Josh Suppressed His Identity as a Young Gay Man. Now He is an Advocate for LGBTQ Ohioans

Josh has lived in Ohio all his life. He was born and lived most of his life in Zanesville, in rural Muskingum County, and today, he lives in Columbus. He knew from a very young age that he was gay, but in the cultural context of his community, he was terrified to be gay as a young person. This led him to suppress who he was and to seek to change this aspect of himself through faith and prayer.

It wasn’t until the age of 33 that Josh began to accept his full identity as both a gay man and a person of faith, but being employed by a small business owned by members of his former church, persons who made no secret of their view of homosexuality as an abomination, he knew that he could be fired at any time because of his sexual orientation.

While he was not fired, Josh’s work environment became a hostile and unsafe place for him. The owner of the business would regularly pull him into his office and speak to him about his biblical understanding of love and marriage, and he would tell Josh that no relationship that he ever shared with another man could meet this understanding. This individual made harassment a regular part of Josh’s life.

Fortunately, Josh was able to secure employment in Columbus, a long-time haven for many LGBTQ+ Ohioans. In recent years, more and more cities in our state have begun to enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ persons. Josh says that while “this is a positive step forward, these laws are limited to the borders of the municipalities that have voted them into law and leave the majority of our state open to the threat of legal discrimination.”

From personal experience, Josh knows that “no Ohioan should have to go to work every day fearing that they will be fired simply for being who they are and that no Ohioan should have to feel that they need to tolerate blatant harassment or a hostile work environment because they fear that an aspect of their intrinsic identity will be used to put an even bigger target on them if they dare to stand up for themselves.”

Ohio should be a place where strong job performance is rewarded no matter who you are or who you go home to and where employers can attract and retain the best employees regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

To do this, we need the Ohio House to pass the Ohio Fairness Act (House Bill 160), which will include sexual orientation and gender expression and identity into Ohio’s existing laws that protect against discrimination. Learn more about the Ohio Fairness Act here.