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Social Issues




Cleveland Gay Games opponents cite religion, but so do Gay Games supporters
Principle opposition to the Gay Games came from the religious community
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Trinity Cathedral Dean Tracey Lind gives Communion.
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
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As Cleveland and Akron prepare to host the 2014 Gay Games a legal controversy continues about whether  non-gays should stage the athletic event, and whether they could do it with sensitivity and without discrimination. In the first of a three-part series, we look at how gay-friendly Northeast Ohio really is.

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Personal choice in the pursuit of happiness seems so...American.  But when it comes to sexual orientation, doors …and minds… tend to close.  Next week a civil trial is expected to get underway in Cleveland that underscores deep divisions in our region about gay rights. Today, in the first of a three-part series, we explore just how gay-friendly, or unfriendly,   Northeast Ohio really is.

LEGAL FIGHT CONTINUES

Cleveland Synergy Foundation , the gay organization that was stripped of its contract to stage the 2014 International Gay Games in Cleveland, maintains that no non-gay organization should be allowed to run the athletic event.  It claims straight members of the Cleveland Special Events Group Corporation , the new operating group chosen by the Federation of Gay Games,  have made anti-gay remarks and jokes.

Three decades ago such accusations were more common, and often right on the mark.   Before  1982 when the first Gay Games were held in San Francisco,  most gay athletes felt  marginalized.  They very rarely “came out”.  Gay Games founder Tom Waddell saw the need  to, in his words    “  dispel the prevailing attitudes in sport regarding ageism, sexism and racism."

For the Cleveland games, expected to draw up to 50,000 participants and pump up to 60 million dollars into the regional economy, the International Federation of Gay Games is departing from a long-standing policy that only Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender individuals should operate the games.

The Gay Games movement is proud of what it calls its “legacy of change” . But have attitudes changed enough in Northeast Ohio?

Among some in the religious community…maybe not.

 

RELIGIOUS GROUPS OPPOSED THE GAY GAMES

Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman encountered lots of opposition when he introduced legislation to bring Cleveland the gay games:

 “Churches, pastors, community leaders. People that I respect and cherish very much. And then you find yourself on the opposite side in terms of this human rights issue. It’s really challenging.” 

 

Radio sportstalk host Mike Trivisonno was challenged, too. He wanted the gay games for the economic benefit, but his listeners hated the idea.

 “ The one that I found was the most adamant was the religious people. They’re quoting bibles and they’re quoting pastors and they’re quoting passages that y’know just say that it’s not right.”    

The lesbian Dean of Cleveland’s Trinity Cathedral , Tracey Lind , knows  about that  all too well.

 “There are families who can’t accept it. There are churches and synagogues and mosques who condemn us.”

But Dean Lind, whose Episcopal church is embroiled in an international controversy about the ordination of gay clergy, is proud of her own downtown Cleveland congregation.

 “ Since 2000 Trinity Cathedral has doubled in the size of its congregation and worshipping community. And I would say that the number one reason for that is our sense of inclusivity and radical hospitality where everybody, everybody is welcome at the cathedral and at G-d’s table.”   

GAY JEWISH CONGREATION

On a Friday night at Beachwood’s Fairmount Temple, the Anshe Chesed congregation welcomes the Sabbath.

 

Breena Fish worships in the same building, but with a different congregation.  Fish is one of the co-founders of  Chevre Tikva , a worshipping group whose members are gay.

 

 “ There has to be an identified gay and lesbian Jewish group to make it safe to be gay, Lesbian , bi , trans , queer, questioning, intersect, allied, and still feel comfortable.”

Fish says that’s why Chevre Tikva is still needed, for Jews like her:

 “ I was one of those kids who loved synagogue and loved Hebrew school and couldn’t wait to do Jewish youth group. I knew I was a lesbian in the late 60s. But when I got to Cleveland as an adult it didn’t enter my mind that I would be able to be a lesbian and be a Jew at the same time. Really until chevre Tikva was founded in ‘83 did it occur to me that I  could be true to all the parts of me.”

YOUNG GAYS FACE DISCRIMINATION

Teenager Erica Pabcum joined the parade at Cleveland Pride, an annual gay festival.

 “Well I’m gay so I wanted to be here to celebrate myself .“

 

That’s something she can’t do at school:

 

 “I go to an all-catholic school so it’s kind of hard to be out. Like most of my friends who are there aren’t out because like friends who have been out in the past were kind of excluded from some activities. Yeah, like my two friends weren’t allowed to go to prom together.”

 

Ron Ober has come to the gay pride parade, too, but he’s not gay. Just what he considers a good Christian:

 

 “ Because Christ’s message is about tolerance, love and justice. We’re here to demonstrate that. We became an open and affirming church about two years ago which is a way of explaining to the world and everyone around us that we welcome and open and affirm our membership to anyone who wants to come and accept us.” 

 

Ober belongs to Faith United Church of Christ  in Richmond Heights. Now, so does Lou Hine. She only wishes she’d found a similar congregation  when her gay son was growing up.  She now regrets making him  attend a fundamentalist church:

 

 “He grew up being told that homosexuals were sinners and will go to hell. It was very, very hard for him to sit in that teaching. Oblivious mother kept insisting that he go to church. Not knowing. “

Cleveland and Akron both hold gay pride celebrations every summer. You don’t find that in many other parts of a state that , at least from a political and legal perspective, is not very gay-friendly.

 

We’ll look at that in the next segment of our series.


Related WKSU Stories

Politics affect gay life in Northeast Ohio
Thursday, July 21, 2011

Contrasting views of gay life in Northeast Ohio
Friday, July 22, 2011

Cleveland Gay Games trial set for July
Friday, May 27, 2011

Listener Comments:

Gays are in their own little fabricated world. God created Man and Woman , not the in-between, or I don't know who I am or what I am. Today man, later woman. Please give me break. They should just stay in their little closet and don't come out. What has this world come to ?


Posted by: Anonymous on July 20, 2011 10:07AM
Nice story. Yeah, the one part of the bible people are always willing to overlook is "judge not, lest ye be judged".


Posted by: rayy (akron) on July 20, 2011 7:07AM
I am not a practicing homosexual. Actually, after 55 years I am pretty darn good at it! I am, however, a practicing Christian...and I am getting better and better at it, as I pray that more Christians will also. If you separate yourself from any facet of the people who make up the community around you, you damage your own Grace...not just lose the opportunity to grow in spirit. The Bible was written over several thousand years, an oral history that became transcribed and translated hundreds of times, each time changing nuances and details and meanings. But there remain two constants that are not subject to mistranslation: "Love one another as I have loved you" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you". Simple, profound, eternal wisdom that needs to be practiced daily...not just repeated at service.


Posted by: Chaz (Westpark) on July 20, 2011 4:07AM
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