By Mohammad Mujahed
In today’s society, many people may think that homophobia doesn’t exist because same sex marriage became legal. Many individuals may think there is no inequality in our country. So, people want answers.
On Oct.16, the City Club of the Mahoning Valley hosted a discussion panel called, CCMV Views and Brews at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts.
The panelists of the event included Kage Coven, an activist, advocate and a professional pet groomer, Toni Schildcrout, co-president of the Youngstown Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays Organization and Gwen Stembridge, Northeast Ohio coordinator for Equality Ohio.
The panelists were asked a variety of questions about religious freedom, how some religious freedoms can bring discrimination and how to encourage someone to “come out,” a metaphor for LGBTQ+ people’s self-disclosure of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The conversation was moderated by Amanda Fehlbaum, assistant professor of sociology, anthropology and gerontology at Youngstown State University.
One of the main topics that was discussed was the existence of homophobia, especially after same sex marriage was legalized.
Coven responds to that question with his own take on people who believe that homophobia does not exist.
“I ask them to open their eyes,” Coven said. “The suicide rate among trans youth is 44 percent, when people come up to me and say that they were harassed.”
Lynn Bilal, the project director of CCMV, said her organization put together the event because a community member brought up the idea and thought it was a good idea because elections are coming up.
“There are policies and laws that can change as a result of this coming election,” Bilal said. “The results of the coming election could cause discrimination and housing discrimination amongst the LGBT community.”
“The goal of all the conversation is to make people in the broader area know what’s happening,” Bilal added.
Another question asked was about the Pastor Protection Act, which protects any religious organization that doesn’t want to give services to certain individuals, especially those from the LGBTQ+ community.
“Its problematic,” said Stembridge. “The reason why its problematic is because religious societies are not very well defined in the law. For example, hospitals which are run by religious entities can refuse patients that are from the LGBT community.”
The benefits of coming out were also up for discussion at the the event. Coven discussed about how coming out is a very important step.
“The biggest benefit is to be counted,” he said. “I use my many privileges to amplify voices of others who think they don’t have a voice.”
Coven talked about the importance of representation of the LGBTQ+ community in politics.
“It is important because everyone needs representation,” he said. “Being a person of color and seeing other black people makes me feel empowered, knowing that they exist is empowering.”
Coven added it is important to unite the community to become more powerful to gain representation.
“I think if we are able to lift our community up and show them they have support, the sky’s the limit,”
Becoming an ally to the cause was also in the discussion. Schildcrout spoke about how being a parent has to do something with becoming an ally.
“As a mother of a gay son and also a straight son, I have been an ally for more than 30 years,” Schildcrout said.
She also discussed the importance of supporting the community, advocacy and education.