Orlando vigil speaker

A student speaks in the megaphone at the June 13 Orlando vigil on College Green

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Orlando vigil crowd

More than 300 people attended the June 13 Orlando vigil on College Green

Photographer: Ben Siegel

Rufus at Pride Parade in Columbus

Rufus rides in a jeep at the Columbus Pride Festival and Parade on June 18

Photographer: Ben Siegel

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Orlando vigil and Columbus Pride Parade part of LGBT Pride Month celebration

In celebration of 2016 LGBT Pride Month, Ohio University’s LGBT Center participated in a couple of events during the month of June.

According to LGBT Center Director *delfin bautista, LGBT Pride Month is a celebration of the accomplishments, lives and experiences of LGBT people, and given what happened in Orlando, the month took on the additional meaning of sending the message that LGBT people are not afraid and will not live in fear.

On June 13, the LGBT Center staff organized a campus vigil for the victims of the June 12 Orlando gay nightclub shooting where 49 people were killed and more than 50 others wounded by a gunman who allegedly targeted them because of their sexual orientation.

The LGBT Center also participated in the Columbus Pride Festival and Parade on June 18 with the help of the Alumni Association and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Speakers at the vigil included United Campus Ministry Reverend Evan Young, Athens City Mayor Steve Patterson and OHIO Assistant Professor of Anthropology Paul Patton.

bautista said that most of the other people who grabbed the megaphone at the vigil did not direct any hate or ill feelings toward any specific community, group or person, but instead expressed their frustration with the systemic discrimination and violence aimed at LGBT people in our society.

“More than 300 people showed up for the vigil, which was more than we expected on such short notice,” bautista said. “Our goal was not for it to be political. We just wanted to see people come together to support each other as a community.”

The LGBT staff made hundreds of rainbow ribbons to be worn at the vigil on College Green and also arranged for free professional counseling for attendees who were struggling with the news of the massacre.  

“The vigil was very powerful,” bautista said. “It was a gathering of people from the University and the surrounding communities. It meant a lot to me that President (Roderick J.) McDavis sent out an invitation to the entire campus and that Mayor Patterson came out to support us.”

bautista said the safety of LGBT people in the future was brought up.  

“One person pointed out that this shooting happened at a gay bar, which is supposed to be a safe place for us,” bautista said. “That person asked the question, ‘If we’re not safe there, then where are we safe?’”

At the Columbus Pride Parade, bautista walked in the parade as Rufus the Bobcat.

About 20 people marched with Rufus and many other current students and alumni were in the large crowd cheering the Ohio University mascot on as he walked through the streets of Columbus.

“When we found out that Ohio State’s Brutus the Buckeye mascot would not be in this year’s parade, we started the process of getting Rufus in the parade,” bautista said. “It was a lot of fun, hot, but really fun.”

bautista admitted that they were not into school pride as a graduate and undergraduate student at other institutions, so it was surprising to find out how popular and beloved Rufus is to the alumni and students of Ohio University.

“I was proud of the schools that I went to, but the mascot wasn’t that big of a deal, so it was very humbling to see how much Rufus meant to a lot of people,” bautista said. “Many people were cheering and a few who are not related to the University expressed to us that it meant a lot to them that Rufus was willing to step up and be a part of the Pride Parade.”

bautista credited former OHIO Board of Trustees Chairperson Sandra Anderson for bringing up the idea of having Rufus march in the parade in support of LGBT Pride Month. bautista also thanked Jennifer Neubauer, director of the OHIO Alumni Association, and Drake Bolin, assistant athletics director for marketing and sales, for their help with the LGBT Center’s preparation for the parade.

The Ohio University Alumni Association hosted a booth at the event for the third consecutive year in an attempt to reconnect the University with LGBT and non-LGBT alumni in the Columbus area and to increase the membership numbers of the University’s Pride Alumni Society.

bautista said the LGBT Center will host a LGBT Pride Potluck Picnic on Saturday, Aug. 13, at Strouds Run. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the LGBT Center at 740-593-0239 or visit the LGBT website at https://www.ohio.edu/lgbt/.

* delfin identifies as trans and two-spirits and requests lowercase letters and the pronoun "they" instead of the traditional "he" or "she."