By Bonn Wade
With more gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people living openly over the last decade, one might think that Pride is outdated and no longer necessary. Yet, a brief Google search reveals a different reality. Gay and lesbian young people are more likely to engage in self injury, bisexual young people face increased stigma within both the heterosexual and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) communities, and targeted violence towards transgender people remains high.
In June, Pride month celebrated LGBTQ identities through community events, allowing people to be out and proud of who they are. We need spaces where we, as LGBTQ people, can feel safe and see others like us that show us the depth and breadth of our community.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), LGBTQ people are three times more likely than others to experience major depression and anxiety. A fear of coming out, family rejection, limited education/employment opportunities because of discrimination, and even physical violence may lead LGBTQ individuals to remain quiet about their sexual orientation and gender identity. For these reasons and many more, our local community needs to be a part of the larger conversation and implement actions working towards increasingly just and accepting Beverly/Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood neighborhoods.
Recently, local LGBTQ-affirming activities have taken place, Beverly Area Connect, Protect, and Activate held a community event, “Gender Identity: A conversation about transgender and gender non-conforming people.” The Beverly Art Center has showcased Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus for numerous shows. Two local organizations provide space for LGBTQ youth. Beverly Therapists hosts GROW/Gendernauts formerly two local groups that are merging into one monthly meet up where LGBTQ and gender exploring high school-aged teens find a space to talk, connect and build community. Mirjam Quinn and Associates is forming a group to support to LGBTQ middle school youth.
People who want to be an ally to LGBTQ people in Beverly/Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood can learn more about local and national organizations and ways to join the efforts. Check out Affinity (affinity95.org), Project Fierce (www.projectfiercechicago.org), Transformative Justice Law Project (www.tjlp.org), Illinois Safe Schools Alliance (www.illinoissafeschools.org), National LGBTQ Task Force (www.thetaskforce.org) and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (www.pflagillinois.org).
(The former Director of the TransLife Center at Chicago House, Bonn Wade is a clinical consultant, trainer and psychotherapist practicing at Beverly Therapists and the co-founder and former associate director of UCAN’s LGBTQ Host Home Program. Bonn holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.)