Deaf LGBT events aim for unity

July 11, 2012|By Georgia Garvey, RedEye

Chicago will host two centerpiece events for the deaf LGBT community in the next few weeks, as both the Deaf Lesbians Festival and the Deaf Queer Men Only gathering head into town.

First to visit will be the Deaf Lesbians Festival, from July 18 to 21. The festival is a biennial event that will draw about 75 women from across the world, including visitors from Scotland, Germany and Australia, according to Debby Sampson, chairperson for the festival organization.

"We have common issues, common experiences," Sampson said through an interpreter. "Because we're deaf and lesbian, we're kind of isolated in our own communities."

As part of the festival, there will be games, auctions and the much-anticipated Dyke Ball on Saturday at the Center on Halsted. That's in addition to sightseeing tours of Chicago, Sampson said.

"It's a beautiful city. There are so many things to do in Chicago," said Sampson, a Glenview resident. "We're going to kind of show off our city."

Hot on the heels will be the Deaf Queer Men Only gathering, an event also held once every two years. Scott Mosley, chairperson for the organization, said the gathering will be a chance to meet other deaf gay men, educate themselves on issues important to their community and just plain have fun.

"We are a minority of a minority," Mosley wrote in an email. "This event gives deaf queer men an opportunity to catch up and be more aware of what's going on and what we should be aware of. [It] also gives us a safe space to gather and share experiences, also to give each other support."

Mosley, who lives in Uptown, said they are expecting 230 men at the gathering, up from 106 in 2010 and 88 in 2008. A highlight of the event, according to Mosley, will be a Saturday-afternoon boat party, but the gathering will also feature workshops and the Black and Blue Ball(s).

"I know the team is freaking out with the massive number growth of registrants," he said, but "we are only worried about keeping all of our registrants happy and well entertained ... telling ourselves that all is well and everything is OK and will fall together perfectly."

Both the Deaf Lesbians Festival and the Deaf Queer Men Only events were four years in the making, with months of planning going into bringing them to Chicago, organizers said. The hard work is worth it, though, if attendees leave with a feeling of unity, Sampson said.

"We can make a difference... We hope our participants will learn from our festival and that they feel empowered" when they go home, she said. "That's the ultimate goal."

ggarvey@tribune.com | @gcgarvey

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