Friday, February 20, 2015

3 to Know: Legacies of the Gay Games

Panel from left to right: David C. Barnett, ideastream senior reporter and producer; John Grafton, board member, Gay Community Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation; Phyllis Harris, Thomas Nobbe and Michelle Tomallo

As snow swirled outside and below zero temperatures enveloped the town, the City Club of Cleveland bell rang once again. Just more than six months after the closing ceremonies of Gay Games 9, a panel met Feb. 19 to discuss the lessons and legacies of the Gay Games. For our August 2014 cover story, we did the same, examining the impact and difficulties of the LGBT community on Cleveland, centered around the games. Economically, the Gay Games were estimated to have had a $52.1 million impact. Nearly 75 percent of games attendees came from outside of Cleveland.

Safety was a top priority, said Phyllis Harris, executive director of the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Her organization conducted 40 trainings at the Cleveland Police Department academy over 40 weeks before the games. Harris led some of the classes herself, teaching 40-50 police officers at a time. "It was scary and it was life changing," she said. "In a way I think it set the tone for much of the training that continued to happen throughout the year."

The community center is in the process of purchasing a new headquarters building with an anonymous $1.8 million donation, announced during the games. The center has been located in a Gordon Square storefront since 1999. The network established during the games was instrumental to their move, said Harris. "People listen if I call now," she said. "They want to collaborate now, they had a good experience."

Here's three things you need to know from the discussion:

1) The 2014 Gay Games were the most profitable in the history of the organization, finishing with a surplus of $150,000. "From the outset of planning the games, our board and staff were really determined to see that these games finished in the black," said 2014 Gay Games executive director Thomas Nobbe.

2) The $150,000 surplus will be donated, with 80 percent going to form a new Gay Games legacy fund at the Cleveland Foundation, and 20 percent to the Gay Community Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation.

3) Though the Gay Games were certainly a symbol of progress, both the panel and attendees were quick to emphasize that Ohio does not provide legal protections for same-sex couples. "We had all this grand success and there was all this celebration. It literally was palpable, all the energy, vibrancy and love," said Michelle Tomallo, president of the board of directors of Plexus, the LGBT chamber of commerce. "All of that happened in the context of a state where we don't have any protections for the exact people that we're celebrating."

No comments: