South suburban teens swell with pride, supporting the LGBT community

Young revelers filled the Homewood Metra platform 
Sunday, heading to the Pride Parade in Chicago.

(Photo by Patty Houlihan/HF Chronicle)

The Homewood Metra platform was a sea of bright rainbow colors Sunday morning, with dozens of south suburban teenagers decked out and heading for the Pride Parade in Chicago, the annual event celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community.

“My dad is gay, and I support the community,” said one girl, who is 17 and from Thornton. She wore a rainbow-colored lei that circled her head and said it would be her third time at the parade.

Diana Ruiz, 17, of Harvey, said some of her family members are gay, and going to the Pride Parade was a way to show her support for the LGBT community – and for the Supreme Court’s ruling on equal marriage, announced last week.

“I feel like everyone should marry whoever they want,” she said. “A lot of people are against it, but they’re old-fashioned. Love always wins.”

That line — love always wins — appeared on more than one T-shirt in the young crowd, standing elbow to elbow for the 10:05 a.m. northbound Metra Electric run. As the train approached, the platform quickly swelled with a young crowd dressed for a day of celebration in the sun.

For some first-time parade goers, the anticipation was mixed with a touch of anxiety.

“I know there are going to be a lot of protesters,” said Kyle Sullivan, 22, of Frankfort, who was holding a sign that read “free hugs.” He was part of a group of recent Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduates who had connected over Facebook, heading to the parade to show their support for the LGBT community. All of them said they knew many people who are gay.

Homosexuality no longer carries much of a social stigma in their generation, they said, with most objections coming from older people. But not all young people are gay-friendly or supportive, they said. 

“It’s a very polarizing issue,” said Vivien Makos, 18, of Homewood. “It depends on how you were brought up. If you were raised in a family that was tolerant, you think it’s fine. But if you were raised in a family that thought it was wrong to be gay, you don’t. There really is no one in the middle on this issue.”

While some of her friends disagreed, they did agree that younger people may eventually come around. 

“I don’t think there’s ever not hope to educate people,” said Rebecca Rexroat, 19, of Homewood.

The size of the crowd on the Homewood platform – and the size of the crowd they were heading to join on Chicago’s North Side – hinted at the enormous social change that has taken place on the issue. But 

on a personal level, it may not always be easy to be openly gay. One 18-year-old Homewood woman, who would only identify herself as MK, said she was going to the parade “to support the LGBT community.”

Her 19-year-old sister, who called herself Ajarai, said to her, “Just say you’re a lesbian.”

They also offered different views of who might come to the parade and openly support the gay and lesbian community.

“It doesn’t affect anybody else,” MK said.

“I think it affects everybody,” Ajarai countered.

They both attended H-F High School, which they said was gay-friendly. “H-F gives kids an opportunity to open up and be themselves,” Ajarai said.

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