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Ohio LGBTQ+ organization does ‘the little things’ for the entire community

Though Have a Gay Day has its roots in LGBTQ+ activism, Knote makes it clear that his organization is for everyone — queer or not

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Have a Gay Day's new community van (LA Blade Photo by Zachary Jarrell)

DAYTON, Oh. — On September 18, 2011, a 14-year-old bisexual boy from Buffalo, New York, committed suicide — sparking grief and outrage across the United States. His name was Jamey Rodemeyer, and just months before his tragic death, he participated in the “It Gets Better” social media campaign, started by journalist Dan Savage and his partner Terry Miller to combat suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.

In his video for the campaign, he shared that people would call him gay slurs in the hallways of his school and “constantly send him hate.” But he assured viewers that “it does get better.”

Jamey’s parents supported him, and he was seeing a social worker and a therapist. But the constant bullying didn’t stop. 

“No one in my school cares about preventing suicide, while you’re the ones calling me [gay slur] and tearing me down,” he wrote on September 8, according to the Washington Post

“I always say how bullied I am, but no one listens … What do I have to do so people will listen to me?” he said the next day. 

Jamey’s story was covered by major news outlets across the country, touching the hearts and changing the lives of many.

In an interview with Time, Jamey’s mother, Tracy Rodemeyer, said, “We got so many messages from people who [told us they] were [considering suicide], and they heard Jamey’s story and reached out to us, and they said, ‘He saved my life.’ I mean, hundreds of people.”

Yet, Michael Knote, founder of Have a Gay Day, noticed “no one had really created a memorial page” for Jamey. So, he took matters into his own hands and started one himself.

It didn’t stop there as Knote would later travel to Buffalo and raise $17,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. And that was only the beginning. 

What was once a memorial page on Facebook is now a rapidly expanding, award-winning nonprofit called Have a Gay Day in Dayton, Ohio.

An art piece by Monterrey, California-based renowned Out artist Paul Richmond, hangs in the lobby of Have a Gay Day’s storefront home in the Dayton, Ohio area.
(LA Blade Photo by Zachary Jarrell)

Knote started the organization because he felt like there were “a lot of organizations that were just trying to cash out on bullying and suicide.” Instead, he wanted to create “an escape — a place where people could just kind of be themselves and be free from people trying to make a profit off of them, or stroke drama for likes, or share really emotionally charged kind of stories.” 

Describing exactly what Have a Gay Day does is difficult because of the sheer amount of services it provides. “We’ve done everything from going to clean up tornadoes to doing advocacy work for individuals that are in need,” Knote said. “I don’t know, for a little organization, we just were kind of pushing forward and really trying to fill that void.”

One of those voids, especially in Dayton, is food and other resources. Census data shows 30.6% of people in the city live in poverty, and according to Feeding America, almost 20% of Dayton is food insecure.

The pressing need shifted the organization’s main focus to providing free food and other resources to all of Dayton, and the surrounding Montgomery County, not just the LGBTQ+ community. And it’s not just any food bank — they deliver to people who can’t get to them in person. 

“We will deliver anywhere in the county to anyone that’s in need,” Knote said. “And we also have a pet food pantry and a little pantry that’s outside where people can get food. We give away heaters. We give away laundry tokens — when we have them available. We give away personal care items. We are just looking to fill the needs.”

On Friday, Knote and the organization’s volunteers unveiled a new community van — provided in part by the Hall Hunger Initiative, PFLAG Dayton, LexisNexis Pride and a host of community supporters and sponsorships — that they can use to deliver food instead of their own vehicles.

Michael Knote stands in front of new community van. (LA Blade Photo by Zachary Jarrell)

“Make sure to get pictures of the volunteers, it’s not all about me,” Knote continuously told the media at the event. 

In his interview with the Blade, Knote also praised the organization’s volunteers, saying, “The volunteers are amazing. They make everything possible at Have a Gay Day. It’s just beautiful. It’s diverse, it’s glorious.”

Have a Gay Day is entirely volunteer-run — even Knote himself is one. He is employed full-time at FedEx to “pay the bills,” running the organization in his time away from work. “Eventually, I want to work for Have a Gay Day,” he said. “But I don’t want to be the first employee.”

But for now, Knote wants to use the money the organization takes in to continue to expand, so they can keep serving the community. In addition to the van, the organization also plans to move into the space next to them. To him, more space means more opportunities to help those in need. 

It’s hard for Knote to believe that Have a Gay Day has become what it has become. “We started with Rainbow Takeovers in the middle of the night, we would randomly post for like an hour to rainbows, and we wouldn’t tell anyone when it was happening,” he recalled. 

Rainbow Takeovers turned into marching for marriage equality. Before same-sex marriage was legal in Ohio, the group took couples to neighboring Indiana to get married — something Knote called “the little things.” 

As they grew, the organization needed a home. So, they moved into a 150 square foot space in the KeyBank tower, a 27-floor building in Dayton’s downtown. “We were there for almost two years, but the people that were leasing it out said that they couldn’t sell the space because of our rainbow trees,” Knote said. 

They continued to move up as they grew– to suburban Dayton in Moraine, Ohio, settling in a storefront suite in a strip mall a few miles north of downtown. “When we came to this location, we were told by the community that we shouldn’t be here because it was dangerous,” Knote said. “But this is where the need was.”

“We go into a lot of spaces that many would consider us a brave organization,” he said, noting Have a Gay Day’s involvement in religious events. 

In particular, Knote remembers an anti-bullying event hosted by religious groups — and sponsored in part by Chick-fil-A, which came under fire again this summer for having ties to a group fighting against the Equality Act. “It was very faith based, very faith based,” he said. 

But that’s not what Knote took away from the event. “The fact is: Have a Gay Day, an LGBT organization, showed up to a Chick-fil-A sponsored event with a roomful of religious individuals, and spoke in front of them,” he said. “And that’s beautiful.”

Looking ahead, Knote wants to make sure the organization never limits itself. “We don’t want to be a focus organization,” he said. 

“We want to be like a fully diverse organization that just maneuvers through the community, creating resources where we can and filling in the voids for anyone that’s in need to create a better community for everyone,” he said. 

Michael Knote smiles as he celebrates the unveiling of Have a Gay Day’s new community van.
(LA Blade Photo by Zachary Jarrell)

Though Have a Gay Day has its roots in LGBTQ+ activism, Knote makes it clear that his organization is for everyone — queer or not. 

“How many LGBT people are you specifically serving?” is a question often posed to Knote.

“For us, we do not keep track of those numbers,” he said. “We don’t ask people how they identify. The biggest reason is we’re actually trading allyship. It’s a beautiful thing to imagine or to think about the different individuals that are coming in — I don’t care if they’re supportive or not. The thing is, we’re offering genuine kindness in a non judgmental way. And because we’re allowing individuals of all ages to grow and to prosper in a place where we change the whole scope of what the community expects from an LGBT organization.”

Knote can only imagine how the “little things” Have a Gay Day does for the community now could change the life of an LGBTQ+ person in the future. 

“Maybe a person will come out someday, and their family, who may not have been supportive, will maybe think about Have a Gay Day and reserve that same sort of kindness for their child, parents, spouse or whoever that is.”

“The work that’s tied into all of that — the sort of fun, happy, random times — is pushing to make a difference for not only just the queer community now, but the queer community in the future.”

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LGBTQ+ activists alarmed over concurring opinion in abortion ruling

Thomas called for the high court to “reconsider” previous decisions overturning state sodomy laws and legalizing same-sex marriage

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

WASHINGTON – LGBTQ+ activists have expressed alarm over a concurring opinion issued on Friday by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas calling for the high court to “reconsider” previous decisions overturning state sodomy laws and legalizing same-sex marriage as a follow-up to the court’s controversial ruling on Friday to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights.

In an action that drew expressions of outrage from abortion rights advocates and strong support by right-to-life advocates, the Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 ruling on Friday overturning the fundamental right to an abortion that the court established nearly 50 years ago in its landmark decision known as Roe v. Wade.

In his concurring opinion, Thomas said he supports the high court’s majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. He states that he agrees with the ruling that nothing in the majority opinion “should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

But he also states that in potential future cases, “we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”

He was referring to the past Supreme Court Griswold ruling that overturned state laws banning or restricting birth control such as contraceptives; the high court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling that overturned state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults; and the 2015 Obergefell ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

“Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion is obviously concerning, but it is important to note that not one other justice agreed with him,” said Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group. “In fact, the majority took pains to disagree with him and clarify that this opinion relates only to abortion. Justice Thomas stands alone,” Warbelow told the Washington Blade in a statement.

“With that said, we know that if the Court was willing to overturn 50 years of precedent with this case, that all of our constitutional rights are on the line,” Warbelow said. “Lawmakers will be further emboldened to come after our progress. So, we must be vigilant in protecting our hard-won rights – we’re ready.”

Paul Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), said the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade would have a “disastrous effect” on healthcare for women, especially women of color. He said the ruling could also lead to future rulings that adversely impact LGBTQ people and other minorities.

“We have no doubt that the conservative supermajority on the court will not stop with Roe,” Kawata said in a statement. “Justice Thomas’s chilling concurring opinion makes it very clear that the court could target other rights provided by the Court – marriage equality, contraception access, and LGBTQ+ intimacy in private to name a few,” he said.

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LGBTQ+ groups commemorate Juneteenth

Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865

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LGBTQ activists in New York commemorate Juneteenth. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Renna)

WASHINGTON — President Biden last year signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law, officially designating June 19 as a federal holiday. This legislation was passed after years of advocacy — spearheaded by 95-year-old Opal Lee — pushing for federal recognition of the day in 1865 when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation was delivered to Galveston, Texas, freeing the last remaining enslaved people. 

The Juneteenth holiday has been recognized in Texas since 1980, but it made its way to the federal level in 2021 in the wake of Black Lives Matter movement and a national reckoning over police violence, slavery’s legacy and the ongoing toll of racism. 

Although June was designated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month long after the events of Juneteenth in 1865, the two holidays are more than just coincidentally related. 

The Stonewall riots — which kickstarted the gay rights movement just over 100 years after Juneteenth — involved mainly Black and brown patrons of the Stonewall Inn. Drag performer and gay rights activist Stormé DeLarverie is even rumored to have thrown the first punch. In the days of protests that followed, queer Black women like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin Gracey became crucial leaders in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights. 

To honor this intersectional history, LGBTQ+ around the country are observing the country’s newest federal holiday with a mix of festivity and on-the-ground activism.

In celebration of Juneteenth, New York City Pride kicked off the weekend with a brunch highlighting the stories and culinary expertise of six Black LGBTQ+ chefs. The event highlighted queer Black folks making waves in the business sector and is part of a larger slate of events being hosted as part of New York City Pride.

Cathy Renna, communications director for New York City Pride, said that the organization does its best work using an intersectional approach that lasts far beyond the month of June.

“We look at our work through the intersectional lens of, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, race, class, ability. All of those are things we take into account, and if you look at the work that we do you can see it — not just during the month of Pride,” Renna said. “Whether it’s looking at what could be potentially happening with the Roe v. Wade decision since the leaked draft came out a little over a month ago, we have been trying to help people in the community understand how this could be so impactful for trans and queer folks and for Black and brown communities. We did a joint partnership project with TransLash, which told the stories of Trans people of color whose lives were impacted because of either access or lack of access to reproductive healthcare. So, [intersectionality] is always a top priority.”

At the National Black Justice Coalition, intersectionality is also part of their DNA: The organization seeks to empower the Black LGBTQ+ community through “coalition building, federal policy change, research, and education.”

National Black Justice Coalition Deputy Executive Director Victoria Kirby York highlighted several ways that NBJC is commemorating Juneteenth with activism and grassroots organizing. 

“We’ve been celebrating Juneteenth through our policy agenda, which includes passing HR 40 or getting an executive order signed from President Biden to establish a commission on reparations. [On June 16] we joined other civil and human rights organizations to install flowers that look like the Pan-African flag right in front of the White House, to call on President Biden to sign an executive order that would help do this,” York said. “A commission on reparations would help to really detail the federal government’s roles and others’ roles in the institution of slavery and the many anti-Black policies that followed the emancipation of those who were enslaved.”

As Biden said in a statement marking the one-year anniversary of Juneteenth’s designation as a federal holiday, Juneteenth is as much a promise of continual improvement as it is a recognition of past emancipation.

In his statement, Biden wrote “it’s not enough to just commemorate Juneteenth. Emancipation marked the beginning, not the end, of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality. To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we must not rest until we deliver the promise of America for all Americans.”

For York, one way that LGBTQ+ groups can help to deliver on this promise is by throwing their support behind the black community and returning the favor of intersectional allyship.

“There are organizations that are partnering with existing Juneteenth events, so instead of LGBTQ groups creating their own activities for Juneteenth, using it as an opportunity to support and send your members to existing Juneteenth events, some of which have been going on for decades,” York said. “There are still a number of Black community members who feel like our community as a whole was pushed to be supportive and to stand up for the LGBTQ community around marriage and a whole host of other things, and [the LGBTQ] community doesn’t always return the favor very well. So, in some ways the best thing to do is to show up — to show up at that community Juneteenth festival that is being held to mark the holiday.”

“Go ahead and show that we are visible at Juneteenth events in the same way that we want the black community to be welcomed at Pride events,” added York.

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AIDS/LifeCycle Cyclists concluding a 7-Day journey from SF to LA June 11

This year’s participants raised more than $17.8 million—the highest fundraising amount in the event’s history

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Photo courtesy of AIDS-LifeCycle

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood is a proud co-sponsor of AIDS/LifeCycle, an annual 7-day fundraising bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles benefitting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

This year’s participants, who departed from San Francisco on Sunday, raised more than $17.8 million—the highest fundraising amount in the event’s history—to support San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Participants are HIV-positive and HIV-negative, LGBTQ+ and allies, ages 18 to 81, and from nearly every state and 14 countries.

Saturday, June 11 on Day 7  Beginning in Ventura and ending at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, more than 2,400 AIDS/LifeCycle cyclists and 600 volunteer “roadies” will cross the finish line to culminate their 7-day, 545-mile journey.

6–8 a.m.                        Route opens at San Buenaventura State Beach
901 San Pedro St., Ventura

9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.     Lunch Stop: Will Rogers State Beach
17000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu

11 a.m.–6 p.m.             Finish Line at Fairfax High School
7850 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

NOTE: Most cyclists will cross the finish line between 2–4 p.m.

Riders will enter the City of West Hollywood at N. Doheny Drive traveling eastbound on Santa Monica Boulevard in the number-two lane and parking lane until Ogden Drive. At Ogden Drive, riders will turn south and continue southbound to Melrose Avenue. The eastbound number-two lane of Santa Monica Boulevard is expected to be closed from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2022.  Parking will also be restricted on both the eastbound side of Santa Monica Boulevard and the west side of Ogden Drive from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

While the AIDS/LifeCycle does not require any full street closures, it is anticipated there will be traffic impacts due to the reduction of one eastbound traffic lane on Santa Monica Boulevard. Cyclists are expected to adhere to all traffic laws as directed by California Vehicle Code. West Hollywood community members and visitors are encouraged to take part in a tradition of cheering on cyclists as they complete their final miles of this long-distance fundraiser.

On Saturday, June 11, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Santa Monica Boulevard, Eastbound Number-Two Lane will be Closed to Automobile Traffic to Accommodate Cyclists; and Ogden Drive Parking on West Side of Street will be Unavailable from Santa Monica Boulevard to Willoughby Avenue

HIV and AIDS have had a significant impact in West Hollywood. The disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City. The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local AIDS and HIV organizations.

The City of West Hollywood sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

Support for AIDS/LifeCycle is consistent with the City’s core values and with ongoing City programs meant to commemorate the lives of those who were lost, such as World AIDS Day, the AIDS Memorial Walk, and the AIDS Monument which is currently in development.

The City actively participates supporting education and advocacy in the development of programs that can bring awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

The City is currently implementing its HIV Zero Initiative Strategic Plan with vision to become an ‘HIV Zero’ city. A culminating goal of the HIV Zero plan is to build an inclusive community that supports underserved groups and honors the contributions made by people living with HIV.

For more information about the AIDS/LifeCycle event, please visit www.aidslifecycle.org.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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