The Geauga SOGI Support Network hosted a Pride in Geauga event on June 26, with attendees including LGBTQ+ individuals and supporters, food vendors, advocacy groups, healthcare organizations, churches and more.
The event took place on the grounds of Burton’s Century Village Museum. Large rainbow balloon displays, designed by balloon artist Extra Betty, greeted visitors, along with music, garden games, face painting and more. Exhibitors set up tables in the Lennah Bond Activity Center where visitors could learn about their organizations and missions.
Ginger Marshall, Administrative Coordinator of the MetroHealth Pride Network, was there to tell attendees about the physicians in the network and to learn about other exhibitors and organizations in attendance.
Marshall described the network’s mission as “health care for LGBTQ+ people that is caring, knowledgeable, knowledgeable and lifelong, from cradle to grave; for children of LGBTQ parents. The network’s website mentions that its physicians cater to general healthcare needs as well as those specific to LGBTQ+ patients.
Dick and Jan Hurwitz came to represent the East Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Kirtland.
“We’re here because we believe in diversity of all kinds,” said Dick Hurwitz. “We don’t have a set of beliefs that everyone has to subscribe to. We help each person in the church find their own spiritual path.
Chris Steigerwald, chairman of the board of the Geauga SOGI Support Network, said other attendees included advocacy groups such as Equality Ohio and TransOhio; Camp Lilac; LGBTQ+ health representatives from University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic and Signature Health; Chagrin Falls Federated Church Social Justice Advocacy Ministry; Bainbridge United Church of Christ; Chesterland Community Church; Geauga Lake Recovery Center; Geauga Campus of Kent State University; PFLAG Cleveland; and the League of Women Voters.
Steigerwald added that event sponsors included Parker Hannifin, Extra Betty, Howling Print and Promo, Huntington Bank and KeyBank.
The network, with SOGI in its name for sexual orientation and gender identity, was founded in January 2020, Steigerwald noted. She said the organization’s mission is “to engage with individuals, families, friends and the Geauga community to embrace sexual orientation and gender identity through collaboration, education and advocacy.
“We want young people to feel more comfortable, to feel that they are accepted, that they are embraced and supported,” she said.
Due to the pandemic, Steigerwald said the network did not hold any major community events in its first two years. Organizers chose Century Village because it has a large property, is “located in the center of the Geauga community” and is private, so the organization could ask individuals to leave if it deemed it necessary. A Burton Village Police Department officer stood guard at the entrance near the parking lot.
Steigerwald said there were community members both for and against Pride in Geauga. Speaking at the June 22 Burton Village Council meeting the night before, Steigerwald said: ‘It was very respectful last night but there is definitely a disagreement. But in the process, we have people contacting us and thanking us for being there, for speaking up, for organizing this event.
Steigerwald noted that the Geauga SOGI support network has support groups for LGBTQ+ middle and high school students, as well as parents of people who identify as transgender or non-binary. The network also organizes outreach programs with organizations such as churches, schools, social service agencies, etc. issues such as immigration and the environment.