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Social Issues




Contrasting views of gay life in Northeast Ohio
With the Gay Games coming in 2014 gay-friendliness varies across the region
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Cleveland Pride Day
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
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In The Region:
Northeast Ohio won the right to host the 2014 Gay Games, but then controversy broke out. A lawsuit brought by the gay group that was stripped of its contract to stage the games charges that non-gay members of the new organization chosen to operate the athletic event are biased. In a three-part series of reports this week we've looked at the gay-friendliness of our region and found contrasting views.
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Brian and Frank Erdman of Cleveland look forward to the 2014 Gay Games


Brian and Frank Erdman of Cleveland look forward to the 2014 Gay Games

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This week in a series of reports, we’ve  been examining Northeast Ohio’s readiness for the international Gay Games it’s set to host in 2014.  Litigants in a civil case scheduled to get underway next week say only a gay group should be in charge of the games here because of veiled but insidious prejudice.  It’s true, Ohio’s constitution  restricts the rights of same-sex couples more than in many states. But in our part of Ohio, gay life is a study in contrasts.

SPORTS

Most Sundays at Cleveland’s Gordon Park,  the North Coast League plays softball. It’s a gay league, but John Osborne of Garfield Heights is straight , and feels welcome.

 “I been in this league a good eight years, I’m losing count. What attracts you to a league that’s y’know majority gay? It’s a good time. Nobody’s really disregarding anybody for whatever they do in their personal life. It’s a real friendly atmosphere. This is one of the few leagues where you can be friends with everybody and have a good time.”   

Carly Meznick is a lesbian outfielder.

“It’s just great. Everyone coming together. Everyone in the community. It’s a great way to meet new people outside of a bar and in the athletic scene.” 


The gay league’s commissioner, Rob Gallagher, also prefers softball to the bar scene. But it was at a gay bar that he won his mother’s acceptance.

 “ Her perception of gay people was y’know, flamboyant or some other stereotype, and she went to this bar and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, all these men are gay?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and she was ‘They’re hot. And so that kind of changed her perception of gay people. Now she’s probably my, one of my biggest supports.”   

Gallagher grew up in Ohio farm country.  So did Tiffany Sweeney.

“It sucks. Like, there’s nothing. I’m from a really rural town where there’s absolutely no scene or community for gay people.  My little sister’s transgendered, and she has a very, very hard problem just living day-to-day life without having some kind of discrimination. So it bites, yeah.”   

Sweeney now lives in Lakewood. So does Adam Jones.

 “I’ve lived a lot of places, and within Ohio, Lakewood’s definitely the most friendly as far as just people being open-minded and very welcoming and accepting. And I think not only do we benefit from that but they also benefit from that.” 

Gay-friendliness may have direct benefits. UCLA law school studies over the past few years show significant economic windfalls in states that have legalized same-sex marriage.  And the Congressional Budget Office  projects that marriage equality nationwide would raise  an extra  billion dollars a year in tax revenue.

A  60 million dollar boost to the region’s economy could result from the Gay Games.  

He’s a big sports fan, but the games won’t bring writer Judah Leblang back from Boston.  He grew up in Beachwood in the closet, not emerging until he went to Ohio State.

 “It was not that easy to come out in Columbus in 1985 and Columbus -- actually now more than then -- has a really large gay community. My sense of Cleveland is it doesn’t seem to me the gay community is as organized.” 

 

YOUTH

That could be changing, at least for younger people. 

At the annual gay pride parade in Cleveland,  we find Jan Cline, leader of the Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community of Greater Cleveland.

“More young people are feeling empowered to come out, and there’s more resources for them to connect to. I wouldn’t say that it’s any easier because it’s a very personal journey and that personal journey is filled with pain and with successes as you go.”

 

“Are you guys here with me? I’m here with you! . Yeah !“ 

 

Erica Pabcum finds support at the gay-pride parade, but not at the Catholic school she attends.  Bella Smith is one of her former classmates.


 “I left that school because of a lot of rumors that were spread when people found out I was gay. So I left and now I go to a public school where it’s a lot more open-minded, our student body president is gay and …. I like it a lot more.”  

 

Melissa Brown still attends that Catholic school.

 

“ I’m not gay. I’m straight. (But) … almost all of my friends there are gay. Like there are people who mix, but there are people who don’t really like it at all. I’m totally open to it. I love it. I like love gay people."

 

HIP HOP HOMOPHOBIA

At a roller skating party celebrating the 35th anniversary of the LGBT community of Greater Cleveland we meet a musician who calls himself Cap’n Magic,

 “’Cause that’s my stage name. I am an out hip-hop performer.”

His career got off to a rocky start.

 “Hip hop is one of the most homophobic genres of music, so for me,  it’s like challenging stereoptypes and challenging the homophobia and just doin’ what I do Because I’m gay doesn’t mean that I can’t do hip hop. You’re Caucasian as well I mean does that make it hard, too? Nah, I think we’re past that now with Eminem and the rest of the white-boy rappers. Being gay is…enough.” 

Lisa Starchild  says she’s  Cap’n Magic’s biggest fan.

 “I think he’s absolutely right. The hip hop community is one of the most homophobic communities there is. I don’t think the gay and lesbian lifestyle is accepted. Myself, being straight, I accept it because I don’t believe in any type of discrimination whatsoever. People are people and everybody’s gonna do what they wanna do and no one else has the right to judge anyone else for that.”

 PROPAGANDA THEY HAND YA

 “ I’m sick of the propaganda that they hand ya. They’re ignorant and hateful ‘cause they don’t understand us. Ban us from living our lives. Second class citizen. Give him his rights.”

Cap’n Magic’s doing better now that he’s won a grant from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture to produce his new CD.

 

“… Two men holdin’ hands walkin’ down the block. Don’t be jealous ‘cause we so damn hot"


Related WKSU Stories

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

Cleveland Gay Games opponents cite religion, but so do Gay Games supporters
Wednesday, July 20, 2011

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

Lawsuit filed in Cleveland Gay Games dispute
Friday, September 3, 2010

Gay games controversy grows
Friday, September 3, 2010

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