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AT&T celebrates National Coming Out Day (early) with performances, panel
by Vern Hester
2022-10-10

This article shared 730 times since Mon Oct 10, 2022
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AT&T—in partnership with Center on Halsted and with the participation of do312.com—held "Turn Up the Love," a pre-celebration for National Coming Out Day that took place Oct. 8 at its flagship store at 600 N. Michigan Ave.

The event was presented in two parts with a comedy/monologue performance by writer/performance artist/comedian Alok Vaid-Menon and a panel discussion led by Brian Terada in the first section; and a concert featuring Malia Civetz, out rapper Taylor Bennett and dance pop star Betty Who for the second part.

National Coming Out Day this year is Tuesday, Oct. 11.

"Turn Up the Love" is an annual event with this year's edition featuring a panel discussion about coming out of the closet with a varied group of performers and community activists. Precious Brady-Davis (who, among other things, is a public speaker, author, trans-rights activist and former political candidate), Bennett (a noted local rapper who has developed a national following), Aydian Dowling (entrepreneur, model and transgender activist), Luke Romesburg (the director of youth housing at Center on Halsted) and Vaid-Menon (who is also the author of Beyond the Gender Binary) were among the participants.

The festivities started with Vaid-Menon taking the stage and delivering a free-form comedy routine that tackled cis men, feminists, Roe vs. Wade, heterosexuality, immigration, the act of sexualizing fashion and The Muppets. They abruptly shifted from comedy into a monologue about the passing of their grandfather in hospice care which deeply moved the audience.

After their segment, Vaid-Menon was joined by Terada and the other participants for the panel discussion. Bennett spoke about how he came out on Twitter and was surprised that he had to keep coming out to different people and family members. Romesburg spoke on how his parents reacted to the news by sending him into conversion therapy. Brady-Davis spoke on how an encounter with a 16-year-old trans girl inspired her to be true to herself while Dowling spoke about coming out twice—first as a lesbian and then as a trans man. Vaid-Menon spoke on living in Texas and fearing for their life when people on the street speak to them. In an effort to understand transphobia, they said, "You're afraid of getting canceled, but I'm afraid of getting murdered."

After a short intermission, Civetz hit the stage and tore through a set of old and new songs that had the audience yelling and dancing. Bennett took the stage next, and if his rap/rock didn't immediately inspire the same reaction, he won the crowd over with his drive and catchy music. Betty Who, who has been absent from Chicago stages for four years greeted her passionate fans with high-energy dance numbers and a lot of ribald humor before previewing a song from her upcoming album. While Bennett has just finished a tour, Who will be hitting the road in a few weeks (playing Chicago's Riviera Theater on March 31 with Shea Coulee).


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