Dayton is known for flight, code-breaking machines, cash registers & the initial fight for LGBT Marriage. Wait, what? Surprised? We all are.
An African-American lesbian couple from Dayton, Ohio sued for a whopping $100,000,000 in the 1970’s for the right to marry. They didn’t win, but the wheels were put in motion!
The richness of Dayton’s stories was celebrated in high fashion at the first ever Greater Dayton LGBTQ Her/History Awards on October 24th at the Brightside. Awards were given in multiple categories ranging from the ‘Fight for Gay Rights’ to ‘AIDS Activism.’
‘I had heard that San Francisco was recording their LGBT history so it would not be lost over time.’ Says Sue Elam, one of the founders of the awards. ‘ I thought, Dayton has a rich LGBT history, and we need to do the same.’
‘As Sue was working towards her vision, I was thinking along the same lines.’ Says Jerry Mallicoat. ‘We were complete strangers walking towards an protest downtown and struck up a conversation. It was meant to be. And what sealed the deal was the fact we shared a birthday!’ Mallicoat and Elam are both well-respected LGBT activists and advocates in the Dayton area. ‘We were on a path and we could see how taking time to interview Daytonians about their LGBT experiences and successes should be shared.’ Mallicoat goes on to say, ‘People were willing to share with us, and what we learned was so exciting and surprising. Dayton has a strong, active and connected gay community.’
A committee was formed to move forward with some kind of recognition of those in Dayton who have made a difference for the LGBT community. Melissa Rodriguez and Jordan Ailes were part of that committee. ‘It became such a family. We all worked together to make this happen.’ Says Rodriguez. ‘We knew we could make something special out of this where people could network, meet and expand their lives through the Her/History awards.’Ailes added.And it worked.
All Awards need a catchy name…think Emmy or Oscar….for the Dayton LGBTQ+ community, it’s the RUBI Award, fondly named for Dayton’s Own RubiGirls. ‘We wanted a name that would encompass charity, bravery and community service. The RubiGirls epitomize that!’ says Jim McKinnon, archivist and committee member.
‘What I had envisioned,’ Elam shares, ‘was a series of markers on buildings around the city where important LGBT events took place. I had mentioned it to Mayor Whaley and she actually came back with the idea of a celebratory dinner. A place where we could acknowledge our accomplishments. It was genius!’
‘I knew we needed time, and when we settled on this idea, it was to close to June, which is Pride Month. I remembered that October is LGBTQ+ history month and thought maybe we could pull it off!’ Says Mallicoat. ‘It was risky, but as a group, more of a family, the committee was ready to see it though.’
The awards show shocked even the committee members. ‘So much love was in that room. All of us were exhausted, but together you could feel the appreciation and love from all attendees. Such a community.’ Rodriguez stated.
‘What struck me was the struggles of many in that room. Their stories were bought to light and people, especially young people, got to understand what the LGBTQ community has seen and been through. It was amazing!’
And it was sold-out….which also shocked the committee!
Recipients included the Neon Movies, Mary Wiseman, Dr. Robert L. Brandt Jr., Amanda Kayne, Larry and Clara Rezash, the Gatlyn-Dame Group, Mayor Nan Whaley among many others.
Stories were shared about losing friends to HIV, protests in and around Dayton, humble beginnings of organizations like Artemis and personal struggles for acceptance. Some of the stories caught the audience by surprise. ‘For me, it was emotional to relive some of those moments. There is still pain to deal with regarding religion, bigotry and suppression.’ Mallicoat said.
‘The stories told struck a chord. One of the audience members, Shane Juhl, an ally of the community, stopped me afterward to tell me he had no idea of the struggles and achievements of the Dayton area LGBTQ community. Having said that, it means a lot knowing he is there for us as a community! He gets why it’s so important.’
The Dayton LGBTQ community has much planned for the coming year with a Veterans recognition program in November as well as a health summit being planned. The awards will be annual and Rodriguez assures, ‘We will knock it out of the ballpark next year. People loved this year, but they ain’t seen nothing yet!’ Ailes chimed in, ‘There are many more stories to tell. Military, businesses and others who will be elevated by sharing their journeys at the event. One participant put it like this, “Being in the room, all of us sharing a history, you felt like you belonged there. It was magical and I cannot wait to hear more.” ‘
If you are interested in getting involved with the committee contact [email protected]. And keep your ears open, as Sue Elam is looking into a LGBT Dayton History podcast.
Here’s the full list of this year’s recipients: