Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day

Wow.  It’s difficult to believe that a little over a week has passed since the Supreme Court’s decision on Obergefell vs. Hodges.   I still have to stop and remind myself that it really happened.  Then, after I let it sink in that marriage is really legal for all loving and committed couples across the United States, I remind myself that this far from puts an end to the struggles of the LGBTQ community.  Then, I remind myself that we are still battling our racial prejudices and gender inequalities.  We celebrate this day, and I believe it is a day worth celebrating, as if it symbolizes the freedom of all citizens of the United States from all inequalities and tyrannies in our lives.  As much as I wish that were true, it simply is not.  Still, a major victory has been won.  As a nation we have taken a bold step forward, and I was glad to have been able to be a very small voice in the struggle to make it happen.

Love Wins Cookie

Columbus Doo Dah Parade

As much as I wish we truly could all sit back now and live as if the battle is won, I know that we cannot.  As long as people are being shot in churches because of the color of their skins, as long as people can be fired from their jobs because of who they love or because their gender doesn’t align with who people think they should be, as long as there is clear disparity between the compensation that a woman receives as compared to a man in the same role, there is work to be done.  Tonight, we set of fireworks and the celebrate what we have accomplished, and we have come far from where we began as a nation, but, tomorrow, it back to work, back to striving to become the nation that I know we can be, the nation that we should be, a nation where we are not ignorant of our differences, but where we embrace them and appreciate each other because of them.

 Let’s get back to work!


© Joshua Culbertson 2015

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Pride Fatigue

Pride fatigue is real.  After being at Pride festivals in Dayton, Springfield, Columbus, and Cincinnati, I am so happy to see July arrive.  It’s so strange though.  A few short years ago, in 2010, I stood on a sidewalk on N. High Street in Columbus and watched my first Pride parade.  I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be there.  I had reluctantly agreed to go with a friend.  He had run off to join a group of his friends and actually march in the parade.  I was standing there, trying to be invisible, and hoping that no one I knew would see me.

In 2011, I marched in my first Pride parade with my church, Broad Street United Methodist.  I boldly marched at the front of the group carrying a banner and waiving to the crowds, not caring who saw me because I was finally comfortable with who I was, and I didn’t care who saw me.  My primary focus was making sure that banner was visible to anyone and everyone who needed to see it, hoping that, if there was someone else out there in the same place that I was the year before, they would know that there was a safe place for them.

Me carrying banner for Broad Street UMC in 2011 
2011 was also the year that I connected with Equality Ohio, and I was bitten by the activism bug in a whole other arena.  I was engaged and ready to make my state, my church, and, if possible, the world a more open and accepting place for all people.  Pride changes for you at this point though.  It’s still fun.  It’s still rewarding, but it also becomes work, exhausting work.  When I see and connect with people around the state, it is all so worth it though.

In 2012, Equality Ohio announced that they would be launching the Equality Express, an RV tour throughout the state with a group of interns and a couple of staff to try to make connections with people all over the state.  Their first stop after leaving Columbus…my hometown of Zanesville, a small conservative town in southeastern Ohio.  There were maybe 30 to 40 people in attendance, a couple of ladies came from the Muskingum County Health Department and offered free HIV testing.  I shared that night about my journey and my first experience getting tested. I wanted to have an event that would welcome, the crew of the Equality Express into town and also make people aware of  the work that needed to be done to move Ohio forward.  I also wanted to create a space where people could meet local HIV testers in an environment where they could feel at ease and understand that they would not be judged based on who they were or who they were involved with sexually. 

Also, in 2012, I attended my first Pride festival in Dayton.  Dayton is a small city on the western side of Ohio that feels about the same size as Zanesville, and it made me feel like I was looking at what a Zanesville Pride festival would look like.  It made me smile, and it gave me hope for where things could go in the future.

In 2013 and 2014, I made it a goal to attend Dayton, Columbus, and Cincinnati Prides, marching with my church when I was in Columbus and with Equality Ohio when I was in Dayton and Cincinnati.  For me, Pride has always been less about partying and more about messaging, the getting the word out about whatever organization and/or cause I am representing in that moment

This year, in 2015, I attended Dayton Pride and marched with AIDS Resource Center (A.R.C.) Ohio to help promote PrEP, an HIV prevention pill that I recently began taking.  I was honored this year to also be able to go with A.R.C. Ohio to the first ever Pride festival in Springfield, Ohio.  It was exciting to see a new festival born in another small Ohio town.  It’s real evidence that things are moving forward.  Then, of course, I marched in a very wet Columbus Pride parade and, sadly, the festival in Goodale Park ended up having to be canceled only a couple of hours into the event.  Towards the end of June, I traveled down to Cincinnati for their Pride and stayed over to attend my former pastor’s church, Clifton United Methodist.  Then, I enjoyed an afternoon and evening at King’s Island on my way back to Columbus.

Clifton UMC

King's Island
To cap off my Pride month, on June 29th I hosted an event, Zanesville Pride Night, for Equality Ohio in my hometown of Zanesville, which is a small conservative town in southeastern Ohio.  There were roughly a hundred people in attendance.  A member of Zanesville City Council spoke.  I had a United Methodist deacon there to share an affirming message of faith.  A father shared about his son’s coming out to him.  The Field Director for Equality Ohio shared about the work that still needs to be done to secure non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in Ohio.  Oh, and, after this past Friday’s Supreme Court ruling, we added a wedding to the agenda.  In my closing remarks at the event, I encouraged local people to take up this work and to keep moving Zanesville and the surrounding area forward.

The very next day, a local group in Zanesville was formed, and they are already planning to have an organizational meeting to begin doing this work.  I am so excited to see where things go from here.   For now though, I am most thankful to be getting a chance to take a bit of a breather.  So looking forward to this weekend.  With marriage equality being the law of the land, I think Independence Day is going to feel an little extra special this year!


© Joshua Culbertson 2015