by Ilona Westfall
In 2019, the Cincinnati suburb of Milford made national headlines for a gender neutral homecoming court: “king” and “queen” were replaced with “royalty” when two female students were voted as the winners. The ensuing public backlash then exposed unsettling homophobia in the area.
Seventeen-year-old Reilly Ackermann is on a mission to combat that push-back by organizing the creation of the Milford Pride Home. Currently in the fundraising phase–they already met their $3000 goal on their Go Fund Me but aren’t stopping there–the soon-to-be non-profit will offer a combination community center and safe house for LGBTQ+ residents. While COVID-19 put a delay on the plans, Ackermann is focusing on community building for the time being. We talked to Ackermann about what the Milford Pride Home will entail and why it will be an important resource.
What is the area like in Milford? How available are resources for LGBTQ+ folks?
We’re about 20 to 30 minutes outside of Cincinnati, kinda where the suburbs turn into the rural area. So it’s a little more conservative. There are resources in downtown Cincinnati, but especially if you’re a kid, it’s kind of harder to get to them because you have to drive all the way out there.
Why create a “pride home” and what will it entail?
I wanted to create this because I’m a queer woman, and in Milford it’s kind of obvious that there’s underlying homophobia, transphobia, etc. I just wanted to have a safe space, especially for kids like me to go and be able to be themselves without fear of their family or their friends judging them for being who they are. It’s going to be a mix of community center and shelter. I definitely want to do educational events for the community and community-building events, like movie nights, book clubs, etc., and just kind of bonding, but I also want to eventually have beds available for people who need them. And a food service, and mental health resources for people who need that support to get back on their feet.
How have your age and personal experiences played into you wanting to create this?
I go to high school at Milford and it’s obvious around the kids and stuff, they use gay as an insult. They use the “f”word. There’s a lot of bullying and blatant transphobia at our school. We’ve had a couple incidents that were not good. So, I mostly wanted to focus on kids and other youth, because it’s obvious that they need a space like that to feel safe. And some of the backlash that you’ve seen from adults on social media. Last year we had two female homecoming royalty and our school made national news for it. And there was a lot of backlash from the community. So, stuff like that makes it really important to have that space for people to be able to go and feel safe.
[Milford Pride Home] be open for everybody. Because I know there’s a lot of queer adults in the area who also need that space. You know, we’re living in suburban Ohio, Trump country. Everybody definitely needs a space like that. I actually have a community assessment form, so I’m getting a good idea of what everybody wants. There’s adult events, youth events and it’s kind of just finding that balance of age. I think last time I checked, there were like 60 responses. It’s a form of what people want to see out of the center, like what hours should we be open? Where do you live? And then it’s also what events should we do? What are you interested in? What should we provide to best suit the community?
Ilona Westfall is a Cleveland-based freelance writer. When she’s not penning articles for a variety of northeast Ohio publications, she’s roller skating with Burning River Roller Derby, rolling d20s with her D&D group, or getting muddy in the woods. Follow her on twitter @IlonaWestfall.