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LETTER Coming Out event
2017-10-24

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Dear Editor:

Firstly, I think it is important to state, how much I appreciated being asked by the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus leadership to participate in the National Coming Out event. After reviewing both print and online editions of the article "Affinity hosts Coming Out Day event" ( in the Oct. 18 issue of Windy City Times ), I thought it appropriate I send this communique.

As one of several speakers who participated in the process of telling a room full of mostly strangers my personal coming-out story—an emotional, self-acknowledging, publicly empowering, self—actualizing storytelling experience—I understood and took serious this culturally competent personal milestone responsibility.

I was honored to speak publicly among those with whom I hold in high regard, especially in what I considered, inclusive environment hosted by Affinity Community Services, Brave Space Alliance and Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus—all organizations that do the social-justic work desperately needed in the marginalized communities on the South and West sides of Chicago.

My participation at the "Our Stories Our Voices" experience was a psychologically empowering experience, personally and was, therefore, too important to me to be inaccurately reported by the press, especially during these times when reporting is routinely dismissed as "fake news."

For the sake of journalistic accuracy, please note, I firstly reintroduced myself to the crowded room as an openly gay African-American who is economically disadvantaged and of advanced age. I'm also a lifelong Chicagoan who was raised in Chatham—a Black middle-class community in the 1970s.

Additionally, I recalled several facts associated with my educational background in primary and secondary Catholic parochial schools. I also mentioned being raised in Chatham by conservative, thoroughly Catholic parents in that middle-class neighborhood and being routinely shuttled to extended family members who lived in Chicago public housing. I stated, "Throughout my formative years until I was 14 years old, I and my brothers were baby-sat by older relatives who lived in the Robert Taylor housing project, the 4500 S. State building, Apartment 605." In addition, I said, "And, most importantly, like most Black young males living in the housing projects, I learned how to fight!"—which I remember drew a laugh from some in the crowd.

I recalled my personal politically empowering experiences, some of my experiences volunteering for Harold Washington's mayoral campaign, and bringing African-American electoral candidates to predominately Black gay bars.

I talked about my experiences as the first openly gay African-American legislative staffer and point person for criminal-justice legislative agendas for Illinois state Rep. Constance "Connie" Howard. There is also the "second-chance" legislation that has positively impacted some in LGBTQ communities—and how I talked about how proud I was to see it being implemented by Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown office as a civic outreach effort at the Center on Halsted!

I talked about my associations during the years with many LGBTQ progressive agendas and progressive LGBTQ action groups but, especially, the Affinity Community Services, like my participation in the October 2013 Affinity members advocating SB 10 by speaking with Illinois Legislative Black Caucus members inside the state capitol. This was before and during the actual March on Springfield rally that was voted on in November of the veto session of that year by the Illinois General Assembly.

Also, I was unfortunately surprised, and briefly perturbed, to not only read the misspelling of my name in the online photography caption that introduced the article, which correctly spelled my name in the actual article. But to add insult to injury, there was no mention of the above previously mentioned information that accurately reported my pubic participation in the "Our Stories Our Voices" experience.

Sincerely,

Michael O'Connor

Chicago


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