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What radical courage does it take to love in the face of hate? Through portraiture and personal narratives highlighting joy, belonging, found family and meaningful romantic and platonic relationships, KBIA’s Alphabet Soup challenges the notion that Missouri’s LGBTQ+ community is a monolith.Tucked away within the amalgamation of letters that makes up the LGBTQ+ community and the complex identities each represents is joy: rebellious, resistant, radiant. If you have a story you would like to share, visit https://tinyurl.com/LGBTQJoy or contact news@kbia.org.Created by Bailey Stover.

Kellen Sapp: "My faith is tied to my queerness. I believe that I was created this way."

Kellen Sapp sits on the floor on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at her childhood home in Columbia. Sapp, who is a 20-year-old asexual and transgender woman, is currently studying theater with an emphasis in lighting design at the University of Oklahoma. Growing up, her family raised her in a Christian faith community that preached “a gospel of love.” Sapp said she feels fully in harmony with holding both queer and religious identities, particularly as she has begun sharing her transness with her college friends, her family and members of her church. “Part of why being honest about all of these different identities is so important to making art is because I am happier than I ever was before, and I'm less scared of who I am, and that makes me a better artist, ” Sapp said. “Queer joy for me is joy that is tied to the connection between queer people and in queer community and with our queer selves. It's when I'm so happy that I'm trans—not just that I'm honest with myself, but that I get to be trans and that I get to be queer and that I get to exist with queer people in this world.”
Bailey Stover
/
KBIA
Kellen Sapp sits on the floor on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at her childhood home in Columbia. Sapp, who is a 20-year-old asexual and transgender woman, is currently studying theater with an emphasis in lighting design at the University of Oklahoma. Growing up, her family raised her in a Christian faith community that preached “a gospel of love.” Sapp said she feels fully in harmony with holding both queer and religious identities, particularly as she has begun sharing her transness with her college friends, her family and members of her church. “Part of why being honest about all of these different identities is so important to making art is because I am happier than I ever was before, and I'm less scared of who I am, and that makes me a better artist, ” Sapp said. “Queer joy for me is joy that is tied to the connection between queer people and in queer community and with our queer selves. It's when I'm so happy that I'm trans—not just that I'm honest with myself, but that I get to be trans and that I get to be queer and that I get to exist with queer people in this world.”

Kellen Sapp is a transgender woman who grew up in Columbia. She describes herself as a “faithful queer artist” and spoke about how her queerness and her Christianity are connected.

Alphabet Soup shares LGBTQ+ Missourians’ stories through portraiture and personal narratives.

Kellen Sapp: I'm not worried or concerned with people knowing that I'm trans. I'm not trying to be a cisgender woman, but I would like it to be clear to the people I interact with that I am not a man.

I don't want to have to tell people who I am. I would like for them to just know, and that is a dumb thing to say. We obviously have to share who we are for people know who we actually are, of course, but there's sort of part of me that wishes that wasn't true.

"I am wholly wrapped up in a family that loves me, and my participation in a faith community is part of that."
Kellen Sapp

For a long time, I felt that the disclosure of my identity was a big deal. I think I'm in, I've reached a weird place where I'm like not concerned about telling people because I don't really – it feels more casual.

Maybe it's like practice, but like, I have practice being honest now, and so, it feels less like a big deal. Making the declaration the first time like, I” am trans. I am a girl.” That was a big deal, and now it's not.

Disclosing that to people now is like so much less important to me because simply living that honest truth is, is a way bigger deal and way more important to me. It's less about that moment of honesty than just a fully realized, honest life as myself.

I am so lucky to have existed in and participated in church communities that love queer people. My experience at all of the churches I've attended has been preaching of a Gospel of love for everyone.

And so, in no way, does my queerness feel incongruous with my religion and my faith. In many ways, I think my faith is tied to my queerness. I believe that I was created this way.

Kellen Sapp plays with a ring on her right hand on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at her childhood home in Columbia. She said she began discovering more about her own gender identity during her first semester of college. “There's the sort of obvious gender affirmation [that] comes from people using the correct pronouns for me, but there's so much beyond that. Like when people compliment my nails, that's gender affirming,” Sapp said. “Getting my ears pierced was far more gender affirming than I anticipated at all, but now I get to pick out cute little earrings everyday and put those in. And I know that there's a lot more to femininity than just that, but that's where I'm finding joy and I'm not gonna get mad about that.”
Bailey Stover
/
KBIA
Kellen Sapp plays with a ring on her right hand on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at her childhood home in Columbia. She said she began discovering more about her own gender identity during her first semester of college. “There's the sort of obvious gender affirmation [that] comes from people using the correct pronouns for me, but there's so much beyond that. Like when people compliment my nails, that's gender affirming,” Sapp said. “Getting my ears pierced was far more gender affirming than I anticipated at all, but now I get to pick out cute little earrings everyday and put those in. And I know that there's a lot more to femininity than just that, but that's where I'm finding joy and I'm not gonna get mad about that.”

I'm going to I'm going to misquote this, but someone wrote that God created trans people for the same reason that God created wheat and grapes and not bread and wine so that humanity might participate in the act of creation.

I am fulfilling my purpose in being myself. I am wholly wrapped up in a family that loves me, and my participation in a faith community is part of that – like that is the family that loves me, as I was made and as I am. Those things are not disconnected or in conflict, but, in fact, fully harmonious.

Bailey Stover is a multimedia journalist who graduated in May 2024. She is the creator and voice of "Alphabet Soup," which runs weekly on KBIA.
Rebecca Smith is an award-winning reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth Desk. Born and raised outside of Rolla, Missouri, she has a passion for diving into often overlooked issues that affect the rural populations of her state – especially stories that broaden people’s perception of “rural” life.
Nick Sheaffer is the photo editor for KBIA's Alphabet Soup. He graduated with a Bachelor's in Journalism from the University of Missouri in May 2024.
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