Josh Ahner wants to attend Cincinnati Pride. He’s never been to one before, but this feels like the right year to start.
“In early May, I came out to my family,” says Ahner, who lives in Dayton. “My parents were not accepting of me. One of my friends said, ‘You should go to Pride. They’re all accepting.’ ”
The problem is that Ahner doesn’t have a car, which makes it tough to attend any events on the month-long Cincinnati Pride calendar. While much of Pride will take place virtually this year—the parade was cancelled in February—Ahner still has plenty of reasons for wanting to get involved in Cincinnati’s LGBTQ+ community.
For one, there’s the support system. He hasn’t found much of that within his family: Ahner has been with his boyfriend for since August—nearly a year ago—but only came out to his brother this spring. His brother was supportive, but warned Ahner that their parents might have a different opinion.
Before Ahner could tell his mom and dad, his sister beat him to it. Since then, he says he’s received some “not very nice messages” from some family members. Last month, he was diagnosed with depression.
“I literally think it’s just from my family finding out that I’m gay,” he says. “And I’ve been…telling myself I’m happy, but it’s really hard when I don’t really have much support aside from my boyfriend and three of my best friends.”
Ahner also wants to get involved with Cincinnati Pride because when he’s visited the city, he’s felt accepted. On a recent trip downtown, he felt comfortable enough to wear a Pride T-shirt. The only comments he received were positive ones.
“I tend to be a little bit self-conscious and take everything a different way,” Ahner says. “I got a little bit tensed up. My boyfriend said, ‘They’re supporting you. They’re not saying anything bad about you.’ ”
The next time Ahner heard a compliment, he said, “Thank you.”
“It’s hard to hear the positivity when I’ve constantly been hearing negativity from my family,” he says.
A self-described military brat, Ahner moved around often when he was younger, including a stint in California during middle school. While he was there, he attended a Pride event in downtown Los Angeles through his school.
“I was still trying to figure myself out,” he says. “And I told my friends, ‘If I lived here one more year, I would gladly go down next year with you guys.’ ”
But instead, Ahner and his family moved to New York. He hasn’t been to a Pride event since.
For those like Ahner who are searching for a way to participate in this year’s Pride events, Benjamin Morano, Cincinnati Pride board member and festival/parade planning chairperson, suggests turning to social media, where users can find a variety of Facebook groups (including for Cincinnati Pride) devoted to LGBTQ resources. Participants often use those platforms to find a ride to event, or to look for a group to attend with. Plus, folks in these groups want others to get involved with the community—they want to help.
“I just want to experience love and acceptance because I have a little bit of love from my boyfriend, but I don’t have that much support out here,” Ahner says.
He imagines that, by getting more involved with Cincinnati’s LGBTQ community, he might one day serve as one of those resources.
“I want to do more to help out with kids that are wanting to come out and be there for them emotionally and be supportive,” he says. “I want to be a resource and gain some more resources for myself.”