Loud and Proud
Toledo Pride Executive Director Lexi Staples chats with TCP about the August 11 festival
Lexi Staples, as serious as she is funny, peppers conversations covering topics from pub stories to social justice with the word “dude.” The owner of the lesbian pub club OutSkirts with the surfer accent is also at the helm of Toledo Pride, the celebration of the LBGTQA community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and allied), taking place the weekend of August 10. She spoke to TCP in anticipation of the event.
What’s the secret to running a successful lesbian pub and club?
The key is to be the only one in town.
What will people see you doing during Toledo Pride?
I will be running, literally. Through the entire event. Basically the whole day of the event I just put out fires.
How did you come up with the idea for a Pride event?
It is my baby, but it’s not a new idea. It’s just not something that Toledo was doing. People from this city go to Pride events all over the country. For our Toledo Pride event we’re pulling people from Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, all the surrounding areas.
How do you market itin other cities?
We went to Columbus this year [with what] we call street teams. We go to all the different Pride events to get people to our event. It has worked really well. We were hoping for 1,000 people the first year; we ended up with 2,500. This year we're looking for 8 to 10 thousand people. Columbus gets 230,000 people, which is [huge]. My hope for Toledo Pride is to have the numbers get to 20,000 by year five. And I think we can. We’re a strong enough city to do that. By year 10 we want to be at 100,000.
Did you ever get frustrated trying to get this going?
Yes. [The frustration] is a common theme in my brain … my girlfriend might disagree, but it’s so worth it. The bar [OutSkirts] has kind of turned into our office.
Is there a higher goal besides the fun aspect?
I guess the way that we’re working is more towards awareness. This is a population that is in many ways discriminated against, and I don’t think that people realize the extent of that discimination. Beyond that, I think Toledo is pretty supportive of our community. People from every walk of life come — everyone from straight married couples to priests. We have a huge amount of support in the allied community — people that are not necessarily gay, but they care about the cause.
Is it hard being a lesbian in Toledo?
It’s not as difficult as it is in other places. When I’m in Toledo, I feel pretty comfortable. [Travelling] you start to realize how good you have it. I had one lady yell at my mom when we were on our way back during a driving trip to Florida because we went into the bathroom together. [She] was like “He is too old for you to be bringing into this restroom!” I am boyish in the way that I look — I don’t know how to say that without sounding creepy, [but] I’m very used to people accidentally calling me sir. Whereas my mom and my partner aren’t as used to it, so they’ll be more defensive. In Toledo I don’t think it’s that people know me, it’s just people are more exposed here. Toledo doesn’t make me feel weird. I don’t feel like I’m going to go into the girl’s restroom and get yelled at.
What was your ‘coming out’ experience like?
[My parents] always taught [my siblings and I] from the time we were very little that it was okay to be whoever you wanted to be — that wasn’t anything to be ashamed of. Even though I was raised in that very accepting environment, I was still extremely nervous when I figured out [in high school] that [being gay] was something that wasn’t a choice for me. I was Bedford’s prom queen in ’98, even though they told me if I was selelcted by my fellow students, they might not let me have it.
You sound like you were ahead of your time.
For me it was just kind of vindication. Even if [my classmates didn’t] all accept me for who I am, enough of [them did] that it let me embrace who I was. I wore a tux to prom and took a girl, so it was completely obvious. [The school didn’t allow us] to go together or buy a
couples ticket, so we went as friends.
Do you feel equality will be achievable in your lifetime?
I don’t think it’s necessarily achievable in my lifetime — you see how much struggle the anti-racism movement still has. But I think that we are definitely moving in a direction that is very fast-forward paced, and I think that I’ll be able to be legally married in my lifetime, and I think that’ll be legally recognized in all 50 states. I think that it’s definitely getting more
comfortable for the LBGT community in general.
What’s the worst pickup line you've heard at OutSkirts?
Oh dear God. “How do you like your eggs in the morning?” That would be it, right there. And it actually worked that night. It was a straight dude making out with a really cute lesbian. And I was like, dude, well done.