Tom Goss’ “Turn It Around” Tour: The Heartland

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Tom Goss is a Washington, DC-based singer-songwriter on a 10-week, 50-city tour to promote his new album, Turn It Around. Tom has agreed to serve as a GayCities guest blogger, reporting occasionally from the road. This is his second post.

For most of my life I’ve had bad experiences in Ohio. Hungry and tired on long road trips to wrestling tournaments, getting pulled over for speeding tickets, even the fun of a Dave Matthews Band concert ruined by overzealous authorities. I would drive through the state as quickly as possible (there is no quick way) and just hope that I didn’t get into trouble. Ohio has not been my friend.

But thanks to my recent visit, I can honestly say that I’ve grown to really enjoy my time there. This tour included four Ohio stops – Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati. Every stop reminded me why I have grown to like Ohio and the people who live there.

Ohio is not an easy place to be gay but there are a lot of people working to change that.  In both Toledo and Cleveland I was hosted by LGBT-friendly churches. As someone who has been very scarred by the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and the Christian religion as a whole, I tend to proceed with caution. What I found was that both the Village Church in Toledo and the Pilgrim UCC Church in Cleveland were on the forefront of not only LGBT rights but also social justice as a whole.

That being said, as congregations they couldn’t be more opposite. Understanding the limitations of having all your money tied up in a building, The Village rents an old bar for services and hops from place to place. Conversely, Pilgrim Church is housed in a massive old church building complete with a theater, dance studio and boxing gym. Each congregation is working within a very conservative Christian state, using a social justice minded message to create political change. These are the kind of church going folk that I will be happy to stand alongside when we win marriage equality for everyone.

The Cincinnati skyline from Covington, Ky

In Cincinnati, well, actually, just across the river in Covington, KY, I stumbled upon an alternative arts space. This is my favorite part about touring, finding gems like this. I had never been to Covington and frankly I had no idea what to expect. However, as I lugged my guitar up the steps to the Leapin’ Lizard Gallery  and saw the big rainbow flag sticker pasted in the window my smile widened. There were rainbow flags and stickers everywhere. I had seemingly stumbled onto a small, eclectic, very gay friendly strip (on Main street between 7th and 9th) a stones throw from Cincinnati. Charming old residential houses sit close to the street and next to coffeehouses, restaurants and bars – perfect for a dinner or night out. I was amazed I hadn’t heard of this neighborhood before–this was by far the most gay friendly neighborhood I have encountered in or around Cincinnati. It was nice to feel at home.

Luckily, both Cincinnati and Columbus have music-loving bear communities, and as always they came out in numbers. Maybe it’s the inner lesbian in us that draws us to Subaru’s and acoustic music, I don’t know. I’ve learned to not ask questions, I just play the music and am grateful for the support. I love bears!

Now instead of speeding through Ohio (and getting caught) it’s nice to be able to say that I can take my time meandering through the state. A mixture of East Coast cities, Midwest work ethic and a Southern tempo make Ohio a state of intrigue and surprise.  However, stay away from the Cincinnati chili–it’s all hype! Save your calories and splurge on Graeter’s. Order the Black Raspberry Chocolate Chunk and prepare for a whole new world of ice cream. When in Columbus, I suggest Northstar Café (Columbus). Order the homemade Ginger Ale (or Mohito).

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