Toward that end, Michael Blankenship has helped found a new organization -- the Pink Paradigm Club -- that he says is needed because there is "not enough of an effort going on to promote gay and lesbian visibility" in the Cincinnati area.
Blankenship said that the Pink Paradigm Club is not a political action group, but rather "a queer social network for cultural change."
The group's goals are "to work for ourselves and for our reality, change hearts and perceptions with visibility, address violence, energize our community and have fun with the simplicity and creativeness of our message," Blankenship said.
He said he had noticed an attitude of defeat in the local gay community. Instead of facing problems and finding solutions, many gays and lesbians are leaving town, he said.
The Pink Paradigm Club hopefully will help people in the gay community feel good about themselves, he said.
The group's first project, a billboard campaign, is intended to promote visibility of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgendered people as well as change perceptions and attitudes, he said.
The billboards will focus on themes like family, fairness, work and privacy.
The point is not just to influence the way gays and lesbians are perceived by the straight community, but how gays and lesbians see themselves, Blankenship said.
He said he realized that not everyone was comfortable with that goal.
"Some people are terrified of the idea of gay visibility -- even some gay people," Blankenship said. "The main thrust of the billboard campaign ... is we're not these exotic things."
Blankenship said people of all sexual orientations need to realize that gay and lesbian people are everywhere -- in all communities, families, workplaces and social settings.
Can the group really change negative perceptions about gays and lesbians through the billboards?
"I think it'll have a dramatic effect," Blankenship said.
Phil Burress, chairman of Citizens for Community Values, said he had not yet heard of the Pink Paradigm Club.
"There's more groups than there are homosexuals," he said.
Burress said the group had a right to free speech, but if the billboards were of a sexual nature, the Pink Paradigm Club might have trouble putting them up, given the negative publicity some radio station billboards got last year.
Burress said his organization might respond to the billboard campaign.
"We'll just wait until we see what they do," he said. ©