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Barrington residents discuss local LGBT issues
by Matt Simonette

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Organizers said they were heartened by the turnout—about 80 or 90 people—for a July 23 meeting to discuss how Barrington can be supportive of its LGBT residents.

"We received a great deal of support from the community, and there were a lot of distinguished members of the community who showed up," said co-organizer Patrick Watson. "They just wanted to show support for us."

Co-organizer Diane Scholten, who is lesbian, noted that even Village President Karen Darch attended a portion of the meeting, adding, "It was a really wonderful night."

The meeting was prompted in part by two anti-LGBT incidents that occurred within the past several months in Barrington. The first involved a lesbian couple whose Pride flag was stolen and replaced by an American flag. The second involved a lesbian high school student whose reporting of online harassment led to vandalism on her front lawn. That student's family awoke to the sight of numerous forks on their lawn—to be construed as "fork you"—along with a sign suggesting she should kill herself. That incident has been treated by authorities as a hate crime.

The student's mother, Sharon Nelles, was a panelist July 23, as was Scholten; openly gay Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison; Village of Barrington Trustee Emily Young; Equality Illinois Director of Civic Engagement Anthony Galloway; Pastor Jana Chwalisz of St. Paul's United Church of Christ; therapist Brittany Rotelli-Morey; and parent Barbara Pintozzi.

Watson, a local activist and organizer who is an ally of the LGBT community, formed a Facebook group, One Barrington Area, after many community members attended a village trustees meeting shortly after the episode involving Nelles' daughter to register support.

"Both Diane and I thought about, 'What can we do beyond that?'" Watson said. "What can we do to have some form of action that could continue to happen over a short period of time? We thought it should be a form of community conversation, and we had a panel of people that came together and just spoke about the LGBTQ community in the Barrington area as a whole. These are your neighbors and these your friends. They have been in the community for years, so what can we do going forward?"

Watson added that some residents have floated the idea of a Pride event for Barrington, and they thought the online and in-person conversations would be ideal platforms from which to start working. An additional goal is likely to address bullying of LGBT youth.

"Patrick and I are both of the persuasion of, 'What can we do to make things better?'" Scholten added. "Even at that first [board of trustees] meeting, a lot of people said, 'This is great—what's next?'"

Beyond discussing the anti-LGBT episodes, Scholten further emphasized that the July 23 gathering was also about conceiving of an action plan which organizers will develop using surveys they collected following the meeting. She also praised Watson's efforts as well as the initial enthusiasm from the community and local officials.

Watson added that perhaps the moving portion of the meeting was when Chwalisz described the work her church had done so as to be welcoming to LGBT persons and their families.

"[Chwalisz] made it well-known that her church is very open to everyone, that they are a very affirming church, and that anytime we needed space, are welcome to the church, free of charge," Watson said. "There are members of the congregation from all backgrounds."

Scholten said, "That might have been the first part of the night when there was spontaneous applause—a lot of applause on that one."

For more information on One Barrington Area, see .

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