When Ann Francis came out in the 1970s, the nation’s attitude toward people who are gay was very different.
Through the years she’s been the target of disrespect and judgment, she said.
Nearly 50 years has brought sweeping changes in public opinion and today about seven in 10 Americans say people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender should be embraced.
While the situation has drastically improved, prejudice remains quite alive and there are still places she feels unsafe.
There are also few civil rights protections for the LGBTQ community — Ohio has no safeguards against housing and employment discrimination, for example.
Those are some of the reasons why Pride is so important to Francis.
She is one of the coordinators of Pride Week at the Kendal at Oberlin retirement community, where activities are planned for June 22 to 29.
“I believe we have to keep trying to improve the situation,” she said.
Francis has been a resident at Kendal since 2015, the same year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, and said there are at least a dozen residents there who identify as LGBTQ.
There are also many allies who work to make the community an “open and affirming” place to live: “Practically everybody here at Kendal thinks of themselves as an ally to one person or another,” said Francis.
The LGBTA+ advocacy and social group — the “A” stands for allies — has planned several free Pride Week events at Heiser Auditorium that are open to the public:
• Saturday, June 22 at 7:15 p.m.: “The Sum of Us,” a 1994 Australian comedy-drama with subtitles, will be shown.
A widowed father and his son have to deal with complex issues and relationships as the father is searching for “Miss Right” and his son (played by Russell Crowe) , who is gay, is searching for “Mr. Right.”
• Tuesday, June 25 at 4 p.m.: “The LGBTA+ Pride Story” includes reflections on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community that sparked the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States.
It will include a screening of the 1989 documentary “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt,” an Academy Award-winning film humanizing the AIDS crisis; and “Walt Whitman 1989,” a song with music by Chris DeBlasio, who died of AIDS at the age of 34, as sung by resident Allen Huszti.
• Thursday, June 27 at 4 p.m.: “LGBT Elder Scene Today” will include the video “Safe & Visible: Creating a Care Facility Welcoming to LGBT Seniors” and a talk about elder care by Mary Beth Bartholomew, program activities coordinator for SAGE at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.
• Saturday, June 29 at 7:15 p.m.: “Desert Hearts,” a 1985 film, will be shown.
A coming-out-story set in Reno in 1959, this groundbreaking film looks at the LGBTQ experience in a way no other film had before.
Francis said Pride Week is about affirming that LGBTQ people are welcome and have support. It’s also about understanding the issues in order to better advocate for change.