The most important thing for people in the suburbs, who are often sheltered and keeping secrets from their family, she says, is a space to be open about who they are.
In addition, she says, the lack of a corporate sponsorship means everything is DIY and they rely on volunteers. Which hasn’t necessarily slowed them down. CAAN held its first gay pride parade in 2009 in downtown Joliet and is currently garnering support for an annual pride festival. CAAN has put together a Voters’ Guide, which offers similar information to that of Equality PA.
And unlike Rainbow Serenity, Fester claims there’s been no pushback against their group—other than anonymous comments on newspaper websites. But, “you read the newspapers in any type of city and you read the comments and they are horrible,” she says. Most recently, those comments began popping up after their annual gay pride parade in Joliet—which strikes her as hopeful, because it’s the haters that are beginning to become closeted.
“Frankly, every time we end up meeting adversity I think it’s made us stronger,” says Wagman, claiming that even Lambda Legal, the nation’s oldest legal organization for the civil rights of gays and lesbians, has stopped returning his phone calls. “I know if we were opening the Boys and Girls Club of America, we could open it up tomorrow and we’d have a lot of support. But the reality is, we’re not.”
May 5, 2-3:15pm. Terra Hall at the University of the Arts, 211 S. Broad St. equalityforum.com
This year, Equality Forum celebrates its 20th anniversary and, as always, will be hosting six straight days of events throughout the city that will focus on educating and inspiring members of the international LGBT community.