By Sean Martin, Associate Curator, Jewish American Archives, with Sidney Negron
WRHS is proud to report that it’s among the few repositories listed as part of the Ohio History Connection’s Gay Ohio History Initiative, https://www.ohiohistory.org/gohi/. This initiative, recently relaunched and announced by Wendy Korwin, Archives Services Manager at Ohio History Connection, includes the LGBTQ+ collections at WRHS alongside those at Oberlin, Ohio State, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archives. The LGBTQ+ materials at WRHS are the result of a formal collecting program begun by WRHS staff, in cooperation with the LGBT Community Center in 1991.
Last summer CWRU student intern Sidney Negron processed additional collections from the LGBTQ+ community, helping us to make available the primary sources that will allow us to tell more diverse stories about our neighbors. Among the collections Negron processed were the TransFamily of Cleveland Records, the Gay Games 9 Records, and the Anthony Petruzzi Papers.
Anthony Petruzzi is a gay activist, genealogist, and librarian from Euclid, Ohio. Petruzzi was a member, co-chairperson, and president of HUGS-EAST, a social and educational gay and lesbian organization in Lake County, Ohio. HUGS was an acronym for Hope, Understanding, Giving, and Support. The organization offered a space for social, educational, and emotional support sessions for the gay and lesbian community. Petruzzi was also a member of the Lake County Health District’s AIDS Task Force and Health Issues Task Force in the late 1980s. In 1988, Petruzzi and the Task Force faced significant public backlash after announcing that funding from the Ohio Department of Health would be used to hold safe sex nights at gay bars and adult bookstores in order to reach people at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS.
Robert and Karen Gross founded TransFamily of Cleveland in 1995 to offer support and education to transgender people, their families, and their friends. TransFamily has worked extensively with other organizations in Cleveland dedicated to advancing the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. The organization has worked closely with Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a national non-profit organization founded in 1973 in order to foster advocacy, education, and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as PFLAG Cleveland, a local chapter founded in 1985 by Jane Daroff.
The efforts of activists like Petruzzi and the Gross family helped pave the way for much more public recognition of the LGBTQ+ community. From August 9-16, 2014, Gay Games 9 came to Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation. The 9th iteration of the Gay Games, Gay Games 9 was an international gathering for athletic competition hosted by and for people in the LGBTQ+ community. The Gay Games represent a safe arena for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender, nationality, or ability. Gay Games 9 included more than 35 sports. Events for the Gay Games 9 were held across 40 venues, including the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, the Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center at Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Mall, and the East 9th Street
Pier at Voinovich Park. The Gay Games brought in more than 10,000 competitors from over 60 countries, and over 20,000 athletes and visitors.
WRHS is very fortunate that Negron will return this summer and continue their work to promote LGBTQ+ local history.