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Dayton-based organization spreads love in Cincinnati with LGBTQ-themed billboards

Have a Gay Day billboard
Posted at 8:16 PM, Mar 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-22 20:16:49-04

DAYTON, OHIO — Drivers on I-75 southbound in Cincinnati may see a new billboard flash across one of the electronic signs near the Ludlow exit, part of a nationwide campaign of positivity toward LGBTQ people.

One design features the transgender pride flag and reads, "Be careful who you hate, it could be someone you love."

Another says simply, "You are loved."

"In a world where people are trying to sell you everything, just to see something that says ‘I just support you existing, no judgment,'" Michael Knote said. "It’s not being oppositional, it’s not being political, it’s just saying that someone you love could be."

The billboards are the result of brainstorming and fundraising from Have A Gay Day, a nonprofit dedicated to helping LGBTQ people. Knote started it on Facebook in 2012 after seeing news reports of teenage activists Jamey Rodemeyer's suicide.

Since then, it's grown in reach and in scope. Have A Gay Day has space on Needmore Road in Dayton, Ohio which serves as headquarters and a food pantry. It also has a mobile pantry and is looking into an expansion.

The billboards are affirmations at a time when many in the LGBTQ community feel under attack by politics. Right now, there are billboards in more than 20 states with legislation deemed threatening.

Florida's controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill bans pre-K through 3rd grade teachers from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also allow parents to sue school districts if they believe the policy is violated.

In Texas, trans students are now required to play on the sports team of their sex assigned at birth. And Gov. Greg Abbott has called gender-affirming medical care "child abuse," calling for investigations into the procedures. A court there has halted those investigations.

Similar bills have been proposed in Ohio.

In Indiana Monday, though, Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed a bill banning trans girls from playing on girls' sports teams, but expressed support for "the overall goal."

The billboards are meant to be simple and effective.

"There's so much hate that's out there," Knote said. "These are just messages of love and support. It's not really about picking a side, besides love."

The signs haven't been without controversy in their two-week existence. Knote said two billboards had to be taken down and moved in Indiana.

"We've been told by a couple locations that it is 'sexually explicit,' 'indecisive,' 'inappropriate,'" Knote said. "A lot of times, we've been able to put them up faster than they've been able to take them down because they're digital [and appear in spurts]."

Money for the billboards has come from donations to the non-profit, and more may be coming thanks to partnerships with other groups. Transgender Day of Visibility is March 31 and the organization says there will be about 100 billboards appearing across the country that day.

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