Memorial Day just passed and Chicago has decided to honor it by honoring LGBTQ veterans for their services to the country.
The American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) group unveiled a memorial that honors LGBTQ veterans and that stands in front of an LGBTQ friendly senior living center this past Memorial Day and also to celebrate their 25th anniversary.
This makes it the first one of its kind in Chicago. Plus, there are only a few more in the country overall.
The Windy City Times reported that many city officials and LGBTQ organizations like the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, the Windy City Gay Chorus, and Travis, either participated in the event or commented on the beauty and purpose of the granite monument.
For instance, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky spoke at the unveiling that, “Every veteran should be remembered and honored for their service.” And, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had a message read at the event that said that the monument is “a tribute to the sacrifice of our soldiers."
Part of what’s amazing about this monument is that just a decade ago it would have been immensely harder to do.
Though the AVER website says that, “The first monument specifically dedicated to the memory of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered veterans was dedicated on Memorial Day, 27 May, 2001, through the cooperative efforts of AMVETS Post 66 and Palm Springs Gay Veterans.”
At the same time, life as a LGBTQ soldier was hard. Soldiers were hiding in plain sight because it was illegal and socially unwarranted to be open in the military.
We would be where South Korea is today, creating a hostile environment for LGBTQ soldiers and servicepeople.
But, thankfully “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was lifted and the environment for LGBTQ soldiers has lightened (though, it has not entirely gotten to a perfect and for the better position yet).
Still, this is a time to celebrate and remember, as the Chapter Vice President and Treasurer of AVER, Timothy Zylstra, said at the event. “You see what our voices together can accomplish.”
We here at Instinct Magazine would like to take this moment to thank all the veterans and current servicemen out there, both LGBTQ and otherwise, for your work and commitment to fighting for all of us.