Illustration by Bryan Grey

5 Years: A is for Ally

On that Friday we wore pink, I spent the day in the Short North and was overwhelmed by how visibly the LGBT community came together after hate-motivated attacks against three men in a four-day span.

The managers of the building next door to our offices at Outlook wrapped giant pink ribbons around their giant beige planters. There was pink frozen custard, pink cocktails and pink cupcakes. Businesses gave away pink T-shirts and offered discounts to customers wearing the color of the day.

Everyone inside the city’s traditional gayborhood got the message. Everyone inside the Short North delivered the message for tolerance, for community, loud and clear.

And then we went Downtown to Columbus Commons for the Columbus Symphony’s Picnic with the Pops season-opener. A friend had told me I’d been in a gay bubble since joining Outlook months earlier, and I braced myself for the bubble to burst once again with the realization that this big, huge deal in my world hadn’t registered even a blip with people outside of it.

But there it was: a pop of pink in the form of a golf shirt worn by a man who looked like a Downtown lawyer, and a pink blouse on the woman who accompanied him. More pops, on pink sundresses and pink button-down shirts, pink ties on those whose days at the office had just ended, and pink T-shirts on those whose weekends already had begun.

At last count, some have expanded the LGBT acronym to a full 10 letters to include all of the identities and expressions and orientations that make up the community my magazine covers. But part of what makes the LGBT community in Columbus so strong and visible is the “A” that we’ve added to our magazine’s masthead in recognition that we’re not alone.

We have allies.

Change is accelerating everywhere, so quickly that we’ve had to condense news of advances toward marriage equality into a single “The Month in Marriage” rundown of judicial rulings, court challenges and ballot initiatives.

Even opponents of marriage equality concede it’s inevitable. The bigger fight right now in Ohio isn’t against thrice-married marriage “defender” Phil Burress; it’s among LGBT-rights groups over when to seek a repeal of Ohio’s 2004 constitutional ban.

But in Columbus, it’s not just in policy discussions where gay and straight align.

Communities and cultures mix and mingle. We work beside each other at companies with strong commitments to diversity. We play together in neighborhoods and at bars that are less segregated.

Columbus Pride isn’t so much an LGBT festival anymore as it is a festival – albeit with more rainbow feather boas than one is likely to see at, say, the Circleville Pumpkin Show. What started 33 years ago as a march in which even the gay people covered their faces has now evolved into street-closing celebration for gay and straight alike.

Drag queen Nina West, heir to performers in a city whose laws once required people to wear the proper clothing for their gender, is among (614)’s ColumBEST nominees for Best Columbus Celebrity.

And yes, we love traditionally straight pursuits, too. Outlook hosted its first Big Gay Tailgate Party last fall on a Buckeyes game day, and in the magazine we catalogued all the gay bars where LGBT people gather to watch football.

As a 49-year-old, I still tend to get amazed by a world that’s not so cordoned off. I discuss RuPaul’s Drag Race every Tuesday morning with one of our straight male interns. A group of straight friends and former workmates greeted me at a German Village bar last month with their idea for a boudoir photography business geared toward bears.

I take copies of Outlook home every month for my 82-year-old mom, although I try not to be in the room when she gets to Dan Savage.

Is the world – and Columbus – perfect? Far from it.

We wore pink on that Friday last June because three gay men were attacked on the streets of three different neighborhoods. Police have a stricter definition for hate crimes, but we all know that’s what they were. The first victim was smoking outside a gay bar in Merion Village. The second had just kissed his ex-boyfriend goodnight in Weinland Park. The third was beaten in Olde Towne after his attackers taunted him with anti-gay slurs.

Although they represent the party whose platform trumpets civil rights for LGBT people, the Democrats on the Columbus City Council haven’t appointed an LGBT person to any of the last seven vacancies dating back to 2007.

A young transgender woman recently told me that she came out to her family because she wanted them to know who she was in case she was killed.

Although local anti-discrimination laws protect people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, Ohio law does not.

There are still battles to fight and win.

It’s good to know we’re all in it together.

Editor’s Note: Often thought of as an island of blue in a sea of red, Columbus has been praised for its inclusive nature, most specifically as an LGBT Mecca in the Midwest. In the last five years, an ever-increasing participation in Pride Week, rising popularity of drag culture, progressive corporate infrastructure, and the evolution of “gayborhoods” like the Short North into commercial and cultural hubs have only served to underscore that point. Now, as if to further bolster the city’s reputation, our editorial “ally” Outlook is expanding statewide this summer, advocating for the LGBT communities in Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, and Akron. Bob Vitale, Outlook’s Editor-in-Chief speaks on our LGBT and ally communities and how far we have left to go.

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