Friday, October 22

A New LGBTQ+ Group Adds Much-Needed Rainbows to Upper Arlington

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Pride flags are waving in Upper Arlington as a new group, Rainbow UA, joins the ranks of organizations throughout the Columbus area committed to advocating for inclusivity and providing support to the LGBTQ+ community.

After recognizing a lack of available resources and an established LGBTQ+ network for students, families, and individuals in Upper Arlington, the group’s co-founders started the work with a Facebook group – which, since February, has already grown to over 550 members.

In just a few short months Rainbow UA has organized a book event, a donation drive for Kaleidoscope, held Zoom happy hours, and has gained support from the school district’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to bring more inclusive practices into the schools.

Most recently, the group hosted a community event on May 2nd to raise funds for AIDS Walk Ohio. The event featured information booths from Equitas Health and Upper Arlington Preventative Primary Care, a voter registration drive, fun events for the kids, baked goods from The Original Goodie Shop, and a giant balloon rainbow for the perfect gram-worthy photo. Sponsors Front Runner, Athleta, and Fabtique donated prizes with all proceeds going towards the Aids Walk. Upper Arlington Preventative Primary Care, a local LGBTQ+ friendly medical practice, stepped up as a sponsor and covered the costs for the event. Rainbow UA also went head-to-head with other local pride groups in a Battle of the ‘Burbs to see who could raise the most for the event.

The Buckeye Flame caught up with co-founder Kathy Adams to discuss Rainbow UA’s creation and what’s coming up next for the group.

Why did you decide to create Rainbow UA?
It started with conversations last summer with students from several school districts posting different things on Instagram. So, it stemmed from my own kids’ experience in the school, and then reading how bad things still were in the high school. I went to Upper Arlington for my last three years of high school and graduated in 1993. I was totally in the closet. It was really bad then and things have not progressed like I would have hoped. I wanted to do something about it.

So, I started meeting with school board members and I talked to PFLAG. I wanted to do something specific here in Upper Arlington, because in the city of Columbus, there’s obviously Stonewall and all these different organizations. But, I thought people don’t know about them, and we don’t have that local connection. You go to other places like Clintonville and there are pride flags everywhere, and I just don’t feel very welcome here.

Then, in general, there’s this group called Golden Pride here that intimidates people for [supporting]racial and LGBTQ issues. Upper Arlington is also building new schools this year, and they are putting in gender neutral bathrooms. There was litigation over it and people paid for a mailer about the bathrooms. All of those things made me want to do something. So, we just started as a Facebook group a few months ago and we now have over 500 members – people who are members of the community themselves or lots of people that have kids that are members of their community and they’re trying to navigate what to do for their kids.

What is the overarching goal of the group?
To build community and to advocate for the needs of the LGBTQ community and students here in Upper Arlington, within the schools and within the city.

Collecting donations for Kaleidoscope Youth Center

What are the main challenges you’ve seen within UA’s LGBTQ community?
It’s been the bullying in the schools, and the small but vocal minority just causes violence and trauma to all those families and students. When we hear the terrible things being said about the bathrooms, that’s really just transphobia rhetoric. It has been continuous harm this whole school year.

People don’t know what resources are available in the schools, and they don’t have a consistent experience. If a student wants to change their pronouns or come out and get support, they’re just reinventing the wheel every time and not knowing who the other families are who they can talk to. There are adults who’ve lived here for a while and we don’t all know each other. So, the problem is not having this shared information and shared experiences – that’s been a huge part of what we’ve already been able to make so much progress on.

What other events are in the works for Rainbow UA?
We are looking into possibly forming as a nonprofit so that we can make sure that we are sustainable. And for now, I think that signature events would probably be our community AIDS Walk event and Pride. The community AIDS Walk was a really successful, wonderful event. The point was so that people in Upper Arlington don’t think our community is immune from HIV and AIDS, and they can get over that stigma. We also had rainbows all over, so it was also about getting over the LGBTQ stigma. I think it’s important to continue that event. Then beyond that, just social gatherings and continuing to work in the schools to support the families and the students.

Why do you think this work is so important in UA, and also in the larger Columbus community?
I think that this is how you build community and how you change a culture to make it more inclusive and change parts of history in a good way. 🔥

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About Author

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.

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