From Zero To Two: A Tale Of Cleveland Pride(s)

As a community, we need to somehow filter out all of the drama, brush past the confusion, and laser focus our attention.

Come one, come all, and take a ride on the rainbow rollercoaster that we call Pride in Cleveland.

First we had one Pride. Then suddenly we had no Pride. Then we quickly had one Pride again. Now we have two Prides.

What the heck is going on in our fair city? Two Prides? Is that a good thing? Are we really that gay?

To recap, Cleveland Pride Inc. surprised our community in 2016 by canceling the Pride celebration two weeks before the entire community was set to gather. A vague reason of “safety concerns” was offered forth—which was quickly debunked by city officials—and despite a ton of conspiracy theories out there (lack of preparation? financial malfeasance? a coup by another organization?), no one stepped up to the mic to explain what actually happened.

Fortunately, some community organizations, led by the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland, pulled together energy and resources to hold the 1st Annual Pride in the CLE, admittedly on a smaller scale than Cleveland Pride, Inc., but without sacrificing any of the heart. On the day that Pride in the CLE was held, Cleveland Pride, Inc. published a Facebook page staking their claim on the date for the 2017 festivities. It was a hilariously passive-aggressive move to pee on their territory on the very same day that Cleveland came together to celebrate what Cleveland Pride, Inc. had canceled.

Regardless, Pride in the CLE happened. It was grand. Cleveland showed up. All was well. Things quieted down.

Then a few months later, the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland announced that they would be holding a 2nd Annual Pride in the CLE. And suddenly Cleveland, Ohio had two Prides on the books. Two Prides! I’m no math wizard, but that’s double the number of Prides than are held by our brothers and sisters in, say, Pittsburgh, New York City, Los Angeles, or {insert almost any other city}. Again: Cleveland, Ohio has two Prides!

The ensuing level of confusion was predictably high and the questions on social media have been strikingly incessant: Do we really need two Prides? Isn’t this a waste of resources? Are there really any differences between the two events? Are they even speaking to each other? Did you hear that lawyers might be involved? Wasn’t there a petition for that one guy to step down? Didn’t he say he was going to step down anyway? Shouldn’t we support Pride in the CLE because it seems more community-minded? But Cleveland Pride Inc. has Taylor Dayne, so that should be the one we go to, right? Damnit, Dorothy, which Pride should we attend?!?

As a community, we need to somehow filter out all of the drama, brush past the confusion, and laser focus our attention on that last question of which Pride we should support. And we need to not linger too long on the query and instead quickly arrive on the only acceptable answer: Both. We absolutely must attend and support Pride in the CLE and Cleveland Pride Inc. Two Prides in one city should be seen as a wonderful opportunity, a unique chance to push ourselves as a community in a way not available to other cities. Here’s how:

Get Political. We cannot enter into Pride celebrations this year without acknowledging that there is so much work left to do. Conversion therapy is still legal. Ohioans can still be fired from our jobs, denied an apartment, or refused service at a movie theater, restaurant or hotel because of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Heck, Ohio is still one of only three states left in the country that does not allow an individual to make a correction to their birth certificate once they have completed medical procedures to match their physical appearance with their inward gender identification. This June, talk to people at the Prides about our political reality and strategize ways we can motivate our elected representatives to make our lives distinctly more safe and decidedly more equal.

Get Intersectional. When you are at both Prides, look around. Who is there? Who isn’t? Who is talking to whom? The LGBTQ community has made great strides in addressing issues of race, class, gender, age, and gender identity/expression, but it’s incredible how quickly many of us fall into our old patterns of only speaking to those who look like us. With two Prides, we have double the opportunity to break out of the cliques and listen to the stories that are all around us.

Get Future-Oriented. In order for Pride to survive and thrive, we must all sit down at the same table and have a conversation about how to best use our resources. Everyone needs to participate in these efforts; we can’t just leave it to the amazing folks who spend their year planning these incredible days for the rest of us. Approach the Pride organizers at both Prides and ask how you can get involved. Your help is needed.

Get Prideful. For so many individuals in our community, Pride is the one day they have to express their full selves. Here in Cleveland, we get two of those days! Talk to people about what Pride means to them. Express to others what Pride means to you. Celebrate, honor, and respect the Pride experience with everything you can muster. And then do it all over again a few weeks later.