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PRIDE 2014

ARE GAY BARS STILL RELEVANT. PAGE A4


TAKE A LOOK AT OUR WEDDING PICTURES PAGE A6 | MESHING FAITH WITH LOVE FOR GAY SON PAGE A15
OPALGAS VICTORIES AND ITS FUTURE PAGE A12
DAVID PIERINI/Staff Photographer
With their children at their side, Kim Hefner and Laura Drumm seal their marriage with a kiss at a mass wedding at Unity Temple this month.
PRIDE 2014
A2 June 19, 2014
Senator
Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore

6933 W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(708) 848-2002

329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8176

www.donharmon.org
dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov
Representative
Camille Lilly
5755 W. Division St.
Chicago, IL 60651
(773) 473-7300

282-S Stratton
Office Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-6400

statereplilly@yahoo.com
WWW.OAKPARKDEMS.ORG
1243 WOODBINE, SUITE 101
OAK PARK, ILLINOIS 60302
(708) 386-0090
DPOP@DONHARMON.ORG
Senator
Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore

6933 W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(708) 848-2002

329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8176

www.donharmon.org
dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov
Representative
Camille Lilly
5755 W. Division St.
Chicago, IL 60651
(773) 473-7300

282-S Stratton
Office Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-6400

statereplilly@yahoo.com
WWW.OAKPARKDEMS.ORG
1243 WOODBINE, SUITE 101
OAK PARK, ILLINOIS 60302
(708) 386-0090
DPOP@DONHARMON.ORG
Senator
Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore

6933 W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(708) 848-2002

329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8176

www.donharmon.org
dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov
Representative
Camille Lilly
5755 W. Division St.
Chicago, IL 60651
(773) 473-7300

282-S Stratton
Office Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-6400


WWW.OAKPARKDEMS.ORG
1243 WOODBINE, SUITE 101
OAK PARK, ILLINOIS 60302
(708) 386-0090
DPOP@DONHARMON.ORG
Senator
Don Harmon
President Pro Tempore

6933 W. North Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302
(708) 848-2002

329 Capitol Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-8176

www.donharmon.org
dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov
Representative
Camille Lilly
5755 W. Division St.
Chicago, IL 60651
(773) 473-7300

282-S Stratton
Office Building
Springfield, IL 62706
(217) 782-6400

statereplilly@yahoo.com
WWW.OAKPARKDEMS.ORG
1243 WOODBINE, SUITE 101
OAK PARK, ILLINOIS 60302
(708) 386-0090
DPOP@DONHARMON.ORG
Proud to Serve
staterepcamilleylilly@gmail.com
Come as you are.
Be inspired.
Connect.
Live your values.
875 Lake Street, Oak Park
www.unitytemple.org

Come as you are.
Be inspired.
Connect.
Live your values.



875 Lake Street, Oak Park
www.unitytemple.org
PRIDE 2014
June 19, 2014 A3
B y D E B Q U A N T O C K
M C C A R E Y
Contributing Reporter
In the glow that is Illinois legal-
ization of same sex marriage on
June 1, many blessing ceremonies,
group nuptials and traditional
church weddings have, or will
occur, this summer for couples who
are new, or long-time residents of
Oak Park.
Wednesday Journal recently sat
with a few.
Going to the chapel
Oak Parkers Tom Gull, 54, and
Tim Flesch, 56, first met singing in
a Catholic church choir. Two years
later, in 1988, they became a couple,
and in August the two men will
exchange vows, rings and favorite
tunes during a traditional church
wedding by an Episcopalian priest
at a parish in Chicago.
Tearing and cheering the long-
time couple on will be a modest
showing of family and friends.
The day the same sex marriage
law passed the House in Illinois, I
felt like a little kid, says Gull, who
does development work for a non-
profit museum. I couldnt work
anymore that day. I was too excited.
It was like the last day of school,
like I could not stay in my seat.
For Tom, as the youngest of
seven kids, and with him having
gone to his five sisters weddings,
as well as the nuptials for his neph-
ews, he says they were all happy
occasions, but I always felt like I
was being left out because I could
never have that. Gull says he first
proposed to Tim when marriage
became legal in California.
Having been in a committed rela-
tionship for just over a quarter of a
century now, they say their wedding
will be a simple religious ceremony
that renews their commitment to
each other, as well as result in a
societal validation of their relation-
ship.
We have been together for so
long, and it does feel good to have
the recognition by the government
for this, and our family is very
happy for us, says Tim, who works
in the insurance industry. This
will also entitle him to my pension,
and if I need to go on his insurance,
so for a lot of legal reasons this is a
good thing.
The reality of holding a marriage
certificate, they say wont change
anything with their immediate
families, adding that over the years
their moms have recognized their
anniversaries with cards acknowl-
edging their love for one another.
I am Catholic, and I didnt want
to get married on the sidewalk, in
the street, or in the backyard, says
Tim. I wish I could get married
in my own church, but its not pos-
sible. That change will have to
come from within, and we will have
to be patient.
Finally saying yes
When Jim Kelly, 67, and Bruce
Broerman, 69, watched Gov. Pat
Quinn sign the same sex marriage
bill at the UIC Pavilion last winter,
what the couple of 26 years and
proud papas of two children and
five grandchildren saw was the gov-
ernor signing a paper on a desk
Abraham Lincoln had used to pen
one of his inaugural addresses.
It was in that emotionally impact-
ful moment that Bruce finally
accepted Jims long-standing mar-
riage proposal, and they began
planning the small, secular cere-
mony that will start and end under
a party tent in their Oak Park
backyard in August.
A long-time friend, who is a min-
ister, will officiate, coaching them
through the exchanging of rings
and vows, with a small group of
friends and family looking on.
Bruce had been married for 13
years [to a woman], and when we
started our lives together in 1988,
his daughter Stephanie was finish-
ing her junior year in high school
and his son Martin was finishing
sixth grade, so these kids have been
part of my life, and I have been part
of their lives, for a long time, says
Kelly, an involved Oak Parker who
continues to contribute to the qual-
ity of life in Oak Park.
Doing this now, Jim adds, will not
only be a symbolic gesture, but in
the moment of officially making the
commitment in public, he expects it
to have an emotional impact, as well
as bring a profound sense of arriv-
ing at something that had not been
achieved before, he says.
In addition to the entitlements
being legally married affords, get-
ting married in the traditional
sense will be a public proclama-
tion, because I do not feel like we
are riding a trendthis for me is
symbolic in the highest sense, Jim
says.
When I think about all the things
I want to say to Bruce, that are not
different than things I have said to
him before, to put it in a form of a
declaration, and then receive rec-
ognition from society what mar-
riage is a right of passage and what
it confers is recognition, status
and I want that for us.
In planning the affair, Bruce
quips well, we didnt have to put
out much for our wedding gowns,
and the couple shares a laugh.
Instead, Jim and Bruce will wear
matching Guayaberas Mexican
wedding shirts, and exchange
rings a favorite jeweler in Mexico
has crafted especially for them,
while a small group of friends and
family cheer them on.
Every poll indicates that the
arc of history is leaning toward
justice, says Jim, and by another
generation, this will be a non issue.
Loving that its legal
Elizabeth Ritzman, 59, and Cheryl
Haugh, 63, initially were married by
their minister at Hyde Park Union
Church in Chicago in 1993.
At that wedding, related to that
moment in time, 40 people were invit-
ed, as same sex marriage was not yet
legal, and we were concerned about
losing custody [of the children], or
negatively impacting the congrega-
tions where I served as a counseling
minister, Elizabeth says.
Four stories from a summer of w eddings
DAVID PIERINI/Staff photographer
Tom Gull and Tim Flesch opted to take their time to plan a dream wedding for later this summer.
Section Contributors Sarah Corbin, Tom Holmes,
Deb Quantock McCarey and David Pierini
Digital Editor Ashley Lisenby
Web Developer Mike Risher
Editorial Design Manager Claire Innes
Editorial Designers Jacquinete Baldwin, Sky Hatter
Production Design Manager Philip Soell
Advertising Design Manager Andrew Mead
Advertising Designers Maggie Acker,
Debbie Becker
Advertising Director Marc Stopeck
Advertising Sales Dawn Ferencak, Missy Laurell
Display Advertising Coordinator Alicia Plomin
Editor and Publisher Dan Haley
VP/Director of Operations Andrew Johnston
HOW TO REACH US
Wednesday Journal, 141 S. Oak Park Ave.,
Oak Park, Illinois 60302
PHONE 708-524-8300 FAX 708-524-0447
ONLINE www.OakPark.com
www.RiverForest.com
The law catches up to love
COVER PHOTO
With their children
at their side, Kim
Hefner and Laura
Drumm seal their
marriage with a
kiss at a mass
wedding at Unity
Temple this month.
DAVID PIERINI/Staff Photographer
See WEDDINGS on Page 4
PRIDE 2014
A4 June 19, 2014
B y D E B Q U A N T O C K M C C A R E Y
Contributing Reporter
With the dust still settling after the forced
closure of Forest Parks last gay bar, The
Hideaway, 7301 W. Roosevelt Rd. in April, and
in light of the earlier demise of The Nutbush,
in Forest Park, and the fiery (as in arson) close
of Oak Parks Velvet Rope, bartender Mike
Jimenez isnt ready to give up the ghost yet.
The former Forest Park resident now lives
in Berwyn and he is looking for a local res-
urrection of the gay bar scene in the near
west suburbs. Until then, there is still the
proverbial last gay bar standing and thats
Antronios Bar and Grill, 6319 W. Roosevelt
Rd. in Berwyn.
In 2007 Entrepreneur magazine put gay bars
on its list of businesses facing extinction in
the next 10 years, adding only the very best
of them will survive, the others wont.
A big reason many of the local gay bars
are gone is that they did not keep up with the
times to continue drawing people in, says
Jimenez, who has bartended at the two for-
mer gay bars in Forest Park, and Cell Block
in Chicago. Hideaway and Nutbush were
pretty much the only bars in Forest Park that
didnt have any windows, so as time went on
the crowd there was getting older. Going into
the city is far, and not drinking and driving
is a factor, and Boys Town has gotten more
dangerous lately. But, just opening up a dive
and calling it a gay bar is not reason enough
for people to come. There have been a lot of
gay bars that have opened and closed in the
suburbs. You really have to have some kind
of niche.
David Monterosso, 54, a former Hideaway
patron, says since its closing, he and his gay
friends have been enjoying Wednesday night
Karaoke at Caroles, 7307 Roosevelt Rd. in
Forest Park, and patronizing Poor Phils in
Oak Park for their Friday night get-togethers
to watch sports, or relax on the patio.
Even so, he would prefer going to a gay bar
to meet new friends.
I think there is a lot of truth to the reality
that gay couples and gay people no longer
feel that they exclusively need to patronize
gay bars, but the Hideaway will be somewhat
missed, says Charlie Yingling, 36.
What Yingling, a nurse practitioner says
is that he often would gather at the bar to
unwind after work with straight female
coworkers. He acknowledges that among
most gay people, including himself, there is
still an internalized fear and mistrust toward
others regarding how a gay person may be
perceived in public, especially if a couple
chooses to hold hands, or publicly display
affection.
I would not be disappointed to see a new
gay bar open in the Hideaways space, says
Yingling, who recently legally re-married
his long-time partner in June. I do think it
would be a good thing, as yet another offering
in the community for something to do on a
weekend at night that doesnt involve driving
into the city.
Yet, what Jimenez and Monterosso are hop-
ing is that a new gay bar will emerge beyond
the rumors that are circulating now.
I think there is a huge need for a gay bar
out here, for a sense of community [because]
things become more open, we are starting
to lose a part of our identity [including] the
remembrance of how we got here. For me,
the gay bar is part of all that, so I dont think
it is dying, but in evolution, and between
Berwyn, Oak Park and Forest Park, there is
a large population of individuals who would
love to see one open again.

Can local gay bars survive? Should they?
DAVID PIERINI/Staff
Photographer
Michael Jimenez
says gay bars are
an important part
of the culture and
hopes they do
not disappear as
gays and lesbians
achieve more and
more acceptance.
The Hideaway, Nutbush and
Velvet Rope. All gone.
Find out what all of the buzz is about.
Sign up today for our Breaking News Emails.
Join the community at
RBLandmark.com ForestParkReview.com OakPark.com RiverForest.com
PRIDE 2014
June 19, 2014 A5
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PRIDE 2014
A6 June 19, 2014
For her, as a Christian and a reli-
gious person, Elizabeth says the
legal piece of that catching up to
the other is meaningful, and should
have accompanied that service back
then.
So, in early August, she and
Cheryl, a chiropractor who has co-
parented her three children since
then, will renew their vows in a
similar, religious ceremony in Oak
Park. Adding color and cute to the
service will be their flower-petal-
tossing granddaughters, bedecked
in long white princess tutus with
pink sashes.
Afterwards, a large outdoor
reception with family and friends
is planned.
We considered ourselves to
already be in a marriage because
we got married in a church by
a minister, just didnt get a cer-
tificate from the County Clerk,
Elizabeth says.
Among the hundreds of entitle-
ments they will now receive as
a married couple, they say, is a
break on their health insurance
premium.
Cheryl is on my insurance,
but I do pay more in taxes on that,
than I do for the health premium
for her, Elizabeth says. Its about
$300 for the taxes, so that will be a
savings for us. We have been mar-
ried for a long time now, so we are
not going to get re-married. We are
not going to get finally married.
We are going to get our civil rights
attached to our marriage.
Choosing to be upfront and hon-
est with their children from the
start, a social snag came when
their daughter Sophia, then a sec-
ond grader at Beye School, told a
classmate she had two moms, and
he reacted badly.
I called the school, and her teach-
er was understanding and proactive
about talking to our daughters class
about it, says Cheryl. Sophias
response was to be proactive, so
she brought us for show and tell.
That was rough. We were scared.
But from the kids we had burning
questions like what is your favorite
color and what is your favorite
letter.
Still, life did go on, and a big
change in status for them did come.
The human story here is that we
have been married for 20 years. The
technical story is that we dont have
our rights until [we get legally mar-
ried], says Elizabeth. The roman-
tic part is an everyday thing. That
has been going on from the start.
Going with Grace
On June 2, in the packed sanctu-
ary at Grace Episcopal Church in
Oak Park, Bob Vogler, 62, and his
life partner, Tony Dobrowolski,
62, exchanged vows during the
regular church service.
Residents of Oak Park for 22
years, Bob, a church organist,
and Tony an actor and jewelry
designer, had engaged in a com-
mitment ceremony in 1995, after-
wards poising themselves for a
day they longed for, but thought
would never happen.
We decided to get married
as close to June 1 as possible,
because June 2 was my birthday,
and I figured that getting married
on that day would be the best birth-
day present I could get, because
I thought that us getting married
would never be possible, and I was
stubborn enough to not want to get
married until it was legal where I
lived.
At the wedding, which was one of
the first to occur in a church in Oak
Park, Tonys stepson and his grand-
children were part of the wedding
party, as best people and junior
best people, he said.
We have always been active in
this parish, and religion has always
been part of my life, says Bob.
Getting married in a church with a
priest doing our vows was a valida-
tion, and more of a public statement
than just going to the justice of the
peace.
Now, a few weeks after their wed-
ding, Tony says he still feels like he
is walking on air.
This is something people cant
take away from us, and that feels
nice, he says.
Tony says they will go on a trip,
or honeymoon, later in the summer,
and as far as the wedding went, it
was simple and inexpensive, and
did not break the bank, he jokes.
We wanted this to be about fam-
ily, and celebrating the wedding, as
opposed to how many thousands
of dollars did we spend on a wed-
ding and everything, says Bob.
Hes been the one and only person
I wanted to be with. Part of this is
the acceptance of that.
WEDDINGS
Continued from page A3
DAVID PIERINI/Staff Photographer
Marsha Borders, left, and wife
Trenace Ford dance during the
reception. Ten cakes for 10 couples
and each took turns having their
photo taken cutting their cake. As
Winston Nguyen and Mark Barrett
awaited their turn, Nguyen calls
someone over to watch.
PRIDE 2014
June 19, 2014 A7
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PRIDE 2014 June 19, 2014 A9

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PRIDE 2014 A8 June 19, 2014
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PRIDE 2014
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PRIDE 2014
June 19, 2014 A11
Chicago 45th Annual Pride Parade
Chicago Pride Weekend consists of a two-
day festival and our world-famous parade. The
two-day festival takes place along Chicagos
famed Halsted strip on Saturday, June 21, 2014
and Sunday, June 22, 2014.
Stage acts and events for the
festival
The parade kicks off at noon on Sunday,
June 29, 2014, at Montrose Avenue and
Broadway in Uptown and ends near the inter-
section of Diversey Parkway and Sheridan
Road in Lincoln Park. Pride Month in June is
the culmination of Chicagos vibrant LGBT
community. The energy in the city peaks on
Pride Weekend, which falls on the last week-
end of June each year in commemoration
of the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
On Pride Frida and Saturday thousands will
gather along Halsted for the two day festival.
Stages of music, exhibitors, great food and
drinks are available to enjoy. In the evening
the revelers will pour into Boystown clubs
and party into the wee hours of the night.
On Sunday the roar of the crowd heralds
the start of the Pride Parade, a dazzling cav-
alcade of diversity. The streets are lined 12
people deep as 750,000 people cheer the contin-
gents on and enjoy the show, culture and expe-
rience! For the liveliest viewing spots head to
the Boystown section of North Halsted Street,
between Belmont Avenue and Grace Street. If
you are seeking a less crowded area to view
the parade, look for your viewing spots near
the beginning of the route along Broadway
between Montrose Avenue and Sheridan Road
or further along Broadway between Belmont
Avenue and Diversey Parkway.
It helps to know some tips, tricks and
pearls of wisdom for surviving the weekend
and ensuring a fun, happy and safe stay in
Chicago. And if youre visiting just for the
weekend, you might find some special offers
on hotel rooms on ChicagoPride.com.
When is Chicago Pride?
The Chicago Pride two-day Celebration
and Parade historically takes place the final
weekend in June of each year. The 2014 event,
which will be the 45nd anniversary of Chicago
Pride, is set to take place June 21-22.
How did Pride begin?
The annual Pride Celebration commemo-
rates the rebellion of LGBT patrons of the
Stonewall Inn in New York Citys Greenwich
Village in response to a routine police raid
on June 27, 1969. The following year, a Gay-
In that took place on June 27, 1970 that was
the early progenitor of the current Pride
Celebration. Since 1972, the event has been
held every year, Since its modest beginnings,
Chicago Pride has grown to be one the larg-
est and most well-known Pride events in
the world. Pride has come to symbolize sev-
eral things: the long history of lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, and queer dignity, the
freedom of all people to meaningfully and
proudly express their sexual and gender iden-
tities, and the commitment of LGBT people to
combating oppression.
Do I need a ticket to get into Pride?
There is no fee to attend the Pride Fest or
watch the Parade. A voluntary donation is
requested at the entry gates to Pride Fest.
This donation goes back to community sup-
port programs.
Is there an age limit for entry
into Chicago Pride?
The Pride Fest and Parade are open to
people of all ages.
Where can I stay near Pride
events?
Hundreds of thousands of people from out-
side Chicago come to the city for Pride each
year. Find information on local lodging.
Where can I find parking?
To ease the parking and traffic congestion
around the Chicago Pride Parade route, we have
teamed up with Parking Panda, the nationwide
leader in online parking reservations. Locations
within easy walking distance to the parade
route are extremely limited and expected to
sell out so we recommend that purchase your
Chicago Pride Parade parking passes now!
Apart from Pride, Chicago is also known for
its world-class public transportation system, so
please consider familiarizing yourself with the
CTA (for transportation within the city) and
with METRA and Pace (for transportation from
the suburbs into the city). To find routes from
anywhere in the Chicagoland area to Pride Fest
and the Parade visit transitchicago.com.
Are pets allowed?
Yes, pets are allowed, including, of course,
service animals assisting people with acces-
sibility needs. We do, however, strongly rec-
ommend leaving pets at home since both
the Parade and Festival are noisy, crowded,
and hot. Pets can sometimes be very startled
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PRIDE 2014
A12 June 19, 2014
B y D E B Q U A N T O C K M C C A R E Y
Contributing Reporter
In 1989, at a political coffee organized to
question local candidates in Oak Park about
their stand on gay and lesbian issues, Mel
Wilson and Nathan Linsk started something
big in their small apartment on Humphrey
Avenue in Oak Park.
Back then, as the lead co-founders of the
Oak Park Area Gay and Lesbian Association
(OPALGA), Wilson, now 71, and Linsk, 65,
strategically recruited a small group of gay
and lesbian activists who would be unafraid
to stand up and speak out in Oak Park for gay
rights.
Now as the group marks its 25th anniversa-
ry it is both celebrating real accomplishments
and assessing its future in a changed world.
Brian Findley decided we should send
a questionnaire to the candidates on what
their concerns were regarding HIV, other
gay rights issues, and particularly on adding
nondiscriminatory language to the villages
Human Rights statement, says Linsk, a
retired University of Illinois professor. Back
when we started OPALGA, gay and lesbian
people were very often invisible and OPALGA
was the only real connection point, initially.
A quarter of a century later what has
evolved is one of the largest community-
based, multi-purpose lesbian and gay mem-
bership organizations in Illinois.
Oak Park was not a difficult field to plow,
says Jim Kelly, another co-founder, as is his
partner of 26 years, and soon-to-be husband,
Bruce Broerman. All we had to do was
remind Oak Park of the ideals it had and
shift the focus to adding sexual orientation to
the villages diversity statement, which hap-
pened without much fanfare at all.
Early on, that happened, and much more.
OPALGA succeeded in having the Village of
Oak Parks Human Rights Ordinance amend-
ed to bar discrimination-based on sexual ori-
entation in employment (by village and vil-
lage contractors), as well as in housing and
public accommodations. The group also pro-
posed and supported the village government
in extending Domestic Partnership Benefits
to same-sex partners of village employees.
OPALGA successfully convinced the vil-
lage board to pass the Domestic Partnership
Registry for same sex couples in Oak Park, in
spite of pushback, Kelly recalls.
After the registry was established by
the village government, opposition led by
Calvary Church gathered enough signatures
to place a non-binding referendum on the
ballot to rescind the registry. The referen-
dum was narrowly defeated. At the
time, Calvary Church put a nonbinding ref-
erendum on the ballot to repeal it, but we
squeaked by, says Kelly. Now, it has become
such second nature for gays and lesbians who
live in Oak Park to be involved in Oak Park, as
it should be for any citizen.
Coming of age or aging out
Even so, in recent years fewer 20 and 30
year olds have been joining this iconic social
and political activist group.
In part, says Broerman, its membership
chair, the aging roster may be related to
recent strides, including social gains, and the
legalization of gay marriage. Another fac-
tor, he adds, is the reality of people juggling
issues of work and family.
Yet, their monthly newcomer networking
potlucks are still well attended by people of
all ages who are interested in that kind of
social activity.
I am sure that many people perceive the
organization now as a why do we need it,
and I guess my answer to that is that we still
do serve a purpose, Broerman says.
Oak Parkers Charlie Yingling, 36, and his
husband joined OPALGA in 2005 to extend
their social reach here.
I enjoy that we as a community have an
organization that gives a face to the LGBTs in
Oak Park [because] even though Oak Park is an
extremely progressive and welcoming place,
there are times in our situations when the
voice of LGBT people needs to be heard collec-
tively, and I believe in having that shared iden-
tity, says the former board member. When
the marriage bill was put before the legislature
last year, OPALGA chartered a bus so members
could go to Springfield and lobby lawmakers,
which was a lot of fun. Perhaps now the new
face of LGBTs in Oak Park are young families,
and in the future, why cant OPALGA become
a resource for that demographic?
OPALGAs co-chair Colette Lueck, also an
Oak Park village trustee, notes the group is
now focusing on being a social outlet, as well
as a grant making organization that raises
funds for small nonprofits that provide direct
services to the LGBTQ community.
Another new focus for the group has been
the establishment of its scholarship fund for
LGBTQ students; children of LGBTQ parents;
and allies of the LGBTQ community inter-
ested in furthering their education.
I am very invested in the scholarship pro-
gram [because] it is unique and important
and the grants go to kids who would not oth-
erwise be getting scholarships says Lueck,
adding that the best party in town is still
the annual Opal Gala banquet, which is set
for Oct. 25 in commemoration of the groups
25th anniversary.
For co-founders Linsk and Wilson, there
are memories of genuine accomplishment
all preserved for posterity in binders. But it
is still in the looking forward that they see
purpose, knowing that despite much progress
in Oak Park and the broad society, that being
an LGBTQ still holds challenges.
OPALGA has enabled people to take their
first baby steps out into clear air without
fear, says Wilson. Until there is a point
in time reached where gay people can grow
into adulthood and be encouraged to function
in a community responsibly and be freely
given responsibilities -- there will be a need
for some kind of structured organization that
can carry on and help kids understand that
there is something to look forward to and the
reign of hell that is adolescence will be over,
and there will be a time in their lives when
they will be happy, have friends, possibly be
married with children, and that the world will
be good to them. Somebody has to do that.
OPALGA at 25. Looking back and ahead
DAVID PIERINI/Staff Photographer
Colette Lueck, co-chair of OPALGA and an Oak Park village trustee, appreciates the groups focus on
its scholarship program.
Until there is a point in time reached
where gay people can grow into adult-
hood and be encouraged to function
in a community responsibly and be
freely given responsibilities there will
be a need for some kind of structured
organization.
Mel Wilson
OPALGA co-founder
PRIDE 2014
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PRIDE 2014
June 19, 2014 A15
B y T O M H O L M E S
Contributing Reporter
G
y and Sylvia Menninga grew up around
Pella, Iowa. It is a Dutch community
and a stronghold of the very conser-
vative Christian Reformed Church.
At every meal the Bible was read and
Sylvia recalls being comforted with the
thought that God would take care of me.
But her faith also had a different side. The
fear of God far outbalanced Gods love. My
behavior was motivated by the fear that God
would not approve of me, she said.
And decades later, after Gy and Sylvia mar-
ried, quickly had four children, one of them gay,
that fundamental matter of Gods approval, of
Gods approval of a gay son, helped
lead the couple on a decades long
evolution of their faith, of their
understanding of God to them.
Today they live in Oak Park,
are active members of First
United Church, and Sylvia was
a founder of the local chapter
of PFLAG, Parents and Friends
of Gays and Lesbians. And this
weekend they are likely to march
once again in Chicagos Pride
Parade.
Walking in the pride parade every
year is one of the most wonderful
thingswedo. Itsjustamazingandwon-
derful, because the kids out there are
just hungryforparentstoaccept them.
They just want to hold your hand, to touch you. Its
totallyexhaustingandtotallyexhilarating.
That their second child, Gysbert Menninga
III, or just Bert, was gay was not a profound
surprise even back in the 1970s.
From early on we didnt think he was
a normal boy, Sylvia remembered with a
laugh. He had very effeminate interests. He
liked to dress up in girls clothes and liked
dolls. He would sit on womens laps and say,
I just love your lipstick. We were worried
about him to the point of talking with each
other about taking him to a psychiatrist.
But Gy and Sylvia decided to do nothing,
because their son seemed to be handling who
he was very well. He was always very self-
confident, said Sylvia. He came out to us
while he was still in high school which, in the
1970s, was quite early. He never seemed to have
any problems with the way he was. He was just
who he was. Gy described their son as always
having a powerful feeling of self-worth.
Berts aha moment came while reading
Rita Mae Browns semi-autobiographical and
explicit coming out novel Ruby Fruit Jungle
published in 1973. When I read that book,
Bert told his parents, I said thats me. I
know who I am now. When he went to the
University of Illinois at Champagne, he met a
Presbyterian chaplain who had a gay group and
found friends there. Now 53, Bert was married
in 2000 and lives in Sweden with his husband.
Although Bert later acknowledged to Gy
and Sylvia that the coming out process was
more difficult than it had appeared to them at
the time, Berts parents freely admitted that
the road from Iowa to the gay pride parade
was not that easy for them either.
We gradually began to look at our religion
quite differently, Sylvia said with an empha-
sis on the word gradually. It was the same
God but we were beginning to view that God
through different lenses.
The first step was their decision to join a
Presbyterian church while they were living in
Highland Park in the 1980s. It was a big
step for us and very disturbing to our
parents, Sylvia recalled, even though
it was still a pretty conservative church.
Then when they moved to
Burlington, Vermont for a short time,
they went to a Presbyterian church
that referred to itself as being More
Light, an association of Presbyterians
whose mission actively welcomed the
full spectrum of the GLBT community.
It was just amazing, said Sylvia.
I didnt know there was something
like this very liberal little campus
church in Burlington. They were
just wonderful.
Then, following Gys work assign-
ments, the Menningas moved to
Boulder, Colorado where they worshiped with a
United Church of Christ congregation which was
Open and Affirming, a category similar to More
Light in the Presbyterian Church. What was
especially attractive about that church, said Gy,
was that the pastor there had a gay son.
It took a long time, said Sylvia. Just
joining the Presbyterian church in Highland
Park was a big step. A member there was a
wonderful woman named Betty Werrenrath.
Her father had been a liberal Presbyterian
minister, and she had her theology down. She
got me reading the Christian Century, and
gave me a copy of J.B. Phillips Your God is
Too Small. She also gave me my first taste of
social action, of getting out there and doing
some of the work that Christ wants us to do.
In Vermont Sylvia continued to partici-
pate in social action by volunteering at the
Ronald McDonald House there. The pastor
in Boulder helped them interpret Scripture
in a way that did not throw the baby out with
the bath water when he said, I take the Bible
seriously. I dont take it literally.
She said what taking the Bible seriously but
not literally means to her by sharing a pam-
phlet she received from the Shem Center in
Oak Park. On the cover it states, What Jesus
Said About Homosexuality. When you open
the pamphlet the pages are blank.
She said, If you read the Bible at all, what
keeps coming up is that God cares about the
poor, about widows and orphans and the
hungry. We hear that all the time from the
prophets, and Jesus was very, very concerned
about this. I dont know how you can miss
that. There are maybe half a dozen anti-gay
verses at the very most. Theres no possible
comparison to the number of verses about
worship of money and care of the poor. Its
not worth fussing and fighting about.
Although the Menningas spiritual journey
involved moving away from the Christian
Reformed tradition, Gy hastened to empha-
size, There were certainly some positive
things about our growing up there. My par-
ents very much cared for the poor people in
the community. We had a couple of widows
who lived in our area, and my parents sort of
looked after them. There were a couple gay
guyspeople referred to them as bachelors-
-that my father looked after. They never talk-
ed about them being gay, but Im convinced
that my father knew they were.
One of the reasons why we are so caring
about the food pantry and are involved in the
CROP Walk is that we were taught that when
we were kids. The Christian Reformed Church
does a lot of that, even though their theology is
very conservative. I mean theyre wonderful
people. Its a wonderful community to live in.
Gy summed up their spiritual journey by
saying, The church has always been impor-
tant to us, and First United here in Oak Park
has been important to us as well. The congre-
gation is a strong part of our social connec-
tions in addition to the theological thing.
Sylvia agreed. The spiritual life at First
United keeps us centered. We feel like weve
finally found the perfect church [because of
its balance of spirituality and social action].
What has been remarkable to Gy and Sylvia
is that they havent caught a lot of flak about
Bert from their relatives in Pella. Part of the
reason is that they have broached the subject
with them very carefully, one family at a time.
Regarding Bert and our extended family
in Pella, we have one big thing on our side,
Sylvia said. Bert is very popular with them.
He was loved by aunts and uncles. His girl
cousins still go crazy over him. He was always
accepted, and Im sure that it was apparent to
many that this kid is quite different. He was/
is a very appealing person. Hes delightful
to talk to and has great stories to tell. Hes a
great singer, an excellent pianist and a writer.
Hes one of our most interesting kids.
Sylvia summed up their experience of hav-
ing a gay son by saying that she and Gy have
grown because of sharing their sons life. Its
a positive, wonderful thing in our lives. It has
made us understand the need to be tolerant
of other people. Its broadened our horizons
immensely and introduced us to so many
wonderful people.
An evolving faith as a son comes out
Same God, viewed through different lenses
The fear of God
far outbalanced
Gods love. My
behavior was
motivated by
the fear that
God would not
approve of me,
Sylvia Menninga
Mother
Courtesy Gysberg Menninga
FAMILY: left to right are: Francisco Ballesteros,
Bert Menninga, Gy Menninga and Sylvia
Menninga.
PRIDE 2014
A16 June 19, 2014
Celebrating 25 years.
GALA October 25th, 2014 at Nineteenth Century Womens Club
Watch our website and facebook for upcoming ticket information
A Community Of Pride
25 Years
of Pride & Progress
For 25 years, the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA)
has worked to make our area a place we all can be proud to call home.
We do this by:
Fostering positive attitudes and advocating for full equality for the LGBT community
Promoting institutional change in both the private and public sectors
Providing educational, social and cultural opportunities for LGBT individuals
Celebrating the contributions the organization and its members make to the community.
To help keep the Oak Park area
a place we all can be proud to call home, join us today!
www.opalga.org
email: info@opalga.org
A Community Of Pride
Oak Park Area Lesbian
and Gay Association
visit us on Facebook or www.opalga.org