Prizm August 2019

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The Employment Issue Labor without protections Out clergy in the pulpit

el lev


kes ma ming o B T h t i n g a w e l ict y G h L c g hli suc ve Hig land clusi in ve Cle and

C Q + what

Queer comics grab the mic

AUGUST 2019 | August 2019 |


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© HS 2018

August 2019 |


august LEGAL Employment at Risk Ohio lacks employment protections for LGBTQ+ people, but what does that really mean?


EDUCATION Rainbows Over Campus Choosing the right college for LGBTQ+ students can be tough, so we profile five of Ohio’s best


REFLECTION Teach Out One teacher shares his thoughts on what it means to be out and proud in the classroom


SPECIAL SECTION Showcasing Cleveland Highlighting the businesses, organizations, and individuals that make Cleveland such a welcoming and inclusive city to live, work, and play The Perfect Gay Day in…Cleveland Travel along as we put together the most epic gay day exploring the Forrest City. Voices from Cleveland: Amanda Cole Reflections from the Executive Director of Plexus LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce

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Voices from Cleveland: Phyllis Harris Thoughts penned by the Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland

ARTS Capturing Movement A new image-driven book details the unique burlesque scene showcased in Cleveland


FEATURE The Call to the Cloth Out clergy navigate the intersection between sexuality and faith


ARTS Make ‘Em Laugh Queer comics take to the stage to entertain with their own brand of humor


DEPARTMENTS Letter From the Editor One of Us

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t Chief Executive Officer Bill Hardy Publisher Carol Zimmer Clark Associate Publisher/Advertising Director Joe Matessa

Letter From the Editor

Creative Director Staley Jophiel Munroe Editor Ken Schneck Designer Patrick Butler

Contributing Writers BJ Colangelo, Amanda Cole, Phyllis Harris, Katie Hobbins, Alana Jochum, Kevin Warman, Jeremy Wiedle Contributing Photographers Aerionna McCall, Argonian Photography, Avalanche Run Pictures, B Sullivan Photography, Bob Perkoski , Eric Paul Owens, Louis Haas, Randi and Bethany Photography, Shino Omura Prizm encourages feedback from our readers. Share your comments at For news consideration, event listings, letters to the editor and inquiries about freelance writing, email For photography submissions and inquiries about modeling/styling assignments, email Address subscription inquiries to Joe Matessa, Prizm Magazine 7575 Huntington Park Drive, Columbus, Ohio, 43235 © 2019 Prizm magazine. For permissions and questions contact Prizm is a proud member of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Cover Photo by Staley Munroe Wardrobe provided by Dress for Success and Pursuit Hair by Nurtur the Salon Table of Content photo by Ethan Benavidez


n the summer of 2001, I was desperate. Having just finished my graduate degree, I was desperate to find a job, any job. Our professors had drilled into our heads that May, June, and July would be packed with job interviews. Well, except for me. My appendix had decided that it was a great time to burst, putting me in a hospital in May. A post-operative infection followed the appendectomy, keeping me in the hospital in June. After I was released, it seemed that all the jobs had dried up. So there I was, squatting illegally in an NYU residence hall room in July, ready to pounce on any job that came my way. Luckily one did. A faith-based university was looking for a Residence Hall Director. Perfect. I aced the interview, enjoyed meeting the staff, and was excited for the duties. Towards the end of the interview, my supervisor-to-be casually mentioned that if any student actually came out of the closet, my first response was to act in accordance with the Code of Conduct, which meant referring them directly to the University Chaplain for immediate remediation. And that was it for me and the faith-based university. It was my first time navigating the intersection of sexual orientation and employment and I was dismayed. Decades later, my resume is covered with jobs where I experienced homophobic microaggressions, extreme tokenism, and, yes, outright antigay sentiments. Still, I am one of the privileged ones who has never lost a job nor had to quit due to my being gay. So many Ohioans have not been so fortunate. In this state where we lack employment protections based on sexual

orientation and gender identity/expression, being an out employee can be an impossible feat. This August issue of Prizm celebrates myriad LGBTQ+ Ohioans who are not only working, but flourishing. From queer comedians taking to the stage to out clergy holding forth in the pulpit, from the lone out teacher in front of the classroom to all the business owners we feature in our special Cleveland section serving up crepes, selling dog toys, and giving city tours, we are honored to lift up the voices of those who go to work each and every day to serve as role-models of passion, talent, and service. That this employment-issue coincides with the start of my Prizm tenure as Editor is a happy coincidence. Working with the incredible staff at Prizm these past few months has been a wonderful deep-dive into how to best amplify the great work being done across the state. As we launch an entirely redesigned website and are rebranding our weekly slate of original web-only content as “The Lens,” the goal is to continue to be the most effective outlet for all that is LGBTQ+ in Ohio. These exciting changes represent more streamlined opportunities to both provide access to our content as well as create avenues where we can hear from you about the valuable work you are doing in your corner of the state. After all, whether you are clocking in or heading home for the day, we really are all in this work together.

Ken Schneck Editor

August 2019 |


Employment at R i s k Ohio lacks employment protections for LGBTQ+ people, but what does that really mean?


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By Alana Jochum, Esq.


any people cannot believe that LGBTQ people are not yet included in Ohio’s laws that protect against discrimination in employment, housing, and public services. After all, it’s 2019. People can marry the person they love, yet they risk being fired or denied housing or services for doing so. At Equality Ohio, we hear stories from people who have chosen not to marry their partner of many years because they are afraid it will only further “out” them to an employer that is not supportive of LGBTQ people, which then puts their job and income at risk. Sometimes we’re asked, “So what? What’s the big deal that ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity or expression’ are not explicitly protected under state law?” It means that LGBTQ Ohioans have to pick and choose where they are “out” and hide themselves in some settings, such as a workplace. It means that whether a person is safe in their job right now depends on a host of factors, including where they live, their employer, or the type of discrimination they experience. To explain, let’s pretend that Tamara is a lesbian woman married to her wife, Shayna. Tamara has been fired by her employer because she talked about the fact that she and her wife attended Pride together in Portsmouth, Ohio. If we pass the Ohio Fairness Act (SB11), Tamara would be explicitly protected under state law based on her “sexual orientation” or “gender identity or expression.” She could simply file a complaint about being fired for being married to a woman with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), or she could file an employment discrimination lawsuit in court. It’s also more likely that her employer would already know in advance that they must treat LGBTQ people equally under the law and would seek to comply with that law, avoiding this situation in the first place. Without statewide nondiscrimination protections, here’s what Tamara has to ask to determine if she’s protected:

Does her company have an internal nondiscrimination policy to protect LGBTQ people? • Yes → Great. She can use the policy to advocate that she should not be fired, preferably with the guidance of an attorney, as these policies can be tricky to navigate. • No → Not protected. Keep going.

LGBTQ Ohioans have to pick and choose where they are “out” and hide themselves in some settings, such as the workplace Does she work in one of the 25 localities with local nondiscrimination ordinances? • Yes → Excellent. Governor DeWine extended employment protections to LGBTQ people (based on both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression”) in state employment upon taking office. The state government has an internal process for hearing claims of discrimination. • No → Not protected. Keep going. Does she work in one of 24 localities with local nondiscrimination ordinances? • Yes → Good. There are 24 municipalities and one county that offer fully inclusive LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections (all detailed on our Equality Ohio’s Municipal Map online). Tamara also must work in a city or county with these protections in place to file an employment discrimination complaint. Sadly, people can lose their civil rights on their daily commute in Ohio.

• No → Not protected. Keep going. Does she work for a company with more than 15 employees? • Yes → Encouraging. She may be able to access procedures offered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which currently interprets “sex” discrimination to include being fired for being LGBTQ. Tamara could fill out an Intake Form at Equality Ohio’s Legal Clinic online to see if one of our attorneys can assist in this process. • No → Not protected. Keep going. Tamara is running out of options. Is there anything left she can do? • Yes → Ohio does not explicitly protect against discrimination based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity or expression,” but the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) sometimes can hear cases where the discrimination fits certain fact patterns (a “sex stereotyping” theory). Tamara could fill out an Intake Form at Equality Ohio’s Legal Clinic online to see if she could consider this route. All of this would be simplified if “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” were added explicitly to Ohio’s nondiscrimination laws. You can help make this a reality! Visit Equality Ohio’s Action Center to engage with your legislators in multiple ways and show them that it’s time that the Ohio Fairness Act became law. And are you navigating a situation like Tamara’s? Please don’t feel you have to do so alone. Visit Equality Ohio’s Legal Clinic and complete our online intake form or call us at 1-855-LGBT-LAW to see if we can help or connect you with another attorney who can help. •• Alana Jochum is an attorney and the Executive Director of Equality Ohio, a statewide LGBTQ equality organization that envisions an Ohio where everyone feels at home.

August 2019 |


By Jeremy Wiedle


R A I N B OW S OV E R C A M P US Choosing the right college for LGBTQ+ students can be tough, so we profile five of Ohio’s best

he process of choosing the right college can be fraught with anxiety. But for LGBTQ+ students, searching for the perfect fit can be downright daunting as they must weigh academic offerings and attendance costs against campus culture and queer acceptance. To aid students in their search, Campus Pride—a national nonprofit dedicated to creating safer, more inclusive universities—publishes a yearly index of the most LGBTQ-friendly schools. This year, for the first time, two Ohio universities (Kent State University and The Ohio State University) received the highest possible score of 5 stars. To help navigate the Ohio landscape of higher education, we profiled five institutions that scored at least a 4.5 on the index to showcase just what makes their campuses so wonderful. Kent State University Kent State offers a number of resources to LGBTQ+ students through their newly renovated LGBTQ Student Center. Connecting students to resources like the Queers United to Encourage and Support Transition (QUEST) mentorship program, an LGBTQ library, counseling and legal services, and an LGBTQ Emergency Fund, the student center serves as a hub for LGBTQ+ students. “I feel like we’ve always been strong in this regard, as a leading community resource for LGBTQ+ individuals, but our score now truly represents the great work being done,” says LGBTQ Student Center Director Ken Ditlevson. Over the past year, the university increased its index score with the implementation of transinclusive healthcare, preferred name process for faculty and staff, and a written policy for universal restrooms. The Ohio State University (OSU) Also receiving the highest possible score of 5 stars is OSU, Ohio’s largest public university. Named among the top 30 “Best of the Best” LGBTQ-friendly universities by Campus Pride last year, OSU maintains its inclusive distinction this year with particular praise for its housing & residence life and counseling & health services. But that inclusive support doesn’t end after students graduate. Scarlet and Gay, the university’s LGBTQ Alumni Society, serves to connect students upon leaving the school and offers an array of scholarships and grants for students traveling to represent LGBTQ+ organizations, research, or service. Continued on Page 10


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Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) With an index score of 4.5 stars, CWRU has an established history of supporting LGBTQ+ students on its Cleveland campus. In 2013, the school was ranked among the top 25 LGBTQfriendly universities in the country by The Huffington Post after receiving its first 5-star ranking on the Campus Pride Index. In 2010, the university introduced a Safe Zone Program, a visible network of more than 500 volunteers committed to creating a community of respect and dignity for LGBTQ individuals. Last year, CWRU updated their student information system to allow students to select from over 20 different gender identities. Oberlin College The Campus Pride Index includes an extensive list of reasons on its website as to why Oberlin College ranks amongst one of the most welcoming colleges in the nation for LGBTQ+ students. Earning a score of 4.5 stars, the university is specifically praised for its inclusive academic offerings and LGBTQ-related scholarships. In 2017, the college was named one of the 20 most LGBTQ-friendly colleges by The Princeton Review, not surprising given Oberlin’s history of being one of the first schools in the country to accept students regardless of race or gender. The school’s website includes many identity-specific resource pages, including comprehensive information on the college’s inclusive bathroom, housing, and healthcare


| August 2019

policies. Every year in November, Oberlin celebrates Trans Week of Action, a robust slate of programming organized around the national Trans Day of Remembrance. Kenyon College Receiving 5 out of 5 stars for its policy inclusion, institutional commitment, student life, and residence life, Kenyon College received an overall 4.5-star score on the Campus Pride Index. As part of the college’s ongoing efforts to promote a more inclusive campus environment, Kenyon updated its student information system this year to allow students and staff the opportunity to add chosen/preferred names and pronouns. Kenyon offers extensive support to LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented students through its Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI) and network of community partners. Students, faculty, and staff can also apply for funds through the Student LGBTQ+ Diversity Fund, which provides financial resources for programs that promote acceptance of and combat prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community. •• Jeremy Wiedle is a Dayton, Ohio-based freelance journalist currently pursing a career in teaching. His work as a journalist and nonprofit professional centers around issues of equality and community. Find more of his work at

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T E AC H out One teacher’s thoughts on being out and proud in the classroom

By Kevin Warman


ugust marks the beginning of a new school year. New pencils. New lessons. New teachers. But, for countless of us educators, the start of the school year represents another deeply personal journey: deciding whether to come out of the closet. This decision is most certainly without a universal roadmap. We try and orient ourselves in the mental wilderness of the unknown, answering the persistent howls of myriad questions: Do I feel ready? Will my staff support me? What questions will students have? Will I be fired? I became a teacher in 2017 knowing that I would come out to my class as gay even before I was hired. Growing up, I fiercely battled self-hatred, lived in fear, and now was ready to teach in full Technicolor. But on that first day, I stood well-dressed and completely frozen in front my first of three 6th grade classes. My 25-yearold voice registered several octaves higher than usual, cracking as I informed them, “I am excited to be your teacher and I am gay!” The syllables ricocheted in the classroom hitting what I can only assume were many busy and varying thoughtbubbles. With two more classes in front of me, I would love to say that this coming out process became progressively easier for me. It didn’t. Each time I shared my identity, my students were tongue-tied. As the months went on, I would adjust to being open and my students adjusted along with me.


In crowded, buzzing halls I would hear students casually lob comments drenched in homophobia: referring to others as “Skittles”, “LA”, “fruity”, and even calling someone an “Edible Arrangement.” The connotation and association with the LGBTQ+ community was habitually and consistently negative. I myself did not escape the crossfire. School leaders were aware that a few students had repeatedly called me gay to intimidate me and make me feel bad about my identity. Alongside several staff members, I expressed my frustrations to school administrators about these instances of intolerance. The response? Not much. Several of us were given the funding to attend seminars to help create a more LGBTQ+ inclusive environment. The only hitch: every single one of us who volunteered to attend were members of the LGBTQ+ community. No administrators. No straight allies. After the seminars, I followed up to ask about how we would incorporate addressing homophobia into our curriculum. I was told by administrators that there were no set plans for this to occur. And that was that. Although it has been 40 years since the defeat of the Briggs Initiative—Proposition 6 in California that tried to ban gay and lesbian individuals from working in public schools—there is still so much more work to be done. Working in a state lacking in employment protections, Ohio teachers need administrators who will do more than put up safe space stickers as a sign of their support to their LGBTQ+ students and teachers. We need allies who will help students understand why calling someone an “Edible Arrangement” is dehumanizing. We need colleagues who take seriously the concerns of our LGBTQ+ siblings. And we need real leaders who will proactively protect the rights of every eager individual in the classroom…including the teacher. •• Kevin Warman is a Cleveland-based educator and advocate for the advancement of education.

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| August 2019


T h e P e r f e ct G ay Day i n … C l e v e l a n d By Ken Schneck


n a recent United Airlines flight from Tokyo to Chicago, I found myself in a true crisis situation: my computer ran out of juice, my charger was nowhere to be found, and the flight attendants were out of the earbuds to plug me into the inflight entertainment. With three hours left to go and jet lag plagued slumber nowhere on the horizon, I desperately started rifling through Hemispheres, the airline’s magazine. I stumbled onto a piece entitled “Three Perfect Days in Tel Aviv.” It was a beautifully written tour through the

ancient Israeli city, mesmerizing the reader to this foreign location largely because the location was indeed so foreign. We humans do this. We romanticize places that are definitively not-here, often pretending that there is a mythical geographic cure to all that ails us, one that can only be found in an unfamiliar locale surrounded by unfamiliar people. But what if we didn’t look so far afield to gain a sense of perspective? What if we did a full immersion into our own community, spending dedicated time interacting with

passionate individuals who are using their talents to enhance the city around them? What insights and appreciation for our environment could we achieve if we stayed in the same ZIP code but with eyes distinctly more wide open? Thus came the inspiration for this new series, “A Perfect Gay Day in…”. To be clear, the idea was not to find the gayest places around Ohio, but instead to crisscross a city to find LGBTQ+ siblings who are creating, who are hosting, who are serving, and who are just plain channeling their passions for the whole city to enjoy. Continued on Page 16

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Tours of Cleveland and Scott O’Con

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July 5, 2019, The Morning


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| August 2019

ith an epic day in front of me, I decided to start out my day with an early run to clear my head. Happily, I live within close proximity to Edgewater Park, a 147-acre nirvana with a very gay history. Though there is a prevailing Cleveland narrative that the first Pride in Cleveland was in 1989, that history is as popular as it is wrong. There were five different Pride celebrations in the 1970s, beginning with the first event in 1974 held in Edgewater Park and sponsored by the Cleveland Metropolitan Community Church. As the sun was just cresting the horizon over the sandy beach, majestic willows, and grassy fields where our LGBTQ+ siblings bravely gathered 45 years ago, the city felt like it was just starting to wake up, making it the perfect start to my day. At 8am, I met Scott O’Con by the statue of Mayor Tom L. Johnson on the northern side of Public Square in downtown Cleveland. O’Con, the proprietor and guide of Tours of Cleveland LLC (, moved to Cleveland a few years back with his husband and immediately fell in love with the city. He channeled his Cleveland affinity into creating several different Cleveland walking tours, including a “Cleveland From the Inside Tour” and a “Downtown Highlights Walking Tour.” Let me tell you: O’Con’s tour does not disappoint. In one hour (an abbreviated version of his normal tours), I learned more about the history of Cleveland than I had in six years living here. And there were gay Cleveland highlights too! They included the murals found in the stunning Cleveland-Trust-Company-turnedHeinin’s building, painted by Francis Davis Millet, about whom rumors of a gay relationship swirled up until his death on the RMS Titanic.

But my favorite were the stories O’Con shared of Newspaper Annie (Annie Perkins), a known fixture in the 1890s as much for her genderbending role of selling newspapers as for her challenging of stereotypes with her radical form of gender expression: tennis cap, cropped hair, men’s jacket, and knee-length trousers. I am now officially obsessed with Newspaper Annie and am determined to learn more about her. All that walking and learning had me a bit peckish, so I dashed over to Brewella’s Coffee, Crepes, and Collectables (16806 Madison Avenue). Opened in 2018 by husbands Chris Murphy and Joe Keppler, the 900-square-foot café was as cozy as it was whimsical. The “Oh, How Marvelous!” neon sign perfectly offsets the tea sets and other bric-a-brac that would delight collectors. I wolfed down a savory spinach and brie crepe and washed it down with a Lady Liber-TEA (blueberry white tea with homemade strawberry syrup). With my blood sugar back up to functioning levels, it was time to set out for more wandering. Though my cats Jack and Delphi could not have cared less about being included on my day out, I nonetheless wanted them to be a part of the action. Thus, I made a stop over at Pet-tique (10906 Clifton Blvd). Owned by husbands Lawrence Carter and Kevin Schmotzer (who pulls double duty as the LGBTQ+ Liaison to the City of Cleveland), this neighborhood offering is the perfect alternative to the big box pet store. A rainbow display of Pride pet paraphernalia in the window welcomed me into the space, where I quickly bought a catnip-filled rainbow toy and a pretty gay fish on a string. Take that, my indifferent LGBTQ felines!

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July 5, 2019, The Afternoon

Fear’s Confections


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With noon suddenly upon me, I needed chocolate. And I needed chocolate stat. My fix was supplied by Fear’s Confections (15208 Madison Avenue), where you can spike your blood sugar AND your geek cred as you feast on a white chocolate direwolf, milk chocolate Millennium Falcons, and assorted (and edible) Dr. Who treats. The woman behind it all is Cassandra Fear, a top-notch ally who is a regular fixture at LGBTQ+ events around Cleveland selling her sugary snacks. A chocolate covered orange peel (“hand peeled, candied from scratch, cured for five days, and hand dipped”) was exactly what I needed in that moment. No “Perfect Gay Day in Cleveland” is complete without a stop to the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland (6705 Detroit Avenue). With their rainbow ribbon cutting on June 14, the Center moved into a breathtaking, sunlit structure that is a beacon for the entire LGBTQ+ community to behold. My favorite part about the Center is unquestionably the SAGE gatherings of LGBTQ+ elders who were assembled today for chair yoga. Popping in on them this afternoon and stealing some wonderful hugs pushed me right through the midday hump. I promise I went east! I promise I went east! Clevelanders can be notoriously territorial with their east side vs. west side entrenchment, a fact about which I used to scoff until I realized my westside living self wasn’t going east all that often. But today I happily went east to visit the literary mecca of Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd). This delight of a space in the Larchmere neighborhood—which sports its own LGBTQ+ identity (shout-out, Lesbians on Larchmere!)—was founded 25 years ago by the amazing Harriet Logan. I could stand in front of that wall of books for hours. And I almost did. That is until Otis, the official Loganberry sales cat, brushed up against my leg and woke me up from my bibliophile reverie.


Side Qu

July 5, 2019, The Evening

Dean Rufus House of Fun


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With the sunlight portion of day coming to an end, I jetted home for a quick outfit change, before setting out for some nightly entertainment. My first stop was Salt (17625 Detroit Avenue), a Lakewood bistro featuring the unmatched talents of superstar Chef Jill Vedaa. I transferred ownership of my gay day to this two-time James Beard Award nominated chef and

asked her to bring me the gayest drink and the gayest appetizer. The drink? “She’s not your girlfriend, she’s your therapist,” a mix of Appleton Reserve, Giffard Banane du Bresil, Ardbeg, Mango, Coconut, and Cane Syrup. I had never heard of half of those ingredients, but holy heck, that drink went down smooth. The appetizer? Summer squash, charred broccoli puree and hazelnut brittle because, according to Vedaa, “C’mon. Look at the shapes!” Sure, I could have had a drink at one of Cleveland’s many gay bars, but I went a bit off the well-worn path and stopped into The Side Quest (17900 Detroit). With arguably the most LGBTQ+ representative staff of any establishment in all of Cleveland, this spot is perfect for gays and gamers alike. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to drink when I opened the menu, but my quickly spotting a concoction called “Friend of Dorothy” made that decision easy. The brew of berry vodka, raspberry vodka, housemade simple syrup, Berry Lemonade Jones Soda, and rainbow candy was the perfect compliment to the Harry Potter debate in which I suddenly found myself with the patron on the adjacent bar stool. For the record, Slytherin > Ravenclaw, any day of the week. Before heading home, I stopped into The Dean Rufus House of Fun (1422 W 29th Street) because, well, such an excursion might as well be required. Operating since 2006 in the former site of the LGBT Community Center, the eponymous owner—himself a legendary radio dj—sells everything from records to novelty underwear to distinctly more adult wares. Rufus is also a keeper of Cleveland LGBTQ+ stories, and stands at the ready to share them with you. Leaving Dean’s store with a Cyndi Lauper album and an earful of tales, I finished my night by putting one hand on the historical marker outside his store, the only LGBTQ+-related marker in the entire state of Ohio. It had been a whirlwind day filled with exceptional people using their authentic gifts to enrich and entertain. Although I was pretty darn exhausted, I felt extraordinarily fulfilled, nigh inspired. I had a good sense that there were a diverse array of LGBTQ+ neighbors in Cleveland doing great things, but seeing their efforts up close really did make for the perfect gay day. Well, all that plus the fact that I still had some of that chocolate covered orange peel left for the ride home. I mean, what more could you want?

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V o i c es f r o m Cleveland Amanda Cole, Executive Director of Plexus LGBT & Allied Chamber of Commerce I joined Plexus as the first Executive Director in May of 2019. While I am the first to officially hold this title, I am inheriting the work, drive, and creative powers of a dedicated Board of Directors and leadership. Together we have plans to deepen our impact, expand the Plexus network, and grow in capacity. As we look to 2020, we are incubating and implementing new ways to grow our membership base and create unique opportunities and events for networking, community building, and learning. You may know us best for our network nights, but Plexus is more than a typical chamber of commerce. Networking opportunities remain a core aspect of our mission, a place for connection between LGBTQ professionals, and a valuable business resource in supporting a community of allyship in Northeast Ohio. In describing a Plexus event, people often describe them as warm, inviting, and a place where people are comfortable to be themselves. The Plexus Chamber is welcoming. We are what inclusivity looks like in practice. Plexus is more than a chamber because we understand to support businesses and form a network of LGBTQ individuals and allies requires education, outreach, and training to create and sustain welcoming workplaces. On average, Americans spend more time at work and with their colleagues and clients than in their homes with friends and families. This is why we deliver LGBTQ Cultural Competency and share best practices to help organizations create inclusive workplace policies and culturally aware employees. Being gay might not be in your business plan but being an LGBT Certified Business Enterprise should. An important focus for Plexus is to promote certification for business that are 51% owned, operated, and managed by LGBTQ individuals. Certification builds a system of resources to expand markets and opportunities. Certification opens possibilities with local corporations and others within our network, as well as, with companies across the US through affiliation with National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. You can better position your business with companies who value diverse suppliers while also spotlighting the important role we play as entrepreneurs and creatives in the economy. I invite you to join Plexus, and engage with us to help create thriving workplaces, build a strong network, and drive business development for the LGBTQ and Allied community in the region. Plexus hosts events, education sessions, and other programming in Cleveland and Akron throughout the year. Registration is open the August 15 and August 20 Network Nights in Cleveland and Akron at To learn more about events, membership, training programs, speaking engagements, or certification, contact me at


| August 2019

Phyllis Harris, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland In the 50th anniversary year of the Stonewall Uprising, I am celebrating seven years as executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. As a black lesbian-feminist mom living in Cleveland it is wonderful and timely that I have the opportunity and privilege to share my thoughts on the broad topic of LGBTQ+ Cleveland. My initial thoughts led me to the sense of pride I feel related to being engaged in a visible, vibrant, and evolving community. The Center now has the presence and power as an anchor organization in the Gordon Square Arts District. It serves as a destination place and asset for the City of Cleveland, but more importantly, it serves the people. At the Center, we’re focused on our mission, “To enrich the lives of the diverse LGBTQ+ community through advocacy, support, education, and celebration.” There are a number of accomplishments that come to mind as I reflect on the last seven years of being immersed in LGBTQ greater Cleveland. These events have led up to the Center’s record breaking attendance on June 1st at Pride in the CLE March and Festival and the June 14th Ribbon Cutting and Open House where we welcomed the LGBTQ+ community to our new Center. Here are some of the highlights demonstrating some of the efforts to be visible and caring in our community. Of note: these organizations and initiatives were all established within the last seven years. Organizations that provide direct service and support to the community: Colors+ Youth Center, B.Riley Sober House, Lorain County LGBTQ+ and Allies Taskforce, LGBTQ+ Allies Lake County Organizations that support community building: Stonewall Sports Cleveland, Black Space Productions, Flaming River Con LGBTQ+ Protections: Cuyahoga County LGBTQ+ Protections Ordinance, City of Cleveland LGBTQ Non Discrimination Ordinance 1445-13 City of Cleveland Appointments: Kevin Schmotzer (LGBTQ+ Liaison), Sherry Bowman (Community Relations Board), Commander Deirdre Jones (LGBTQ Liaison in the Department of Safety and the Division of Police), Mario Clopton Zymler (City of Cleveland Police Commission) These accomplishments made by and in support of the LGBTQ+ community indicate the understanding that we, each of us, must do our part. It reminds me that we are part of a broader movement to ensure that people with queer identities can thrive. It shows that LGBTQ+ Cleveland continues to do the right thing, which is show up. Acknowledgment of these accomplishments does not mean that we don’t have work to do. Building diverse and inclusive LGBTQ+ organizations and leadership is vital to our collective wellbeing. Addressing issues of all of the isms (racism, classism, sexism) that negatively impact our organizations and community is the work. I look forward to doing my part and I believe LGBTQ+ Cleveland is ready. It is with the empowering spirit of resistance, pride, and hope that we create the LGBTQ+ Cleveland we want to see. Let us work together to build it.

LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY As a member of the LGBTQ+ Community, Joan creates a safe space for all of her clients and employees. Joan continues to support the community and is an active member of several organizations that promote the visibility of LG TQ+ m mbers in Cleveland. She continues to break barriers B in the e industry and is an amazing representation of how a small, minority owned business, can grow into an empire!



August 2019 |



| August 2019

Capturing M ov e m e n t A new image-driven book details the unique burlesque scene showcased in Cleveland

With laser focus, your eyes drill through the standing room only crowd and train on the performer undulating beneath a shimmering gold gown that plays with the lights and jewel colors of the stage. She moves to music that could have originated in some exotic pleasure palace a half world away…Hypnotized, you sway along with it as you stare at the voluptuous figure before you. -Rust Belt Burlesque If your perception of burlesque is an artform from an era long gone by, then it is definitely time for you to shimmy your way into the present spectacle that is entertaining audiences all across Ohio. Rust Belt Burlesque, a new book by Broadview Heights-based author Erin O’Brien and Cleveland photographer Bob Perkoski, was just released to add some sequined-realness to your coffee table. Detailing the intersectional, body-positive, and all-gender embracing art—and employment—of burlesque both past and present, over 130 full-color photos of performers from across Ohio will engage readers wanting to know just what it is like to get up on a stage to dazzle the audience before you. We selected four images from the book to get O’Brien and Perkoski’s take on what makes this art form special. Bella Sin (2017, left)– I’ve been shooting Bella for years. What I like about her is that she is so intent on putting on the best show not only for herself but also for the entire audience. It’s so great that she’s been integrating her culture into her costumes and always promotes people of color and LGBTQ+ performers in all of her work. –Bob Perkoski Continued on Page 24

August 2019 |


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| August 2019

Continued fom Page 23

Gigi La Femme (2018, above) Looking at her, I certainly believe she can take flight at any moment. She has a look that’s really strong and striking. The pasties scream without revealing much. From the boots to the wings, she’s such an eye-catching figure of a powerful woman. –Erin O’Brien Maestro Maestra (2017, below left) I love this photo because there is such a beautiful combination of the masculine and the feminine in the form. He captures the spirit of rust belt burlesque, inclusivity, and just the pure joy of the performance art. When I look at his feet, the image of the classic ballerina really comes through, which adds a completely surprising and enjoyable dimension. –Erin O’Brien Vita DeVoid (2016, below right) Shows like Star Wars Burlesque are some of my favorites because the performers get so creative with the costumes and match the music to the character. The audience is often made up of real and true Star Wars fans. The thing about catching a moment like this one is that you constantly have to be prepared, and try to anticipate an incredible moment. I’m proud of this image –Bob Perkoski

Alice Schille, Colorful Cottages, New England, (detail) circa 1930-1935. Watercolor. Private Collection, courtesy of Keny Galleries, Columbus, Ohio.


480 East Broad Street, Columbus OH 43215 @columbusmuseum August 2019 |


The Call to the Cloth Out clergy navigate the intersection between sexuality and faith

By Katie Hobbins


ather Vincent Black always wanted to become a priest.

Growing up in the Roman Catholic faith, he felt the overwhelming call to the cloth that eventually had him attending seminary school in high school. What no one knew at the time was that Black was holding onto that classic secret: he was gay. “I remember as a child wondering why women couldn’t be priests and questioning why a priest couldn’t be married or have families and children,” Black reflects. “There was this big disconnect and then there was my own coming out and coming to terms with being gay.” Black decided to leave seminary, believing there was no place for him in the Roman Catholic church. Feeling discarded by the faith of his childhood, he spiraled into despair. “I went through a very dark period of thinking that there was no hope for me, that there was something terribly wrong with me, and that clearly God couldn’t love me if I were such a sinner,” remembers Black. It was when he started university that he finally explored what it meant to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. When a friend told him about a gay man becoming a bishop within the Episcopal church, Black decided he wanted to learn more. Visiting Trinity Cathedral in downtown Cleveland with his partner Rodger Barnhard, Black says that he instantly felt like he belonged. “I felt immediately at home when I walked through the doors,” he recalls. “There were several priests presiding at Holy Communion together. One was a woman, one was an older priest who was married and had children and one was a younger male priest who had recently been married. I remember thinking Oh my God. This is exactly what I always thought church could be.” It was then that he started attending the services and when it came time for Barnhard and his 10-year anniversary, Trinity Cathedral decided to help them celebrate with a wedding. With only three months to prepare and 250 invitations sent out and accepted, Black and Barnhard tied the sacred knot in the first covenant ceremony Trinity Cathedral had ever performed. In the process, Black found himself once more being called by God to become a priest, this time with much more manageable barriers.

Father Vincent Black by Staley Munroe


| August 2019

“When I sat down with [the priest] for the first appointment, I said to her I think I’m called to be a priest,” says Black. “She laughed and said, You might want to become Episcopalian first. I laughed too and I then I dove right in.”

Now, as the Rector of the Church of the Ascension in Lakewood, Ohio, Black rolemodels for his flock what he believes is a genuine representation of God’s love, all while making sure that marginalized people feel at home within the stainedglass walls. “Our tagline, which is the tagline of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, is ‘God loves you, no exceptions’ and we believe that,” Black says. “This really is a place were you can come and be loved and experience the love of God and be included.” ••


n September 5, Equality Ohio will be honoring two out Cincinnati clergy as Advocates for Equality: The Reverend David W. Meredith of the Clifton United Methodist Church and Pastor Lesley E. Jones of Truth & Destiny Covenant Ministries Fellowship United Church of Christ. Prizm spoke with both of these faith leaders about their work, their identity, and how they navigate the intersection of the two. Do you see what you do as a job? Reverend Meredith: What I do is work. What I do is paid. But what I do does not feel like a job. What I do feels like fulfillment of what it is for me to be a human being in a relationship with the divine, and all that the divine loves. It doesn’t feel like a job, but it is work. Pastor Jones: I don’t see what I do as a job. I compartmentalize a lot. There is a portion of it that is a job. But I see my work as a vocation and a calling.

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In your work, what does a great day look like? Reverend Meredith: The Gospel of John states, “the truth will set us free.” Any day in which I experience moments of truthtelling feels like a good day. That could be a Sunday morning worship service where people are free to be themselves in all of their authentic beauty. It could be speaking truth to power in City Hall regarding how immigrant children need to be cared for in our city. Or it could be a personal moment where the truth of the gospel is allowing me to be me.

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Pastor Jones: A great day is when I really see the fruits of my labor, like when I get to interact with the young people who live in my neighborhood. Yesterday, I did a training on voter registration and when I pulled in the parking lot, there was a young man with whom I was working a little bit ago. I had told him back then that he needed a haircut if he wanted to get hired. And there he was yesterday, smiling, hair cut, and he told me he had gotten the job. That was a great day.

Continuedon Page 28 August 2019 |


Continued from Page 27

Regarding that space at the nexus of sexual identity and faith, are there any areas where you have struggled? Reverend Meredith: The place that remains a place of struggle is within the larger movement for equal rights for LGBTQ+ persons and their families, particularly around the separation of church and state. There is powerful action to force and enforce equal rights across all spectrums of life in the United States. And yet the Church and faith communities stand in a different relationship than all of those other sectors. I feel compelled on both fronts: compelled to protect faith communities and their freedoms and compelled to work for justice in all aspects of our life together. Those two don’t live well together right now, especially when some are using religious freedoms to discriminate, so there is a lot more work to be done.

Leslie Jones by B Sullivan Photography

Pastor Jones: I’m a church kid, have been in the church all my life, and this is a generational vocation in my family. From what I grew up being taught until I got to the point where I explored my sexuality on my own, there were some struggles. These days, there are daily struggles between balancing what people think justice looks and what God thinks justice

David Meredith by B Sullivan Photography

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looks like. People think the bad guy should lose, but God’s justice doesn’t always mean that. Over the years, the word acceptance comes up a lot in faith work. How would you describe the concept? Reverend Meredith: Acceptance is an evolving idea. I think there was a time when acceptance was the deep yearning of the hearts of many if not most LGBTQ persons. I think what we’re being called on today to do is different than acceptance. I don’t know LGBTQ people who want to be accepted. They want the freedom to be their authentic selves in any and all ways. What the church and faith communities are called to do is to hold space for that type of freedom and authenticity of relationships and expression in all of its messy and beautiful diversity. Pastor Jones: For me, acceptance is the fact that you come to a place where you can find common ground or commonality with the individual or the situation that allows you to say, “Ok, we may not agree, but I can relate to you at the place where you are.” Acceptance is a mutual respect, not that horrible “t” word of tolerance. I’m not just tolerating you, but I’m doing this so we can come to a mutual relationship. A lot of times we want affirmation, and that doesn’t always come because there isn’t always total agreement. And that’s ok. But there can still be total respect.

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What advice do you have for your LGBTQ+ siblings who have received their own calling? Reverend Meredith: Follow it. Period. Be faithful to the calling and find a way to fulfill it. Do not let any of the noise dissuade you from fulfilling your calling to live out your faith. Follow your calling faithfully because that’s where God is working to do good everyday. Pastor Jones: Go for it! Remember that God called you, and people can prop you up, but they might do so on a 3-legged stool. Remember this verse: God who begins a good work in you is faithful to complete it. •• Katie Hobbins is a freelance journalist with a concentration in LGBTQ, entertainment and investigative journalism. Follow her at Katie_ Hobbins on Twitter and Wheremyfeetmayfall. com.

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August 2019 |


Mak e ‘em Laugh

Queer comics take to the stage to entertain with their own brand of humor

By: BJ Colangelo


or what feels like forever, standup comedians have been free to show up at a club, grab a mic, stand in front of a brick wall, and ridicule LGBTQ individuals. Their reward? A room full of roaring laughter. These habitually straight, cisgender, and white men have normalized this approach of showcasing their supposed “vulnerability” by poking fun at marginalized communities. In return, audiences have been conditioned to find that brand of humor entertaining.

queer experiences to the stage, helping to continually expand representation.

“Often, queer people skip going to comedy shows to avoid being the unwilling butt of a joke,” says comedian Dwayne Duke. “People tend to poke fun at the things they do not understand, and until recently, making fun of LGBTQ+ people has gone unchecked and even encouraged.”

With queer voices often overlooked in comedy, there are relatively few breakout stars, and certainly a dearth of opportunities for queer comics to gather. Still, Ohio comedians are currently and consistently working all around the country, taking it to the stage and finally giving queer comedy a voice that has historically been silenced.

But with the stand-up mic increasingly held by LGBTQ+ entertainers, those punchlines have slowly been changing. A new cadre of of performers have been bringing their own distinctly

“The straights have had it long enough,” says Cleveland’s Rory Eustace. “Time for some glitterfueled revenge.”

“It’s important for queer entertainers to be seen outside of a drag stage,” says Wonder Doug, a Columbus-based performer. “I love drag and I’ve seen some amazing things accomplished through drag, but I think there are many queer comedians, poets, and musicians that don’t always get a chance to shine.”

Continued on Page 32

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| August 2019

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ON VIEW THROUGH AUGUST 18, 2019 Barbara Hammer: In This Body and Cecilia Vicuña: Lo Precario/The Precarious are organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts. Jason Moran is organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and made possible with generous support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund. Additional support was provided by Mike and Elizabeth Sweeney. Piano by Steinway & Sons. The Wexner Center’s presentation is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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BARBARA HAMMER Still from Evidentiary Bodies, 2018. Three-channel HD video installation (color, sound), dimensions variable, 9 mins. 30 secs. Courtesy of The Barbara Hammer Estate; Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York; and COMPANY, New York. © The Barbara Hammer Estate.

CECILIA VICUÑA LEFT TO RIGHT Untitled (Precarios), n.d. 7 3/8 x 3 3/4 x 3 in. Untitled (Precarios), c. 1980 101/2 x 51/2 x 31/2 in. Tres elementos (Precarios), n.d. 6 7/8 x 5 3/4 x 1/4 in. Mixed media. Courtesy of the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

JASON MORAN STAGED: Slugs’ Saloon (detail), 2018. Mixed media, sound, 120 x 254 1/4 x 199 in. Collection of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; T. B. Walker Acquisition Fund, 2018. Photo: Farzad Owrang, courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. © Jason Moran.



Rory Eustance by Shino Omura Wonder Doug by Randi And Bethany Photography

Amber Maeda by Louis Haas

Joey Gentile by Avalanche Run Pictures.jpeg

AS Green by Staley Munroe

Dwayne Duke by Aerionna McCall

Continued from Page 30

Name: Dwayne Duke Age: 30 (sometimes it feels like 16 or 85 though) Location: Cleveland, Ohio Accolades: Drunk in a Basement (2016) and Shame Flashbacks (2018) comedy albums debuted top 10 on Amazon and iTunes; Executive Producer of the Midwest Queer Comedy Festival First Time on Stage?: My first time on stage was nerve wracking. I signed up for an open mic on May 31st, 2011, and didn’t go up until 1:15am on June 1st. The room was mostly empty. I brought notes on stage, and I got heckled. I was so drunk I forgot most of my material. But it was addictive, and I knew when I got off stage that I couldn’t wait to do it again. Guaranteed Laugh?: Read the room! An audience is a hive mind, and you can’t perform to just one person. You have to make it an experience for everyone. •• Name: AS Green Age: 33 Location: Columbus, OH Accolades: Emcee at Newark’s Second Pride festival. First Time on Stage?: It was scary, but not as bad as I thought it would be.

Guaranteed Laugh?: Say something self deprecating or comment on something that just happened. Why Comedy?: I hadn’t previously thought that I should consider it, but my ex noticed I was good at storytelling and she dared me to do an open mic. •• Name: Rory Eustace Age: 28 Location: Columbus, and now Cleveland Accolades: Host of Mansfield Pride; CoHost of the Dickstory Podcast Comedy Style: One part retired Catholic, one part confused gay, two parts sarcasm, one part dark depression and anxiety, and three parts gin. First Time on Stage?: Horrifying. I was forced on stage as part of a “hazing” for an improv group in college. It went so poorly that I only got forced pity laughs. That was enough for me, and I’ve been doing it for 5 years now. Why Comedy?: Given my pretty intense ADHD, and my deep desire to NOT sit behind a desk for money, comedy has been one of the few things in my life that has given me a rush of joy that I haven’t felt anywhere else. Which is good, because it barely pays.

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Name: Joey Gentile Age: 27 Location: Cleveland Accolades: Voted 3rd Funniest Male Comedian via Cleveland Scene Magazine Comedy Style: I take a lot of inspiration through Lenny Bruce, Don Rickles, and Joan Rivers, three comics who gave absolutely no fucks. Through them I have the courage to tell raunchy and uncomfortable comedy. I use a lot of dark humor and as Whoopi Goldberg once said, “I’m an equal opportunity offender.” Guaranteed Laugh?: I have a signature joke about gay fisting with an audience member bit. It kills every time. Why Comedy?: One, simply because I was bored and wanted something to do creatively. Two, because it was the easiest stepping stone to get noticed for work. I spent 10 years trying to get a foot in the door entertainment-wise. I’ve auditioned for films and always got to a certain point and then the film would be cancelled or I just didn’t get the part. Getting into stand-up was a way for me to create a character and get paid for it later on. Comedy has given me more opportunities than I can dream of and I’m grateful. •• Name: Amber Maeda Age: 27 Location: Lakewood, OH Accolades: Opening for Comedy Central Comedians Jessa Reed and Jeff Horste, and for Ron Jeremy; Nominated for the Cleveland Comedy Awards two years running. Comedy Style: I’m an upbeat, goofy, racially-ambiguous stoner. First Time on Stage?: The adrenaline from my nerves were only calmed with shots of tequila, but once I got a laugh from the audience, it was like a drug. I was hooked. I also got heckled by a fellow comedian which I don’t think happens too often to firsttime comics, but we’re really good friends now! Guaranteed Laugh?: Each audience is different and they’re going to laugh at different things. If there were an overall solution, no one would ever bomb. But damn, a good pun ain’t a bad way to go out! •• Name: Wonder Doug (Douglas Cuckler) Age: 39 Location: Columbus, Ohio Accolades: Quarterly charity shows have raised over $10,600 for local charities; Debut Comedy Album “Roller Coaster” was released in 2017. Comedy Style: Brutally honest. I talk about my bi-polar disorder, recovery from alcoholism, and working in an adult store, all to try and break some of the stigma associated with these topics.

The urban forests of Columbus provide the material for my art. I’ve learned that determination and commitment are the greatest skills for any craftsman. I’m Devon Palmer. Woodworking is my art and there’s no place I’d rather make it. Learn more about Devon’s story and other Columbus artists and events at ColumbusMakes

Guaranteed Laugh?: In my early years of comedy, a fellow comedian Lindsey Martin said to surprise people with the truth, and that has really resonated with me in the last few years. •• BJ Colangelo is a social emotional theatre teaching artist with Cleveland Play House and a professional horror film journalist and theorist. Her work has been featured in publications like Blumhouse, Medium, Playboy, Vulture, Birth. Movies.Death, Bloody-Disgusting, and has contributed essays to the books When Animals Attack!, Creepy Bitches, and Hidden Horror 101.

Additional support from: The Sol Morton and Dorothy Isaac, Rebecca J. Wickersham and Lewis K. Osborne funds at The Columbus Foundation.

Photo: Chris Casella | Design: Formation Studio

First Time on Stage?: I was drunk and had no idea what I was saying. It was all shock, and no substance.

August 2019 |



US How did the burlesque journey come about? I actually started burlesque before I started transitioning, and then burlesque was my springboard. When I was at OSU, I tried drag, but there was something about the mechanics of drag that didn’t work for me. I was working with a canonical interpretation of drag, and it felt like “almost…but not quite.” Then I met performers from the Velvet Hearts, a queer burlesque troupe. I saw one of their performances and I wanted to try it. They were so open and welcoming, giving me the space to work things out and figure out who I was as a performer.

Eileen Galvin Age: 30 Identifies as: Nonbinary Transwoman Pronouns: She/Her/Hers Current Hometown: Columbus


What goes into creating a stage persona?

Eileen Galvin is more like a Jessica Jones-type superhero. By day at the Columbus College of Art & Design, she is the IT Help Desk Manager known as Eileen Galvin. At night, she is a burlesque superstar known as…Eileen Galvin.

I always want to provide a layered experience where I can interact with the audience and have them questioning every aspect of Eileen Galvin. How does she do her taxes? What does she wear onstage? What does she buy at the supermarket? What does really she want out of life? I also love embracing my body and how that connects to empowerment. Maybe I step out on stage and you expect one type of body connected to my gender, and then you get something else. How do you, as an audience member, reconcile that?

o many of us LGBTQ superheroes have to maintain our secret identities in the work place: Clark Kent in the newsroom, and Superman when we’re out saving the world.

“I am lucky that I have this opportunity to work at a place where I can be my whole self,” says Galvin. With a life that blends activism, expertise, and style, Galvin is proving every day that you don’t have to hide behind a mask to be super. How do you navigate the wonderful world of labels? Everyone’s experiences are so unique and individual; if you talk to 10 people, you will get 10 different stories. I find it difficult to choose labels that suit me precisely, but I have learned that labels don’t work with precision. Labels work with approximation. I have landed on “nonbinary transwoman” because that currently works for me and is important to my history and my politics.

You spoke at the Trans Pride March in Columbus on June 14. What was that experience like for you? It was incredible. You write something with an audience in mind, and then you show up and there’s a massive, supportive group in front of you. It was exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time, and my heart and my stomach were banging into each other. But I knew that I could say something that would support the experiences of everyone else, particularly of black trans people and trans people of color. I was so grateful to be there and really felt the amazing energy coming from the crowd and the other speakers. Photo by Eric Paul Owens

One of Us is a bi-monthly portrait celebrating the diversity of Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community.


| August 2019

August 2019 |


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