Michael Chanak, Jr – Cincinnati, OH
Michael Chanak Jr. has long-term roots in Cincinnati coming to the Queen City in the spring of 1978 from NE Ohio where he was raised. He became involved in the LGBTQ+ community in the early 1980s through his membership in Cincinnati's then oldest LGBTQ+ group, New Spirit Oasis Metropolitan Community Church (closed July 31, 2021), and their host, Church of Our Saviour. He's been a volunteer for 40 years in local organizations.
Here's a quick list of some of his work: WAIF-FM, Alternating Currents, Gay Cable Network, OutFront GL-TV, Rainbow Page, Awesome City Magazine, CNKY Scene, The Word (Indianapolis), and the GLBT News. His radio interviews with local Cincinnatians were shared with a national and international audience through "This Way Out" in the 80s and 90s. He's been interviewed by out.com and published in fall 2017 in the Huffington Post "Pride and Prejudice – How I helped P&G come out." WKSU-FM/NPR featured Michael on the show "Elevations" in late 2018 and the Kent State Magazine recalled his journey from a Kent State student to a community activist. On March 2, 2019, the Human Rights Campaign Cincinnati awarded him with the "David C. Crowley Leadership Award."
His work at P&G for equality has been credited by the Cincinnati Enquirer in June 2019 as one of the major milestones in the path to full equality. Along with Scott Knox, a local attorney, Chanak was interviewed on WXVU-FM/NPR also June 2019 on "The Evolutions of LGBT Rights in Cincinnati/America." Michael has been interviewed many times on OutCincinnati – a local podcast. His work was the subject of a WCPO – TV “Points of Pride” on June 10, 2021.
Procter & Gamble was Michael's employer for nearly 20 years before his retirement in 2003. There he came out to participate openly and honestly in Cincinnati's LGBTQ+ community. He attended a downtown Pride parade and rally in June 1986 at Fountain Square effectively outing him at P&G when a local TV station captured him kissing the late Dr. Bob McNee of the University of Cincinnati. The video from Pride aired for three nights on television. Michael was involved in local Pride efforts from 1986 to 2015.
At P&G, he was subsequently transferred in January 1987 to an Rx brand that was indirectly marketing an oral rinse to people with HIV through dental professionals. For 5 years, Michael made the case to include gay & lesbian individuals in the EEO policy as valued customers and employees. It is said that Michael put a public face on the LGBTQ+ community in the 80s within P&G. His community work helped to connect P&G to the HIV/AIDS community. On September 15, 1992, P&G changed its equal employment statement to go beyond then Federal requirements by including "sexual orientation."
After nearly a quarter of a century, P&G realized the history of how the Company came to embrace this diversity had not been documented. For a year, working with CNN's Great Big Film, P&G released a 19-minute video in April 2018 chronicling those times and his contribution to this effort. The video is entitled "The Words Matter: One Voice Can Make a Difference." Michael hopes the film offers a history lesson and highlights the value of the power of personal advocacy now and then. Brent Miller, who is the P&G executive producer of the film, is the global LGBTQ+ Global Equality Program Leader. Also in the video are Anne Harbison, Tom Jones, Lynwood Battle (deceased August 29, 2021), Ed Offshack, Delaine Adkins, and John Pepper.
P&G's affinity group, GABLE created a "Courageous Leadership" in Michael's name in October 2018. Also, honored was then Company EEO office, Lyn Battle (deceased) for "Effective Allyship."
A subsequent, follow-on video, produced by P&G/CNN in 2019 entitled "Out of the Shadows – Risking Careers in the name of Equality" also featured Michael. His last corporate video also produced by CNN/Great Big story in 2020 – "They Will See You – LGBT+ Visibility in Advertising" was nominated for a GLAAD media award in January 2021.
Michael has held membership in New Spirit Oasis Metropolitan Community Church, PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), Stonewall Cincinnati, Imperial Sovereign Queen City Court of the Buckeye Empire, and the Greater Cincinnati Gay Community Center. The Court honored him with the International Jose Julio Sarria Civil Rights Award and the Lydia Grant Humanitarian award in 2014. In December 2015, he was awarded the Tri-State Leather's Forbearer Award. In 2018, the Cincinnati of Cincinnati recognized Michael during Pride month for his lifetime commitment to equality with the Human Right Campaign Cincinnati awarding him the David C. Crowley leadership award in March 2019.
Pride committees were his first love. From 1985 to 1994 he handled publicity, pride marshal election, and emceeing for the then Pride Rally. Michael served as the Senior Advisor to Chris Good in 2000 to return Pride Parade to Cincinnati after a 5-year absence. He continued with Cincinnati from 2000 to 2015 covering many of the same functions. In 2009, he recognized that Pride had outgrown the Northside venue and advocated for Pride to be moved downtown successfully finding a new partner to lead the event. He was also Cincinnati's gay pride marshal in 1993. In 2023, the Cincinnati Public Library in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first Pride event in this area (April 1973) created an online-archive of significant events and materials, he's been a on-going contributor to the project.
As a long-term supporter of the Ohio Lesbian Archives, Michael was part of the Board of the Ohio Lesbian archives for two and a half years beginning in August 2021 to assist the group in finding a permanent home for this community resource. This goal was accomplished with the grand opening of the Ohio Lesbian Archives on October 22, 2023.
Since the release of the P&G diversity films, Michael has been invited to share his experience and history at P&G, PFLAG, Duke Energy, City of Cincinnati LGBTQ+ employee resource group, various church groups and NKy University honors course in Queer Activism. His experience includes working with the local AIDS charities to present a public Remembrance Day for those who passed on due to HIV or still suffer from the disease. Also, as early as 1984, he was part of the annual ecumenical/interfaith service committee that offered a public service during Pride Week.
In retirement, Michael still does interviews and help assist local research projects related to the Greater Cincinnati LGBTQ+ community. As of 2024, he's still a members ot he World AIDS Day Comittee and the Pride Interfaith Committee.
Michael was raised in Massillon, Ohio, and was a graduate of Washington High School in 1967 and Kent State University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science in Fine and Professional Arts (Speech – Journalism). He holds insurance designations from the American Insurance Institute and a degree in Applied Science from Cincinnati State and Technical College in 1983. He periodically talks with students about local queer history, the link is below.
Contact Michael Chanak