Friday, January 27

Ohioans show up in force to address city council to argue for drag queen, inclusion in holiday parade

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Bellefontaine City Council President Zeb Wagner concluded Tuesday night’s council meeting with an observation.

“I think that’s a record under my watch,” he said.

Wagner was referring to the overflow crowd of more than 60 community members who packed the room to speak in favor of inclusion for the annual Christmas parade.

At the January 10 meeting, two speakers let the Bellefontaine City Council know that they represented a number of citizens objecting to the inclusion of a float in the December 2022 parade that featured a head-to-toe clothed drag queen atop a jet ski, smiling and waving to the assembled crowds.

They called the float – sponsored by The Olive Tree, a local gay bar – an example of “metropolitan city culture” and requested a resolution to make sure it doesn’t happen again in Bellefontaine, the seat of west central Ohio’s Logan County..

The public at this week’s meeting showed up to push back against others defining who is and is not “appropriate.”

The public participation portion of Tuesday night’s meeting kicked off with Diane Hager, a local resident who said she had young children with her at the December 2 Christmas parade and that she did not appreciate being asked questions by the children about what the float represented.

Hager attempted to pass out an article from The Epoch Times – a far right publication – detailing a bill quickly moving through the Arkansas legislature that would designate all drag shows as adult-only entertainment and banning drag performances from public property or where minors are present.

“We can and should do this for our city,” Hager said.

The remainder of the speakers – 16 in total – spoke in favor of both inclusion in the parade and the larger issue of LGBTQ+ acceptance in Bellefontaine.

Sarah Lewis explained to the council that she and her wife chose Bellefontaine as their home and have had a positive experience in the community. She highlighted that too much attention has been given to those trying to ban LGBTQ+ representation.

“Instead of addressing the hate towards a group of people, energy has been placed towards appeasing the naysayers so they can mark themselves safe from a drag queen on a jet ski,” Lewis said.

Blonde Vanity, the drag queen who sat atop that jet ski on December 2, explained that she is a normal person with dreams, goals and ambitions like everyone else.

“Drag is an art form,” she said. “I was there just trying to celebrate the Christmas holiday.”

Samson Bates introduced himself as a “proud transgender man” and a “Bellefontaine native, born and raised.” He said he attended the parade, saw nothing inappropriate or provocative and took issue with the idea of embracing “small town values.”

“I have seen countless friends leave this town because those small town values told them they were sick, deranged and wrong for wanting to live authentically,” Bates said.

Kelitha Hogue shared that she too was born and raised in Bellefontaine and considers herself a proud LGBTQ+ ally. She highlighted that attitudes in the town have had a very real effect on the rural community’s population.

“98% of the people that I went to school with who are LGBTQ no longer live in this community,” Hogue said. “Why? Because of the bigotry. The way that we treated them, they had to escape.”

Hogue also added that any attempts to pass resolutions barring entertainment would be met with resistance.

“I hope we will not pass any laws about dancing downtown, because I will Footloose all over downtown,” she said to laughter from the crowd.

Neither Mayor Ben Stahler nor the City Council indicated whether they were considering adding language that would restrict drag performers from future events.

Ignite Action:

  • You can find contact info for Bellefontaine city officials on their contact sheet

About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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