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Proud and Included marks anniversary
by Vern Hester

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Proud and Included—a social and community outreach organization focused on expanding inclusion for LGBTQ adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the larger LGBTQ community—held a "meet and mingle" to mark its second anniversary. The event, which took place Feb. 28, was held at Center on Halsted, and was aimed at LGBTQ service providers, businesses, supporters and social organizations who are interested in finding ways to include the disabled.

Guests, advocacy participants, and supporters not only were greeted with a short program on how to expand inclusion but also a full-course buffet dinner, a DJ, and an open-mic section.

The evening kicked off with an introduction by Linda Sandman of Blue Tower Solutions and Tara Ahern of the Illinois Self Advocacy Alliance. Before introducing the Proud and Included ambassadors, Sandman said, "In the disability community, support is such a large part." The ambassadors are individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities who serve as representatives for the organization in meeting LGBTQ community-based organizations and businesses.

The program started when the audience was asked to name barriers that the LGBTQ community faces that, unsurprisingly, reflected the same barriers that the smbassadors face. When asked during a brief testimonial section, "What is a barrier you have faced?," Ambassador Jamece Agnew said, "Christian people telling me I will go to hell for being who I am." Other barriers cited included, "a lack of respect," being out regarding relationships with family, being judged, and finding and getting support in the community.

Next came a short section that addressed accommodations and tips for allies, organizations and businesses who want to support. The next segment featured a "Disability Humity Role Play" in which ambassadors demonstrated how people make assumptions regarding about the disabled while intentionally or unintentionally excluding them socially.

Organizations in attendance included Mount Sinai Hospital, CSS Services, The Illinois Council of Disability, Gender Queer Chicago, Leeda Services, Envision Chicago and Asian Human Services.

The next monthly advocate meeting will be Sunday, March 18, 12-2:30 p.m., at Center on Halsted.

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