CHILLICOTHE — A tiny pop of color now adorns several storefronts in downtown Chillicothe as shops proudly display their support for the LGBTQ community.
Though it doesn’t mean much to everyone, seeing a Pride flag displayed outside of a business is a message to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning individuals that they are welcome and safe to be their authentic selves.
That’s why First Capital PRIDE Coalition launched the campaign to bring the rainbows downtown and to further their mission of supporting the local LGBTQ community. Businesses who donated — most in the form of gift cards to be used as giveaways — were offered a rainbow flag window decal to show their backing of the local nonprofit organization.
“We wanted to offer local businesses a chance to donate in a small way since many of them were affected by the pandemic,” said First Capital PRIDE President Daniel Mathuews Jr. “[The flags] are important due to some worry LGBTQ people have about shopping at local businesses. Like with large corporations that donate to anti-gay organizations or those that support anti-LGBTQ legislation, we would rather not put our money into a business that would see our rights taken away.”
Though Mathuews didn’t have a list available of all of the organizations that donated, some includeSteiner’s Speakeasy and ALPHA Femme Boutique, Paper City Coffee, First Capital Prevention on Main and the United Way of Ross County. He added that Great Seal Pottery, Body Zone, Winegardner Chiropractic and Bartender on Wheels are just a few of the local LGBTQ-owned businesses in the area.
Stores that declined to donate to First Capital PRIDE Coalition weren’t deemed anti-LGBTQ or unsupportive, however, Mathuews said some business owners declined the sticker for fear it would isolate customers.
Yet the nonprofit’s president hopes that customers will have the opposite reaction to seeing the rainbow flags.
“It gets exhausting asking for support,” he said. “When a business makes an effort, it causes a ripple effect of good that sets a standard for how people could behave or change their perspective. It makes us feel safe to be our authentic selves in these spaces.”
It can be as simple as placing inclusive decals, even if they aren’t from First Capital PRIDE, or establishing clear anti-discrimination policies in the workplace. Other ways local businesses can be an ally include hosting small events or donating a portion of sales to LGBTQ inclusion work and charities.
Efforts such as those can help support organizations like the one in Chillicothe that formed two years ago. When First Capital PRIDE Coalition first launched it was to address the stigma that still surrounds LGBTQ people and to provide resources to queer and questioning individuals.
“I always urge people to explore within themselves why they are so against the LGBTQ community. Sometimes people do not question the beliefs they are raised with or have formed from their own experiences. This reflection can do a lot of good,” Mathuews said.
Since then, First Capital PRIDE has grown its participation through volunteers and increased support groups. Soon, they hope to start a feeding and eating disorder group and a Transgender support group. Their board will also be expanding as their reach has increased.
Though, like most everyone, the past year didn’t go by without a few difficulties. Due to the pandemic, the organization had to cancel all of its planned events and had to modify meetings by gathering outdoors. They even lost their office space but ended up finding a new one through a partnership with First Capital Prevention on Main.
But with coronavirus health and safety restrictions lifted, the local organization is preparing for the return of its Pride activities.
Starting on Aug. 20, from 4 to 7 p.m. there will be a family-friendly pool party hosted at the city pool.
The next day, a Pride walk will take place around 10:30 a.m. into Yoctangee Park. Until 1 p.m. there will be a festival and resource/vendor fair. Around 8 p.m. an adults-only drag show and dance will commence at the Elk’s Lodge. Admission is $10 and the theme is rainbows and rhinestones.
For more information about the First Capital PRIDE Coalition or to stay up to date with upcoming events, please visit https://www.firstcapitalpride.org/.
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