Queer Culture

The value of a tolerant outlook

A person's sexual orientation is certainly a private matter. But how a community responds (or doesn't) to an individual's orientation has become an economic-development issue as much as it has a social battle cry.

While much theorizing has been bandied about regarding how conservative cultural values influenced last November's election, most analyses have determined that any incumbent wartime president would have been hard to beat, regardless of his cultural views.

But the connection of queer culture to economic development is much stronger and has been supported by research. Economist Richard Florida's now-famous Gay Index from his influential 2002 book "The Rise of the Creative Class," shows that communities with large homosexual populations, such as San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Atlanta, are also places where the high-tech industry flourishes. A study by Case Western Reserve University's Paul Gottleib, quoted in Florida's book, found locations with abundant lifestyle amenities are a draw for high-skilled and talented labor.

Cleveland's gay and lesbian population, while long established and thriving in areas such as Lakewood and Cleveland Heights, has never been celebrated as a driver of economic development. An Economist story titled "The Geography of Cool" points out cities that are centers of culture and fashion are also the regions that attract talented people and generate new technology-intensive industries.

So we suggest celebrating Cleveland's LGBT community, not only for its influence on our economy, but also for the sheer fun of it. It's time for us to realize a tolerant outlook attracts talent to our region.

Cleveland Stonewall Democrats Business Meeting One of more than 80 nationwide chapters that advocate for equal rights and protection for all Americans, the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats will host Plain Dealer editorial page director Brent Larkin June 13 at 6:30 p.m. Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland, 6600 Detroit Ave., (216) 647-7437. www.clevelandstonewalldemocrats.org

The Greatest Pride on Earth The Cleveland Pride Parade steps off June 18 at 1 p.m. with more than 10,000 participants. The parade is followed by a 2 p.m. rally at Voinovich Park and culminates with the Pride Festival, which runs until 8 p.m. This year's circus theme promises "Lions and Tigers and Queers, Oh My!" with an aim to build bridges of understanding among all Clevelanders. www.clevelandpride.org

Queer Pop This art exhibition, presented by Wild Plum Productions, features work by leading regional artists Dott Schneider, David Huffman, Megan Schaab, William Schwartz, Liz Bowman, Jay Krevens, Joan Deveney, Jennette Zimmerman, Ron Jones and Chris Sweiger. Queer Pop runs through June 11. Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland, 6600 Detroit Ave., (216) 651-5428. www.lgcsc.org/queerpop.html

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