Chicago Gay History

Chicago, IL 60602
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Tracy Baim

Chicago’s gay community has contributed in many ways to the national and international fight for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights. However, those contributions have often been overlooked in documentations of the movement, and this new Chicago Gay History Project seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of those many important people, events, and organizations who helped the Windy City become a beacon of gay progress in the latter part of the 20th Century.

From the anti-gay police raids and harassment of earlier decades, Chicago has risen to become one of the most progressive cities in the world, with legal protections, a city-designated neighborhood, a major community center, the hosting of the Gay Games in 2006, and a city-sponsored Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. Illinois was the first state to remove its sodomy law, and the first gay-rights group in the U.S. started in Chicago.

While The Society of Human Rights in the 1920s was short-lived (due to police intervention), the visionary who started that group, Henry Gerber, was among the many Chicagoans who were at the vanguard of the movement for gay equality. From Jane Addams to Lorraine Hansberry, Marie J. Kuda to William Kelley, Chuck Renslow to Vernita Gray, this projects takes an extensive look back, so that we may learn for a better future.

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