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A historical account of LGBTQ+ Pride in Greater Cincinnati: Timeline starts 1973!

posted Jan 29, 2013, 5:06 PM by Michael Chanak   [ updated Sep 3, 2020, 4:13 AM ]


This page is a working history page.  It started over ten years ago, when Michael Chanak Jr. and Phebe Beiser of the Ohio Lesbian Archives were trying to answer questions from the press, or the local community about the timeline of Greater Cincinnati Pride.  This is our ongoing effort, it is not perfect.  Yet, it is our gift to the LGBTQ+ community of Greater Cincinnati.

As this brief history piece discloses, based on contacts and interviews with over 100 LGBTQ+ folks over the years, the help of the Ohio Lesbian Archives, we know the first Pride march (now called a parade) happened in 1973.  But, that is where the confusion sets in as we didn't have a Parade each year.  You will notice there were actually two breaks.   After the  April  7, 1973 Pride event from Washington Park to Fountain square, the founding group: Cincinnati Gay Community quickly dissolved.  Pride didn't restart until 1978.  The second break occurred from 1996-1999.  During those years, there was not a formal parade or march.  There were however, various activities including an hour on Fountain Square called "Pride Alive."  This event was sponsored by the now defunct LGBT Center located in Northside.  Also, there was a small demonstration out of City Hall in June 1999 hosted by Michael Blankenship, attended by the late Dr. Larry Wolf. Also, during those intervening years there was a festival held during June (need years) at Lunken Playfield in Mt. Washington.


Many reasons are given for the lack of a public parade/march in 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999,  One of the common explanations is that the voters of Cincinnati passed an Issue 3 that led to the adoption of Article 12 an anti-gay plank to the City's charter.  This legislation was not  repealed until November 2004.  Others have contended, certain LGBTQ+ political groups felt a legislative solution would cause a favorable decision for LGBTQ+  folks and urged to keep pride "low key."  Both reasons, seem to point to the notion "the Issue 3 vote had a chilling effect on the willingness of the LGBTQ+ to push for a more public prides during these difficult times."   Whatever the reasons, Cincinnati's LGBTQ+ community wanted a parade and Chris Good approached Michael Chanak, a long time activist with many questions in the fall of 1999.  One of Chris questions was simple:  Why isn't their a parade.  The rest is now history.  Note: in some references you may find "gay" and "gay and lesbian" then "GLBT" and the "LGBTQ+" reflecting growing awareness of the diversity of the rainbow and the times.


Chris Good June 11, 2000 - he brought back the full slate of Pride events, rally, parade and festival after a five-year absence in 2000.

Cincinnati first Gay Pride ends at Fountain Square
First gay pride, April 7, 1973 march from Washington Park ending in Fountain Square. Credit - Independenti Eye. (See attachments) The sponsoring group was the Cincinnati Gay Community that dissolved shortly after the event.  Stanley Goodin attended the 1973 event as well as Phebe Beisner, Vic Ramstetter and Debbie Arapa).The next "pride was in 1978." The Independent Eye is available at: Independent Eye (Public Library Link). All available copies from 1968 to last issue October 1975 are in the Cincinnati Public Library's Rare Books section, but have been digitized and free online.



1978 Cincinnati Pride Proclamation

1978 Cincinnati Pride Proclamation


From the May 2003 issue of "Greater Cincinnati GLBT News"

Cincinnati's First Pride Parade
by Bruce Beisner 
(Changes and additions to Bruce's article are noted!)

Thirty years ago last month, gay and lesbian Cincinnatians held their very first Pride Parade. Over the past 3 decades, the event has grown, declined, disappeared, and been reborn. As you march with thousands of other people this June, remember that it all started with a little-noticed, but very important, happening back in April of 1973.

Following the Stonewall Riots and the growth of the anti-Vietnam War movement, "hippie" culture began to strongly take hold in the Cincinnati area in the early 1970s. Out of this "leftist" and "druggie" crowd came the city's first gay organization. The Cincinnati Gay Community, or CGC, was established in 1972 by a small group of die-hard activists. Among the founding members were Michael Weyand, Terry Flanigan, Carol Kipp, 
 Dick Jasinski (sic correct spelling is Richard Jazwinski), Ronald Carter and Jack Ferguson.  (Note from Michael Chanak: Terry Flanigan and Jack Ferguson are now deceased.  Also, Karl Owens has been mentioned as involved in the first event.)

(Note from Michael Chanak: Various estimates regarding the attendance of his first event range from 12 per Ed Hicks founder of Gay Beat, and the founder of Gay Noveau in Cincinnati both out of publication,  interviewed the late Terry Flanigan who attended.  Other accounts claim upwards to 40 individuals all men is unconfirmed.  Michael Chanak has been able to verify that Phebe Beisner, Vic Ramstetter, Carol Kipp and Debbie Arapa  attended parts/or all that the first march.) 

The CGC advertised in the University of Cincinnati's newspaper and soon had over 200 people attending their regular meetings, which were held at St. John's Unitarian Church. The group was made up of mostly gay white males many of whom were college students, although a handful of women and African Americans became involved. CGC sponsored theater productions and social activities and sent speakers to sexuality education classes at UC and Miami University. About a year after it was founded, the leadership of CGC decided to build on their successes with a Pride Celebration on April 6 and 7, 1973 which would include a parade
.
The first ever Cincinnati Pride Celebration began on Friday night with a spaghetti dinner at St. John's Unitarian Church that was attended by over 150 people. Following a brunch on Saturday morning at the popular gay dance club Badlands, the first Pride parade stepped off from Washington Square Park in Over the Rhine. Having secured a parade permit, about 70 people marched with signs and banners through downtown to Fountain Square. 

In a 1986 presentation to the UC Gay Academic Union, Terry Flanigan recalled that "there was much heckling along the route," and that "while press releases were sent to all the local media, only WCPO Channel 9 covered the event, and their coverage was very brief and really didn't capture the spirit of the day at all,"

Following the parade, there was a rally on Fountain Square which featured live music, political speakers, and several theatrical skits.

Although privately a friend of many gays, Cincinnati Mayor Theodore Berry, the city's first African American mayor, refused to publicly issue a proclamation of this first Gay Pride Day. It would be years before the event would receive official recognition from the City government.

On April 15, 1973, gay and lesbian activists held their first "Red Shirt Day" at the Kings Island amusement park. On May 8 of that same year, about 150 people participated in the first statewide Pride march in Columbus.

Despite the success of Cincinnati's first Pride Parade, the CGC fell apart amid heated disagreements only a month later.

A  Xavier University senior Ryan Goellner wrote an extensive history piece in December 2011 as a capstone project, which quotes various resources, and states:

The Beginning of Gay Pride in Cincinnati

These political firestorms, however, did not simply manufacture themselves in a vacuum
in Cincinnati. Rather, they were the product of decades of buildup of the GLBTQ movement
as both a cultural and political idea. “Gay Pride” in Cincinnati started as a march and a rally;
it was a protest against inequality and discrimination that drew on the model of the civil rights
movements of the 1960s, built off of the nation-wide unrest of the 1970s, and eventually
generated its own socio-political movement in the 1980s.

The gay pride movement in Cincinnati 
began in the early 1970s, and attempted to build off of the controversy 
and the success of the Stonewall riots and New York City Pride. A small group of dedicated activists in the early gay
and lesbian movement organized the Cincinnati Gay Community (CGC) in 1972. The CGC
began drawing activists from around Cincinnati, most notably from the University of Cincinnati.

Their early organization resulted in the first pride celebration in Cincinnati from April 6 to 7,
1973, which culminated in a parade through downtown to Fountain Square. Terry Flanigan, one
of the founding members of the CGC, “recalled that ‘there was much heckling along the route’”
of the parade of 1973, and that only a small local team from Channel 9 covered the story. The
1973 pride parade and the events surrounding it emulated the beginnings of pride in New York
after the Stonewall riots. Cincinnati pride started as a vanguard movement intent on making itself
seen and heard, as well as battling the stigmas attached to the GLBTQ community.

After the 1973 parade, the CGC quickly disintegrated, and pride fell by the wayside
until it was revived in 1978 by the Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition (GCGC). 

(His research report is attached herein, see below).


Center note:  From 1979 Pride was organized by the  GCGC (Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition) which became incorporated as a non-profit in 1984 and was known as the GCGLC (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition (GCGLC).  By 2004, the GCGLC was dissolved to create the "Community Center, first located downtown and then relocated to Northside in 2000.  The Center continued its sponsorship of Pride through 2009 when it was turned over to the Gay Chamber of Commerce, which became Cincinnati Pride (IRS charity designation November 25, 2015).  The Community Center in Northside closed November 13, 2013.  If you want to read the specifics on the formation of the GLBT Center (as it was called) see 
http://www.cincyglbt.com/about.

GAY PRIDES IN CINCINNATI (This is a work in progress! Write us with updated facts!)  We acknowledge the kind work of Phebe Beiser, Bruce Beisner and Michael Chanak who helped to compile this information!

1973 April 6, 7 - Cincinnati Gay Community - Washington Park through Fountain Square. Parade April 7th. (See coverage - in attachments Independent Eye May 1973, Volume 6, No 2 covering April 1973 event). The sponsor was the organization "Cincinnati Gay Community." Shortly after this event, the organization collapsed and no Pride was held until 1978 as given in the time line.

1978 Proclamation by mayor Gerald (Jerry) Springer signed June 24 , 1978 (See insert and attachment)

1979 June 30 – Rally at Fountain Square - Proclamation by mayor Bobbie Sterne (10th anniversary of Stonewall) (Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition)

1980 Sunday, June 22  -   L/G Pride Day (Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition)

1981 Need dates   (Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition)

1982 Sunday, June 20 L/G Pride Day on Fountain Square (Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition)

1983  Sunday, June 19 - Pride Day on Fountain Square (Greater Cincinnati Gay Coalition) Harry Hay was one of two main speakers, the other being Dr. Rhonda Rivera.  Harry was a founder of the Mattachine Society, and helped establish the Radical Faeries. His theme was "Gays - a separate people whose time has come. Share the Pride. Feel the Magic."  Dr. Rhonda Rivera was a law professor from OSU recognized for being a pioneer of LGBTQ+ Rights.  (The information was from the Yellow Pages, which says "this was the 6th Pride."  Recall, first Pride was 1973, skipped to 1978 and in 1983 this would make the 6th Pride - but not consecutive years.)  In attachments you will find a FB discussion about Harry Hay's visit, and a piece on Dr. Rivera's history.

1984 “Gay Pride Week” June 9-17  (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition)

1985 June 7 - Rally & Parade. Gathered at City Hall and marched to Fountain Square (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition) Charlie Luken, Mayor of Cincinnati did not make a GLBT Pride day proclamation - refused too.

Edward Hicks, one of the founding members of Gay Beat, and founder of Gay Noveau (both out of print) offer:  I'd like to mention the 1985 parade and rally, led by Dr.Kirk Prine and a woman whose name, to my embarrassment, I have forgotten. She may have been a U.C. instructor. Kirk told the coalition flatly that there was going to be a march even if he were the only one. He and his colleague worked their butts off, giving up many personal hours to the organizing of what was the first march in some time — though I don't know how much time. One reason this all sticks in my mind is that, like Kirk, I wore a shirt and tie. Maybe even a jacket. Another reason is that in January of 1985 I had launched The Gaybeat, and we were on fire. We had run a three-part interview with vice squad commander Lt. Harold Mills and were covering the murder trial of Robert van Hook. Jonathan Mesinger made this cool banner for the parade: red, white, and blue, in a good way. I still have it.

1986 June 7 -  Political rally at City Hall followed by a march to Fountain Square for Rally of a celebration of GLBTQ folks(Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition).  Afterward, march to Dock for a festival. The festival was behind the Dock at 603 W. Pete Rose way. Vice approached the then President of the Coalition George Vanover - expressing concern that portion lot behind the bar was "city property."  As a result, the Festival was moved to the front lot of the Dock in 1987. At the time, the Coalition consisted of 22 g/l and ally groups.  (Thank you to George Vanover, President of Coalition and Peggy Weyand for information on 1986 and 1987).

1986 June 8 - Following the Festival at the Dock, the booths were moved to Ruth Lyons Lane. On Sunday, these festivities included "drag queen mud wrestling" featuring "Eartha Quake" aka Denny Welch (deceased).  This day of activities (near Metro, Side Door, and Subway Bar (around the corner) featured at GL art and crafts festival.

1986 Date Unknown -Coalition entry in Cheviot Harvest Home Parade.
 
1987 June 6  -  Rally at Fountain Square, and Parade to Dock. [focus on March on Washington, pr and collection of donations for this] (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition), Festival at Dock following. (Dock closed in Spring of 2018, location 603 W. Pete Rose Way). 

1987 - Date Unknown - Sponsored by Coalition - Gay day at Cincinnati Zoo.

1987 - Date Unknown - 
Sponsored by Coalition at Gay Day at the Americana Amusement Park in Hamilton, Ohio.  

1988 June 11- Rally at Fountain Square, and parade to Dock, Festival at Dock following. (Dock closed in Spring of 2018, location 603 W. Pete Rose Way). 

1989 June 10 - Pride Rally Fountain Square (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition)

1990 June 9 - Rally at Fountain Square, Parade to Sawyer Point (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition)

1991 Sat, June 15 - L & G Pride Day (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition) Mayor David Mann who declared a Cicada Day, gives a "tolerance day" proclamation to GLBT Pride.  

1992 June 13 - Rally at City Hall, March to Fountain Square (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition)

1993 June 12 - March begins at City Hall, Rally at Fountain Square (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Coalition) Pride Marshal - Michael  Chanak Jr. in recognition of his work for the inclusion of sexual orientation in Procter & Gamble's non-discrimination policy as announced on September 15, 1992.

1994 June 11 - Rally at Bicentennial Commons, Parade marched through downtown. Festival afterward at the Dock. (Gay & Lesbian Community Center in Cincinnati).

1995 June 17 - Fountain Square rally, march to the Dock for a festival in a front parking lot (Gay & Lesbian Community Center Cincinnati)

1996 8 events in 3 days  - “Pride and Cultural Fest” (all kinds of events, but no rally or parade)  (Gay & Lesbian Community Center Cincinnati)

1997 “Aware on the Square” held from 12-1 Thursday, June 5 (Gay & Lesbian Community Center Cincinnati)

1998 “Aware on the Square” held on Tuesday, June 23 (No parade)  (Gay & Lesbian Community Center Cincinnati)

1999 June 6 -  Rally at City Hall (No parade/No festival) Michael Blankenship organized rally at City Hall

2000 June  11 -  Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, a festival at Hoffner Park (Chris Good - Chair - and independent committee - Michael X. Chanak - Senior Advisor) Honorary Pride Marshal: Peaches LaVerne.  Pride Marshal: Dr. Shane Que Hee. 

2001 June 10 -  Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park (Ken Colegrove - Chair -  and independent committee -  organizers)
Honorary Pride Marshal: Peaches LaVerne.

2002  June 9  -  Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park (Ken Colegrove - Chair -  and independent committee -  organizers)
Honorary Pride Marshal: Peaches LaVerne. Pride Marshal: Scott Knox.

2003  June 8  -  Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park (Ken Colegrove - Chair -  and independent committee -  organizers)
Honorary Pride Marshal: Peaches LaVerne.  Pride Marshal: Scott McLarty.

2004 June 13 - Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park (Ken Colegrove & Debra Randal l- Co-Chairs and independent committee -  organizers)
Queen Mum of Parade: Peaches LaVerne.  Pride Marshal: Kathy Laufman.

2005 June 12 - Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Community Center - organizer). Pride Marshal: David Crowley.

2006 June 11 -Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park  (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Community Center - organizer)

2007 June 10 - Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park  (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Community Center - organizer).  Pride Marshals: Marian Weage and Dr. Ronn Rucker.

2008 June 15  - Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park  (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Community Center - organizer). Pride Marshals: Rev. Paula Jackson, Vic Ramstetter, Phebe Beiser, Worley Rodehaver and Dr. Larry Wolf.

2009 June 14 - Rally at Burnet Woods, parade to Northside, festival (2 days) at Hoffner Park   (Greater Cincinnati Gay & Lesbian Community Center - organizer, Bill Abney - Pride Chair).  Pride Marshals: Cheryl Eagleson and Dr.John Maddux. This was the last year the old LGBTQ+ center in Northside sponsored Pride.  The Center knew the event had outgrown the Northside venue - with estimates of 2009 attendance at 22-25,000.  The Center Board decided to find a new "host" organization which was Greater Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce.  

2010  July 4  -  Cincinnati Pride, parade, festival on Fountain Square (Greater Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce), Pride marshals: Doris Marks Callis, Karen Aronoff-Holtmeier, Michael Cottrell and Randy Bridges.

2010  August 14 - Northsiders Pride in Northside (Dan Wells - Independent committee)

2010 October 3 - First ever Northern Kentucky Pride (Organizer Patti Herrmann)

2011 July 9  -  Northern Kentucky Pride Goebel Park Covington, Ky. Worley Rodehaver honored for journalism contributions to the local GLBT community.

2011 July 10 -  Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati Fountain Square, Greater Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce. Pride Marshals:
Megan Neal and Rusty Lockett.

2011 August 13  - Northsiders Pride - Hoffner Park, Hamilton business district. Dan Wells organizer.

2012 June 30 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point, organized by Greater Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce. Pride Marshals: Adam Hoover - Marriage Equality Activists, Lynne Lefebvre - long term volunteer, board member PFLAG and Chris Seelbach - first openly gay Cincinnati Council person.
 
2012 July 1 - Northern Kentucky Pride - 7th & Bakewell Streets, Covington Ky
 
2012 August 18  - Northsiders Pride in Hoffner Park. The organizer is Dan Wells. No further Northside Pride events were held after 2012.

2013 June 29 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point, organized by Greater Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce.  In light of the fact that 2013 marks the 40th year of the first pride march in Cincinnati, the living pride marshals who have been honored in the past - were featured in a rain-soaked parade.  On November 13, 2013 the old LGBTQ+ center closed in Northside.

2013 July 22 - Greater Cincinnati Gay Chamber of Commerce incorporates the pride committee as "Cincinnati Pride, Inc" as a non-profit in the State of Ohio. Incorporating trustees: Cathy Rogers, Shawn Baker, Anthony Phillips, Michael Cotrell, and  Melissa Riley.

2014  May 31 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point, organized by Cincinnati Pride, Inc. Ron Clemons and Crystal Loomis Pride Marshals.

2015 June 27 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point. Marshal is Erika Ervin 

2016 June 25 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point. Marshals are: Ron Hirth and Jen Henderson

2017 June 24 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point. Marshal is Chuck Beatty.

2018 June 23 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point. Marshals are Del Shores (producer/writer) and IML (International Mr. Leather)  2018, James Lee and Keiran Marcum, transgender youth from Lebanon, OH.

2019 June 22 - Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point.  Marshals are  Arykah Carter & Ariel Mary Ann, both trans-activists. 

2020 June 27 - Postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic on April 24, 2020 - . Cincinnati Pride, downtown Cincinnati - Sawyer Point.  Subsequently, in May 2020 the Cincinnati Pride committee announced a new date of October 3, 2020 for the celebration to be held between Walnut and Elm Streets and 2nd and 3rd in Downtown.

2020 October 3 - Rescheduled. Details as available. Location: Between Walnut and Elm and 2nd and 3rd streets, downtown Cincinnati. You may hear other figures, but this will be 39th Pride in Cincinnati with "a full parade/march."  (Consider 1973, the first, skips to 1978 until 1995 a total of 18 yrs.  Formal prides pick back up in 2000 and continuing. another 20 yrs - for a total of 38.  If you include the intervening years where where were "small events" not no march (96-99 - add another 4 yrs for a total of 42  years.  Some attempt to count from the first Parade in 1973 as IF our prides ran consequently, when in fact they did not. Net, Cincinnati in 2023 will not be "celebrating 50 yrs of continuous Prides.")  On September 1, 2020 the Pride committee announced due to COVID-19 concerns that Pride celebration for October 3, 2020 was cancelled.  See attachment for statement from Cincinnati Pride Committee October 3, 2020.

2021 June 26 - Details to be announced. 


For more complete bios see:  Cincinnati Pride History!

P&G played a significant role in LGBTQ+ equality, please see, the 2018, 2019 and 2020 videos produced by them for Pride.

https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/words-matter
https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/out-of-the-shadows
https://www.greatbigstory.com/stories/courageous-p-g-they-will-see-you

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Michael Chanak,
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Michael Chanak,
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Michael Chanak,
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Michael Chanak,
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Michael Chanak,
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Michael Chanak,
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Michael Chanak,
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Michael Chanak,
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