As a loyal Reader reader, you may already feel well versed in LGBTQIA issues. I’m hoping that the majority of you are at least an A (ally) even if you’re not feeling aligned with the other letters (and by the way, LGBTQI people should also be A’s for each other, in case we all forgot). Sometimes life brings you more complicated situations than were covered in Lesléa Newman’s 1989 book Heather Has Two Mommies. You’ve always felt like an advocate, but you’ve just found gay porn in your 14-year-old son’s room. You’re out to everyone in your personal life, but you’re trying to get ahead in a conservative industry and feel conflicted about letting your coworkers know about your partner. You manage an office and want to do more than just say you’re inclusive. Here are a few of the many Chicago organizations that can offer help, advice, and solidarity.
Originally Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, PFLAG has offered free support groups for allies and the LGBTQI community since 1973. A PFLAG get-together is often the first step for parents of recently out LGBTQI people trying to navigate the new waters and learn how to be supportive. PFLAG was even recommended by Dear Abby in a 2016 column as a helpful resource for a trans person looking to reveal the news to their parents. I recommend the Allies page at the national PFLAG website for a guide for training ideas and topics for straight people looking to learn about language and inclusivity.
The Center on Halsted was previously known as Horizons Community Services, which came from Gay Horizons, the original founding name from 1973. Horizons had a free help-line phone service largely manned by community volunteers for many years, and today’s Center on Halsted has programming in the same spirit. It’s a community and cultural center that serves LGBTQI people of all ages with group therapy, job placement, social and recreational programs, family activities, and more. Center on Halsted also has comprehensive programs offering help to LGBTQI seniors in the community and those living with HIV/AIDS.
Affinity is a social justice organization that has supported Black lesbian, bisexual, and trans women throughout its existence, though its research and activities also serve the broader LGBTQI and Black communities. In addition to peer-led support groups, Affinity works on research and networking initiatives, like the recent webinar series the Blackprint, a “plan for building the leadership capacity” of Black LGBTQI women.
Chicago House is an organization that was formed in the 1980s to assist persons with HIV/AIDS facing homelessness. It has grown into a multifunctional social service agency, including the TransLife Care program for trans people needing help navigating everything from housing to legal issues. Other Chicago House community services include rental assistance, case management, and health-care navigation. v