When Zanariah Phillips, 26, revealed to her family that she was transgender, she was beaten, ostracized and ridiculed to the point where she could not handle living at home anymore. The family of a friend took her in at the age of 14, but she moved out three years later.
“They made me feel wanted and welcome but for some reason I didn’t feel welcome,” she remembers. “I felt like it was a pity party.”
Phillips spent some nights at shelters and other times, she slept in the locker room at the Center on Halsted, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center. When she was 21, she found a job and was able to save enough money to rent an apartment.
Like Phillips, there are many LGBT youth in Illinois who struggle to find housing.
Angel Saez is a personal trainer, as well as a gay male entertainer at Baton Show Lounge, a nightclub that also hosts drag shows. He said advertisements geared towards the homosexual community influenced him to begin working out when he was 16. To this day, he continues to maintain his body because that is what pays his bills. The 38-year-old not only watches what he eats but also exercises seven days a week.
“I do an hour and a half of cardio and after that, 45 minutes of workout,” he said. “I avoid sweets, sodas and I don’t drink alcohol.”
While Saez stays healthy by eating three meals a day, several of his gay friends “do not eat at all” to stay fit.
“They think that by not eating is how they’ll get a good body,” he said. “[But I know] that’s not the correct way to do it.”
The U.S. Postal Service is back to serving as Santa’s elves for yet another year through their annual Letters to Santa program. They held a kickoff event at the downtown Chicago post office at 433 W. Harrison St on Wednesday.
Here’s how it works: kids, adults, and whole families – often from under-served communities – write letters to Santa in Alaska or the North Pole, and drop them in USPS mailboxes. Those letters that aren’t actually addressed to a specific person’s address or destination stay in the area. Then postal ‘elves’ sift through the thousands of letters, sorting by gender and number of people each letter was written by, and take out all personal information to protect the writers’ privacy. They put copies of the letters into baskets, where post office visitors can pick a letter of their own and make Christmas for a stranger.
Northwestern University has rolled out several gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender and other students who may feel uncomfortable using gender-specific restrooms. The institution adopted the policy after several lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student organizations on campus requested them.
A survey of transgender and gender-nonconforming people in Washington D.C. found that 70 percent had experienced issues ranging from denial of access, verbal harassment and physical assault in gender-specific restrooms.
Chicago resident Sara Fischer was raised as a Christian, but she never felt quite at home at her church. In addition to finding some Christian beliefs hard to swallow, she felt unwelcome because she is lesbian. In 2004, she discovered Congregation Or Chadash, a synagogue that embraces gay and lesbian members. The experience was so profound she converted to Judaism.
When Karl Wenzel began working 14 years ago in account management for Leo Burnett, the Chicago-based advertising agency, he knew many of his creative colleagues in the company were gay. However, he hesitated to come out because he worried about how his clients would judge him if they knew his sexual orientation.
“There was a little bit concern just because I was expected to have maybe a different profile within the organization,” he remembers. “It was well into my career before I really felt comfortable being out with clients.” Wenzel, who credits Burnett’s welcoming atmosphere for his decision, is now the agency’s senior vice president and account director.
Wenzel was understandably thrilled last week when Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook publicly disclosed that he also was gay.
Lamar Jackson always worried that people in his senior-living community were staring at him or gossiping about the fact that he was gay. The 64-year-old Chicagoan felt that weight lift last week when he moved into Town Hall Apartments, Chicago’s first LGBT-friendly affordable housing for low-income seniors.
“I have experienced living in senior housing that wasn’t LGBT [friendly] and they were very homophobic,” he said. “You couldn’t be free to express who you really are.”
Last month, Northwestern University’s Graduate School made a controversial change to its application. For the first time ever, the school was asking applicants whether they identify themselves as members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender community. The move has some people worrying about how the information will be protected and why it is being collected in the first place.
Ford Motor Co. unveiled a $105,000 initiative Tuesday to increase graduation rates at seven Chicago high schools with large Hispanic populations.
The nation’s second largest car maker will provide career and college-preparedness grants and scholarships for high schools including the Roberto Clemente Community Academy in West Town and East Chicago Central High in East Chicago. “Our dream is for students to realize their dreams, to realize their full potential and to get on that path,” said Pamela Alexander, Ford’s director of community development.
On Saturday night, fiery caldrons and burning buildings will illuminate a stretch of the Chicago River at the inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival.
The event, which will take place on the river between State Street and Columbus Drive, is a collaboration between Redmoon Theater, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District. Founded in 1990, Redmoon is an experimental theater company that specializes in large-scale performance art.