LGBTQ History and the Holocaust

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I have found, personally, that when discussing the history of LGBTQ rights that it can lead to very different conversations. Some feel that the past is best kept there and focusing on current issues are more important. Others feel that we should use our past struggle as a guidepost for how to meet the challenges of future issues. It is important to keep in mind what has transpired so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. With this current administration, it definitely is important to know what we have gone through as we may lose all we have gained.

It is always shocking to look back in history and see cities that have more open mindsets when it comes to LGBTQ lifestyles than our own. We often believe that we have come so far and that we are more enlightened due to the small steps we have gained. Close examination of history often shows that many places were much more tolerant than today. A shocking one is pre world war Germany. We remember, all to well, Hitler’s rise to power and how it affected Jewish culture. Hitler’s view of the Aryan culture was such a narrow view of what was considered viable people that any and all that didn’t fit it must be eradicated, this included Jewish people, gypsies, Jehovah witnesses, and any LGBT people. This year marked the 73rd anniversary of Auschwitz’s liberation, it only seems proper to reflect on some events that happened.

Before 1914, Berlin had been one of the most open cities in the world. German penal code had prevented homosexual acts since 1871 and while it was considered illegal it became mostly redundant. Many homosexual men and women led open lives and frequented bars and dance halls. It was considered by most to be the golden years of Berlin. Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a physician in Berlin at the time and the founder of the Institute of Sexology, which was considered to be the first organization in that era to promote LGBTQ rights. Dr. Hirschfeld was pushing for a reform of the German Penal code and his reform was backed by some 5,000 influential signatures. It was reported to have included the likes of Albert Einstein. Initially, this reform met resistance, but Dr. HIrschfeld kept pushing forward and even using tactics like “outing” of public officials who were known closeted homosexuals. These forced outings caused the beginning of legal reform for equality by 1920.

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January 30, 1933 that changed when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, with his appointment he ordered the closing of all venues perceived as “gay.” “There was an incredible atmosphere of fear,” the last gay survivor, Gad Beck, who died in 2012, recalled of those early Nazi months. “Things used to be happy and carefree, but now they were being persecuted. It didn’t seem like persecution to me, since the bar was still open. But they said this bar is only open to round us up. They did this again later with the Jews. They’d let them keep their meeting places so they could snatch them up.”

It was the mission of the Nazi regime to eradicate gay men. More than 100,000 people were arrested and sent to camps like Auschwitz, here thousands upon thousands perished through acts of torture and the gas chambers. The Nazi regime insisted that homosexuality was a disease that could be cured. Gay men were rounded up and labeled with pink triangles and sent to various concentrations camps, Once they arrived in these camps they underwent forced castration and beatings. They became subjects for cruel medical experiments to try to “cure” homosexuality.

In these camps they also faced homophobia from other prisoners. Rudolf Brazda, who died in 2011, was quoted remembers other prisoners saying ” Oh look, this one’s a fag.” Brazda kept what he went through a secret from everyone until 2008 when a monument was erected in Berlin for LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust. Until 1937 he had lived a happy and open life in Leipzig, Germany. At that point he was arrested for ‘unnatural lewdness’ and sentenced to six months in jail for writing love letters to his partner. In 1941, he was arrested again and sent to the concentration camps. Here he was given the number 7952 and had to sew a pink triangle to the left side of his camp uniform. Most didn’t understand why they were being arrested but had no means of retaliation due to Hitler’s regime leaving the vast populace powerless.

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“I arrived in a very big room. There was a pool there. In that pool we had to undress, and we had to bathe, naked. It was called ‘disinfection.’ In that moment, an SS officer pushed my head under the disinfectant liquid. I still had my gold chain, with a cross. It was a gift from my boyfriend. He ripped it and asked if I was a churchgoer. Of course I didn’t answer.” said Brazda. in August 2011, Rudolf Brazda died at the age of 98. Until that day, he continued to share his story as a means of warning to future generations. During these last years, he said: “If I finally speak, it’s for people to know what we, homosexuals, had to endure in Hitler’s days. It shouldn’t happen again.”

By 2012, all LGBTQ survivors of the holocaust had died. It is through their words, alone, that their stories survive. They are the teachings to remind us of what we have endured, the plights that should give us hope that this will never happen again. With the current administration rounding up children of “illegal” immigrants and putting them in detainment camps, is it so hard to believe that we are that far from this happening again. Daily we watch our rights, that we have fought so hard for, being taken away from us. Use this history as your lesson, use it to derive strength to fight, use it so that we never have to live through this again, and use it to honor those that have given their lives in  hopes of making a better future.

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Flaming River Comic-con

I know what you are thinking, this year’s Comicon was a blast, but what can I do to rock out my Queer Geek side until it comes back next year. Flaming River Con is your answer and it will be held Saturday September 22nd, 2018. This is the first ever Midwest LGBTQIA+ event for all things Queer and Geek. You need to come out and support this group.

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Founded in 2017, Flaming River Arts is a Cleveland based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to foster, showcase, and celebrate LGBTQIA+ voices and the community, and combat bigotry by increasing the visibility of marginalized persons within geek culture. Their first event, Flaming River Comic-Con, was last year with this one being far larger and is a place for LBGTQIA+ artists, authors, and vendors to showcase their talent. You can come and learn about queer history in comics, rock your favorite Cosplay, learn to Cosplay on a budget, and sit in on various Queer themed panels.

 

Their special guest this year is Los Angeles’ own Sina Grace, writer of Marvel’s solo Iceman comics. Sina has received the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book. You can also take part in a host of panels about topics such as; queer comics, social activism, cosplay on a budget, queer representation in horror, and much more. There will be 40 vendors to quench your queer culture thirsts, so come thirsty. So dust off that Light saber, grab your Sonic Screwdriver, put on your Red Shirt and join the away team at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. Also to appear is Dale Lazarov, Father of the American Bara Comicsas the writer, art director and licensor of Sticky Graphic Novels. The Sticky Graphic Novels are picture based, gay character based, and sexpositive graphic novels. His fans rave that his works are “a joyous expression of male/male sexuality that, while erotic, is neither grubby nor tasteless.” Also, Dr. Ken Scheck, author of LGBTQ Cleveland, will host a panel on Cartoon 4 Change. This panel will discuss the evolution of Cleveland’s cartoon as the discuss HIV/AIDS, racism, and how the LGBTQ community interacts.

 

Here is a list of some of the vendors that will be at Flaming River Comicon. Pointless Peaches, LLC, a retail store that makes handcrafted items by the founder LaShanta Knowles. Northcoast Armor & Jewelry , their specialty is custom made chain and scale mail jewelry, clothing, armor, and accessories. She also makes her very own line of dragon jewelry.  ArtsParadis Handcrafted Jewelry  is a LGBTQ owned and operated business that specializes in handcrafted jewelry. Charlene and Jeff, owners and crafters behind the company, specialize in handcrafted jewelry.

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FRA is pleased to announce its first annual Flaming River Con! The all-day event will take place Saturday September 22nd, 2018 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio. The event will be the Midwest’s first all LGBTQIA+ geek convention, showcasing everything queer and geek, including comics, zines, podcasts, art, books, cosplay, panels, and workshops. Author and illustrator Sina Grace will headline the convention. Grace has published several graphic novels in addition to working for Marvel Comics, IDW, Valiant, and more. Grace is currently writing the solo Iceman comics for Marvel.

Flaming River Con will be holding a book signing and meet and greet with Sina Grace at John and Carol’s Comics on September 21st, 6pm-8pm.

For more information, including panel, vendor, and sponsor applications, please use the contact information below:

So, come on out and support your local LGBTQ community and get your geek on!!!

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Website: www.flamingriverarts.org

 

Email: flamingrivercon@gmail.com

EIN: 82-5337147

 

Sincerely,

Flaming River Arts

 

 

Our Transgender Community: #Calltoarms

It seems appropriate that, while discussing our Transgender community, we discuss the rights that LGBTQ have or do not have here in Cleveland. It is important to understand them in context to where we are and what we should be thinking about for the future. The current administration has shown us that they do not care for the LGBTQ community and are taking steps to reverse the progress we have made. Let me be clear in saying that we have made progress, but our fight is far from over.

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Ohio adopted its first sodomy law in 1885 in and four years changed it to include fellatio. This wasn’t removed from state law until 1972. Ohio was one of a few states that were already repealing their sodomy laws, however it was still considered a misdemeanor to express interest from one man to another. In 1979 the importuning law, expressing of interest romantic or sexual nature, as a misdemeanor was changed to read as an unwelcome or unsolicited interest by the Ohio Supreme Court based on the case State vs. Phipps. This wasn’t overturned until 2002 when the courts reported that the First and Fourteenth Amendments did not allow for discrimination based on sexual orientation in these cases. It wasn’t until June of 2003 that the United States Supreme Court ruled to remove all remaining sodomy laws from the states. These statutes were used to specifically target LGBTQ people.

Same sex marriage wasn’t passed until June 26, 2015 from the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges. Adoption and parenting for same sex couples is legal in the state of Ohio. In 1987, Ohio enacted In re Ladrach, which made it illegal for someone undergoing gender confirmation surgery to be able to change the gender on their birth certificate. Though it is perfectly legal for Transgender people to amend their driver’s license to reflect their gender identity. It wasn’t until March of this year (2018) that four Transgender Ohioans filed a suit against Ohio Department of Health to revoke In re Ladrach and to have their birth certificates re-issued with their correct gender. At the time of this filing, Ohio was one of three states that Transgender people were banned from amending their birth certificates.

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While Cleveland offers protection from discrimination based on race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability, Ohio at large does not have any protection laws in place. Nor are their any hate crime laws in relations to sexual orientation or gender identity. Some State protection does come into play from Federal laws. There are no laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy  in Ohio. In 2015 a bill was introduced to prevent the usage of conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors in Ohio by senator Charleta Tavares, however that bill died due to no legislative action. Since 2016 four Ohio cities (Toledo, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati) have enacted bans on conversion therapy. That’s right, Cleveland does not have any laws preventing the usage of conversion therapy.

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Conversions therapy suggests that it is possible to change the sexuality or gender identity of someone by using spiritual or psychology interventions. These are measures that took the place of things like institutionalization or castration to prevent homosexuality. They stem from a period in our no so distant history where it was believed that to be a LGBTQ was a mental illness that could be treated. Today they include things like electroconvulsive shock therapy. The Mormons use a version of this that combine audio/visual stimulation in conjunction with electroconvulsive shock therapy. There are electrodes connected to parts of your brain that monitor your reaction to the visual and audio cues they provide you. Essentially, if they show a young boy images of gay sex, two men kissing, of various other things that can trigger a response from someone who is gay, they are given large amounts of electric current. The mindset is that given enough of this kind of “treatment” your orientation would start to change. These types of interventions are nothing short of torture and are not quantifiable by any medical standard. None of these studies have shown to “cure” anyone of being LGBTQ. These therapies do more damage than help, causing feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety, which only creates larger issues needing more help. Suicide rates amongst LGBTQ or question youth is already horrible numbers to consider. LGBTQ and questioning youth are five times more likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. 40% of Transgender adults have reported attempting suicide, of those 92% have attempted suicide before they turned 25. Numbers are often hard to quantify in these studies since more often than not, they are misreported or not known.

We cannot become complacent in our fight for our rights. We definitely should show support to Cleveland for what it offers, but at the same time we need to challenge for better situations. Ohio was home to one of the first cities (Toledo) to pass a ban on conversion therapy, we should push to be the first state to completely ban it. In December 2015, MTV.com reported that 77% of the LGBTQ population live in states where it is legal to conduct conversion therapy. We must #uniteandfight, let our voices be heard that we will not stand by and watch our community still be treated this way. We must get out there and vote every election to ensure people who support us are representing us and the changes we want made for out country. Make your voice matter and show them our votes do count. #votethemout

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One Stop, Amazing Shop

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In my early years after coming out, I remember going to the LGBTQ bookstores often. No, no not the adult shops cruising’ for a tryst. I mean an actual bookstore. Some of you kids may not fully remember them, but they were places you could go an buy books on all topics of LGBTQ culture. Need Pride jewelry? They had it. Need a new t-shirt with a bit of attitude for the bar this weekend, you betcha. How about some cool new decor for your fab pad, right over here on the counter, if you please. It was a one-stop shop of all things Queer. Sadly, over the years, these community centers have all but disappeared. At least I thought so until I had been out exploring with my friends.

I persuaded them to go to W29th and Detroit because it had been the epicenter of LGBTQ culture in Cleveland since the late 70s and I wanted to feel immersed. Granted, I used to go to that area when I spent some time here visiting. I remember going to A Man’s World, when it was still here, and the neighborhood was sketch to say the least. Since 2008, this neighborhood has become a hub of change. More businesses have moved to this area, new homes are being added, and remodeling what is there has become the new thing. I had heard that The Dean Rufus House of Fun was here and once we parked we decided to venture inside and take a look.

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As soon as I stepped through the door it was as if history itself had surrounded me. So many memories flooded back and it was almost like going home. Dean welcomed us in very energetically and offered help. A very engaging soul who treated his store like his home and us, as guests coming to visit. Being a southern boy, this was an immediate connection for me. Dean is amazing and full of history, he has been in that location for 13 years, and he has seen the neighborhood change. Want to know about the beginning of that area, he has that information. I learned so much about LGBTQ history from him in the 45 minutes we were there. He walked with us outside and showed us around the neighborhood, what was new and what had endured. Sharing with us how the building his store currently resides in was once the site of the first LGBTQ center of Cleveland. This man is a wealth of knowledge.

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Much like I remember from my past, this store carried everything you might need. Various tchotchkes abound, Pride flags and jewelry, clothing and even a local line of Men’s underwear called Bayne Wear. Yes kiddies, they also carry adult novelties as well, making it safe spot to buy your needs without facing the judging stares you may get from other places. They also carry a large selection of vintage vinyl and CDs; dedicated to all the songs and artists we grew up loving and singing. Books that still cater to our culture and even from local authors such as Ken Schneck’s book LGBTQ Cleveland.

You really need to get over there and check him out. I LOVE this place and you will too.  Be vocal and shop local. Keep your community strong and support their business.

 

#KiltedBros

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Nestled in the 5th Street Arcade is Cleveland, Ohio’s very own kilt store, Kilted Bros. However, this kilt store isn’t like any other kilt store out there. These two guys started their business in October of 2014, as they say over the course of one evening. Jefferson and Nick had been wearing kilts for about 15 years before they decided to open Kilted Bros. Today they are located in the 5th Street Arcade and planning to move to a bigger location across the hall.

“We believe in comfort and marching to your own drummer. If that’s you, drop your pants, and get into a Kilted Bros kilt”, says Kilted Bros. This isn’t your traditional kilt store, they believe that kilts are for everyone, for any occasion, and any heritage. So come in, drop your pants and put on a kilt.

They offer traditional 5 and 8 yard Tartan style kilts and the more modern Cargo kilts, which include pockets and snaps. Their Hybrid kilts combine Cargo kilts with the ability to include inserts of any tartan designs or colors. One of their newer styles of kilts involve using a sublimation printing process, using heat to transfer ink to fabric to create various designs. At present they offer a Puppy Bone Leather Flag and Bear Flag Paw option, that are also cargo styled kilts.  All of their kilts are hand sewn, so they can accommodate any special orders you may have. Build time can vary; depending on the order, but usually takes about 6 weeks. They also offer a wide range of accessories to go along with your kilt; sporrans, belts, kilt pins, fly plaids, Ghillie shoes, tartan vests, kilt hose, and much more. Cant find it in the store, no worries you can order it from there website.

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Jefferson and Nick do travel the year, going to various Pride, Bear, and Leather events, selling their brand. They fully embrace an inclusive mentality and believe that all men should live a pant free lifestyle. Women are welcome, as well. They have built kilts especially for them, so if you need specific measurements they can set you up. Want to outfit your wedding, they got that covered. Just stop by and talk to them.

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Visiting their shop is amazing; their staff is welcoming and helpful. Never wore a kilt? No problem, they are there to walk you through your first purchase. They help with providing measurements, showing you options, and even walking you through ordering online, if they do not have what you are looking for. They truly treat you as a member of their family and the reason why I keep going back. This is my favorite place in all of Cleveland and I love these guys.

Yes they are LGBTQ friendly, they even have a Bear Pride kilt which is on the national Tartan registry and can be view here. That is one of two designs that Nick has registered, the other is the Pride of Cleveland tartan. These are just two of their many designs they carry. Truly something for every flavor.

They have made me a believer and I am in a kilt as often as I can be. When people ask me about my kilts I always tell them that once you try one on, there is no going back. They are quite possibly the most comfortable garments I have ever worn. Then I always flash them the Kilted Bros logo. If you are a person of your own style and confidence, then these guys are for you. Check them out and drop your pants.

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Kilted Bros.

530 Euclid Ave. #16 Cleveland, OH 44111

Shock and Awe

This title recalls the Bush era of going to war in the Middle East where he said he would give them Shock and Awe. Its seems this current president has gone to war with the LGBTQ people of this country with his own brand of shock and awe.  Daily we see how our rights are changing and the horizon looks more dark that hues of rainbows. The Goose stepping Government Goons are determined to hit us as much as they can. One right, as of yet, they can’t seem to refuse is that of LGBTQ rights to marry. Because of this, he and his anti-LGBTQ cabinet are targeting everything they can.

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In the two plus short years he has been in office he has overturned or put into place so many hate filled vitriol pieces of legislation. He has enacted a ban on Transgender People from being allowed in the military. He has judicial nominees that are fully against any further LGBTQ legislation set to be pulled into their positions or already have been. These officials are poised to remove any protections LGBTQ workers may have. He has rescinded a right of all K-12 students that are Transgender their basic civil liberties and are now forcing teachers and doctors to tell their parents, if they do not already know. He has rescinded another memo from the Obama era granting protection to Trans workers from being fired. He is allowing and siding with business after business the right to discriminate based solely on being LGBTQ, whether it is workers or patrons. He even argues that anti-gay discrimination is perfectly legal, as the Federal Civil Rights act doesn’t include LGBTQ people. He has allowed The Department of Health and Human Services to enact new regulationsand created an agency, the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom, that will purportedly work to ensure health care providers’ religious liberties aren’t violated, which essentially gives protection to health care provider the ability to deny giving care to LGBTQ patients. He also fired all members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS without an explanation; this came before recent news that shows he is allowing the Ryan White Fund to be drained to support his Child internment camps. He refuses to recognize June as LGBTQ pride month, a month that holds historical significance for our community in its fights for rights. And as of yesterday, the House of Representative passed a bill that will allow adoption agency to deny, legally, any LGBTQ couple from adopting children and provides no recourse if the Federal government chooses to step in and impose fine to those state agencies denying those couples a chance to adopt.

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Photo by Toa Heftiba u015einca on Pexels.com

This, my friends, is the same person who stood up and held a Pride Flag claiming that he was a friend to the LGBTQ community and that he would fight for our civil liberties. And many people bought into this line that he tried selling us, like so many others. Here we are on the precipice of change, yet again. This time we are witnessing 50 years of struggle being washed away and many times without the public even realizing that it is happening until it is done.

Recently, long time activist Larry Kramer was quoted saying “For Gays, the worst is yet to come. Again.” The article he wrote for the New York Times states how we do not have the activists and leaders our cause once had. It almost seems we laxed into a time of complacency because of the progress we thought we were making. I feel we were to easily riding the wave of feeling good. I remember in 1999 when my lover asked me to marry him and he was making plans for us to fly to Hawaii to get married, since at the time it was legal. I never thought it would last. I doubted we would ever get some of the rights that we did in the last 20 years. When it happened I was in awe about it and thinking we are on our way to finally being treated as an equal.

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On this day, as I look forward and backward, I grimly see that we were only on a step stool that has quickly been pulled from us like a childish prank. The generation of LGBTQs that grew up with it being legal to get married, adopt and safe from losing your home and job for being who you are now have woken up to realize that this dream is fading. It is to them we must look for our next leaders and activists. We must be there to offer them strength.  Strength because they didn’t witness what happened to us in the recent past. Pride month may be over and our rights may be diminishing, but we must remain strong in the pride of who we are. We must Unite and Fight to take back that progress and push it to new heights. We must show the oppressors that we will not settle for going back to the shadows and closets we have already burst forth from. We will fight every inch for what is ours, we will fight with our very lives if it is necessary. #RiseandResist

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

Review of LGBTQ Cleveland

Recently, while out doing some photography on W 29th, I visited The Dean Rufus House of Fun  – review forthcoming- I picked up a book that I had been wanting to get for a hot minute. LGBTQ Cleveland is a book written by local author Ken Schneck. The book chronicles the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Being a fairly new resident of the Cleveland area, I had been looking for a way to learn more about the LGBTQ history in Cleveland. Random searches turned up some information that had been in archives at CSU. This was all a good start but didn’t give me a picture of how things started and moved through time. Just before Pride I had seen a couple things popping up on my feed about this book and decided I wanted it.

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Ken wrote this book much like I, too, was thinking,  A way to find out about the community here in Cleveland. He had read an article in the Advocate that Cleveland’s LGBTQ community seemed as divided as the city itself. There are those who love it or those who would love to leave it. Not believing this about the city he moved to, he decided to ask his circle of friends their opinion and received much the same response. This was the spark for this book and one got which I am thankful. I moved to Cleveland from a very small rural town in southwestern Virginia and It has been hard for me to move from that small town mindset and out into this community. This book shows me that there is in fact a rich history here and it starts to instill pride in me about this city.

Each chapter is an inclusive “We…” showing how “We” as a community have come together to share in our victories and rally when we have setbacks. In the Chapter “We Connect,” we get to the all the groups that have provided needed information and solidarity. The backbones of our community that keeps us strong and focused on the changes that we need to make. Groups like Gay People’s Chronicle that gave us news about our community that other papers wouldn’t print, The Gay 90’s offering a beacon on the air waves as a means of speaking out, Cleveland Feminist Chorus that creates connections to people who otherwise may feel lost, and to the most recent Le Femme Mystique Burlesque that gives inclusion regardless of gender, orientation, size or gender expression. These are the very foundations of what makes a community strong.

Not long ago, bars and bathhouses were out community cornerstones. You may turn your nose up to it, but times were not as open as they are now. These were places we could go and be ourselves, freely. Even Cleveland had those places, places that shouldn’t be forgot. As they were our moments of fleeting freedom, the instilled in us the need for more and to fight for what rights we deserved. LGBTQ Cleveland shows those places, as well. Paying homage to places like the Leather Stallion Saloon (leatherstallion.com) being the oldest gay bar in Cleveland which opened in the 1970s. This bar has grown with the times and honors lesbians as well as gay men. Many of the bars this town once had, have gone by the wayside over the years. There are also mentions of places like Berkshire House, a place that was a gathering spot for the Lesbian community. These “safe places” were our refuge, our sanctity, and our church, even before churches started opening to us.

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Ken also gives us the beginnings of Activism and Pride celebrations in Cleveland. The book doesn’t sugar coat this history either. We can read about citizens of Cleveland that used their own resources in showing their hatred and bigotry. In a time when hate crime laws didn’t exist and definitely didn’t include LGBTQs, this was left unchallenged, except by our community. But rally we did. Many of these events are what prompted the first Gay Pride Celebration in 1974. However, it wasn’t until 1989 that it started gaining notice in the city. This event was held a W 29th and Detroit at the site of where the LGBTQ community center first stood. That block has remained a center for the gay community in Cleveland and is the site of a present day historical marker.

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This book has been an eye opener for me and has filled me with a renewed sense of pride for the city I now call home. This book has given me more cause to want to be included in this community and stand up for the change that the LGBTQ community, here, has fought so hard for. If you haven’t picked this book up yet, you need to do so. Visit places like The Dean Rufus House of Fun on W 29th and buy it local. You can get it from Ken Schneck’s website  just click his name. It is also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Make sure you pick it up, knowing your history is important.