Last year’s second annual Pride event in Middletown attracted hundreds of people downtown. No public events are planned this month due to the coronavirus. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

LGBTQ community joins protests to call for better understanding in Butler County

This typically is the time when the LGBTQ community would be finalizing plans to commemorate Pride month, but since large gatherings aren’t permitted due to the coronavirus and the Pride events are being held virtually or canceled, they have joined the BLM peaceful protests against police brutality.

There have been Black Lives Matter demonstrations throughout Butler County after George Floyd, 46, an unarmed Black man, died last month while in police custody in Minneapolis. The LGBTQ community has participated in the marches, organizers said.

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“With the current situation, the climate of things, Blacks need our support,” said Kara Goheen, part of the Middletown Pride committee. “We understand oppression and we can relate to that.”

Taylor Stone-Welch, chairman of the Hamilton Ohio Pride Committee, said “it’s interesting timing” since both groups are actively fighting prejudices this month.

Goheen said Middletown businesses are encouraged to decorate their store-front windows in support of Pride month. Also, she said, besides the colors in a rainbow, the symbol for the LGBTQ community, black and brown skin tones will be part of the celebration.

She hopes Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ community can use this time to educate local residents and help them understand the struggles of minorities.

“Tears and fears are mirrored in both,” said Goheen, who noted she is a white, straight woman. “I want those people working together and being united. There is so much hate in the world. I want people to be happy and live great lives.”

Goheen said if COVID-19 restrictions are eventually lifted, the goal is to have a third annual Pride event this fall.

After Middletown’s second Pride event drew a much larger crowd than the first last year, organizers in Hamilton set plans for that city’s first event this summer. Those plans changed due to the coronavirus, said Stone-Welch, 28, a 2010 Hamilton High School graduate.

He said Hamilton Ohio Pride Committee continues to host online activities, suggest age-appropriate videos, movies and TV shows and show appearances from New York City-based The Skivvies, who were scheduled to perform this year. The group, which includes Nick Cearley, a gay man from Hamilton, plays in its underwear and has agreed to perform at the 2021 Pride event, Stone-Welch said.

He sees similarities between the prejudices suffered by members of the BLM and LGBTQ community.

“In the past, Pride month was a celebration of progress, love and happiness,” he said. “It feel really different this year. Gay rights started with rioting and marches in the street.”

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