Growing Up Gay

At this very moment there are countless bills across these United States that seek to remove what ground we have gained

A recent Buckeye Flame article brought a lot of memories and feelings to mind. It makes me realize, or rather reevaluate, where we are, as a nation and world. Since 2015, it seems that, as a whole, the LGBTQ community kind of slacked off in our mindfulness of our rights and where we fit in with the greater global village. We saw the legalization of our ability to get married and a great many new policies be put into place to start to offer us better protections in our jobs, daily lives, and homes. 

To me, it feels like we thought we were moving in a positive manner and that the world was finally becoming… human. But true to human nature, when the scales swing the opposite direction, the majority changes their course. Or is it that they now have better purchase to show their true colors? Hate and vitriol is leading to escalated rates of violence, across this country, against all minorities. We acquiesced to what we thought was positive progress, without a whisper. 

Now, we are waking up to realize that the progress we thought we made wasn’t as big as initially viewed.

Small town, Ohio

If you haven’t seen the news and the many people on various social media platforms speaking out against this, let’s catch you up.

Cardinal High school, in Middlefield, Ohio, recently canceled a high school production of a play. The board members deemed it controversial, based solely on the objections of a few conservative citizens. When asked what was the content that triggered the cancellation of the production, the school board replied that it was due to vulgarity. This play is also known for having a character that has two gay fathers. Once this decision was laid down by the school board, public outcry began. 

Jack Cunningham, Cardinal Local Schools Superintendent was quoted saying, “In all aspects of its operations, the district vigorously enforces its prohibition against discriminatory harassment based on race, color, national origin, sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity), disability, age, religion, ancestry, or genetic information. Anyone suggesting otherwise is simply mistaken,” I guess targeting a play that has two gay sub-characters isnt considered to be a part of how open the school board is. 

The amount of disapproval for the action of the school board even reached Hollywood level of notice. Taking to Instagram Jesse Tyler Ferguson spoke out about the play, how it could be altered, and the impact of this decision on queer youth in America.

To be clear, the writers of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” created alternate versions of the play that removed offensive language, rewrote a song that could be skewed as questionable, and made other changes so that schools across America could perform it, easily, without anyone being upset. 

Change comes with a price

On February 8th, the Cardinal Board of Education met again to reverse their decision to cancel the play. The reversal seems like a win for the students and community but it came at a higher cost. At the same meeting where they reversed their decision on the play, the school board also passed, without public comment.

December 2022, Brenda Shea introduced a resolution that flew in the face of the proposed changes that the Biden administration has put in place to change the federal Title IX anti-discrimination rules to protect LGBTQ students. (

The resolution introduced was rife with disturbing religions language and completely incorrect scientific data about sex chromosomes, sex characteristics, and intersexed people. Over 300 LGBTQ Ohioans provided statements about the resolution and it’s inaccurate information but the State board passed it regardless. 

At the time of the school board passing the bill in February, it still contained misinformation and no opportunity for anyone of the community to speak out against it. Schools are for educating our youth to be able to interact with their peers in a community, state, country, and world level. Requiring them to be able to take information given, discern truth, and cast off errors to make good decisions. But the very leaders of school districts let emotion and bias lead their decisions. 

Growing up gay

I turn 50 in a few months, when you look at it as a half of a century that seems an expansive gulf of time. But life has a funny way of making it go fast, without realization. 

As I look back to my childhood, I can remember there being no or very limited exposure to queer culture, in our small town. On the rare occasion that I got to see a LGBTQ character on television or movies, it was always the heterosexual stereotype of how they viewed us. Limp wristed, overacting drama queens, with a flair of dressing a bit more of the opposite sex, and lisps. For gay men, anyway. AIDS was just starting to ramp up its killing roll across the country and the stigma of gays was, again, on the rise. With AIDS being called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency) of gay cancer, there was no denying who the media and government officials thought it targeted. As such, little was done to stave off the spread in the beginning. Most just figured it would kill off all the gay men and then no worries. That was until famous people, long thought straight, started to be affected. 

Not seeing role models, having positive reinforcement of who we are, or sources of information for us to acclimate ourselves with the rest of people growing up around us leads to us not understanding who we are and how we fit in. All we heard was how we were abominations, sinners, deviants, and worse. Hate crimes against our community were barely tracked, as we were not seen as real people. They were dark times and in many ways, we have not come into the light yet. 

When we weren’t seen as campy, in movies, we were portrayed as the predatory villain. Even then, the outward appearances were earmarked with makeup, dress styles that seemed to merge genders, and vocal affectations that set them apart from the heterosexual “good” characters.

This lack of representation has more far reaching ramifications than not giving LGBTQ youth proper role models. Personally, I feel these stereotype characters allowed the false ideal of what LGBTQ people are to be spread and consumed at truths to so many people.

Many miles to go

We must not forget that the fight isnt over. In fact, it is far from it. Daily our rights are at risk. At this very moment there are countless bills across these United States that seek to remove what ground we have gained, to take us back to the shadows. We are on the verge of losing our safety where we live, work, and seek to exist. We need our voices heard, we need your voice heard. From the smallest acts of activism to leading the charge, there is always a place for our talents.

How do you feel about the current state of things? Do you feel that we are still fighting for our rights or do you believe that this country is safer for us than it ever has been? Let me know in the comments below, share your thoughts. Our views need to be heard and here is a safe place for you to share them.


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