Coming out is one of the most terrifying yet liberating experiences that an LGBTQ+ person must endure to achieve happiness. Brave Space Alliance (BSA)Chicago's South Side, Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ resource centeris celebrating those who have come out as well as support those who haven't yet.
Through Oct. 15, BSA is hosting "National Coming Out Week" with free food from local restaurants, free make-up (donated by Lady Gaga) with a make-up tutorial, and a game night. It has also partnered with numerous small businesses throughout Chicago for exclusive discounts.
On Oct. 11, BSA hosted a roundtable discussion with three prominent Chicago LGBTQ+ members about their experiences of coming out while in the public eye. The conversation was streamed on the organization's Facebook Live for those who couldn't be there in person.
BSA Communications Director Jae Rice moderated the "Out 'N Brave" panel. Among other things, he asked questions about their coming-out stories and how their identities intersect with their work.
BSA CEO LaSaia Wade began the conversation by describing how coming out as a transgender woman impacted her familial relationships.
"When I decided to transition, it was a cold shoulder and a lot of fires," Wade said.
Wade added that her mother was supportive throughout her transition and even helped with hormone shots. However, her father, whom Wade described as a man "bred for toxic masculinity," still didn't know.
One day, she had forgotten to bind her chest and her father caught her. Wade related that the confrontation ultimately exploded into a physical fightand she was chased out of the house as her father shot at her.
Wade and her father have since been rebuilding their relationship after he reached out to her. She emphasized the importance of letting people come to you after they have caused you pain and not let that pain stop you from being yourself.
"It's a privilege to be in my life," said Wade.
ESPN basketball broadcaster Brooke Wisebrod (she/her) was 33 when she first began to figure out her sexuality. The first person she came out to was her best guy friend, who not only helped her become comfortable with fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community but also became her dating mentor.
With family, however, she said that she is constantly coming out to them because they don't understand what it means to queer, Wisebrod said.
"It was hurtful," Wisebrod said. "It takes a lot to try to say who you are."
In addition, since her job put her on TV, she was hesitant to come outbecause she still was figuring herself out.
"What does [being out] look like? Do I change anything about my physical appearance?" Wisebrod said. "Like, going shopping for clothes was really stressful."
When she was ready to come out to her sports audience, however, she simply posted a photo of a rainbow with a simple caption on Instagram. She has since been using her platform to initiate conversations around social justice such as racial inequity and abortion laws.
Sekile M. Nzinga, the first chief equity officer in the office of Governor/J.B. Pritzker, described 2018 as the year she went "gray and gay." Not only had she come out, but she had decided to stop dyeing her hair, believing this was her first step to living authentically.
At first, she was terrified of coming out, especially to her family, as she had been married to her husband for 27 years and had children. However, she decided to take that leap of faith and the freedom that came with it was euphoric. Although some were shocked, her immediate family was supportive.
She began laughing when she revealed that she was actually coming out during the discussionif her family members could figure out how to work Facebook.
Nzinga also described how hesitant she was to come out to her colleagues at work.
"I'm not a shy person, but I'm shy as a queer person," she said.
She was also worried that coming out, especially in the world of higher education, would ultimately further commodify her identities as she was often asked to speak on panels regarding her race and gender rather than her work.
"I wanted to hold on to [her sexuality]," Nzinga said.
She did eventually come out at work when her colleague came out as well. She wanted to stand in solidarity and to help her colleague create a space for queer professionals in academia.
Each of the panelist's stories illustrated the courage needed to be themselves. From changing family dynamics to coming out to coworkers, their vulnerability and openness to their pain and joy brought a balanced perspective on what it means to come out.
They all continue to live happily and authentically as themselves and ended the conversation by encouraging other members of the community to come out on their own time.
"National Coming Out Week" events/initiatives for the rest of this week include(d):
Free food provided by Gotham Bagles
Gender Affirming Rooms open
QT Shop Open
Wed., Oct. 13
Free food provided by Gino's East
IG takeover with @Stealthbrosco at noon
Thursday, Oct. 14
Gender-affirming rooms open
QT Shop Open
FREE Make-up and Make-Up sessions in the Den and Makeup Room (MAKE-UP DONATED BY LADY GAGA!!!)
Friday, Oct. 15
Gender-affirming rooms open
QT Shop Op
Game Night!!! 5:00-7:00 PM ( at BSA. 1515 E. 52nd St.)
During National Coming Out Week (October 11-15), discounts will be given with the password "BRAVE AF" at the following restaurant and retail locations:
-Silverroom, boutique & jewelry, 1506 E. 53rd St.
-Majani Restaurant, 7167 S. Exchange Ave.
-Mellow Yellow Restaurant, 1508 E. 53rd St.
-Goose Island Tap Room, 1800 W. Fulton
-Early to Bed, Adult Entertainment, 5044 N. Clark St.