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Dion Manley becomes Ohio’s first Trans public official

“They’ve done so much for my daughter that I will do anything to show my appreciation and give back in what small way I can”

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Photo courtesy of Manley for School Board

GAHANNA, Oh. – Dion Manley made Ohio state history last Thursday when he was sworn into Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools’ board of education, becoming the first openly trans public official in the state. 

“I really think Gahanna deserves a lot of credit,” Manley told the Columbus Dispatch. “They’ve been inclusive and open as a district. I’ve seen that in the years I’ve lived here, and the voters choosing to be a voice for diversity and moving forward is really special.”

In November, Manley was voted onto the school board – located in the Columbus suburb of Gahanna, Ohio – along with Sue Horn and Kara Coates. 

He was a part of a historic election night for LGBTQ candidates. According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, 83 candidates they endorsed won their respective races during last year’s November elections. As the newly elected officials take office, the U.S. will have over 1000 LGBTQ+ people serving in elected office for the first time. 

“The victory is especially significant given efforts by anti-trans activists across the nation to target trans students at school board meetings and the surge in anti-trans bill introduced in state legislatures,” a Victory Fund press release said of Manley’s win, making him only the fifth trans man to win an election in the country.

Manley didn’t always plan on running for the position but ended up throwing his hat in the race for the teachers of his daughter Lila, a high school senior who has been in the school system since kindergarten. 

“They’ve done so much for my daughter that I will do anything to show my appreciation and give back in what small way I can,” he told the Dispatch.  

According to Manley, being trans did not hold him back in the election. 

“People here that know that I’m transgender… I’m a great dad and that’s what they see and that’s what matters to them,” he told CBS affiliate WBNS

He added: “The greatest joy of my life has been raising my daughter, so I want to be remembered as a great dad, community member and I happen to be trans.”

In a Facebook post, Manley acknowledged his “amazing” new colleagues and said: “I believe now is the time for people to get involved! We have an important role to play in making all students feel welcome, safe and supported plus safeguard the continued success of our schools.”

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Ohio

Ohio man turns anti-LGBTQ+ insults into cash for local LGBT center

He took his outrage to Facebook, but not with a long rant. Instead, he posted a fundraiser to raise money for LGBT History Month

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Tom Tennant (Screenshot via ABC News 5 WEWS-TV Cleveland)

BAY VILLAGE, Oh. — A Northeast Ohio man is channeling his anger from his neighbor of eight years hurling anti-LGBTQ+ insults at him into queer advocacy. 

Tom Tennant, an LGBTQ+ ally, wasn’t paying attention when backing out of his driveway, almost hitting his neighbor, reports Cleveland News 5

Tennant apologized, but the two ended up getting into an argument. The news station reports that a line was crossed when the neighbor insulted the LGBTQ+ community.

According to Tennant, his neighbor told him to put more “bass in his voice.”

“Then he used a particular pejorative that I consider one of the worst words to use to call somebody, and I ended it there,” Tennant told News 5.

He said he was frustrated, taken back and upset after the altercation. 

“I felt this isn’t about me,” said Tennant. “It’s about, you know friends and family and people I know who are in the LGBTQ+ community who may have to deal with this all the time. I’ve never had to deal with people arguing.”

He took his outrage to Facebook, but not with a long rant. Instead, he posted a fundraiser to raise money for LGBT History Month — quickly collecting over $5,000 as of Thursday, much more than he expected.

“With everything going on in the pandemic and everything going on in politics and all that, I just didn’t want to put negativity out there,” Tennant told the news station. “I mean, I certainly thought like, ‘What can I do to get back at him?’ but it was just better to put positivity out there. I think people responded to that.”

The money Tennant raised will go to the LGBT Community Center in Cleveland

“Unfortunately, we do see a lot of that kind of stuff but what we don’t see is the way that he reacted to the altercation and he took all that negative energy that was directed at him and put in the world as a positive, we thought, ‘Wow, what a great example,’” said Eliana Turan, the center’s Director of Development.

“That warms my heart because what that tells me for every mean person out there there’s a bunch that has a heart,” said Turan.

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Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled

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Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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Akron, Ohio non-profit gears up to assist LGBTQ+ young adults

“Although there’s a nondiscrimination ordinance for LGBTQ+ people in Akron, he says that Ohio still has a long way to go for LGBTQ+ rights”

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Giovonni Santiago (Photo courtesy of META Akron Facebook page)

AKRON, Oh. – The Motivate, Educate, Transform and Advocate (META) Center has provided support to Northeast Ohio trans and gender-nonconforming youth from ages 7 to 19 since 2016. Now, Giovonni Santiago, the founder of the Akron, Ohio, based nonprofit, is gearing up to support people in their 20s. 

Santiago started the group to “create social change and foster acceptance” by providing housing coordination, legal advocacy, emotional support and community outreach, reports the Akron Beacon Journal

“Sometimes, it’s just allowing people to have a place to go,” Santiago told the Beacon Journal. “It’s like they don’t need to have a conversation. They just need a safe place.”

“I do this work because I want other people to live their life authentically,” he said.

Santiago says that parents who see their child “expressing differently than society would say they should” seek his help.

“A parent might say, ‘Well, my daughter likes to play with trucks’… and it’s not just a one-time thing,” he told the Beacon Journal. “It might be nothing, and it might be something.”

“We want them to know that’s not a bad thing,” he said. “We want people to feel valid with who they are.”

Although META is based in Akron and does much of its work in Northeast Ohio, Santiago says his group has a national impact, helping approximately 200 people a year, according to the Beacon Journal.

“It entails support groups, one-on-one peer support with myself, we send out care packages after individuals have gender-affirming surgery, we offer a clothing closet, so we send clothing to individuals who need clothes,” he said. 

Santiago, who is also the Northeast Ohio organizer for Equality Ohio, knows first-hand the struggle that trans kids face, as he too is a trans man.

“As trans people, the journey is not just ours,” he told the Beacon Journal. “It affects our families, it affects our friends. It affects everyone.”

According to the Beacon Journal, he entered the U.S. Air Force during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military era. After his Air Force service, Santiago earned a degree in early childhood education and began teaching preschool.

At 27, Santiago began his medical transition at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 2013. He tells the Beacon Journal that he was the doctor’s first trans patient.  

“I was born female, and knew that I belonged in a male body,” he said. “So, I tell people that I’ve been transitioning, and I’ve been transitioning for eight years.”

Santiago is a highly regarded LGBTQ organizer. According to the newspaper, he was named one of Cleveland Magazine’s Most Interesting People and honored by NBC Out in 2018.

Although Santiago helped establish a nondiscrimination ordinance for LGBTQ+ people in Akron, he says that Ohio still has a long way to go for LGBTQ+ rights. Santiago added that nearby Cleveland is “No. 4 on the list for where Black trans women are murdered.”

“We’ve always been here, but we’ve had to live in fear,” he said. “Even now in Ohio, there are zero protections for LGBTQ people”

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