Prizm News / June 1, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

 

 

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We’ve got a lot to talk about, Ohio. Share your stories with us throughout Pride month.

Twenty years ago this month, my mom was frying zucchini—it’s an Italian thing—when I arrived in Toledo for a weekend visit. An ex-sister-in-law once wondered aloud why the family always made such a big deal when Bob came home. My mom told her we make a big deal of everything.

It’s another Italian thing.

A family prone to big deals is a blessing when it’s your birthday or you get inducted into the National Honor Society, but not necessarily when you’re about to come out as gay. You don’t embarrass the family in my family. Sadly, it’s kept people in bad marriages longer than they should have stayed, and it probably kept a few of us in the closet across the generations, too. My mom thinks her Uncle Nunzio might have been gay, although her only evidence is that he loved to dance.

I shouldn’t have worried. I’d seen how my parents and brothers and sisters loved my cousins who’d come out before me. My eldest aunt told my mom once that she thought it was fine one of my cousins was a Lebanese; she was happy that she had a nice girlfriend.

My family didn’t make a big deal. When I finally got it out to my mom, she expressed the concern every mother had for gay sons in the 1990s: Was I ill? She said the only thing she felt bad about was that if I had been troubled at any time over the years she might have been able to help.

We finished frying the zucchini together. And, not skipping beat, her dream that I find a nice Italian girl quickly changed to a wish for a nice Italian boy. (She’s more than OK with the nice Filipino guy I did find. She introduced both of us as her sons recently to her new neighbors.)

Families and communities evolve, and we all should be glad of that.

In early May, I attended a meeting of the Licking County commissioners, where people spoke one after another of their love for their community and their support for Newark’s first-ever Pride, scheduled for Saturday, June 9.

The three commissioners didn’t budge on their stand against shining rainbow lights on the local courthouse to show support for the celebration, but the dozens of people who spoke proudly of their own orientation or their LGBTQ family and friends left no doubt that some future group of county leaders will be great allies.

Two women told the county commissioners about their gay brothers who moved away long ago because they felt alone and afraid in their own hometown. The photo on the front page of the Newark Advocate newspaper the next day certainly told LGBTQ kids living there now that they have much love and support.

We’ve worked hard since launching Prizm last October to make sure each issue reflects all of LGBTQ Ohio: all of its regions, all of its identities, all of its diversity. We will soon be launching reader advisory groups in different parts of the state to keep us on track in that mission, and over the summer we’ll be starting monthly visits to different communities to report on LGBTQ life in all parts of our state.

Publisher Carol Zimmer Clark, creative director Staley Munroe, advertising account executives Chris Johnson and Joe Matessa, designer Patrick Butler, and I are looking forward to attending as many of Ohio’s 17 Pride celebrations as possible this summer. Look for us, say hello and share with us your ideas for people, places and issues to feature in future issues.

We wish everyone a Happy Pride. And our wish is that after another year of progress and evolution, next year’s Pride is even happier for everyone, everywhere in Ohio.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.