Columbus’s first Pride march was in 1981 and saw 200 people marching from the Ohio State University to the Statehouse in commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising; in 1982 Stonewall Columbus organized Columbus’s first official Gay Pride.
This year we in Columbus, and across Central Ohio, recognize 42 years of leading the Ohio community in the celebration and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community across Central Ohio.
We must know our history; so as not to repeat errors of the past. We must know our history; so as to celebrate and recognize those who have come before us and fought to make this moment possible.
The 1969 Stonewall Uprisings were protests against police brutality; but more so protests representative of the communal frustration against the injustices enacted on a people: the LGBTQ+ community. The theme of the Stonewall Columbus 2023 Pride Festival and March is “Purpose. Passion. Power.”
Fifty-four years post the Stonewall Uprisings we have much to celebrate but far more left in our fight. In the month of June as our communities gather around the country to celebrate and recognize LGBTQ+ Pride across our intersectional identities we must ensure we do this in remembrance of our purpose, celebration of our passion, and as a demonstration of our power because we know as we fight to make and maintain spaces for queer identities to be seen and thrive, at the core this fight is about our Pride.
Halfway into the year and over 540 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures, a record; over 220 bills specifically target transgender and non-binary people, also a record; and this year 45 anti-LGBTQ laws have been enacted…so far.
In the face of these obstacles, Stonewall Columbus remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting and uplifting the LGBTQ+ community so we all thrive. Our organization works tirelessly to connect communities to essential services, resources, and uplifts the direct advocacy work done by many great organizations in our queer advocacy ecosystem to meet the diverse and compounding needs of our community members. We continue to affirm our support for comprehensive protections, healthcare access, inclusive education, and an end to discrimination in all its forms. We are working to make space for the various identities in our community to ensure Columbus is and strives to be a welcoming community for our various intersectional identities.
As we gather this June to celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride, let us remember our purpose, embrace our passion, and harness our collective power. Let us honor the resilience and courage of those who came before us, and let us recommit ourselves to the work that lies ahead. Together, we will continue to write the history of LGBTQ+ liberation and equality.
It’s about the marginalized, unseen, under appreciated, under-serviced identities in our LGBTQ+ community who continue to fight for equity and equality and it is about celebrating and honoring those who have fought to get us here; those who risked, and risk, their lives simply by living their truth.
During the month of June we are often reminded that some of our various identities rest in spaces of privilege and soar differently; while there are many in our queer community that are underprivileged and some who have even lost their lives. Those of us with any modicum of privilege must allow those without to take space and be seen; those with privilege must be ok with using whatever privilege we have to uplift those who have less privilege.
When we, who have privilege and agency in spaces, are able to make those spaces safe for others who must exist in these spaces it is the work we must do–we must be accomplices.
Stonewall’s annual in-person Pride march and events are considered one of the largest Pride celebrations of its kind in the Midwest—last when we gathered, in 2022, an estimated 700,000 people were welcomed to the Central Ohio region! Our Pride events are an opportunity–an opportunity for our community to be seen, to connect, and to find resources and services that are life affirming–even life saving.
The Stonewall Columbus Pride march and events have long been crucial fundraising tools that aim to fund Stonewall’s programs and operations in support of the community. Funds raised at Pride events support Stonewall’s work to “increase visibility, inclusion, and connection for the LGBTQ+ community” so we see “an Ohio where all of us thrive.”
Our shared experiences as LGBTQ+ identities unite us in our story; however it should be our individual right for happiness that binds us in our fight for equality, equity, and liberation. We know that at our core each of us wants to be seen as valued individuals who are part of a larger community–a community that sees us and respects our individuality.
We are here today because of the generations before us who fought and sacrificed to get us here–who created spaces for us to be seen. As we embark on this Pride Month, let us march forward with purpose, fueling our actions with passion, and wielding the power of our shared determination. Together, we will shape a world where every LGBTQ+ individual can live with dignity, where their dreams can flourish, and where their identities are celebrated.