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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-12-13



United Church of Hyde Park hosts LGBTQ+ storytelling event
by Jess Savage

This article shared 11940 times since Mon Mar 25, 2024
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About 20 people had gathered around four round tables in the community room of the United Church of Hyde Park, 1448 E. 53rd St., on March 23. They were listening quietly to a man tell the story of how, on a recent trip to Peru, he went into a bar with a massive rainbow flag in the window, thinking it was a gay bar, only to find out that the Inca flag looks almost exactly like the pride flag.

A dozen people told stories of hardship, triumphs and joys at the Donuts, Faith, and My Coming Out Stories event at the church that day. It was the second event in this series, with more planned in the coming months.

"Not only is this about coming out, but it's also about letting people in," co-host Venise Keys said.

Attendees spanned multiple generations and identities, and each was welcomed warmly by the audience. Claps and laughs filled the large event room, which was decorated with kids' paper crafts and motivational posters.

"Even when, sometimes, people are not receptive to your story, sometimes it's good to tell your story — because it's a relief to you," United Church's Rev. Charlene Hill said.

Rev. Charing Wei-Jen Chen helped to host the event. It was also his first time sharing his coming out story to an audience. He didn't feel intimidated or scared because other people got up to tell their stories as well, he said.

"I think people have a story to tell, and that people may not have the opportunity to tell their story in an appropriate environment," Chen said.

Each participant who shared a story followed a particular format, so that the audience could welcome and encourage them.

"We are privileged to be here to support you and participate in your journey," the audience chanted after the storyteller shared their name and pronouns. They repeated this phrase when the participant finished their story.

Welcoming people to tell their coming out stories in a safe setting is important to maintain the church's commitment to allyship and support for LGBTQ+ people.

The pride flag hanging outside of the church has been stolen by unauthorized people multiple times, leaving some members feeling unsafe. The church released a statement announcing they will continue to support their LGBTQ+ members, host LGBT-focused programming and continue to display a pride flag.

Co-host Keys shared stories of her own, read poetry and welcomed the audience to come up to share experiences around their sense of place, family, and identity. She offered encouragement and commended each person for their bravery and vulnerability.

"The donuts were sweet, the stories were sweeter," Keys said.

The first storytelling event took place on National Coming Out Day in October last year, and they're hoping to continue hosting similar events every season.

The next Coming Out Stories event takes place in June. The church is asking for a suggested donation to participate, which will support their LGBTQ+ ministries.

This article shared 11940 times since Mon Mar 25, 2024
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