Queer Berwyn Collective asks city to remove political logos from Pride banners

Members of Berwyn’s LGBTQ+ community on June 8 asked the city to stop emblazoning its officially sanctioned Pride Month banners with political logos and the names of politicians.

The Queer Berwyn Collective, which was formed within the past week, also asked the Berwyn City Council to use language on its Pride banner that celebrates more than the “G” part of the LGBTQ+ community.

In related news, 8th Ward Alderman Scott Lennon deferred a City Council agenda item announcing the postponement of Berwyn’s official Pride events from June 5 to Oct. 2.

“Our original event during Pride Month has been canceled,” Lennon wrote in a June 6 memo to the council.

No reason was given for the cancellation. No reason was given for the deferral. Lennon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Before the council meeting, a rally took place in Berwyn’s Depot District, where every June since 2017, prominent signs and banners spring up bearing rainbows emblazoned with Lennon’s name in large, block letters and the logo of his political party – the Democratic Citizens of Berwyn – embedded in the lettering. The signs and banners sometimes also include the text “Happy Gay Pride.”

Berwyn transgender activist Dee McMaher addressed a crowd of several dozen people who gathered at Windsor and Oak Park avenues before walking to Berwyn City Hall to address the council meeting. Em Callahan and Wyatt LaMarsh were in the crowd.

“What drew me out here were Lennon’s signs. Pride isn’t about one name. It’s bigger than one person. But ‘Lennon’ is the biggest word in those signs,” Callahan said.

“I can understand being out and being proud of that – that’s wonderful,” LaMarsh said. “But Scott’s leaving a lot of people out with the language he uses. And his reaction to someone pointing this out to him – well, we could have had a dialogue if he’d been receptive to that.”

McMaher spoke to the group gathered in the Depot District.

“I moved to Berwyn specifically because it has a reputation for being a safe place for queer families, which is incredibly important for our family with two trans parents and a trans child,” McMaher said. “But our own city policies do not protect our community from discrimination based on their gender identity. Pride is not a political platform, and the way Lennon has used it and represented our community is offensive and unacceptable.

“This month is not ‘Gay Pride.’ Saying so excludes the majority of the LGBTQ+ community, such as lesbians, bisexuals, transgender, intersex and queer folks,” McMaher continued.

McMaher spoke near the site of Berwyn’s 2019 Pride rally, which was spearheaded by Lennon. The COVID-19 pandemic muted the 2020 Pride celebration in Berwyn. In 2019, about 100 people attended the June 29 rally in which more than half the speakers who addressed the crowd were cisgender men. None of the three lesbians holding elected office in Berwyn at the time addressed the crowd.

Joseph Klomes on June 8 addressed the City Council, which approved the annual June proclamation celebrating Pride Month.

“What policies and steps has the city of Berwyn actually [taken] to put those words into action? What progress has been made since the first proclamation was passed?” Klomes said before asking that the city commit to updating its employee handbook and its vendor contracts to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ+ members and to remove politicized Pride banners and signs from city-owned property and public thoroughfares.

Klomes also asked what happened to the “Lennon Pride” sign that was displayed at Windsor and Oak Park avenues until the afternoon of June 8.

Council members did not respond to Klomes.