While Wayne Besen loves New York City, where he originally headquartered Truth Wins Out ( TWO ), Chicago has also always been a love of his.
"I've called Chicago my mistress for a long timeor 'my mister' would be more appropriate," he told Windy City Times.
This December Besen moved TWO operations to Chicago.
The non-profit organization, dedicated to eradicating LGBTQ prejudice, found New York to be too expensive to base its operations from there, and moved to Burlington, Vt., a small college town with a population a little more than 40,000.
"We have a luxury in terms of [being] a small organization. We can run it as long as we have an Internet hookup and a satellite dish somewhere near by, we can run it," Besen said.
But Besen said he longed for the resources and organizations that a bigger city could offer.
"We looked at other factors: livability, affordability, a strong LGBT community. Chicago just seemed like a really great fit," he said. "Chicago just made a lot of sense. It's an incredible city with a very strong LGBT community and it's also a lot more affordable than Manhattan, or even Brooklyn now."
Besen said he was excited to be moving to the Midwest, but also said the region in general can be a contentious place, with organizations like Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, which is based in Illinois.
"I think the general region where you have incredibly strong community," he said. "Also in the Midwest there's a lot of fundamentalists as well, as you know, in the area. Even our nemesis Peter LaBarbera is right around the corner."
"I'm sure the ex-gay organizations aren't going to be thrilled with our presence there," he later added.
While he and his husband Jamie Brundage had already planned on moving before the llinois marriage equality bill had gone for a vote before the Illinois House of Representatives, Besen said he was relieved that they will not have to downgrade their marriage.
Besen said TWO is currently working on three major projects: the Not All Christians Are Like That Project, an LGBTscience.org website, and a definitive website on the extremism of what he terms the ex-gay movement, which is still in its developing stages.
"We want to do some more in-depth research and really look at these groups and make a persuasive case, not just slap some stuff up there or do things that have been done before," he said.
Besenwho said he has spoken at the Center on Halsted, worked with the Gay Liberation Network, and conducted press conferences with gay-rights activist Rick Garciasaid the move to Chicago will open the organization to better fundraising and less travel, among other things.
"I think we'll be in a much better position in terms of getting people involved, and I think it will improve the development arena," he said. "We work together whenever possible, and so we're looking forward to making some new friends, and reconnecting with some old ones."
Besen sees the current cultural state for gays and lesbians as a decisive one, which can put an end to discrimination.
"The ex-gay industry has been fairly discredited and severely weakened in the United States. This is the time to finish the job," he said. "That doesn't mean they won't still be there, to some extent. As long as there is prejudice and discrimination there will be a market for these types."
As for the city of broad shoulders, Besen said he and his husband are looking forward to a thriving LGBT community, making new friends, and returning to city life.
"Just the energy," he said. "You just can't manufacture that anywhere. As much as you'd like to, you can only get that in a few places."