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Chicago Gender Society marks three decades
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-05-04

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The Chicago Gender Society ( CGS ) will celebrate 30 years of social, charitable and educational outreach Saturday, May 20, at their Glitz and Glam event at the Sheraton Suites Elk Grove. Transformations by Rori is co-hosting the event with CGS.

CGS' membership encompasses the entire LGBTQ community as well as allies to the community. Currently, CGS has about 80 members.

Monthly meetings have taken place since CGS' inception in May 1987. For the past 26 years, CGS' meetings have been held in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood. This location was chosen to accommodate members from as far as Wisconsin and Indiana as well as the Illinois cities of Joliet and DeKalb.

CGS' monthly newsletter, The Primrose, is also celebrating its 30th anniversary. The newsletter got its name at one of the first meetings when someone said, "Don't be led down the Primrose path."

The organization's current leadership includes President Nicole Richmond ( board member for the past 11 years ), Vice President Audry Farber ( former vice president and treasurer ), Treasurer and Primrose Editor and Publisher Karen Richmond ( former vice president and current board member for the past three years ), Secretary Jennifer and Representative at Large Juanita.

"In 2002, I became a member of CGS and the LGBTQ community which has allowed me to be my true self," said Nicole. "I was terrified when I came out in 1999 but that all changed when I got involved with CGS. They welcome everyone with open arms and provide a safe haven and a place to gather. CGS will always hold a special place in my heart."

"Congratulations to CGS on their 30th anniversary," said Karen. "CGS has given all a place to meet others at either their meetings, monthly socials or events. CGS is an extension of my family."

Not only are Nicole and Karen Richmond CGS leaders, but they are also a married couple.

"In 1993, I wandered into a CGS meeting alone and vulnerable," said Farber. "I wandered out accepted and less alone. In all the years since, I knew that I could walk into a meeting and it would be like a warm, affirming hug. My life has been incredibly enhanced by the support and love that I have felt there."

CGS has had a presence in Chicago's Pride Parade since 1985, the first two years under the National Gender Alliance banner.

"Over the years, the parade has become more phenomenal," said Nicole. "During the first years, the group walked the route, then we progressed to a convertible, then a truck with flat trailer and now a float. The reception of the crowds is truly amazing. We are looking forward to being a part of this years' parade."

Past CGS events have included annual holiday parties as well as bowling and golf outings. In prior years, CGS also had garden parties and picnics at members' homes. The group also held Miss CGS pageants for a number of years.

CGS was also a key player in the now defunct Be-All conference for many years ( beginning in 1982 ). The conference moved around each year to a different city, including Chicago. A number of CGS members were also on the Be-All board and many others volunteered during the conference.

"CGS was the only transgender group at its inception that welcomed everyone, no matter their sexual orientation or how they gender identified," said Gloria Wright ( former CGS president ). "Remember, this was 1987. People who had lost everything and everyone always found a home here. That is its continuing legacy."

Jacquiline Anne Perry ( former CGS president ) told Windy City Times that she has been a witness to many wonderful experiences that have been afforded to so many because of CGS.

"That's what CGS has to offer anyone who needs support in coming out, enjoying every day experiences and finding a place to fit in," said Perry. "In 30 years, we have seen so many people take advantage of what we have to offer so they could move on with their lives. Thirty years ago, some of us would have just stood at the doorway in fear and wondered if there was anything out there for us but times have changed. It is hard to count all the great friendships and shared experiences, and there truly are, because of CGS. I would like to thank all of those that shared in the leadership of CGS that allows us to continue our commitment into the future."

Katie Thomas ( former CGS president ) explained that she found CGS 17 years ago when she was just coming out of the closet.

"Time flies when you are having fun," said Thomas. "The fun began the second Tuesday of April 2000. That was when I attended my first meeting, stood up and said my name out loud and answered the 'dumb question' for which [former CGS president] Olivia Connors was so famous. With the encouragement and support of the wonderful girls ( and an occasional guy ) at CGS I learned about love, friendship and selflessness. The personal growth that followed; volunteering, holding office and working on The Primrose for many years, all helped make me the confident, happy woman that I am today. For this I will be forever grateful to CGS."

"I joined CGS in November 1990 and it literally changed my life," said Olivia Connors. "CGS gave me opportunities I never thought I would have had. I have been part of so many people's lives it is hard to comprehend what this solo organization has provided to all who have come and gone. CGS has given me courage, confidence and resistance and as I said, opportunities beyond belief. I cannot believe it has been 30 years. Congratulations to all who have been and all who still are making CGS happen."

In terms of the society's future Nicole said, "We would like to see CGS continue to grow. Even with all of today's modern technology, we still get first-timers seeking acceptance and guidance. We will continue to reach out to the LGBTQ community, doing outreach and educating the public."

To purchase tickets for the Glitz and Glam event, visit www.transformationsbyrori.com .

See chicagogender.com/ for more information .


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