In my 46 years, I have lived in many places but most of them have always been smaller towns. The one thing that rings true to all of them is that the LGBTQ people there always say there is no community. Some take the literal meaning of a group of people living in the same place or with same characteristics. I can see how in a small town, like where I grew up, that could be an issue. You do not see a neighborhood where everyone lives, so it can feel disconnected. I tend to prefer the second definition a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. This can be seen in almost every town, sometimes it is harder to see depending on the circles you choose to navigate in. All of that is relational and affected by how you choose to interact. This is where small step activism comes into perfect play.
Cleveland does have an LGBTQ community, and a pretty thriving one. There are many LGBTQ owned and operated business, as is shown by PLEXUS, which is the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce for Cleveland. There are still thriving communities where large numbers of LGBTQ people live, example is parts of Lakewood, Ohio City, and Hinge Town. There are still many LGBTQ and LGBTQ friendly bars. We have the newly opened location of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Clevelandand the newly formed LGBTQ+ Allies of Lake County. A LGBTQ friendly workout/yoga space called Amplio Fitness. That is only the tip of the iceberg that is the Cleveland LGBTQ Community. Using Plexus, LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland, and the LGBTQ_ Allies of Lake County, you quickly find other avenues of our diverse community. A community is what you make of it and what you bring to it. It does, in fact, require participation, it is not just a spectator sport.
The history of this community is ever present. Take the Dean Rufus House of Fun, it sits on the very spot of the original LGBTQ community center and the same block of Cleveland’s first Pride Festival. The building is still, mostly, the same and TDRHOF caters to the LGBTQ community, offering retro albums, novelties, books, movies, and clothing. As such they are a good corner stone for the community and if you have not been then you need to stop by.
If you don’t see the things in the community that reflect your needs or needs of your group, then you can make a change for it. Like I said, this is where small step activism comes into play. I work for a non-profit in Cleveland and it is one that is fairly diverse, thankfully. Our mission drives us to work with every people in the Greater Cleveland area, but when I started, I noticed the one segment of people that was not represented fully were LGBTQ people. I was one of the only two that worked in our company. Her and I sat down with a couple other people and decided this was a representation that should be seen on the East Side, where our office is located. It was a segment of the population that was considered with who we wanted to work with and was noticeable because it wasn’t reflected in our organization. We sought to change that. I had learned about Plexus through social media and decided to reach out to them to come to our Open House/Grand Opening last year. When they arrived, they had mentioned they were looking for office space and we saw the perfect opportunity. We worked out the dynamics of them being here and even told them of our desire to grow the representation in an underserved area. We discussed training for our own organization as well as opening up training to the community and surrounding organizations. As of today, we hosted our very first community Lunch and Learn on the topic of LGBTQ people.
This very act starts to change the community and increases it. It opens up lines of communication that were not there before and offers new ways of approaching people to fill their needs. Granted, it is my means of changing the community to be more inclusive. It is how I want to see our community evolve and grow. How do you see it growing and evolving? Will you be the one to step forward to start those changes?