On June 23, Cincinnati will be celebrating it’s annual gay pride celebration. June is National LGBQT+ pride month and an opportunity to celebrate who we are, who we love, and to reflect on how we came to be able to celebrate ourselves so openly. Cincinnati will be celebrating the community with a parade and festival at Sawyer Point and Yeatman’s Cove.
As happy and fun as pride is now, pride celebrations were born from dissent. On June 28, 1969, police raided a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village in NYC: The Stonewall Inn. At the time, being gay was highly criminalized, so when the police raided the club and asked patrons dressed as women to line up to verify their sex, they refused. The debacle at the club caused a crowd to grow and as the police became increasingly violent toward the patrons, the patrons began to fight back. The riots lasted for six days following the raid. Bricks were thrown, windows were shattered, and a statement was made: the gay community will not be pushed around anymore. These riots became a symbol for the gay community to celebrate out loud and sparked the political activism that would lead to change in our communities.
The Cincinnati Pride Parade was founded in 1973 by the Cincinnati Gay Community (CGC). The first gay pride went through OTR and ended in a rally at Fountain Square that had as little as 12-40 people show up. Conservative Cincinnati has definitely not always been a safe or fostering place for the LGBTQ+ community. Up until a little over decade ago, the city had a charter blocking legal protections for gays. The city’s censorship battles with gay artist Robert Maplethorpe and Hustler owner Larry Flynt through the ‘70s and ‘80s proved majority Catholic Cincinnati would not be a pioneer of sexual liberation.
Like most things, Cincinnati’s history and attitude toward the LGBTQ+ community has gotten better. After Article XII, which blocked protection for the gay community, was repealed in 2004, the first openly gay city councilman, Chris Seelbach, says it “flipped a switch” in Cincinnati’s attitude. In 2017, WCPO reported that Cincinnati may be “one of the most gay-friendly cities in the nation” and the attendance at the Pride Parade that year was as many as 90,000. The city may have a long way to go as far as total acceptance but the gay community has made considerable ground in the conservative city.
So come out on June 23 to celebrate the strength, perseverance, and love of greater Cincinnati’s LGBTQ+ community. Whether you identify within the rainbow flag or you’re an ally, show up to say that Cincinnati’s gay community is here and it’s queer and it isn’t going anywhere!