[This original post was first published on April 17, 2023 via The Buckeye Flame.]
by Craig Turner, Stonewall Columbus Pride volunteer and steering committee chair
Last year, so many Ohio Pride celebrations fell far short of the number of volunteers needed to put on such huge and important events.
I am a straight guy, but that is the least important part of this story.
In 2017 my world collided with Stonewall Columbus, the nonprofit LGBTQ+ community center on High Street. I met Thomas Grote, co-chair of the Stonewall Builds campaign to revitalize the center. We began consulting pro bono to help the organization tell its story. Thomas would later become my business partner, and I would work with Stonewall Columbus to relaunch their visual brand identity.
Through this work, I gained a greater appreciation for the role the organization plays in my community and the support and services that are essential to “an Ohio where ALL of US thrive.”
I first volunteered for the Stonewall Columbus Pride March and Festival in 2017 alongside the late, great Linda Schuler. Linda called me “Cous’” because her genealogy efforts revealed a distant, shared Ohio relative — we hoped. Working with Linda, I realized there is no better way to experience this joyous event than through support and leadership as a volunteer.
A Bit of History
The first Pride march in Columbus took place in 1981. About 200 people attended, some wearing bags over their heads for fear of losing their jobs, being outed to their family or being targets of violence.
Think about how far we’ve come. Last year, we saw approximately 17,000 registered marchers, a number we anticipate seeing again this year, and nearly 800,000 people visiting the Central Ohio region for Stonewall’s Pride weekend.
Then think about how far we have to go. LGBTQ+ lives are in danger every day. Proposed legislation here in Ohio threatens to rip families apart as well as threaten basic human rights. Visibility and inclusion matter. Purpose, passion and power matter.
Making Change Happen
We can’t make positive change alone. Last year, we had only 34% of the volunteers necessary to put on the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival & March. This shortage caused existing volunteers to work continuous shifts and leadership to endure excessive stress. And those same shortages of volunteers were in evidence all over Ohio.
We ALL can do better.
Volunteering at your local Pride events affects change in many ways. For allies, this is the time to step up while your friends in the LGBTQ+ community show up as their authentic selves, contribute to much-needed LGBTQ+ visibility and, yes, celebrate. This is the time to show your support for our LGBTQ+ community. You can help make the place you live more inclusive and welcoming of diversity. You can lift up family and friends you love.
And you can have fun! It really is okay to have fun and volunteer at the same time. In fact, fun is encouraged. You won’t get a chance to work a job more exciting this entire year.
Allies, please hear my call. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, please pass this message to your ally friends.
The best way to experience Pride is as a volunteer. Volunteer at your Ohio Pride celebration and create an Ohio where ALL of US thrive. ?
- Click here to volunteer for Stonewall Columbus Pride, held this year on June 16. Volunteers must be at least 18 years old. Accommodations are made for accessibility needs. Feel free to reach out me firstname.lastname@example.org If you have questions.
- Contact your local LGBTQ+ org to find out about volunteering at a Pride in your corner of Ohio.