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Moxie networks LGBTs in urban planning areas
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

This article shared 4282 times since Thu Jan 22, 2015
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Steven Vance, a transportation blogger for Streetsblog, made a simple suggestion last January: that there be a group for queer transportation professionals.

At the time, Daniel Ronan was in the midst of a six-month job search, having moved to Chicago from Portland, Oregon, without a job and had spoken with more than 90 people in three months from three different sectors: transportation, historic preservation and economic development.

"Seeing the sheer number of people I had contacted, the number of them who happened to identify as queer, and the generally friendly attitude of everyone I have met in Chicago, I decided to expand Steven's suggestion and incorporate queer people from all urban policy and planning disciplines," said Ronan, who now serves as the organizer for Moxie—an interdisciplinary group of LGBTQA urban public policy and planning professionals in Chicago which seeks to break down the silos among different sectors, politics, and identities in Chicago and beyond.

"We're a diverse group with members spanning environmental, transportation, education, museums, real estate, economic development, law and other fields with a mission to connect, collaborate, and create community change.

"Our goals, while seemingly lofty, are quite tangible. Ask yourself, 'Have you taken the time to learn about another sector's jargon or culture? What would it take? Do you like beer and great company?' That's what we provide: a relaxed yet professional space in which people are free to network in the traditional sense if they please, but more importantly, learn about other people and what they do to make this city such a great place to live. By working together and meeting people outside of our typical policy worlds, we're able to broaden our outlook on our own work and make unlikely connections and collaborations happen—and have fun while doing it."

Ronan, 25, lives in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood—and has called Chicago home since October 2013. He is the manager of public engagement and site projects for the National Public Housing Museum. He identifies as queer.

"I help gather ideas for future [Moxie] programming and events the group will implement throughout the year," Ronan said. "I help lead broader discussions on the direction of future Moxie Meetups, whether they be cultural outings to museums, policy sessions on timely topics, general mixers, or educational tours. Also, I work closely with a core group of members which volunteers regularly to help prepare event programming, organize event logistics and give input on where to host future events."

There are about 100 in Moxie's online meetup group, and about 25 show up for its events.

"This group is for folks who want to be involved in a growing group that is thinking of new ways to look at common issues. This group should challenge you to collaborate, excite you to participate, and entice you to bring a friend," Ronan said. "At the start of the group, we tended to host social mixers as a way to build the group's base. Last fall we started to branch out by having a tour of the South Shore neighborhood. We also took a tour with Alison Fisher, the curator of the 'City Lost and Found' exhibit at the Art Institute, and had a tour of [the] 'Ink, Paper, Politics' exhibit at the DePaul Art Museum. We also had dinner and went to see Drunktown's Finest at the LGBT International Film Festival.

"In short, we've worked to incorporate outings and activities that have broader appeal to different identities and types of people."

Ronan said Moxie is, or should be, particularly appealing to newcomers to Chicago.

"Moxie, like the LGBTQ community, is like any microcosm of a larger group: we're unable to represent the breadth and complexity of our community to the fullest extent by virtue of who shows up, or doesn't, but we do offer a chance for those who do to shape the group they want," Ronan said. "For many, LGBT-identified groups are a bit passe in particular because the community today in the broadest sense does not experience the same level of discrimination as it did 25-plus years ago. Older queer people, for instance, have experienced a much different reality than Millennials.

"What Moxie can do, and I think is doing for the LGBTQ community, is highlighting just the amount of social capital we have as queer people and the various roles in which we can give back to our community. Regardless if we want to wave the rainbow flag or just create the space within which we can talk to people with similar identities and experiences as our own, the strength of Moxie is its members' abilities to share, to partner, and to collaborate.

"I think [Moxie] is important for members and broader LGBT people to ask why more queer people aren't in more leadership positions. Given the amount of talent we have, and an inherent professional drive I've noticed within the community, I don't see many out queer individuals at the head of many companies, non-profits and governmental organizations. Why is this?"

Ronan said the Moxie demographic is male-dominated, with a "small handful" of women who often participate in events and are actively looking for ways to encourage more women to join.

Moxie Meetups are held about once a month.

"Community change is getting people talking and getting them to act on what they talk about," Ronan said. "I think too often what happens when people form groups is that they accept people that typically are just like them, who think alike, and have the same friends. It's no wonder, then, how much of what we do turns out to be preaching to the choir, especially in places as liberal as Chicago. But meanwhile, we have aldermen who advocate against raising the minimum wage here, and even balk at $13 an hour. Does our community know that there is a gay alderman that is against raising the minimum wage? Community change would be having even slightly more people within the LGBTQ community understand regressive policies and platforms and take a stand for policies and politicians that more broadly reflect our beliefs.

"Taking it a step further, why are we continually fighting for a higher minimum wage? Shouldn't it just rise with inflation or another economic metric? Community change is asking the broader policy questions rather than fighting the fires of injustice every time they appear. Let's work as a community to create firebreaks and finally put out the fire."

Ronan scored his current job through Moxie. "My now-boss came to the first 'Moxie Mixer' along with 45 other people. It was a great event which really allowed me to see how I could take a group of seemingly disparate people and create a community. I would say the extension of my personal network through the group has also helped my efforts at work also by expanding my professional network."

So what is, Moxie?

A word, Ronan said—not an acronym.

"Someone who has moxie, has chutzpah, know-how, or guts," Ronan said. "The name is supposed to challenge you, encourage action, and be fun."

The group's first event of 2015 is Jan. 29, a tour of the pedway system. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. at Infields, with a tour at 6 and then more beer and socializing at Houlihan's. On Feb. 25, Moxie members will attend a University of Illinois-Chicago lecture featuring Windy City Times publisher Tracy Baim discussing ways to be more responsive to LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness.

"It's a long-standing goal for the group to become more engaged politically, I'd say, but what shape that takes and at what juncture this will happen will take some time to figure out and will require a broader conversation among group members," Ronan said. "In the meantime we'll be working to create policy forums which touch upon pressing issues such as LGBTQ-youth homelessness, affordable housing, and transit investments."

For more information about the Jan. 29 event, go to .

This article shared 4282 times since Thu Jan 22, 2015
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