History Points to Why Pride Month Is Celebrated Today But More Needs To Be Done For The LGBTQIA+ Community

By Dawn DeSart, ACE Steering Committee Member

June is Pride Month across the country. The month serves as a specific time to affirm and embrace our LGBTQIA+ friends and neighbors with the dignity and equality each of us deserve and to celebrate our uniqueness.

Why June? June was designated Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Uprising, which took place in late June and early July of 1969. In 1969, being gay was a crime in every state except Illinois, punishable by life in prison. Some gay men were castrated, others were lobotomized, and some were tortured with repeated shock treatments. If you were LGBTQIA+, life was dangerous and uncertain. Equal rights—human rights —were denied.

In the early hours of June 28,1969, the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village, New York, was a bustling hotspot for members of the LGBTQIA+ community to gather. For most patrons, the Stonewall Inn was considered a “safe space.” But on that early morning in June of 1969, New York City police raided the nightclub and cruelly beat, arrested, harassed, and stole cash from employees and patrons alike. After the brutal raid, hundreds came out to demonstrate against the police violence. The angry, loud protest lasted six days.

That day marked the beginning of the LGBTQIA+ equal rights movement and was supported by thousands of vocal allies of the LGBTQIA+ community.

One year later, on June 28,1970, for the first time in history, gay pride marches were held across the country to promote equal rights for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. Gatherings were held in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and in other major cities across the country. LGBTQIA+ publications popped up. Groups were formed. Alliances were made. And the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies made it clear that they were done sitting on the sidelines to be victimized by a conservative government. They were standing up proudly and, for the first time, were demanding to be heard and to be treated as equals in society.

LGBTQIA+ Health Care Issues

Although the U.S. legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in 2015, there remain great challenges for the LGBTQIA+ community. One of those challenges is medical discrimination.

Eva-Genevieve (She, Her, Her’s) is a transgender woman who has faced medical discrimination. “My medical provider in Naperville denied me endocrinology services in 2016 specifically because I am transgender,” recalls Eva-Genevieve. “I was on Medicare at the time, and trans care was still mandated under Medicare, so they violated federal rules when denying me. They did not refer me to the endocrinologists for the help I needed. They said ‘no,’ and proceeded to cancel my diabetes education classes that were run by the endocrinology department.”

Merek (He, Him, His) identifies as a transgender man and gay. As a trans man, Merek understands what it’s like to be discriminated against, but also recognizes that he has been extremely fortunate to have so much support during his own transition.

Merek realized he was transgender during his sophomore year in high school. Before that, he didn’t truly feel like he identified as a woman and felt confused during his adolescence. With the love and support of his father, stepmother, sibling, friends, and his high school, he was able to utilize gender neutral bathrooms and locker rooms. He began his medical transition during his last year of high school, when he took testosterone for more than a year, but ended the process when he realized he loved his femininity, as well.

“I began my medical transition during my final year of high school, when I took testosterone for at least a year,” says Merek. “In 2015, I got my breasts removed by (a doctor) in Ohio. My stepmom drove me to the procedure. My biological mother was not nearly as accepting, and she would refuse to use my pronouns and my chosen name. I haven’t seen her in a long time, and I think it’s for the best for my own mental health.”

Merek earned a master’s degree in social work and now works with LGBTQIA+ clients, helping them realize and accept their true identities and helping transgender individuals through their own, unique and personal journeys.

“As a white, cis female, even though I am a lesbian, my greatest calling is still to be an ally and an advocate,” says Naper Pride co-founder and Director of Health and Wellness, Anne Dempsey (She, Her, Her’s). “Of all the disparities in the LGBTQ community when it comes to health care, my brothers and sisters in black and brown communities are more severely impacted than I am. My trans and non-binary family are far more likely to get turned away from obtaining healthcare. But all LGBTQ members face a lack of culturally competent care.”

LGBTQIA+ and Health Care Disparities

According to Cigna Healthcare, the LGBTQIA+ population experiences health care disparities at far greater levels than the rest of the population due to several factors including the minority status of LGBTQIA+ people; not enough education and training of health care providers; a lack of clinical research of the population; restrictive health care benefits; few role models; and fear due to stigma, discrimination, and institutional bias in the health care system.

“We face stress caused by living in a society where LGBTQ people are subjected to violence and stigmatized simply for being who we are,” adds Dempsey, who is a licensed nurse. “Because of the intersectionality of the community, we may face several risk factors at once, such as being a black trans woman, who is also lesbian.”

Compounding the challenge of health care disparities, according to Cigna Healthcare, “LGBTQIA people are at higher risk of certain conditions, have less access to health care, and have worse health outcomes. These disparities are seen in the areas of behavioral health, physical health, and access to health care.”

“Lesbian women are far less likely to get Pap tests and mammograms,” reports Dempsey. “Young gay and bisexual men, especially those of color, disproportionately bear the burden of new HIV diagnoses. LGBTQ youth are two to three times more likely to commit suicide. Transgender people of all ages experience higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases, mental health issues, and suicide. We face higher rates of alcohol abuse, smoking, and other drug use.”

LGBTQIA+ people do, in fact, have a higher risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, anxiety and other mood disorders, eating disorders, and alcohol, tobacco and drug use. LGBTQIA+ people are at greater risk for physical ailments, as well. Lesbian and bisexual women have higher rates of breast and cervical cancer, and transgender men and women are at greater risk of human papillomavirus infection. The LGBTQIA+ population is more likely to be obese, and gay and bisexual men are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

“Even when LGBTQ patients have access to health care, doctors can lack cultural competency or training to meet LGBTQ specific needs,” says Dempsey. “They oftentimes lack the will to try and are not mandated to receive specific training.”

Naper Pride

Naper Pride is a local 501c(3) organization that grew out of the need for support systems for the LGBTQIA+ community and for people like Eva and Merek. The group strives to create a safe place for members of the LGBTQIA+ community and embraces the greater community of friends, neighbors, and allies, to promote the idea of One Naperville—One Community, a family-friendly community that is diverse, inclusive, and shares common values, visions, and goals. Under co-founders Anne Dempsey and her wife, Margie Wolf (She, Her, Her’s), Naper Pride has become a dynamic force in Naperville and its surrounding suburbs. Pre-pandemic, events included a Movie Night, a Gayme Night, an Interfaith Worship Service, and a Trans Day of Remembrance.

Prior to the pandemic, Naper Pride also hosted a health and wellness fair at First Congregational Church-UCC on Benton Avenue in Naperville in the Spring of 2019. The inaugural event hosted 40 vendors and more than 100 attendees. Though over 125 organizations requested participation in the event, there simply was no more room at the venue. Participating vendors included Howard Brown Health Center, HIV testing, legal services, adoption services, information on how to change your name or sex on your driver’s license, mental healthcare services, real estate groups, and dental services.

This year, Naper Pride plans to host its Health and Wellness Fair in early November in a larger venue to accommodate more vendors, attendees, and speakers.

Naper Pride will also host their inaugural Naper Pride Fest—Together Under the Big Top, a circus-themed music festival at Naper Settlement on September 11 and 12.

June is the month we celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride, but every day of every month is a celebration of LGBTQIA+ diversity and inclusion. As Naper Pride co-founder Margie Wolf says, “June is just a month on the calendar. I’m gay 24/7, 365 days a year.”


Dawn DeSart is a member of the DuPage County Board representing District 5. She has spent her career as a journalist working in every field: newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. While at NBC5 in Chicago, Dawn earned five Emmy Awards for excellence in journalism. A graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, she has a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. She also serves on Naper Pride’s Board of Directors.

Finding Redemption and Healing for Our Unfinished Nation

By Beverly George, ACE Founder

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just’ is isn’t always justice.”
— Amanda Gorman, “The Hill We Climb” written for and recited at the inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on January 20, 2021.

That’s what Amanda Gorman said. However, this is what I heard.

“. . . and the norms and notions of what ‘just is’ isn’t always justice.”

Just a small change in punctuation and meaning, yet that tiny difference triggered a memory for me from about 70 years ago.

I was born in 1946 and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, before it was the big cosmopolitan city it was becoming when we moved away in 1977. The first house I remember was a small red-brick home in an area called Morningside, which was mostly comprised of houses built by and for veterans just after World War II under the GI Bill. It was—and still is—a pretty residential area of the city. I had an older brother, Mike, and my parents owned one car, a 1948 Nash. We had a good life, and we lived securely in early suburban white privilege in a very southern city.

I recall going downtown on the city bus with my mother when I was very young, maybe five years old. I watched black riders get on the bus, pay their fares, and walk directly to the back of the bus to take their seats, even when empty places were available near the front. I asked my mother why they did that, and her answer was something like, “That’s just the way things are.” The Jim Crow laws had been the bedrock of southern life for decades by the time she was born, so her answer was tragically accurate.

What I heard in Amanda Gorman’s poem, “ . . . what just is,” brought back that memory so clearly. “Just” in this thought is an adverb, and it means “exactly.” What exactly is.

Looking back at Jim Crow laws in the early 1950s, “what just is” was horribly unjust.

Look again at what Amanda Gorman wrote and said:

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what ‘just’ is isn’t always justice.

Gorman is speaking in the present about our 400-year history of justice applied so consistently and yet so unequally and inequitably—in every era—to our Black and Brown brothers and sisters, and today it still ends tragically in the death of another George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or Trayvon Martin. Furthermore, and too often, no one is held accountable in our criminal justice system for these deaths.

Isabel Wilkerson came to the College of DuPage (COD) several years ago to talk about her first book, The Warmth of Other Suns. It is her story of the Great Migration of Black Americans from the Jim Crow South beginning just after World War I and ending in the early 1970s. In her presentation at COD, she said something that I found jarringly clear and true. I’m paraphrasing her here, so bear with me. I remember her saying something to the effect of when “one group works so hard to hold another group ‘down in a ditch’ socially, economically, and legally, the first group has to climb down into the ditch to hold the subordinate group there.”

I’ve just finished reading Wilkerson’s second book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents. In it, she lays out a convincing argument that America, India, and Nazi Germany all have had distinct caste systems during their national histories, and the only country “in recovery” is Germany. The United States and India are still mired in the suffocating, toxic, lasting effects of their caste systems.

Cast: in a play, portraying characters to deliver the same story over and over.
Cast: of plaster of Paris, to heal a broken bone.
Caste: legally defined social strata we’ve seen—and still see—in societies.

Cast. Cast. Caste. They all have an unchanging quality, a stifling rigidity.

Our history from 1619 to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement to George Floyd and Black Lives Matter—it’s exhausting, dark, and dirty living in that damned ditch, and it’s time for all of us to climb out.

Illinois HB 3653, the criminal justice reform bill, is a start, written to lift us and our criminal justice system out of this American ditch. The story of what we do today will become the history we read about and reflect on tomorrow. Let’s turn the page.


ACE Founder Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Previous Speak Out Posts

Where Do We Go From Here?

 

 

 

By Beverly George
ACE Leader

In this time of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter protesters have been marching for over three weeks. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and now Rayshard Brooks. The hanging deaths of Robert Fuller in Palmdale, California, on June 10 and of Malcolm Harsch in neighboring San Bernardino County on May 31 were first reported as suicides, but are now under further investigation. The list of black victims seems to never end, not even with resounding protests in our streets.

Where do we go from here?

That question led me last week to Oprah Winfrey’s webinar of the same name with a distinguished panel of experts. Her guests elucidated the constant fear of black Americans who are just trying to live their daily lives in our country. Discussion of the their experience was compelling. The panel also covered what they want white people in our country to know and what they want white people to do. Current protests offer all of us a chance to begin a long process of making our democracy stronger so that it can deliver to all Americans the promise of equal justice under the law.

Winfrey’s panel included Charles Blow, from the New York Times; David Oyelowo, the actor who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in “Selma”; Nikole Hannah-Jones of The 1619 Project, filmmaker Ava DuVernay, director of the documentary, “13th”; Jennifer Eberhardt Ph. D., professor of psychology at Stanford University and author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See; Ibram X. Kendi, Ph. D., author of How To Be an Antiracist; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; Stacey Abrams, champion of voting rights and author of Our Time is Now; Rashad Robinson, civil rights leader and president of Color of Change; and Bishop William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

Barber listed five interlocking injustices that affect poor people, particularly black people, in America: systemic racism, systematic poverty, ecological devastation, denial of healthcare, and our nation’s war economy.

“The system is not broken,” said DuVernay. “It was built this way.”

Barber further cited “the false oral narrative of religious nationalism that consecrates all this evil.” What a bold, clear assessment.

All of this takes its toll on the black community, according to Eberhardt. “When we suffer, people are numb. People don’t feel we’re as vulnerable to pain,” she said.

“It’s a collective grief in the history of black Americans,” Hannah-Jones added. “White Americans will tolerate it until something egregious happens.”

I am a first wave Baby Boomer, born in 1946 in Atlanta, Georgia, born with white privilege. While my family worked hard to secure their place in the middle class, we had the advantage of our white skin. We did not have to seek food service from the back door of a café, take a seat at the rear of a bus, look hard and long for a public restroom or water fountain, worry about an encounter with the police or public officials, or fret about the logistics of making a purchase in a store. Today, the Jim Crow laws from my youth have been replaced with voter suppression laws and a two-faced legal justice system in many states.

I embrace my responsibility to push for change for black and brown Americans who have struggled for over 400 years. Paraphrasing a woman protesting somewhere in our nation last week, “You should all celebrate that we do not want revenge. We only want to live equal under the law!” This applies to law enforcement and court rulings, but it extends far beyond that.

Black lives matter. “Equal under the law” should apply to healthcare, education, the environment, equal pay for equal work, voting rights, and more. Our black brothers and sisters need us to stand united with them to this goal. When their lives improve, we will leave white privilege behind, and together, we will all embrace the American privilege of being equal under the law.

Isabel Wilkerson spoke at the College of DuPage in 2018. I had devoured her book, The Warmth of Other Suns, and I looked forward to hearing her discuss it.

Sometimes when you hear an author speak, you take away a beautiful, golden nugget of truth that sticks to the very fabric of your being. I am paraphrasing her now, but here’s the gist of that truth Wilkerson offered. She said that when one group of people continually tries to hold down another group in a ditch, that first group has to crawl down in the ditch themselves to control and suppress the other. I recall thinking in that moment—as I do even now—how absolutely exhausting this all is and has been for 400 years. It diminishes us all to continue this American caste system, born as slavery in 1619.

For the sake of our black and brown brothers and sisters, we must change this now. Together we can pull each other out of that deep, bloody ditch.

Therefore, I urge all ACE members and friends to get to work and advocate now for the following that disproportionately affect black and brown Americans.

 

Access the Ballot and Vote by Mail

Access the ballot in all states —now and in the future—by mail. Voters should be able to vote safely and comfortably in their homes and mail their ballots to be counted. What happened with the Wisconsin and Georgia primaries gave us a preview of how November 3 will play out. Polling sites will be closed and condensed into fewer without proper notice. Votes will inevitably be denied as poll books are not updated in time. Voting machines will not be rigorously tested nor learned to secure a smooth election process. All of these and more will produce a successful and complex strategy for overall voter suppression. Vote by Mail (VBM) works and delivered reliable election results in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Hawaii.

First, you can register to vote online at https://ova.elections.il.gov . If you’re not registered, but will be 18 years old on November 3, 2020, you can also register online today using that link.

Second, on June 16, 2020, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law expanding our state’s existing Vote by Mail process. The new law, effective immediately, applies only to the 2020 general election on November 3, 2020, and it is aimed at ensuring “safe and active participation in the 2020 general election during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” Local election officials must mail or email absentee ballot applications to voters who have participated in recent elections, namely, the 2018 general (mid-term) election, the 2019 consolidated election, or the 2020 general primary held on March 17, 2020. The applications will also be mailed to voters who registered or changed addresses after the March primary.

When you receive your application for an absentee ballot, fill it out and return it by October 1, 2020 to receive your ballot by October 6, 2020. The final step is to complete your ballot and return it. You do not have to wait until November 3 to mail your ballot. Vote by Mail works smoothly, is more convenient for most voters, and delivers reliable election results as we’ve seen in Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Utah, and Hawaii. The number of ballots cast is always higher in a VBM state because it makes the ballot accessible to more voters. Higher voter turnout is a healthy nonpartisan outcome that strengthens a democracy.

Third, take on your own grassroots project. Pick Wisconsin or Georgia and write a letter or email their state house members advocating for Vote By Mail.

 

Census: Fill It Out and Encourage Others to Do the Same

Census data is due August 14, 2020. If you’ve answered the Census 2020 questions, pat yourself on the back. Then, phone or email your friends and family, here and in other states, and encourage them to do the same. The complete response from each community now will determine the amount of federal funds they’ll receive for public education and other services for the next ten years.

 

Encourage Reform of the Criminal Justice System

We need to rethink and reconstruct law enforcement. Chokeholds and other brute force measures should be outlawed, primarily because they are too often used disproportionately on black or brown people stopped for a broken taillight or a DUI. Social services should respond to drug overdose and mental health calls, not armed police officers. I think we can find an effective model for reform in other countries like the U.K.

Prisons for Profit must end. To fill these businesses, black and brown people, including minor children, who have been found guilty are sentenced to lengthy, unjust terms. Bryan Stephenson’s Equal Justice Initiative provides the numbers here to show that America is, indeed, number one in the industry of incarceration.

This is a beginning. More changes will be needed later. Let’s get to work.

 

For more ways to be an ally, visit our Human Rights Committee page.

 

Sources

http://www.oprah.com/app/own-tv.html

http://www.oprah.com/own-wheredowegofromhere/part-1_1

http://www.oprah.com/own-wheredowegofromhere/part-2

https://ova.elections.il.gov

https://my2020census.gov

https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20200616/pritzker-signs-vote-by-mail-expansion-declares-election-day-a-state-holiday

https://eji.org/criminal-justice-reform/

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.