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Ohio man turns anti-LGBTQ+ insults into cash for local LGBT center

He took his outrage to Facebook, but not with a long rant. Instead, he posted a fundraiser to raise money for LGBT History Month

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Tom Tennant (Screenshot via ABC News 5 WEWS-TV Cleveland)

BAY VILLAGE, Oh. — A Northeast Ohio man is channeling his anger from his neighbor of eight years hurling anti-LGBTQ+ insults at him into queer advocacy. 

Tom Tennant, an LGBTQ+ ally, wasn’t paying attention when backing out of his driveway, almost hitting his neighbor, reports Cleveland News 5

Tennant apologized, but the two ended up getting into an argument. The news station reports that a line was crossed when the neighbor insulted the LGBTQ+ community.

According to Tennant, his neighbor told him to put more “bass in his voice.”

“Then he used a particular pejorative that I consider one of the worst words to use to call somebody, and I ended it there,” Tennant told News 5.

He said he was frustrated, taken back and upset after the altercation. 

“I felt this isn’t about me,” said Tennant. “It’s about, you know friends and family and people I know who are in the LGBTQ+ community who may have to deal with this all the time. I’ve never had to deal with people arguing.”

He took his outrage to Facebook, but not with a long rant. Instead, he posted a fundraiser to raise money for LGBT History Month — quickly collecting over $5,000 as of Thursday, much more than he expected.

“With everything going on in the pandemic and everything going on in politics and all that, I just didn’t want to put negativity out there,” Tennant told the news station. “I mean, I certainly thought like, ‘What can I do to get back at him?’ but it was just better to put positivity out there. I think people responded to that.”

The money Tennant raised will go to the LGBT Community Center in Cleveland

“Unfortunately, we do see a lot of that kind of stuff but what we don’t see is the way that he reacted to the altercation and he took all that negative energy that was directed at him and put in the world as a positive, we thought, ‘Wow, what a great example,’” said Eliana Turan, the center’s Director of Development.

“That warms my heart because what that tells me for every mean person out there there’s a bunch that has a heart,” said Turan.

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Dion Manley becomes Ohio’s first openly transgender public official

“They’ve done so much for my daughter that I will do anything to show my appreciation and give back in what small way I can”

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Photo courtesy of Manley for School Board

Dion Manley made Ohio state history last Thursday when he was sworn into Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools’ board of education, becoming the first openly trans public official in the state. 

“I really think Gahanna deserves a lot of credit,” Manley told the Columbus Dispatch. “They’ve been inclusive and open as a district. I’ve seen that in the years I’ve lived here, and the voters choosing to be a voice for diversity and moving forward is really special.”

In November, Manley was voted onto the school board – located in the Columbus suburb of Gahanna, Ohio – along with Sue Horn and Kara Coates. 

He was a part of a historic election night for LGBTQ candidates. According to the LGBTQ Victory Fund, 83 candidates they endorsed won their respective races during last year’s November elections. As the newly elected officials take office, the U.S. will have over 1000 LGBTQ+ people serving in elected office for the first time. 

“The victory is especially significant given efforts by anti-trans activists across the nation to target trans students at school board meetings and the surge in anti-trans bill introduced in state legislatures,” a Victory Fund press release said of Manley’s win, making him only the fifth trans man to win an election in the country.

Manley didn’t always plan on running for the position but ended up throwing his hat in the race for the teachers of his daughter Lila, a high school senior who has been in the school system since kindergarten. 

“They’ve done so much for my daughter that I will do anything to show my appreciation and give back in what small way I can,” he told the Dispatch.  

According to Manley, being trans did not hold him back in the election. 

“People here that know that I’m transgender… I’m a great dad and that’s what they see and that’s what matters to them,” he told CBS affiliate WBNS

He added: “The greatest joy of my life has been raising my daughter, so I want to be remembered as a great dad, community member and I happen to be trans.”

In a Facebook post, Manley acknowledged his “amazing” new colleagues and said: “I believe now is the time for people to get involved! We have an important role to play in making all students feel welcome, safe and supported plus safeguard the continued success of our schools.”

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