Recognizing influential and important members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer community should not be limited to Pride Month. As we enter July, Chicago's gay scene remains just as vibrant and inspiring as it was in June.
Whether it's the activists who continue working for equal rights through Join The Impact and the Gay Liberation Network or intelligent bloggers who even manage to catch the attention of homophobe Mike Huckabee, Chicago has no shortage of engaged gays.
One woman who has been a staple in Chicago's LGBT scene for years is Trish Bendix. Bendix, who was raised in Michigan but has called Chicago home for nearly a decade, has written on queer life & art, music, pop culture and media for The Village Voice, Time Out Chicago, Out, Punk Planet, Planet Out/Gay.com, Rockpile, The Chicago Tribune's ChicagoNow and Bitch. She has also organized a queer music festival and spearheaded the first LGBT-dedicated panel at South By Southwest this year.
She currently is the Managing Editor for MTV/Viacom's AfterEllen.com, a site dedicated to covering lesbian and bisexual women in pop culture and the media.
Recently named one of Chicago's "30 Under 30" for her work in the gay community, HuffPost Chicago spoke with Bendix--a Chicagoan you should know, and that I have been happy to know since our young and wild days as college journalists.
You have experience writing about many things. Why did you want to get involved in covering LGBT issues/life?
When I came out in college, I was writing primarily about music so I went to a panel about freelancing for arts and entertainment publications. Albert Williams from the Reader was one of the panelists, and he talked about being an openly gay theater critic who got his start writing for several niche GLBT publications. It was the first time I had even considered that there was an opportunity for me to write about something that was not only of interest to me, but directly affected my life.
Chicago's print publications for the gay community have definitely dwindled. Do you think the popularity of queer blogs has something to do with that?
Definitely. The internet and the economy. Of course it's not just gay publications, but I can speak to that specifically. A major thing the gay print pubs here lack is they are always going to be behind. When you have people like me whose job it is to find the relevant lesbian news bytes and write them up in five seconds flat, it's impossible for the Windy City Times for the Free Press (R.I.P.) to keep up with the content and make it still newsworthy a week later. And blogs just make it so easy to seek out specific things that you are looking for, so even if you're interested in gay Chicago, you can find out what's going on for gay women in Chicago; or gay women coming to play Chicago. Gay women are often left behind in these print publications because the advertisers are mostly male-owned/male-driven businesses. The half-nude men in all the ads are enough to drive lesbian readers away!
You are recently engaged, and many gay couples in Chicago have decided to either marry elsewhere or have ceremonies even though gay marriage isn't legal. How long do you think the gay community in Illinois will have to wait for equal rights? And what made you decide to go for it anyway?
We're getting married in Iowa, which happens to be where my partner is from. I'm happy to give them my tourism dollars in exchange for their recognizing my vows. Of course, it won't have any merit here in Illinois, but it's more of a symbolic thing for us. We want the recognition from our families and the people in our lives. We have friends that were married in California and remain legally married (for now) and they say it was the best thing they've ever done. And honestly I had never wanted to be married before - it was never something I dreamed for myself, even as a girl. So now that I have the ring on it, and a partner I can stand seeing every day for the rest of my life, I feel strongly that I should be part of the demand so that eventually the government will supply. And I have to say that my friends Deb Mell and Christin Baker are working hard for visibility in Illinois, and I commend them for bringing the issue to the top of the list.
Favorite lez hangouts in Chicago: Go!
You have to buy books from Women and Children First. It's sacrilege not to! They have an awesome selection of lesbian-penned fiction/biographies and host so many of the writers when they stop through town. Joie de Vine is my favorite place to have a cocktail. Lesbian-owned, classy and quiet - perfect for drinks with friends or a date. If you want to bring a bunch of people you already know to somewhere you can get rowdy, Spyner's karaoke or T's are always sure bets. The best girl parties are thrown by Jenae Williams, so follow her if you want to know where to go. She hosts Stardust at Berlin on Thursdays but that's just one night - she's always got six more ready to go. And Early 2 Bed is a lesbian-owned feminist sex toy shop, which means it's obviously the number one stop for, uh, your needs. And while it may not be a lesbian hang, Feed in Humboldt Park is lesbian-owned and the best cheap Southern food you'll eat in the city. They even have brunch, and it's off the beaten-path so it's never too busy.
My favorite thing about my job is that I love it. I'm excited about working every day - that I get paid to write about queer women in pop culture and how they are positioned in the media. And I work at home with my pug. It's pretty ideal. My least favorite thing - hands down - is dealing with commenters. When you open things up to to debate, you better be prepared for debaters. It's just one of the things you deal with when you work on the internet. You learn to grow a thick skin, if you didn't have one already. The hard part is that lesbians feel like they have very little places to speak up and get themselves heard or spoken for correctly, so they are ready and willing to give you their opinions on anything, from the best "Buffy" characters to why girl-on-girl kisses are hurting visibility for real queer women. The upside is, you can always learn something from an insightful commenter, even if they're telling you how much you suck.
Follow Trish on Twitter here! Check out last week's "Five Questions" interview with Green Party Senate candidate LeAlan Jones here.