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Illinois: 50 States of Gay-Friendly America January 27th, 2013
Illinois: 50 States of Gay-Friendly America

Our new series, 50 States of Gay-Friendly America, features real-life venues, supportive organizations, and fun things to do if you’re gay/bi/trans/questioning in each and every state.  It’s a snapshot of culture where you are.  Check out the whole series here.

Illinois is home to the amazing city of Chicago, a progressive, global city.  It’s a great place to be if you’re GLBTQ.  In the suburbs and out of the metro area, you might have to look a lot harder for support, but the state laws are friendly and there are three gay state legislators – and you’re at least close to Chicago or maybe to Iowa, one of the first midwestern states to legalize gay marriage.

If you are looking at colleges, you have a lot of good choices in Illinois.  Near Chicago’s Loop, there is Columbia College, Roosevelt University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago.  In Central Illinois, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is a school with a large GLBTQ community.  The Catholic institutions, Loyola and DePaul, in Chicago, are more liberal and inclusive than most, and they’re both located in Chicago’s prime playground on the north side.  Illinois State University in Bloomington-Normal, although not as large as UIUC, has a reputation of being supportive.

In Chicago you will find one of very few cohesive gay neighborhoods in the U.S.  Boystown is complete with rainbow-colored street art installed by the city.  There is an active, trendy bar scene, shopping including a Whole Foods, 24-hour cafes along Halsted and Broadway, and fairly affordable apartments available throughout the East Lakeview neighborhood.

Add to this that you have bright, goal-oriented guys moving into the city and a major tourism industry, and you’ll have no problem meeting friends and finding things to do if you’re near Chicago.

On the north side of Boystown is the Center on Halsted, a $20 million community center for the GLBTQ community.  It is a modern building with two theatres, a gym, conference rooms, and a three-story lobby for hanging out.  They offer substantial services including mental health care, a career center, and cultural events.

There’s also 18 PFLAG chapters in Illinois, the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance which supports GSA’s, and tons of welcoming churches.

With an entire neighborhood tuned to gay tastes, progressive non-discrimination ordinances in the city and the state, and several universities that have large, active support and social networks, Illinois is a good place to be. Outside the university communities and the big city, you’ll still find friendly people, but the experience might be more similar to other midwestern states.

BornLikeThis is looking for a correspondent for Illinois. If you’d like to write for us about people, places, news and resources for gay youth in Illinois, send Austin or John a note at bornlikethisteam@gmail.com.

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