By Tony Peregrin @TonyGrin
10:51 AM CST, December 20, 2013
Whether it’s The Advocate—America’s oldest gay news magazine—anointing Pope Francis as Person of the Year for his more lenient views on homosexuality or Russian President Vladimir Putin signing a law criminalizing public discussion of gay rights and relationships, one thing is clear: 2013 was as gay as a clutch purse on Tony Awards night.
Closer to home, the top 2013 LGBT news and cultural stories reveal a community that is both protective of its enclaves—as evidenced by the brouhaha over the proposed multi-story Out Hotel in Boystown—and passionate about equal rights, most notably marriage equality. The legalization of same-sex marriage in Illinois was a watershed event, and by all accounts, the most important local LGBT news event of the year. Below is an informal compilation of the most remarkable Chicago LGBT stories in 2013.
Gay Couple jettisoned from taxi cab after kissing
It was the kiss felt ‘round the globe as news outlets in the U.K. and other countries picked up the story of Matthew McCrea, 30, and Steven White, 29, the gay couple who were unceremoniously forced out of a cab on a rainy night on a busy expressway after exchanging a brief kiss in the back of a Sun Taxi cab. The driver was fined $1,540 by Chicago’s cab regulatory agency and fired by his employer after the incident in May. In October, the couple filed a lawsuit against the taxi company.
Terminally ill woman weds partner in first Illinois same sex marriage
Vernita Gray, 64, beloved spokesperson and LGBT rights activist, wed her partner Patricia Ewert, 65, in November in their Chicago home after being granted an emergency marriage license in federal court. Gray, who is dying of cancer, and her partner became the first legal gay marriage in Illinois, six months before the state’s law recognizing gay unions takes effect.
Steve Grand becomes first openly gay male country star
A musician and singer-songwriter from nearby suburb Lemont, Steve Grand became an internet sensation after the music video for his song “All-American Boy” went supernova on the internet in July. Grand, recently named to Out magazine’s annual Out 100 list of most compelling people, delivered gay male sexuality--not to mention his dulcet tone--to mainstream America with grace and dignity (and a sexy smile.)
Chicago Pride Parade smashes attendance record (again)
More than 1 million LGBTs, and their straight and straight-adjacent allies, attended this year’s Gay Pride Parade. An estimated 850,000 people attended the parade in 2012, up from 100,000 the previous year. This year also marked the end of the two-day pride street festival, with Pride Fest broken up over two separate weekends, a move that drew decidedly mixed reactions from locals and tourists alike.
Out Hotel on the outs with residents and other stakeholders
In April 2013, RedEye broke the story of a proposed Chicago outpost of the popular Out Hotel in New York City, a boutique “urban resort” marketed primarily to LGBT travelers and guests. The original design was 10 stories high, making it the tallest building in the immediate area of Boystown. Residents balked, expressing concerns about traffic, potential view obstructions, and the overall look and feel of the proposed hotel. Parkview Developers and Koo & Associates cut back the building to eight floors, but resident neighborhood associations were not satisfied and the design was revamped yet again. After repeated attempts to appease resident concerns without success, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) stepped in and asked the developers to downgrade the structure again or select another location. The debate will continue into 2014.
Proposed site of The Abbey becomes … a preschool
The rumors were true … until they weren’t. A Chicago location of The Abbey, the famous West Hollywood nightclub, was set to open in the 12,000-square-foot building at 3532 N. Halsted Street, until the deal fell through. Now, the former site of Brompton Body Shop, in the heart of the Boystown strip, will become a Children’s Learning Place. What does it mean when one of the country’s most famous LGBT nightlife strips attracts preschools over legendary clubs?
Gender-questioning children receive support
A pediatric gender-identity clinic—the first of its kind in the region and one of only a few such facilities in the U.S.—opened in March 2013. Launched by Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Gender and Sex Development Program provides services to pre-teens and their families. Previously, young children in Chicago and the surrounding area would have to travel to Boston Children’s Hospital or Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to seek similar services. Dr. Rob Garafolo, the director of the center, told the Windy City Times that, “As a unit, the family is not always ready to embrace terms like 'LGBT' or 'transgender.’… I think coming to Lurie allows people to come to a place where services are hopefully increasingly culturally competent, without threatening the developmental trajectory that these families have to go through."
LGBT seniors get a new home
The Midwest’s first LGBT affordable senior housing development broke ground in June. The $26 million development is a revamp of the old Town Hall police station at the northwest corner of Addison and Halsted and will feature 79 units—30 studio apartments, 49 one-bedroom apartments, 4,450 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and 20 covered car parking spaces along with other parking.
New sports hall of fame goes to bat for LGBT athletes
The Chicago-based National Gay & Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame began accepting its first round of nominations in May—a serendipitous announcement as NBA player Jason Collins had recently come out in a Sports Illustrated editorial. "All the hall of fames have a special section in there for women or for African-Americans," said Bill Gubrud, executive director and board chairman, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "No one has a section for gay and lesbian (athletes and allies)." At the inaugural inductee ceremony in August, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Greg Louganis and Jason Collins were among the first class of inductees, as were the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs were inducted for several reasons: they are the first professional male sports team to have a float in an LGBT pride parade and the first team in Major League Baseball with an openly gay owner—Chicago Cubs board member and Chicago Cubs Charities chair Laura Ricketts.
At last, Marriage equality in Illinois
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the marriage equality bill on Nov. 20 making President Obama’s home state the 16th state in the U.S. at the time to legalize same-sex marriage. The Illinois Senate approved the bill on Valentine’s Day (oh, the irony), but the measure’s primary sponsor, Democratic state Rep. Greg Harris, decided against calling for a vote in the House due to a potential lack of support. In an emotional speech, Rep. Harris vowed to bring the bill back—and he did just that. The law takes effect June 1—the first official day of Gay Pride Month.
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