Recently, local activist Robert Castillo donated his admirable collection of political buttonsa collection that encapsulates the fight for LGBT rights in Chicago and nationwideto Gerber-Hart Library.
Before he donated them, Windy City Times asked Robert to share 10 of his favorite buttons, along with a brief recollection about their significance, both to the community and to him personally.
I Support Marriage Equality
"I had this button made specifically to distribute at the Mayor's annual PRIDE reception and both John and I were members of the City of Chicago Advisory Council on LGBT Issues at the time. We distributed several hundred of them to reception attendees and presented one to Mayor Richard M. Daley. He was one of the first big city mayors to support marriage equality and wore the button while he delivered his speech. I am proud to say this button was made by Logan Square's Busy Beaver Button Company."
Mayor Washington For Chicago
"When Harold Washington ran for mayor, his candidacy energized a number of constituencies in Chicago and gave hope to many in the city's Black and Latino communities, who didn't feel they were represented or had a voice at City Hall. His first campaign made history when he was elected Chicago's first Black mayor. He acknowledged the role LGBTs played in his campaign and appointed Kit Duffy as his liaison to the gay and lesbian community. He won reelection to a second term, but unfortunately died in 1987 and though Eugene Sawyer was selected to replace Washington, much of the hope Washington inspired seemed to be missing during Sawyer's tenure."
Chuy Garcia For Mayor
"Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, a former city alderman, ran for Mayor in 2015 against current Mayor Rahm Emanuel and I was part of LGBTQs for Chuy! and helped secure LGBTQ endorsements for Garcia. I asked that an LGBT-specific button be made and this was what they came up with. Chuy had promised to restore the city's Advisory Council on LGBT Issues and appoint a an LGBT liaison, a position done away with by Emanuel. Though Chuy forced the Mayor into a run-off, Emanuel ended up winning re-election to a second term."
Neiu Gay & Lesbian Alliance
"This button was made by my late husband John Pennycuff, who became a member of the organization, which I co-chaired. We were the most active group on campus during my tenure and we held "Don't Assume I'm Straight" forums, information tables on National Coming Out Day and distributed condoms for World AIDS Day. Met many wonderful friends in the group and we even marched in the city's PRIDE Parade one year."
Queer Nation Chicago
"Queer Nation Chicago was the local chapter of the national direct action group and was dedicated to the visibility, equality, liberation, etc. of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. I became head of propaganda in the mid-'90s and created many of the organization's graphics, stickers, press releases, etc. and helped organize campaigns to pressure then-Cook County Board president Richard Phelan to pass a countywide anti-discrimination ordinance, including the now infamous "Waffle Toss." In addition, QN hosted the annual Stop The Violence Stop The Hate anti-violence march and supported many ACT UP Chicago actions."
I Support The Gender Identity Amendment
"Another button made exclusively for the mayor's annual PRIDE reception, this one was part of a campaign to amend the City of Chicago Human Rights Ordinance and Fair Housing Ordinance to include gender identity. The campaign to pass the amendment brought together a diverse group of LGBT activists and eventually passed. I am proud to say this button was also made by Logan Square's Busy Beaver Button Company."
I Attended John And Robert's Wedding Reception
"My partner, John, and I had been involved in the same-sex marriage issue in Chicago with Equal Marriage NOW and Lambda Legal's Freedom To Marry Committee when San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. John and I flew to SF and were married in SF's City Hall on March 5, 2004, and returned to Chicago on March 7 for our wedding reception, held at Ann Sather's on Belmont. Our friend Catherine Sikora made these buttons to give out to guests."
ˇYa LlegÃ" Chicago!
"Latino LGBTs came together to help organize the LLEGO conference in 1998. This was the first time that many different groupsincluding ALMA, Amigas Latinas, Minority Outreach Intervention Projectcame together to organize a conference. There was some tension, but the conference brought Latino LGBTs from all across the country and Puerto Rico to Chicago, and there was even an awesome kick-off celebration held at the National Mexican Museum of Art in Pilsen. This button was made by Logan Square's Busy Beaver Button Company."
I Fought Aids With Danny Sotomayor
"Danny Sotomayor was a prominent Puerto Rican AIDS activist and political cartoonist in the '90s who started off with the direct action AIDS activist group ACT UP Chicago but eventually left ACT UP to form CURE AIDS NOW. He was my inspiration to become an activist because he was out, was Latino, was from Humboldt Park and was an amazing activist. I was given this button by Lori Cannon and I treasure it."