Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor

  IDENTITY

Gaylon Alcaraz: The personal became the political
by Micki Leventhal
2010-04-01

This article shared 3941 times since Thu Apr 1, 2010
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Gaylon Alcaraz, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund ( CAF ) , grew up in Chicago and graduated from Queen of Peace High School on the far southwest side. Her experiences as a minority African-American student in this all-girls school set her on her path fighting for social justice.

"There were only about 30 Black kids in my class. It was the 1980s and there was still a lot of racism, a lot of isolation, separation. I remember being targeted in certain classes," explained Alcaraz, who credits her family for much of her naturally outspoken spirit.

"The high school environment was very traumatic for me, but it was a powerful learning experience. It wasn't easy, but it made me in a lot of ways. Seeing what is right and what is wrong and not backing down from that and refusing to have my voice stifled."

Alcaraz began as a community organizer, educating low-income renters on HUD regulations and other housing issues. Mother of two ( Nicholas, 21, and Zoe, 16 ) , she has worked with local school councils, neighborhood organizations and numerous youth development initiatives, as well as sexual minority, gender equity, anti-violence and race and culture issues. Is there one issue that stands out for her as being more important than another?

"If a gay person doesn't have healthcare, or a job that provides healthcare, that's economic—plus gender, plus LGBT. It is all intertwined," she said. "All the issues hold high importance. When everything is not balanced the way it should be in society, you have a lack of justice. I could leave CAF someday and work in affordable housing because it is all tied together."

For Alcaraz, even the experience of coming out as a lesbian became connected with her activism. "I had left an abusive marriage. I did not get involved with women because of this, but after leaving the relationship I found I was attracted to one of my co-workers," she said.

Nothing romantic ever became of that crush, but it opened Alcaraz's eyes and heart to the possibility of an orientation for which she had no framework or reference point. She went to People Like Us bookstore looking for answers.

"I gathered up books and all the free newspapers," she said. "I found Blacklines [ which was merged with En la Vida to form the online publication Identity ] and read it from front to back. I called every number in the resource section that seemed like it was for Black lesbian women. The only one that called back was Affinity, and that's how I became involved with them. I went to a meeting, scared to death—drove down from Lincoln Park to 62nd and Indiana. My life was changed from that point." She became a volunteer for the group, writing their newsletter and undertaking a myriad of other duties. Most recently she served as board vice president. "I did not come out in the bars. I came out into activism," she said. Relationships followed.

Alcaraz, 42, returned to college after joining CAF in May 2005. She enrolled in DePaul University's School for New Learning, designing a course of study in organizing marginalized communities. She finished her undergraduate degree two years ago and is now pursuing her master's in applied professional studies/reproductive-justice issues.

"You can come into social justice work early or late," Alcaraz said. "I landed this first executive director position without a degree, but I had a lot of experience, a lot of passion, some skills and I was given a chance." For those wanting to follow a similar path she suggests volunteering, taking classes and networking: "Go to events, meet people, get outside your comfort zone. And follow your passion."

Alcaraz writes about the history and ongoing struggle to protect women's reproductive freedom at chicagoabortionfund.com/ed_report.php.

Alcaraz and 24 other activists were honored Wed., March 24, at the Chicago Foundation for Women 2010 Impact Awards.


This article shared 3941 times since Thu Apr 1, 2010
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email





Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.



Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 

 

 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.