the future holds. Always remember no matter the situation good or bad that Love is The Cure.”