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Cortnie Owens

Breaking down gender and body image walls by publicly discussing her experience as a gay, body-positive woman living in Cincinnati

By Holly Rouse · June 26th, 2013 · Pride
pride_cortnieowens_jf3Photo: Jesse Fox
Cortnie Owens has come pretty far from her rural East Side upbringing. After choosing to remain closeted about her sexuality during her high school years, Owens escaped the countryside to pursue a lifestyle decidedly more urban. With platinum blonde hair and arms inked with red roses, her very presence oozes “out” and “proud.” And not just as a queer woman, but as a feminist, as an activist and as an overall badass.

Owens found a home in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Cincinnati, which offered a platform for her activism and put a megaphone to her voice, but her experience as an LGBTQ citizen of Cincinnati isn’t all roses; it has its thorns, too.

“If I’m downtown I see pride flags, but if I’m over the river in Newport or in Clifton getting gas, I get called a dyke when I turn down catcallers,” Owens says. “I can have really great days, and then I’ll be in some random class and I hear people say things during class discussion that I refuse to repeat. There’s nothing like sitting in a class during election season with your professor asking the class to raise their hands if they ‘believe’ in gay marriage, and then being one of the only people to put your hand in the air. It’s heartbreaking.”

Owens started her blog “That Cortnie Girl” (thatcortniegirl.com) as a means of venting about life as a self-described “radical, fat, body-positive, sex-positive, queer feminist” in the Midwest.

She describes her blog as a place for “feminists, queers, fatties, dreams, wishes, body positivity, sex, clothes, culture and so many other things” all rolled into one girly, provocative piece of cyberspace. She blogs, according to her mission statement, “to make people recognize and face their privileges, to show that fat girls can wear whatever they want, to talk about anti-gay meanies and to prove that we still need feminism.”

“It has lead to people emailing or messaging me asking for advice on coming out, or being fat, or having an eating disorder, or having sex for the first time in a queer relationship,” she says. Which is a little different than her day-to-day experience in the city. 

And even though her journey has its highs and lows, Owens’ infectious positivity allows her to roll with the punches Cincinnati throws her way. 

“The more you learn, the more your brain opens, and the more you can imagine that — gasp — someone can like having sex with whoever they want,” she says.

Owens wants everyone to have this brain-opening experience. Even though she knows equality and acceptance for all will take time, she has hope for Cincinnati’s future.

“I want high schoolers to be unafraid of getting beaten up or made fun of for being gay,” she says. “I want to be able to hold someone’s hand on the sidewalk. I want people to not look at other people weird for being on a date, or kissing their partner.” 

Owens continues to fight for equality in the city in which she’s firmly rooted through her actions, her activism and her words. “I am always fighting,” Owens says. “I drive around with all my bumper stickers plastered on my car. Sometimes people give me dirty looks, yell at me, or throw things at my car — eggs, milk, ice cream. But the moments I have when people smile or wave at me while I’m driving make all of those situations minuscule.”