Prizm News / July 29, 2019 / By Megan Hagerman

Ohio Lesbian Festival
Photos by Andi Roberts, courtesy of Chris Cozad

The Ohio Lesbian Festival celebrates 30 years of inclusion and empowerment

When the Ohio Lesbian Festival (OLF) opted to boldly use the word ‘lesbian’ in its title, organizers and participants stood at the forefront of shaping a society free from oppression. Now an incredible 30 years later, OLF’s diverse assortment of performances, activities, and educational workshops continue to allow women to express themselves freely and grow without fear of being ostracized, not just within the festival grounds but in every area of their lives. 

Prizm spoke with Chris Cozad, President of Lesbians Benefitting the Arts and OLF organizer, to discover what’s in store for this year’s event and how OLF continues to empower all women within the local community. 

As LGBTQ+ events come and go, how does OLF remain significant? 

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First of all, we are a festival and camping event. We believe our role is to empower women, and it comes down to understanding the difference between separation and segregation. We focus on separation, where women can learn from other women and empower each other, away from the dominant paradigm for a weekend. 

Similar festivals haven’t always been fully inclusive. What are your thoughts on those decisions and how OLF has approached this topic? 

The discussion has definitely evolved over the years. In the case of the Michigan festival, they came up with the saying “womyn-born womyn”, excluding trans women from the festival. 

We decided early on that we don’t need to have that fight, and all women are welcome, including transgender women. The problem is people try to fit everyone into perfect absolutes, but not everyone fits into an absolute. 

How would you describe the atmosphere of OLF? 

It is one of the best feelings on Earth. It is so incredibly empowering and freeing. Women are able to learn and do things at the festivals they would never have the opportunity to anywhere else, and that’s life changing for us. The event is filled with so much laughter and joy. It’s just like a big party. 

It has made me feel different about myself, and what is means to be a woman. I encourage every woman to come. Whether they’re young, old, trans, bi, disabled, able-bodied, just come and enjoy. 

How has the event evolved and what can women expect to experience at the 30th annual festival?

It started as a picnic that was one day only. Eventually we added camping just on Friday night, then events Saturday, then Friday programming, and now it’s four days. We open on Thursday and programming ends on Sunday. 

For the 30th anniversary there will be exciting acts and more music with a diverse lineup, from older favorites, women of color, and a wide variety of genres. We have 50 plus vendors and service folk of all kinds. There is a full slate of workshops on self-defense to knitting to dog training, and. of course, the arm-wrestling tournament. There really is something for everybody. 

The 30th Anniversary Ohio Lesbian Festival will be held September 19-22 at the Hoover YMCA Park in Lockbourne, Ohio. Visit https://ohiolba.org for tickets and info. 

Megan Hageman is a Columbus, Ohio-based freelance writer working within the field of social media and content marketing. Her writing ranges from articles on non-profits to advice for working women and California weddings.