When Belo Cipriani's name was submitted to the San Francisco Pride Committee as a possible nominee for Community Grand Marshal in this year's Pride Parade, it was stated that he lost his sight after he was assaulted in the Castro. The brutal, unprovoked attack occurred in 2007, when Cipriani was 26 years old. His attackers kicked him directly in the eyes.
During the nomination, there were shocked gasps when it was stated that Cipriani's bashers were also gay—and that they were his former best friends who wanted to teach Cipriani a "lesson" because he had drifted away from them and was living a successful life in the corporate world.
Belo Cipriani is now 34 years old and has completely reinvented himself. Author of the award-winning 2011 book Blind: A Memoir, Cipriani now teaches writing at Oakland's Holy Names University. He's become a major voice for disabled LGBT people. The official Spokesperson for Guide Dogs For the Blind, he also writes Seeing in the Dark, a monthly column about his life as a gay blind man. Seeing in the Dark appears in the Bay Area Reporter and South Florida Gay News.
When he was sighted, Cipriani worked as a staffing professional. He continues to advise people on how to make the best career moves every Monday morning on his own weekly segment at KKSF Radio/Talk 910. For about a year he authored Get To Work, SF Gate's career advice column, and Cipriani is now preparing to launch a similarly-themed column elsewhere.
"Everything felt surreal," Cipriani told Hoodline as he described his feelings regarding the Pride nomination. "For a brief second, at least in my bedroom, the news seemed to slow down time."
As far as we know, Cipriani is SF Pride's very first blind nominee for Community Grand Marshal. "It's bittersweet," he said. "Although it's exciting to be possibly the first one, it also makes me sad to think that there may have been no others. I know plenty of blind gays and lesbians who are accomplished people."
Cipriani said he hopes his nomination will open the door for other blind and disabled people, not only within Pride but across the LGBT sphere. "We really are not part of the community," he said. "A disabled face isn't always visible in LGBT media. People don't know how to treat us."
Cipriani urges other LGBT people with disabilities to make their voices heard. "With a lot of gay bars being inaccessible and with not very many venues to share our stories it's still important to put ourselves out there," he said. "It builds more awareness and opens doors to acceptance."
You can cast your vote before March 2nd for this year's Pride Grand Marshal here. Cipriani's fellow nominees include Tita Aida, Brian Basinger, Patrick Carney, Masen Davis, Judy Dlugacz, Alicia Garza, Mary Midgett, Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., and Miko Thomas.
This year's Pride celebration will be held on June 27-28, and the theme is "Equality Without Exception."
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