Chicago Pride 2018: The ultimate guide to the city’s LGBTQ celebrations
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Chicago’s 2018 Pride month is officially underway with events and celebrations throughout the city all month long leading up to Chicago’s Pride Parade on June 24.
Pride began in New York City in the 1970s after the Stonewall Rebellion in Greenwich Village. Originally a time for protest, especially during the AIDS epidemic, it became a more festive celebration of gay identity in the 1990s.
Today, Pride is celebrated throughout the month of June in cities across the world, including Chicago.
In this story, you’ll find:
- A calendar of Pride events
- Pride reflections and advice from Chicago’s LGBTQ community
- Resources for more Pride information
- Everything you need to know about the Pride Parade
To help you make plans, the Sun-Times will be sharing information about Pride events in Chicago and throughout Illinois.
Pride Events June 4-10
June 4: FILM SCREENING of “Puzzles: When Hate Came to Town”
The Beverly Branch Library, (1962 W. 95th St., Chicago) hosts a screening of “Puzzles: When Hate Came to Town” on Monday at 6 PM. “Puzzles” is the story of what happens after a teenager brutally attacks the patrons of a gay bar called Puzzles Lounge in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
June 6 (through June 7): PLAY
“Pink Orchids” by Patrick Cash opens at the Buena Theater: Pride Arts Center (4147 N. Broadway, Chicago.) on Wednesday June 6. The show is told in five different, yet interwoven and funny monologues that explore the range of emotions that come with the diagnosis of HIV. T
June 7: FILM SCREENING of “Straightlaced-How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up”
“Straightlaced-How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up” investigates long-held notions of gender and sexuality and shows how the pressures to conform to gender and sexuality norms are actually harming American teens. The screening will be held on Thursday at the Edgewater Branch Library (6000 N. Broadway, Chicago.) at 4 p.m.
June 8: LIP SYNC BATTLE & RECEPTION BY WOMEN FOR WOMEN
The Center of Halsted’s Women’s Action Committee (3656 N. Halsted, Chicago.) hosts a lip sync battle at 6 p.m. with a reception to follow.
June 9: STRIP JOKER: PRIDE with Glitter Moneyyy
This queer, body positive comedy event at Uptown Underground (4707 N Broadway, Chicago.) pays homage to queer body positivity and visibility. The event will feature body positive stand-up, followed by a performance by Glitter Moneyyy, and a body positive dance party.
June 10: IO PRIDE
This free event hosted on Sunday at iO Chicago (1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago) from 12 p.m.-12 a.m. is a day-long event celebrates LGBTQIA+ comedians and performers. There will be live music, stand up, comedy acts, drag, improv, beer, and food.
Pride 2018 Events, June 11-17
June 11: Pride Mosaics at Volumes Bookcafe
June 12: Pride Story Time
June 13: Variety Show
June 13: Trans Community Ice Cream Social
The Center on Halsted’s third annual Trans Ice Cream Social will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on the center’s rooftop deck. This event is free; no RSVP is required.
June 15: Pride Latinx Dance Party
June 16-17: Chicago Pride Fest
Pride 2018 Events, June 18-24
June 19: Panel Discussion
A notable panel of influential Chicago LGBTQ+ activists will gather at The City Club of Chicago at 11:30 a.m. for a discussion called “Taking Pride in Our Story: Chicago and Its LGBTQ Community.” Tickets cost $35 for members and $50 for non-members.
June 20: Awards Ceremony
Windy City Media Group hosts the “30 Under 30 Awards” from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Polo Café and Catering. The ceremony honors 30 LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who have sparked positive change in Chicagoland.
This summer solstice party, hosted by gender non-conforming writer, educator and performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon, will feature fellow queer artists of color at the Berlin Nightclub for a fun-filled night. The event lasts from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m and costs $10 to attend.
June 21-24 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes
The Neo-Futurists theatre group has four performances of this show. The one on June 21st is a benefit for Brave Space Alliance, an LGBTQ center on the city’s South Side.
June 22: Pride Parade Kick Off
The Center on Halsted hosts in annual Pride Parade Kick Off party on it’s rooftop terrace overlooking Halsted Street.
June 22-23: Pride Comedy Party
The Playground Theater on North Halsted Street will host Chicago’s premier LGBTQ+ comedy collective for two evenings of improv and drinks at 10:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15.
June 22- 24 Back Lot Bash
A music and entertainment festival in Andersonville that includes:
- Fri June 22 | Back Lot Bash’s ‘Whiskey, Wine & Women’ A Pride Tasting Event
- Sat June 23 | Back Lot Bash’s ‘Pride Family Fest’ 11am-2pm
- Sat June 23 | Back Lot Bash’s Flagship Outdoor Music Fest / All Day Bash
- Sun June 24 | Back Lot Bash’s Post Parade Outdoor Music Fest / Post Parade Bash
June 23: Chicago Dyke March
The 22nd Dyke March is Little Village at Piotrowski Park.
June 23: Pier Pride
Navy Pier’s third annual event kicks off at noon that Saturday, and features fun activities and performances. The family-friendly Pride event is the largest in Chicago outside of the Lakeview neighborhood.
June 23-29: Tap Dance Show
The Chicago Tap Theatre, the Athenaeum Theatre and artistic director Mark Yonally present “Tapped for the Very First Time” on June 23 and 29 at 7 p.m. This program features dance inspired by divas, a performance by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and is hosted by Mattrick Swayze.
June 24: Pride Parade
The parade is the headlining event of Chicago Pride Month. The city’s 49th annual Pride Parade begins at noon and will feature Orlando “El Fenomeno” Cruz, the first openly gay active professional boxer, as the parade’s grand marshal. Each year around 1 million people attend this celebration in Boystown so check out all of our Pride tips below to make the most out of this special Chicago happening.
June 24th: Pride North
Scott Duff talks Chicago Pride
- It feels like the entire city comes out to support the community! It’s amazing to feel that love.
- The weather always cooperates on the day of the Pride Parade.
- The variety of events across the city during the month of June. You can find queer comedy, storytelling, theatre, music and parties all over Chicago.
- A renewed sense of activism that is generated every year.
- ROTC (the Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corp) in the parade. Oh…and the gay cowboy two-steppers. They’re FABULOUS!
CST: What are your insider tips about how best to celebrate Pride in Chicago?
Duff: Celebrate Pride all month long! There are a ton of events all over the city that celebrate our queer culture and history that extends way beyond Halsted Street. (Check out the Legacy Walk on Halsted Street for stories about LGBTQ heroes.)
CST: Pride is clearly about more than parties, tell us what it means to you?
Duff: I always remind myself that almost 50 years ago, people rioted so that we can have a parade. The LGBTQ rights movement began as a reaction to police harassment and brutality, and the original warriors were people who are still marginalized in our community (POC, Trans+ women of color, gender non-conforming folks). It’s amazing to see how far we have come in the fight for equality (and in a relatively short amount of time), and it’s a reminder that the fight isn’t over.
CST: … but speaking of parties, list the five best parties of the Pride season, and tell us — why do you love them?
- OUTSPOKEN LGBTQ Storytelling at Sidetrack – Our community has one of everyone under the LGBTQ umbrella. It’s empowering to hear stories from diverse experiences and perspectives. Every time I go, the room becomes a tribe, a community.
- The Pride Parade – because … duh … it’s a parade.
- All of the queer comedy shows that pop up (Babywine and Steamworks The Musical at The Annoyance), Queer AF Show and Let’s Make This Perfectly Queer (The Second City), Strip Joker (Uptown Underground), The KIKI: Queer Comedy with Variety.
- Midsommarfest in Andersonville – it’s like the unofficial kick off to Pride. Plus street fair food. I always prefer my potato chips to be cut by electric drill and covered in cheese.
- My house, any time the grill gets fired up.
CST: Who are some of the people in the Chicago LGBTQ community who make a difference?
- Tracy Baim – Editor Windy City Times
- Imani Rupert-Gordon – Affinity Community Services
- Bea Cordelia – filmmaker, writer, actor, activist
- Brian C. Johnson – Equality Illinois
- The guys from The Sip (Lenox Magee, David Dodd and Isaac King)
CST: What are some things only a Chicago pride parade expert would know?
- Get there early to get a good space.
- Wear something cute and fabulous.
- Make sure your sign is on point.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
- For the love of all things holy, don’t drive.
The 49th annual Chicago Pride Parade is Sunday, June 24. The parade steps off at noon at Broadway and Montrose.
Jerry Nunn on what Pride means to him
A longtime writer/photographer for many of the city’s top LGBTQ media outlets, like Windy City Times and ChicagoPride.com plus WGN Radio, Jerry Nunn, talked to the Sun-Times about what Pride means to him:
Nunn: To me, it’s about all the people around me supporting me for being a proud gay man and my authentic self. Growing up in the South where there was no Pride parade, it is important just to show up and be counted every year when I can in Chicago. With Chicago being in the middle of the Midwest we draw from the surrounding states making this one of the biggest Pride parades that continues to grow each year.
CST: Who are some of the local LGBTQ heroes?
Nunn: Great gay theater makers, including:
- David Zak with Pride Films and Plays
- David Cerda with Hell in a Handbag
- Jeremy Owens with You’re Being Ridiculous
- Steppenwolf’s LookOut series
- About Face Theatre and its LGBTQ-focused programming
CST: The best way to celebrate Pride month and tips for the June 24th parade?
Nunn: Come out of the closet and get involved! Join an organization and march with them in the parade whether it’s a big corporation, religious organization, political figure or dance troupe. If you are not a member of the LGBTQ community, come be a part of history by walking by their side.
- bring water, comfortable shoes to march in
- be kind to those around you, and if someone is not kind, walk away
- dress as flamboyantly as possible
Equality Illinois’ Eric Wilkerson celebrates the spirit of unity during Pride
In his role at Equality Illinois, Eric Wilkerson focuses on community building efforts in Chicago’s LGBTQ community. He told the Sun-Times that Pride is a time to celebrate those efforts but also a time for reflection.
Wilkerson: Pride is fun. But it should also be a reminder to everyone that the lives of LGBTQ people were not always celebrated. It does take years of activism, civic duty and active citizenship to achieve progress and changes in policy that influence the lives of human beings. Now, it’s an honor to be able to celebrate my identity openly and authentically with so many other humans.
CST: What else does Pride mean to you?
Wilkerson: As a gay man, I am always cautious (and will always be cautious) of my surroundings. Walking around the world each day, I am constantly fearful of being yelled at or attacked, but when June hits each year, I’m swiftly reminded of the support and love not just from loved ones, but from society. It’s deeply impactful for a community that has been under-served and unrecognized for so many years to be able to celebrate our identity (proudly) with the world.
CST: What are your favorite things about Pride?
- The spirit of unity
- The city showing up for the community
- The activism
- The parade
- The street festivals
CST: What is Equality Illinois working on during Pride?
Wilkerson: Equality Illinois has a Pride kick-off brunch every year when over 300 people come together to launch the month of Pride. Music, food, libations, top notch politicians, candidates, and such a variety of individuals fostering hope and connection while exuding a prideful spirit. At this year’s brunch on June 3rd, two Illinois activists were named 2018 Equality Illinois Community Pride Honorees for their strong, ongoing leadership on LGBTQ issues. They are Nicole Bashor, who spearheads support for political candidates in Illinois who back pro-LGBTQ policies, and Saúl Aviña Jr., who has spent a decade working on HIV treatment and prevention programs.
Equality Illinois marches in the Pride Parade, participates in Pride Fest and Midsommarfest. Plus, Equality Illinois is raising funds to continue our work, including with the help of Leghorn Chicken, which has a pride milkshake and a portion of the proceeds of each milkshake go directly to our group. Similarly, you can buy a bag of coffee beans from Passion House Coffee (the Equality Illinois branded bag), and a large portion of your purchase goes directly to the organization. So my tip is to enjoy the flavors of the city while also giving back to the community!
CST: Tell us about your favorite Pride happenings?
Wilkerson: One is the Center on Halsted’s rooftop party during the Pride parade: This is a private event that puts you on their rooftop watching the experience take place. Of course, Pride parade: This event is busy, exciting, and so very energetic. To see 1 million-plus people showing up to support the LGBTQ community is inspiring.
Renauda Riddle looks forward to events for LGBTQ women
Renauda Riddle helps put together one of the best Pride kick-off parties in Chicago: the “By Women For Women Lip Sync Contest” at the Center on Halsted, the largest LGBTQ community center in the Midwest, and it’s hosting an assortment of Pride events all month long. The BWFW party is Friday, June 8th.
CST: Tell us more about the kick-off party.
Riddle: I love the diversity and sheer joy in the room Center On Halsted’s BWFW Pride Kickoff Party. It celebrates LGBTQ female-identified women. Plus, the event gives women a nurturing and affirming space.
CST: What does Pride mean to you?
Riddle: It means we celebrate and reflect on all the people who have fought for us to be who we are openly; to have the same rights as anyone else; and to marry who we love.
CST: What are your favorite things about Pride?
- BWFW Pride Kickoff event
- The sense of community
- The pride parade and multitude of events that happen all over the city celebrating LGBTQ Pride!
CST: Any tips you want to share about the Pride Parade?
- You need to be in a bar to have a proper toilet. Lol!
- Head north after the parade for “Pride North,” a street festival held in Rogers Park with DJ’s and dancing for the 30 and up crowd after the Pride parade.
- Be aware that you can’t cross west to east or east to west once the parade gets started.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- Last but not least, Take Monday off!!
Steve Milford talks about what Pride means to him
Steve Milford is an entrepreneur who has worked in the service industry in Chicago for many years, including co-founding one of the city’s first LGBTQ sports bars. He hopes everyone remembers to tip the people who have to work during the Pride celebrations, especially those on the job during the Pride parade.
CST: What does Pride mean to you?
Milford: Working 11 years at Roscoe’s in the middle of it all, it is amazing to see how far we, as a community, have actually come: Gay marriage.Trans awareness. I served on the “Out At Wrigley” board for several of its beginning years. I also co-owned, along with Brian Wells, and opened a gay sports bar in 2004 name Crew bar + grill that was (a) groundbreaking idea in itself at the time, and we were able to help bring the Stanley Cup to its first gay Pride parade in 2013 with the Chicago Gay Hockey League. I love this city and its support for our community.
CST: What are some of the best Pride parties?
- Midsommarfest Fest in Andersonville – it’s a Pride warm up!
- Pride Fest especially when the Sixteen Candles band performs. There is just something very special singing all those 80’s songs with your “gay” family.
- Pride North – for the folks my age who still want to have fun but not Halsted Street Pride parade craziness.
CST: What’s your best Pride advice?
Milford: Be sure to celebrate with the ones you love and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Also:
- Pace yourself
- Have fun
- Give lots of love
- Be patient
- Tip all those people who have to work!
Matthew Harvat A.K.A. “Circuit Mom” on celebrating Pride
As a long time Chicago D.J., events producer & drag queen performer who goes by the name “Circuit Mom, Matthew Harvat is a Pride party expert so we asked him to fill us in on the city’s best Pride celebrations. Here are his comments:
Harvat: Everyone has a different idea of what Pride means to them which means people celebrate in their own way. There are the mass appeal events such as Pride Fest, which draws people in from all over the Midwest to North Halsted Street the weekend prior to the parade. There is the annual rooftop party at The Center On Halsted every year on Friday night of Pride weekend with DJ’s, performers and an amazing view of Boystown. There are spectacular events at all the bars along Halsted street the entire month of June celebrating not only their own history, but the future of our community. Even the small house parties people host for their friends can be the best Pride event of the season. For me, the best parties are the ones that empower each person in their own way to feel accepted, loved and motivated to make a difference.
CST: What are your five favorite things about Pride overall?
1. There is nothing more exciting during Pride then having the opportunity to ride on a float in the parade and seeing the endless sea of happy faces and flags waving, little kids with their parents and people cheering as you roll by. It is very empowering.
2. All of the people that come to Chicago from all over the world to share in the excitement of seeing their friends, making new ones and experiencing togetherness.
3. The energy that builds for weeks leading up to Pride Sunday with events all over the city.
4. Seeing the Pride colors light up our beautiful skyline. The London House Hotel, the Prudential building and more show their colors at night and it’s amazing. Also, when places like Second City and The Hotel Inter-Continental proudly display the gay pride flag outside of their buildings, it means a lot to me, personally.
5. Reflecting back on the last 30 Pride Sundays I have celebrated thinking about where we were, how far we’ve come and how long we have to go. It is all good.
CST: Speaking of reflections, what does Pride mean to you in 2018?
Harvat: For me, it is somewhat introspective. I think about where I am in my life, how I can try to promote acceptance for my community and what comes next.
CST: The Pride Parade on June 24th is always the grand finale. What advice do you have for people who are going to be in the parade maybe for the first time?
- The clearance height for floats along the parade route is only 15 feet. Anything taller and you just might get caught up in power lines-especially near Broadway and Oakdale. DUCK!
- Call times to line up for the parade staging area can be as early as 6:30am.
- The more elaborate floats are built the week prior to parade day and then disassembled before being driven up from the far south side. Once they show up in the staging area, it is a mad dash to “rebuild” the float and test it for safety before they roll out into the route. It can be very stressful!
- No matter how many times you test things, your power generator, music sound system, bubble machine, confetti launcher or other special effect element will fail at some point during the parade. Guaranteed.
- The staging/waiting area is one huge party with all eleventy hundred parade participants packed into a 6 block space playing their music and checking out everyone else’s entries. It’s a blast.
Richard Pfeiffer talks about decades of organizing the Chicago Pride Parade.
CST: Tell us about the history of the Chicago Pride Parade.
Chicago was one (of three cities) that held the first Pride Parades in 1970 (New York and Los Angeles were the other two). The parades are a commemoration of the Stonewall Rebellion that took place in New York City in 1969. During that era gay bar raids by police were common in cities around the country. That night the patrons fought back and street demonstrations lasted for many days. That week, gay rights groups were formed, thus giving birth to the modern day LGBTQ rights movement.
CST: How has the Parade changed over the years?
The Chicago Pride Parade, and other Pride Parades around the country, have grown to include both celebratory as well as political components. From a 100 marchers in the 1970 parade. the current parade has grown to several hundred entries representing community organizations, local and national businesses and elected officials represented with walking contingents, decorated vehicles and floats. There are also allies (ie.: non-LGBTQ individuals) who participate in a show of support. There are at least 5000 or more marchers with several hundred thousand spectators along the parade route.
CST: What does the Pride Parade mean to you personally?
The Pride Parade means a lot to me because the first one in 1970 helped me to come out. I was a closeted young man, just out of my teens, who watched the parade on the sidelines. I saw all these women and men marching down the street proud of who they are, during an era when most gay people were still in the closet. It continues to be inspirational because each year you still see people of all ages, races and backgrounds marching in the parade procession who are proud of who they are.
CST: What advice to have to people who are planning to watch the June 24th parade?
For people planning to attend the parade, we list “Ten Tips for Spectators” and other parade information on our web site (the official web site for the Pride Parade). One thing that we do recommend is that spectators bring bottled water, sun screen and a hat because it is usually very sunny and hot on parade day.
Chicago’s biggest Pride event for women
The Back Lot Bash is a Chicago Pride weekend music festival that celebrates women. It was started by Amie Klujian and Christina Weismore-Roberts 15 years ago. It’s held in a parking lot off of Clark Street in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. The now 4-day festival features women performers and includes a family fun day. The Back Lot Bash will donate some of the proceeds from the event to the Chicago Women’s Health Center and Girls in the Game.
We asked the founders to share their thoughts the popular event:
Amy Klujian: On our 15th Anniversary, we feel proud to have created a unique and inclusive space for women in the LGBTQ community that is safe, allows for self expression and fosters a sense of connection to the community. We hope that the energy harnessed by all who attend is used to ignite momentum, engagement and advocacy of issues that matter to the LGBT Community.
Christina Weismore-Roberts: Producing the 15th Annual Back Lot Bash makes us feel appreciative for the immense support received over the years from the LGBTQ community. We feel a tremendous amount of gratitude to all our attendees, performers and sponsor partners who have contributed to our steady growth. We hope that Back Lot Bash continues to leave attendees inspired and to stay invigorated and involved in the community throughout the next year
To learn more about Chicago Pride festivities:
The Chicago Sun-Times will continue to share information about Pride 2018 events throughout the month of June. Bookmark this page and return often. If you have an event you would like to see included in this ongoing coverage, please email us at LGBTQcoverage@suntimes.com.