NORWOOD, Ohio — When Sam Bowling posted in a Norwood Facebook community group asking about Pride events in the area, she got a reaction she didn't expect.
"I posted in the group and just said, 'Hey, are there any Pride events happening in June?" she told WCPO. "We got a lot of Bible verses and 'Absolutely not,' and, 'That's immoral; why would we want that in our city?'"
The backlash against her initial post spurred a counter-backlash from LGBTQIA+ community supporters from within Norwood and other neighborhoods around the Cincinnati area — so many, in fact, that Bowling decided to organize an impromptu Pride walk along the Wasson Way trail, which runs right through the heart of Norwood.
"It's incredibly important for youth to see there are adults out here who not only support them but we've made it," said supporter Chelsea Sundin. "We're living full, actualized lives as members of the LGBTQ+ community."
Sundin is a mentor for Norwood High School's Gay-Straight-Trans Alliance.
"There are students that I mentor that don't live in their homes because they don't have their family support," she said.
Nearby residents were already setting up their gear Wednesday afternoon, ahead of the walk. Bowling and her fiancé were setting up flags along the trail.
"We'll have those and stickers; everybody's going to bring chalk and just cover Wasson Way with pride and love and just spread a little positivity around the city," Bowling said. "Seems like we might need it."
More than 100 people showed up on the Wasson Way Trail to march towards progress.
“I'm out and proud,” Bowling said. “A little loud about it. We found Norwood. It was affordable. Conveniently located. Everyone we met in person was kind and accepting."
Event co-organizer Kate Hand said change happens one step at a time.
"I felt like the representation that was there for Norwood doesn't represent Norwood anymore,” she said. “They shouldn't be the loudest voices anymore."
But maybe this time, with this event – it’s a step in the right direction.
"It's a really diverse place, in so many ways,” Hand said “There's a good sense of community here. The way that we rallied all around Sam shows that kind of heart here."
The folks didn’t let a little wet weather dampen their spirits.
"Lady Gaga said it's okay to rain on our parade,” Bowling said. “So that's okay!"
The storms might have erased their chalk messages, but the memories remain.
"I think it would be really hard for a queer kid in Norwood right now,” Bowling said. “You've never had a pride event in your city, never had the opportunity to see people who live that life."
Bowling said she wants the walk inspires others.
"I hope it helps other people in the community who feel like maybe they don't have that support,” she said. “To know they're welcome here, and they're wanted."