This has been a pretty jam-packed week here at The Buckeye Flame. And it’s only Wednesday.
With national attention and ire focused on our state due to Ohio House Republicans’ introduction of a combo platter curriculum ban/Don’t Say Gay bill (HB 616), our mission of amplifying the voices and issues of LGBTQ+ Ohioans has never felt more important.
It is amidst the week’s tumult that we are proud to announce — in this 500th piece since our June 2020 launch! — our first ever full-time staff writer.
With the generous and game-changing support of The Cleveland Foundation, we have spent the past few months conducting a search, which yielded an unbelievably large and diverse pool of incredible storytellers. After a ton of interviews, we enthusiastically made an offer and that offer was enthusiastically accepted.
Introducing: H.L. Comeriato (they/them)!
A Cuyahoga Falls native currently residing in Akron, H.L.’s background includes serving as a public health reporter for The Devil Strip, writing and project design work for the Gay Community Endowment Fund, and service on the board of CANAPI (Community AIDS Network/Akron Pride Initiative). Their writing (and photography!) has covered everything from alternative death care, gun violence and COVID-19 to the benefits of a healthy tree canopy and stories of addiction and recovery.
To get to know H.L. a little bit better, we sat down to find out more about their brand of storytelling.
Was little H.L. running around Cuyahoga Falls writing, writing, writing?
I definitely was a storyteller as a child, but it took me a long time to build the skill. I definitely was not a kid making little books for everyone to read.
You weren’t creating a grassroots newspaper for your street?
<laughs> That’s hilarious, but no. I’m a classically trained violinist. I was a little performer as a kid. I played in chamber orchestras and for a while, I played traditional Irish music. All of a sudden there would be no sheet music and I had to learn with the rest of the band.
I learned to play the accordion because I thought it was fun. I learned to play the guitar and taught myself other string instruments. I would constantly say, “Ok, everyone! Get on the couch. It’s showtime.”
Why journalism? Why storytelling in this medium?
I’m a storyteller at heart. I experimented through different formats as I got older. There was making music as storytelling. There was non-fiction formats and fiction formats. Journalism was the one that gave me the most space and creativity in a way that is meaningful.
Why LGBTQ+ storytelling?
It’s an honor to be a queer person and a nonbinary person. To live in the legacy of the queer people that came before us, to honor their lives and their work, and to do that for the people we know who will come after us? That’s everything. That’s literally everything.
I get to record our stories, our histories, our joys, our tragedies, these systemic things we struggle with constantly. All of those things are so, so important. And I have a really specific skillset that I can use every day to help other people tell their stories and add these stories to the legacy. That is really cool. There is so much joy in it, even when it’s difficult.
This is starting to sound like a job interview, and I swear you got the position.
Why type of stories are you most excited to tell?
First and foremost, I am excited to work with and for other queer people, other trans people, and other nonbinary people. So much of this work is about building relationships, building community, and meeting people where they are. It’s exciting to think, “All of these folks in our community with all of these different experiences will lead me in these stories.”
We’re going to talk about education and healthcare and arts and culture and all kinds of stuff. All of those things are stories that people are ready to talk about and are ready to tell. That’s what I’m here for.
What do you want everyone to know about your storytelling?
That I believe in the personal and collective power of authentic storytelling. Period. That’s it. You will never ever talk to me for a story and be surprised how it turns out. I want to prove to people that they can trust me with things that are important to them. And you earn that trust by doing the work. People notice. And it matters. 🔥