Prizm News / July 3, 2018 / By Bob Vitale
A visit from the nation’s No. 2 hater was cause for an outdoor dance party in Columbus on June 15. (Prizm photo by Staley Munroe)

 

Our protests and parties beat their joyless, humorless anger any day.

 

Commentary by Bob Vitale

 

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Hell hath no fury like LGBTQ people who are pissed off.

My first text came from Brad Henry, Prizm’s web guy and man about town, at 12:02 p.m. on Saturday, June 9. “Something big and fun brewing. Can you talk?”

Folks had just gotten word that Vice President Mike Pence was coming to Columbus in six days. He’d be speaking to some ultra-conservative group—does he speak to any other kind?— whose leaders, we’d find out later, included a guy drummed out of the Trump administration for racist, sexist, homophobic comments that apparently crossed even the Trump administration’s line.

Pence would arrive on Friday, June 15, the opening day of the Columbus Pride festival
and the eve of the biggest, longest Pride parade between New York and Chicago. If you’ve ever been to the Columbus Pride parade, you know I’m barely exaggerating when I say the final float should be reaching Broad and High any minute now.

A group of gays already had a plan in place, Brad told me. Instead of greeting Pence with protest signs, they’d greet him with dance music and drag queens. DJs already were in place, and Virginia West was raring to go.

By the time Pence arrived, 10 more drag queens and Pence and Trump impersonators were on board. Columbus had approved a request to shut down a block of Gay Street for three hours. The story, first reported on PrizmNews.com, had become international.

And once again, a community pelted with lemons didn’t stop at making lemonade. We also planned a party where we could serve it, sewed some costumes, spun the tunes and choreographed a few dance numbers.

We’re good at that.

In a story I wrote last December to mark World AIDS Day, Ronald Johnson of AIDS United told me how organizers of one of the first fundraisers for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis rented out Madison Square Garden for a performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

In the midst of the Stonewall uprising, a group of queens formed a kickline and sang about the “Stonewall girls.”

We still have a lot to deal with in the LGBTQ community. We’re on the defensive because of people like Pence and those who feel empowered by his rise to power. We’re divided among ourselves, too. Many feel left out and left behind because many are left out and left behind.

But as we move forward, I’m going to keep in mind some of what I saw during June.

In Newark, where county leaders refused to acknowledge the city’s first Pride celebration
by extending a local tradition of lighting the courthouse in special colors, people gathered on a Friday night after dark with flashlights and gel filters to do it themselves.

On Gay Street in Columbus, as dour, unhappy men lined 3rd Street with signs condemning us all to hell, those on the receiving end of their ugliness danced with joy.

Over the years I’ve talked with people who’ve been fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I’ve talked with people who’ve been turned away from businesses and government because of who they love or who they are.

I’m always proud of our community’s tenacity. But I’m also proud of our ability to take whatever comes at us and handle it with aplomb.

It wins us many more friends and allies than those God Hates Fags signs ever will.

Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. You can reach him at bobvitale@prizmnews.com or follow him on Twitter @Bob_Vitale.

Bob Vitale
Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, he 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. Contact: BobVitale@prizmnews.com