| BRIAN SHINN
AS WE EMBARK on Pride season, it is important to remember the path that each of us took to be where we are today. My coming out journey began in 1990, at the end of my freshman year of college at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV. Being an openly gay man was a scary concept in small-town West Virginia at that time and certainly would subject me to ridicule and the risk of physical harm. However, I had accepted my status as a gay man, and I was ready to seek the comfort of other people who were feeling the same way. I started attending the meetings of our LGB student organization. For the first time, I met other people who were like me and who sought to live their lives openly. It was both terrifying and exciting.
Eventually, the ability to share my experience with others in a safe and comfortable atmosphere made me more confident about being open about my sexual orientation. I took a leadership role in the student organization and became more willing to be an advocate on campus. My coming out at WVU reached its zenith on National Coming Out Day in 1992, when I gave a speech on campus about gay rights to a small gathering of students and university officials. There was no turning back after my picture and an article about my speech landed on the front page of the student newspaper above the fold the following day.
I participated in the 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation the following spring. It is estimated that approximately 800,000 to 1,000,000 people attended the march. It was the first time that I was in a large crowd of LGB people who were open about who they are, celebrating their individuality, and seeking government recognition of their civil rights. For a young activist, it was an extremely empowering and motivating experience. It inspired me to move forward to law school and to a career that has included significant political and social activism for the LGBTQ community. The sense of community and empowerment that I felt that day is the same experience that many people have at Pride festivals. Pride is both a personal celebration of who we are, as well as, a group celebration of our community and our common experience.
Stonewall Columbus’ Pride 2014 is a great opportunity for LGBTQ individuals to come together to celebrate the vibrant and diverse LGBTQ community in Columbus and Central Ohio. There are many activities during the weekend of June 20 – 22 for all ages and interests, including the Pride Festival, the Pride Parade, and the Pride Brunch. The board and staff of Stonewall Columbus are very excited that we will be joined this year by George Takei as our Grand Marshal for the Pride Parade and our featured guest at the Pride Brunch. George has been an outspoken activist for LGBTQ equality and for social justice, and he is one of the most brilliant social commentators of our time. Every dollar raised from Pride assists Stonewall Columbus in providing programming and services to the Central Ohio LGBTQ community throughout the year, as well as maintaining our community center, The Center on High. Please support Stonewall Columbus by purchasing a dog tag or wristband, donating at the festival gates, donating to the Spirit Team along the parade route or donating at columbuspride.org/donate.