Gay civil rights activists emerged in Chicago during the 1920's. Historically, the Gay Liberation Movement established the first march in Chicago in 1970 on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. Those first organized marches responded to discrimination. As Chicago anticipates its 48th Chicago Pride Parade this Sunday, we celebrate diversity and honor inclusion.
During the 1970's, the River North neighborhood was most associated with what was then referred to as the gay community. In fact, the famous drag queen performance club called Baton was founded in that area during 1969.
Members of the gay community gradually settled near the lake North of downtown. They helped establish Belmont Rocks that welcomed the gay community to sunbathe.
The parade moved toward Belmont Harbor in 1973. When I was a few years old, Mayor Jane Byrne acknowledged the Gay Pride Parade Day, the last Sunday in June.
During that time, local street gangs also inhabited the area also known as Wrigleyville where the Chicago Cubs play. Working class families, such as my parents, also settled in the area. When I finished my freshman year of college, Mayor Daley named the six-blocks on Halsted from Grace to Belmont the first gay neighborhood in America.
Decorative street markers line the now gentrified community reflect the pride parade rainbow colors. Growing up, I visited gay owned restaurants and businesses with friends, including Roscoe's, Kit Kat Club and Robert Jeffrey Hair Salon. Although sometimes frustrated, residents learn to embrace the change and navigate traffic.
Meanwhile, the parade evolved with what is now referred to as the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, LGBTQ, community. Today, "queer" may describe those whose sexual orientation and gender identify converge.
As the parade grew from a couple hundred participants to thousands, tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of participants, the celebratory tone continues. People rock their bright clothes and costumes to show their support. Local parties may serve colorful fruit, rainbow jello shots, and signature drinks.
Thankfully, my parents still live in Boystown. We appreciate respectful and inclusive LGBTQ business owners who should be packed this weekend. Recent parades drew one million attendees into the Chicago Boystown Community.
Some members of the LGBTQ community are influential with interest groups, political donations and occasional endorsements. The last few decades, most elected officials and many corporations in Chicago participate in the parade.
Most families and professional groups today include beloved members of the LGBTQ community. Our boys attend school in the Boystown area. They grow-up understanding that some of their friends have two Dads or two Moms.
This Sunday, our boys will participate in their first Pride Parade. We're making signs to show support, love and pride among all people. We remind our boys discrimination may still continue. They must respect all people.
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