United States of Queerty: Illinois

We here at Queerty are big fans of the United States, the nation that bore us, Celebrity Jeopardy, the hamburger and that whole representative democracy thing. It’s a nation rich in natural resources, can-do attitude and homosexuals, and each week, we’re visiting a new state to find out just what makes it so uniquely fabulous.

Land O’ Bama
Home to amber waves of grain and politicians as esteemed as Abraham Lincoln (and as corrupt as Rod Blogajevich), Illinois is the cultural capitol of America’s beating Heartland. Gays and lesbians enjoy a relative degree of freedom in the Land of Lincoln, with full adoption rights and protection against workplace discrimination in both public and private business. However, in 1996, gay marriage was outlawed in the state.

The Fight For Your Rights
Spurred on by the marriage loss in California, gays and lesbians in Chicago and the state capitol of Springfield have taken to the streets in recent months, demanding a repeal of DOMA and demanding full marriage rights for Illinois. They may get their wish. Introduced by openly gay State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act would “provide eligible same-sex and opposite-sex couples with the same treatment as those in a civil marriage” while stating explicitly that no religious institution would be forced to perform same-sex marriage. Of course, by the virtue of the Reflexive Law of Marriage Inequality, a marriage equality bill is always accompanied by an anti-marriage equality bill. Conservatives are working to get an initiative to outlaw gay marriage in the state constitution on the ballot in 2010.

Local Hotspot

3349 N Halsted St
Chicago, IL
773/ 477-9189

A cavernous, come-as-you-are bar in the heart of Chicago’s Boystown, Sidetrack offers up affordable drinks as well as a bevy of popular nights, including Sidetrack’s Showtunes Sunday, a local favorite. One of the signs that gays and lesbians hold political clout in Chitown is the fact that Sidetrack is a go-to spot for politicians looking to court the gay vote.

Model Citizen

mailKevin Hauswirth is an adjunct lecturer at Columbia College where he teaches courses on public relations to the gay and lesbian community. He’s a Chicago native and the co-creator of Homos Are a Hoot, a really cute t-shirt whose sale proceeds go to LGBT equality causes.

What’s the best part about living in Illinois?

I think the best part is being right in the middle of the country. We get the best of each coast, as well as our own very original Midwestern spin on things. I would say it’s laid back, but not lazy. There’s a certain Midwestern hospitality. People will give you directions, may even walk you where you’re going. I think that pertains to Chicago as well, even though it’s a really big city.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing gays and lesbians in Illinois?

I think we’re under a greater microscope, because we just sent our Senator to the White House. So, I think, being his hometown gay community, we’re looked at a little more critically to get a sense of where Obama might be going, because we know where he came from.

Being from Obama’s hometown, you may know that he once filled out a questionnaire saying he was for gay marriage. Where do you think he stands on gay rights?

I think he demonstrated when he was in Illinois – and will demonstrate while he’s in the White House – that he’s a strong supporter for equality. I think, politically, things are going to move more slowly than any of us want. But my feeling is that, having worked on multiple campaigns in the suburbs and in the city of Chicago, we have to look to change our own neighborhoods before we can look to have a President change a nation. It has to happen from both ends. My feeling from working in politics here is that until you’ve knocked on the doors of your neighborhood and been on the phone and called your fellow voters and convinced them that we deserve equality – until you’ve done that – I would say that you should be cautious in how much you’re going to point the finger at somebody in power.

Describe your average Illinois gay.

I don’t know how much I want to get into generalizations. I think I would go back to—the Illinois gay who is from Illinois and not a transplant from somewhere else is relatively easygoing. I get a sense we’re not as assertive as some of our other big city gay counterparts. I think you’re less likely to be hounded by gays at a bar than you might attract on one of the coasts. I think that Chicago gays tend to be rather respectful and I think that has to do with growing up in the Midwest and those good ol’ Midwestern values.

If there’s one thing a gay visitor to Illinois should do, what is it?

I think you need to go to Sidetrack; it’s a community staple. It’s a bar that gives a ton back to the community and pretty much, for any fair-minded politician, the road to Springfield, City Hall or Washington D.C. stops off at Sidetrack at some point. It’s the epicenter of the gay rights community here as well as the nightlife.

What’s one misconception about Illinois you’d like to clear up?

I think it is a coast. I think Chicago is a coastal city and we don’t get credit for being a big city. I think when you go to New York or L.A., when people go to big cities, and people think about culture and fashion, their minds go to the coast and I think sometimes they forget about the third coast, which is Chicago. We are on a coast, with Lake Michigan, and it feels like a coast—both in the sense that we are on water and that we have just as much going on as our L.A. and New York counterparts do.

Three down, forty-seven to go. Each week until we’re done, Queerty will be traveling to a new state and meeting the gays. We love featuring our readers, so if you think you’re Model Citizen material, shoot us an email at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.

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  • Sebbe

    I love these. Good choice of “Model Citizen”.

    Good idea on homosareahoot.com that YOU get to choose which charity your dollars go to. PFLAG, Campus Pride or The Point Foundation.

  • Chitown Kev

    Thank you, thank you Queerty.

    And yes, Boystown is the center of the gay community but even the neighborhoods to the north (Andersonville, Edgewater, Rogers Park) have a heavy gay flavor to them. That’s in addition to all the different ethnic mixtures in those neighborhoods.

  • Mike in MO

    What?!?! No mention of Boxers & Briefs?!!?! It is in the st louis, mo area, but it is mos def on the IL side.

    (for those who don’t know, B & Bs is a sleeze male strip club. above rant totally tongue in cheek. Or tongue in somehwere, anyway)

  • Jack

    Don’t forget our love of dairy. Yes, DAIRY!! I wish I was eating something dairy right this minute. And, don’t go to Wisconsin you will be happily wearing a big cheese wedge hat. WONDERFUL.

  • geoff

    Nice to have Illinois mentioned. It would also be nice to acknowlege that there is more to the state than Chicago. Believe it or not there are plenty of gay people in central,southern,and western illinois too.

  • Tyler

    @geoff: There is more to Illinois than Chicago, but there’s also more to Chicago than Illinois.

    Will Smith was right; we do have it goin’ on.

  • Sebbe

    @Jack – OMG dairy products, I miss them. I would kill for some really good cheese.

  • Danska

    Unless you live just to the west of Chicago. (where i do) In DuPage County. Land of Republicans! And plenty of them!

  • Chitown Kev

    We have Steamworks for that…but…oh, I don’t think you’re looking for that type of cheese!

  • Sebbe

    @Chitown Kev – haha LOL, no, more like a really good baked brie with some fruit.

  • Arlen Rothberg

    The rapist was Robert Ellis, a 34-year-old, African American who had an unremarkable appearance aside from his receding hairline. This ex-convict and career criminal’s rapes were always brutal and at the point of a knife or gun. Ellis would often don a surgical mask to hide his identity. Ellis’s victims came from the pages of Vogue and Playboy magazines. Only the most beautiful and fashionable young women were his targets. He would take them on the streets or in their apartments. His crimes occurred nearly always on Friday nights. Perhaps because of superstitions that brought him to a Haitian psychic. In any event, the Chicago media dubbed him, The Friday Night Rapist.

    One of Ellis’s intended victims was Diana Craig, a gorgeous, shapely young brunette woman who caused heads to turn wherever she went. She was a professional fashion model who drove a BMW. Diana lived in an apartment above an artist’s studio and garden on North LaSalle Street in Chicago. This was only an attempted crime, because Diana was able to wage a heroic fight against Ellis despite his having a gun and because she got help from her downstairs neighbor. Theodore DiVaquelin, an openly gay Frenchman, responded to Diana’s screams and also fought with Ellis as he fled from Diana’s apartment. Ellis narrowly escaped capture by responding police officers.

  • Chitown Kev


  • alex

    Why do most guys from Chicago have such huge chips on their shoulders? They always feel the need to tell you that they are just as sophisticated as the coasts but with those “Midwestern values” on top of it all. I lived in Chicago for several years and I learned that “Midwestern values” means that they’ll be nice to your face but not speak their minds and that if you don’t wear an A&F shirt that you are too different to deal with.

  • Sebbe

    @alex – your right, it is because they know the coasts are better. The worst is how they all have to tell you how the great lakes are just like an ocean. NO THEY ARE NOT. And as far as those mid-western values. Keep it. Its like when you go to the South for a few days. Day one and day two are quaint, by day three it’s like “shut the F up”.

    That said I love Chicago for a weekend and think its a pretty cool city for a long weekend. I know both a lot of people originally from there who got out and people from the coast who have moved there and are really happy.

    Wheres Chitown Kev to add in when we need him and slap us into place. hehe

    and does anyone have any clue what arlen rotheberg is talking about or is it just me??????


  • Chitown Kev


    Well, the complaining, whining, and bitching that you queens usually bring from the coasts (mostly from the West Coast, very little from the East Coast, actually) just does not work here AT ALL. It’s like, eh, whatever, get over yourself. We have a very, very, low tolerance for that (relatively speaking, we are gay after all!)

    Funny you should mention the South, a lot of queens here (across racial lines) do come from the south.

  • Sebbe

    I knew Kev would put us in our place. I think us from the East feel like Chitown is like anywhere else on the east culturally just picked up and moved so its familiar to us. As far as the rest of the state, I now nothing about it to be frank. But, like I said, I LOVE Chicago and try to make it out there a few times a year.

  • alex

    My point had nothing to do with whining.It has to do with a chip on the shoulder. Why can’t people let Chicago stand on its own merit? People are always trying to compare it to someplace else; “We have some water too”. In New York and Miami, you never hear them comparing or trying to emulate.
    Again, I lived in Chicago for several years and it is not the layed back utopia described above. My other friends from Miami agree that it was like watching 30 something year old men behaving as if they were in high school.

  • Sebbe

    @alex – I think it is pretty common with second cities around the world (especially Europe) in my experience.

  • Chitown Kev


    That’s true and it’s strange because Chicago has been the third city, technically, for quite some time (behind New York and Los Angeles). But an inferiority complex to Los Angeles has never developed. But to New York….yeah, always been there and always will be.

    Now of course, Chicago is on the other end of that when it comes to other big cities in the Midwest, especially St. Louis, Detroit, and Milwaukee.

  • Sebbe

    @Chitown Kev – Exactly and I still consider Chicago the second city. LA is not very city like or at the very least is lacking a lot of those great qualities which make cities famed.

  • geoff

    I just read the Fred Phelps assbags are going to be protesting in River Forest at Dominican University because they are performing The Laramie Project there. Unless of course Phelps and his inbred clan all get hit by a truck, which of course would be like a hug from Jesus.

  • Sebbe

    Phelps is coming to Boston next month, likes the great seafood!!
    via Bay Windows

    On two consecutive Fridays, March 13 and March 20, the Phelps clan will do a series of all-day pickets across the Boston area. They’ll start the Boston leg of their Homo Hatefest 2009 tour the morning of March 13, with a picket outside the LGBT-friendly Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Next they’ll head to Hanscom Air Force Base in Lexington to protest the military, which according to their press release is “riddled with fags and dykes,” followed by a stop to protest at Lexington High School. That evening the Phelps family will head up to Reading to protest a performance of The Laramie Project at Reading High School.

    The following week, on March 20, Phelps and company will return to Boston, protesting outside East Boston High School that morning. Next they’ll head to Beacon Hill to protest in front of the “fag-infested State House,” followed by a trip to 20 Park Plaza to protest the consulates general of Israel, Brazil, Peru and Mexico. Later that morning the Phelps clan will cross the river to protest at Harvard University, and in the afternoon they’ll end their hate tour with a picket at Canton High School for good measure.

    In between the legs of their Boston tour they’ve made time to swing through Tulsa, Oklahoma to protest the Elton John and Billy Joel concert taking place Mar. 17. Their press release warns that “God hates the fat, filthy, British pervert, Elton John.” Okay, Lestat: The Musical was pretty horrendous, but let’s not get carried away here.

    Whoever planned the Phelps family itinerary for their time in Boston clearly doesn’t have much understanding of how much time it can take to get from place to place in our fair metropolis. They’ve budgeted 15 minutes to get from East Boston High to the Statehouse. Good luck with that.


  • Sebbe

    I know Harvard & MIT students are organizing. Hopefully the few hundred thousand other students from the greater Boston area are planning to join in.

  • petted

    Finally got a chance to finish reading this one – it was nice. Arlen I suppose as your post mentioned both Chicago and gay good samaritan that your post from a rather broad perspective was not entirely non-topical though certainly a non sequitur.

    So let’s see West Coast (CA), South West-ish (CO), and Midwest (IL). I take it the Massachusetts gay has proven more elusive then anticipated – I’m not complaining mind – anyway it was a good read Japhy and I don’t think anyone minds what order you do the states in.

  • geoff

    @Sebbe: How do these monsters have the money to bankroll these trips everywhere? Didn’t they lose a 10 million dollar lawsuit not too long ago?

  • Sebbe

    @geoff – It’s an excellent question, but not one that there is a clear answer to. First off, they are almost all lawyers (I believe all but 4? of the kids are). f course being a lawyer isn’t enough you have to have clients.

    As well as being sued, they have been suing since the 70s under what is known as “Section 1988” (section not the year). It is basically a federal law that allows civil rights attorneys to get fees from the federal government in civil rights cases. IRONIC I KNOW. Furthermore, they all (most) live together on a compound, so their resources are pooled. There are members of the family who are not “as active” within the church and are successful (or profitable) attorneys presumably so. After that, I think it is pretty much a guess.

    I would assume that they have many anonymous donors behind the scenes. Then let us remember that they are a “church” so no taxes. I won’t even go into that area. Then you can be assured there are bigots and their supporters anywhere they want to go. I’m sure up here even in liberal Boston, they can find someone who supports their cause.

    They are based in Kansas, so who knows how much the state is looking the other way. I would also guess they may get some income from their various websites.

    Again, who knows? But, these are just my cases as from where some of their funding is coming from. I would be interested to hear what other think.

  • Bertie

    no mention of the cute, thick wasted, cheese fry and Polish sausage eatin’ & beer drinkin’ guzzlin’ men of Halsted Street?

  • Mark

    I’ve lived here in Chicago for 21+ years.

    We have world class architecture, world class food, world class entertainment (our theater district is to die for), 1 million plus visitors annually, nearly 8 million people in the metro area, and have direct flights to dozens of cities around the world. The languages spoken in our neighborhoods reflect the cultures found everywhere on this planet. We are on the shore of an inland sea. Yes, sea. You can’t see across this body of water even in flight.

    When our Boystown was redone 10+ years ago with new sidewalks, lighting, pylons, etc., the MAYOR of this city came and cut the ribbon. The mayor. And our gay boys. Well, you have to come and sample some of them. Many are strapping cornfed boys.

    We are much more than a mere coastal city. We are an international city. Anyone who thinks otherwise has simply not been here.

    The only drawback that I am more than willing to admit is our god-awfully long stretches of cold weather in the winter because of our location in the center of the North American continent.

  • DeAnimator

    Lakeview has a great gay scene…if you are a white gay man. If you aren’t, be prepared for blatant race and sexism. Oh, and lesbians? Be prepared to have NOWHERE to go because every single lesbian bar has been taken over by loud white gay men and their obnoxious faghag bffs. Disgusting. Please just fly over this godforsaken state and don’t waste your time in the city.

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