On June 12, 2016, the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando was the site of the most deadly mass shooting in our nation’s history. As the mother of someone who, if life circumstances were just a little bit different, may well have been at the Pulse that evening, I was both angry and scared. As the Coordinator of an LGBTQ support group here in Medina, OutSupport, Inc., I know many, many persons who could very well have been there. The night of the shooting, my family, and a few close friends stood silently on the Square in Medina, and the next evening, more than 50 people attended a quickly put-together silent vigil, to honor those who were brutally attacked. This was the first time in our county’s history that a group of individuals stood in the name of LGBTQ people in public, in Medina. We received many horns honking in support, and thumbs up, and it really made our group feel as though we, as LGBTQ individuals, family and friends, were supported by the wider community. Last Sunday, OutSupport, Inc. organized another event on the Square, and nearly 100 community members came out, both to remember Orlando and the lives taken from the LGBTQ community to the hands of violence or suicide, and also to celebrate the LGBTQ people who live here in Medina County. 100 people marched around our Square, waving rainbow, transgender, and equality flags with PRIDE! Many brought homemade signs in heartfelt support for our community.
Speakers included some real “She-roes” for our LGBTQ teens, Boni Wozolek and Jen Oehler, Co-Advisors to Medina High School’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (formerly known as Gay-Straight Alliance). These two women have been so much more than teachers at MHS, but adults that LGBTQ teens, many of whom do not have a supportive home life, can confide in and trust their innermost concerns. Medina High School is lucky to have these women as role models to many. Additionally, we were fortunate that Greg Coleridge, Coordinator for Move to Amend, spoke. Greg is a leader here in NEOhio in all areas of Peace and Justice issues, and he spoke eloquently and passionately to the history of and lack of justice for LGBTQ persons, to this day.
I spoke, as well, as Coordinator of OutSupport, to the fact that while Marriage Equality is the law of the land, there are many ways in which LGBTQ persons are still discriminated against, in Ohio and Medina. Ohio is one of 28 states that still do not include LGBTQ persons as a protected class, as race and religious belief are. A gay person could still, legally, be fired from his job because he is gay. A lesbian can still be denied housing, legally, because she is a lesbian. And a transgender individual can be refused service in a restaurant or other public space, legally, because he or she is transgender. Conversion Therapy is legal in Ohio. Ohio is one of 3 states that do not allow gender marker changes on birth certificates (along with Tennessee and Idaho), after the person has otherwise legally transitioned. Medina has a Resolution providing for these protections, and while it is a nice gesture, it is not legally binding, and all of the above circumstances could legally happen in Medina. So much work for Equality needs to happen, in Ohio and in Medina.
It was pretty exciting to walk around our Square, with 100 others who want Equality for all. New friends were made. New awareness of support in this community was made. One of the best moments for me was when I saw a young woman join the crowd with 2 of her friends, all of whom wore identical tie-dyed T-Shirts. This young woman had come to an OutSupport meeting in the past month, and seemed incredibly nervous and scared about coming out to anyone, including family and friends. At the march, she seemed happy and confident with her friends who were there to support her. In the end, that is what the event, and OutSupport, Inc’s mission was and is: to make sure that no LGBTQ person feels alone on their journey. The young woman’s smile said it all to me…she felt supported and now knows that all she needs to do is reach out, and support will be there.