Ari (Ballaban) Jun — In Conversation
Celebrate Together and Choose Love
Fifty years ago this spring, a group of 40 individuals gathered at Fountain Square to protest publicly for gay rights awareness. Planning and executing a march through downtown Cincinnati, considered at the time to be a conservative hotbed, took courage and a willingness to fight for values that should be celebrated regardless of political beliefs. This all happened as the modern gay rights movement was in its early stages and still gathering momentum in the wake of the raid of The Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969.
Fifty years later, thousands of people from across the region will descend on downtown and Sawyer Point this Saturday for a day of marching and festivities. The sights and sounds of people of all ages, genders, and sexual orientations being able to celebrate their authentic selves will take over the city not just Saturday morning, but all weekend. And Cincinnati’s Jewish community is proud to be a part of the celebration. Members of our community are invited to march this Saturday (you can still sign up here), the culmination of a month of activities bringing together partners from across the community.
This year’s Pride celebration occurs against a national backdrop of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation that unfortunately has hit close to home. Wednesday, the Ohio House of Representatives passed two bills targeting the LGBTQ+ community. House Bill 68 prevents doctors from giving puberty blockers and hormone therapy to trans youth and bans trans athletes from participating in Ohio women’s sports. Meanwhile, House Bill 8 requires public schools to notify parents before teaching “sexuality content.” While this may sound reasonable on the surface, advocates warn the vague definition of “sexuality content” could be conflated to include all discussion of LGBTQ+ people or identities. Perhaps most alarming, the bill requires educators to notify parents about “any request by a student to identify as a gender that does not align with the student’s biological sex.”
As Jews, we know from experience how it feels to be marked as the “other,” to be singled out, and to be the target of discriminatory legislation. Bills aren’t passed in vacuums, and discussions and debates in the halls of government trickle down to the communities where we all live and work. Which is why Thursday’s release of a joint ADL-GLAAD report tracking acts of hate against LGBTQ+ individuals and organizations was painful to read. Since June 2022, the LGBTQ+ community has been the target of 356 reported incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault. Almost half of all incidents were perpetrated by known extremist groups, often the same groups committing acts of antisemitism. At the JCRC, we have known and warned for a while that hatred and violence overlaps across all those who are “different,” and that only by standing together can we be successful in combatting hate.
We will continue to monitor these acts of hatred, both in Columbus and locally. But for now, we encourage everyone to go downtown this weekend, celebrate together, and choose love.