LGBTQ Veterans Monument Planned for Boystown Chicago

lgbt military salute veterans

“With Liberty and Justice for All”

With the goal of honoring LGBTQ veterans of our nations armed forms, an advocacy group is planning to install a memorial in Chicago’s historic Boystown area.

The Chicago chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER), an organization that is dedicated to the equal and fair treatment of all who serve, is behind the effort to erect a 5-foot-tall granite memorial. The goal is to have the monument dedicated by Memorial Day.

Tim Zylstra, Vice President and board member of AVER’s Chicago chapter shared with the Tribune that the memorial is to act as a sign of gratitude for sacrifices and service provided by LGBTQ men and women in America’s armed forces.

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“It will feature emblems of the armed forces on its sides, along with a wreath and the words inscribed with liberty and justice for all,” he said.

“For a long time, they [LGTBQ people] were discredited and couldn’t even be who they were,” Zylstra added. “It’s just a lasting legacy to say you are not forgotten and you are not left behind.”

Rendering of a proposed LGBTQ veterans memorial. Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

Thanks to changes in military policy during the Obama administration, it is now possible for LGBTQ people to serve openly in the military.

A 2010 report published by the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law School, suggests around 13,000 gay, lesbian and bisexual people were serving in active duty capacities. An additional 58,000 were serving in various reserve and guard forces.

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In 2011, the official Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ban ended. But that only covered gay and lesbian service members. It would not be until 2016 that the ban would be lifted on persons who are transgender.

FYI: An estimated 15,500 transgender individuals are currently serving in active duty or in reserve/guard, per a 2014 Williams Institute report.

While it’s hard to get an exact number, current estimates suggest north of 134,000 transgender persons are veterans or retired from guard/reserve service.

From the Tribune:

“For the Boystown monument, the group is trying to raise the remaining $6,500 of the $20,000 cost, which includes construction, maintenance and insurance of the monument, through a GoFundMe campaign and various fundraisers, including one Saturday at Sidetrack bar.

The monument would be within walking distance of Wrigley Field and along the Pride Parade route and Halsted corridor, near an LGBT senior-housing complex that used to be a police station.

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LGBTQ Americans have played a vital part in making our country the free, democratic and vibrant place it is today. Far too often, the acknowledgment that many of our heroes in American history and society identify as a member of the LGBTQ community has been hidden from us and the public,” said Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois.

He added:

“By celebrating the sacrifice LGBTQ veterans have made to our country, this monument has the potential to bring broader awareness to how central LGBTQ people are to American society.”

Gay Pop Buzz is very supportive LGBTQ members of our nation’s armed forces. To demonstrate that support, we have made a small donation on AVER’s Chicago chapter Go Fund Me Page.