by Megan Hageman
Findlay’s LGBTQ+ community and allies are rallying together after the dispiriting vandalism of a Pride mural on July 17th.
The misspelled phrase ‘Straigt Pride’ was sprayed across a painting of the state of Ohio in rainbow colors including a star highlighting the city of Findlay. Spectrum of Findlay, a local non-profit dedicated to empowering and providing resources to the LGBTQ+ community, installed the mural in early June to promote Pride Month.
The organization has been overwhelmed by the support following the incident, but also understands the act is an indication of the work yet to be done in the Findlay community. The Buckeye Flame spoke with Executive Director Dr. Jasmin Bradley to discuss both the greatest needs among the city’s LGBTQ+ population as well as reactions to the recent vandalism.
How would you describe LGBTQ+ life in Findlay?
It’s an interesting environment and I think there was a lot of apprehension for myself and my partner moving back to Findlay. We had definitely heard some not-so-great stories about living in this community and being LGBTQ+.
My experience has been pretty much the opposite of that. I find Findlay to be a deeply conservative community with very strong family values. But, within that it’s also a community that does really try to embrace everybody – they don’t always get it right, but there’s an effort there.
What is the greatest need in Findlay’s LGBTQ+ community?
The greatest need is definitely assisting folks who support us with gaining confidence in their ally-ship. With the LGBTQ+ people, specifically adults, that live here, there’s a certain element of choosing to live here because they align with the family values that run through the community. But, there are a lot of allies in our community [who]feel apprehensive about being open about their ally-ship, and I think we lose something in that.
Specifically, when I think about “what does everything boil down to that we do at Spectrum?” everything to me boils down to providing visibility so our youth can see that you can be LGBTQ+ and you can still strive and survive in that community.
How have Spectrum’s operations shifted since COVID-19?
We’re lucky, in a sense, because we’ve never had brick and mortar. We’ve never had that tie to a physical space. So, for us, we flipped 100% of our operations to virtual with COVID-19 and it didn’t feel like much of a change, since we were already fairly virtual to begin with. I think the next few months are going to be tricky to navigate, but we are fortunate. We’re in a strong position and we have operated on a small budget for many, many years. I hope that we can see it through whatever will come over the next couple of years, because the work’s not done.
What were your initial reactions to the vandalism over the weekend?
Just disheartened – it just feels unnecessary to me. They spelled it wrong, so I feel like they didn’t really think about their message when they were doing it, and I think the person who did it doesn’t really understand the impact of that kind of negativity.
It’s frustrating more than anything and it’s really not representative of our experience in the community. I think what I have really enjoyed is it’s a great opportunity to show the support we have in the community, the support we have even statewide, and seeing that we have people there to rally around when things like this happen. To me it’s even more important to show people not everything is going to go smoothly or go our way, but we’ve got this whole support system that’s holding us up right now. And understand this silly act of vandalism has rippling effects and connotations to it. So, it’s disheartening but an opportunity to show the good side of Findlay against that blemish.
As an organization how will you react?
Mostly, we’ve been networking with our partners – working with local administration, the mayor’s office, the police. The investigation is ongoing so we are obviously going to help in any way we can with that investigation. I think we’re just taking some time to take stock and think about a more outward counteraction to the defacement, but there’s nothing really set in stone right now. We’re letting our community and our community partners do the talking for us and I think there’s a huge amount of support.
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. Learn more at https://www.meganhageman.com/.