Oral Histories of LGBTQ+ Ohioans: A Place for Us

Oral Histories of LGBTQ+ Ohioans: A Place for Us
Posted April 17, 2023

By Matthew Belak, Student Intern

In 2016, Ohio’s “first LGBTQ-friendly Senior Housing Community” opened its doors. Situated at the border of Cleveland and Lakewood, the 55-unit building became known as A Place for Us Housing, an inclusive environment for individuals ages “55 and better.”  One of the residents, Darryl Fore (who you will meet later) estimated about 25% of the current residents are LGBTQ+, all with their own histories and anecdotes to tell. In July 2022, a handful of these inhabitants shared their stories with us in a series of interviews. These “oral histories,” as we call them, were recorded and archived in Ohio Memory as a part of Ohio History Connection’s GOHI program. Each history has its own unique perspective, such as one man’s life with HIV/AIDS, another’s experience at a military base in Hawaii. But each story has one unifying thing: their search for community which led them all to here, a Place for Us Housing.

These are their journeys…


Kevin Borowiak

“I’ve met the tribe; this is where I belong. It was in going to some of these activities in Cleveland that made me realize…read the writing on the wall, dude!”

Kevin Borowiak was born in St. Louis, Missouri and moved to Ohio in 1981. In his interview, he discusses coming out to his family at the age of 42 and the friends that helped him to do so. Since then, Borowiak has worked with the LGBT Center of Cleveland and the Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend (CLAW). He appreciates the community he has been able to find in Ohio, even in unsure times like COVID.

Robert "Bob" Bucklew

“It was the first time that I found a community where I could try to figure out who I was and be myself as a gay man.”

Robert “Bob” Bucklew grew up in Alliance, Ohio. In the late ‘70s, he served in the United States Army as a Korean linguist. In his interview, Buckwell describes his time stationed in Hawaii and the community he found there. Following his time in the military, he returned to Ohio and studied to become a lawyer, after which he involved himself in various political organizations, such as the Stonewall Cleveland Advocacy Network (SCAN). Here, he met many members of Ohio’s LGBTQ+ community who helped him explore his femininity and augment his courage as a gay man.


Darryl Fore

“The gay world was never foreign to me; [...] I always knew someone like me.”

Darryl Fore was born in 1959 near Cleveland, Ohio. In his interview, he describes growing up closeted and Black in his neighborhood and the types of racism he has experienced. Fore always found a home in theater, though, which helped him come to terms with his sexuality and find a community to associate with. Over time, Fore joined a gay multicultural, anti-racism organization known as the National Association of Black and White Men Together (NABWMT), where he served as co-chair from 2012-2016 and became a well-respected member of Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ community.

Robert Toth

“There was a thing I could be and it’s called gay. And there’s more than just me.”

Robert Toth is a long-term HIV survivor who was born in Cleveland, Ohio. In his interview, Toth discusses the bullying he encountered when growing up in Cleveland, his first time at a gay bar and the realization that he can be openly gay to himself and the people around him. In 1988, he contracted HIV, which motivated him to volunteer for HIV/AIDS activist organizations that promoted health and awareness. In his activism, Toth found a strong and vocal community that he could identify with; he continues his work to this day, focusing on the affordable-housing crisis.

Oral histories are one of many ways Ohio History Connection fulfills its mission to preserve and share the history of Ohio. This includes sharing the history of LGBTQ+ Ohioans. Learn more by viewing our Oral History Collection and the Gay Ohio History Initiative.

Image courtesy of Linda Krasienko and NRP Group.

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