The Gay Ohio History Initiative

LGBT activists at the Ohio Statehouse, ca. 1995

Each year in June, the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community around the nation celebrates Gay Pride Month as a chance to both recognize the achievements and contributions of gay Americans to society, as well as to commemorate the struggle for equal rights that this group has fought for decades. The month was chosen because it was in June of 1969 that the Stonewall riots occurred in New York City’s Greenwich Village–an uprising that is seen as the catalyst that started the Gay Rights Movement in America.

Protestor with sign, ca. 1985

What better time, then, to highlight Ohio Memory’s GOHI Collection? The Gay Ohio History Initiative was created in January 2006, when Outlook Media (a local conglomerate whose main mission is to promote acceptance and equality both of the gay community and on a broader scale) and OHS partnered up to preserve, archive and curate Ohio’s LGBT history and culture. This was a ground-breaking partnership between Ohio’s preeminent history organization and LGBT Ohioans, and has allowed material related to an important segment of society to get the rightful treatment and recognition that it deserves.

Since GOHI was developed, a committee of volunteers and community leaders has worked to advance the project. An LGBT history collection plan has been developed and a plan to solicit and accept donations of historical items has been created. Further, OHS has named an LGBT person to their Development Board, designated to assist in moving this project forward. Throughout this process, OHS has shown extraordinary support for this project from the Executive Director to the development and curatorial staff.

Diving into the collection, there is a lot to see. Some of the correspondence and ephemera includes a Gay Pride March flyer, Stonewall PAC’s 1992 voter guide, and complaint letters about Stonewall’s distribution of GLBT literature at the 1991 Ohio State Fair. Photographs show everything from an instance of anti-gay vandalism to the line-up for the annual drag softball game, “Bat N’ Rouge,” while historical objects include parade banners, flags, and a t-shirt declaring “Nothing in my closet but my clothes.”

Protesters outside the City Municipal Building in Columbus

The above photograph, taken in August of 1989, shows protestors in downtown Columbus marching in response to the story of two gay men who claimed to be forced out of their neighborhood because of anti-gay harassment. This was the first challenge of a city ordinance which had just extended residential discrimination protection to homosexuals.

Gay Pride March in Columbus, 1991

We encourage you to visit this important collection for yourself! For more resources related to LBGT culture, you can explore Ohio Memory, visit, or view President Obama’s proclamation of LGBT Pride Month 2012.

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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