Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor



Vernita Gray: Fighting for 40 years
by Paul Marinkovich

This article shared 3916 times since Mon Jun 1, 2009
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Vernita Gray has dedicated most of her life to the fight for LGBT equality. She is the director of community relations and special events at the Cook County State's Attorney's office—a post she achieved after 16 years of service.

But Gray has been working with the LGBT community even before pride parades existed. She came out in the fall of 1969 and immediately organized a gay and lesbian hotline, and hosted support groups from her Chicago apartment.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," Gray said of her motivation to create change. "When I came out there wasn't any place that gays and lesbians could go and be safe. That is really what prompted me to become the community activist that I am today."

At just 20 years old, Gray found that many of her friends became homeless when the families discovered their sexual orientation. Her apartment became the "crash pad" and quickly transformed into a safe haven for homeless youth when they had nowhere else to go. Shortly after, Gray became involved with Gay Horizons, an LGBT community center that offered services to the homeless as well as to victims of hate crimes and domestic violence.

In 1992, Gray was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame for her resilient efforts as an early leader in the gay-liberation movement.

"It is a real acknowledgement of love," she said of the award. "To be in a city where the mayor acknowledges that gay and lesbian people have talent and that we are your sisters and your brothers and your doctors and your teachers. It also represents that we are a part of a larger community—that we are a part of the pie and the struggle. There are no ways around that. We are part of that pie here in Chicago and it is great that our mayor acknowledges that."

Now in her sixth decade, Gray not only works extensively with LGBT youth, but with the aging as well. She serves on the Task Force of the Aging, the LGBT advisory committee to the AARP and the National Gay and Lesbian Senior Task Force.

"I feel it is imperative to work with both populations because the services didn't exist 50 years ago," said Gray. "And really, when we talk about seniors, they still don't exist. I am a product of my time. When I was a youth, I had friends who were homeless. Now I have a friend who went into a senior residence and when I saw the way that she was being treated in there, I was appalled. We still have work ahead of us because we aren't all glamorous gays like you see on TV. Every gay man does not have a beautiful condo and track lights—let's face it. Some of us will age into senior residences because we don't always have someone to take care of us. So it is just a part of my life journey right now."

From opening up her home to homeless gay and lesbian youth to working with political and non-profit organizations, Gray says her work with the LGBT community is far from over.

"It is a lifelong commitment," she said. "It's an incredible family, it is an incredible love and it is definitely an incredible gift in my life that I could have never imagined."

This article shared 3916 times since Mon Jun 1, 2009
facebook twitter pin it 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.








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.