Chuck Bright and Andre Latia have lived in Flossmoor since 1998. Following last week’s story on the LGBTQ community in Homewood and Flossmoor, they contacted the Chronicle about what they saw as a lack of representation of gay men in the story. We offered them the opportunity to tell their story and that we would consider it for the Chronicle this weekend, which includes the annual Pride Parade in Chicago. Chuck provided these answers to our questions.
Where were you raised?
Andre and I were both raised in Northwest Indiana. Andre was raised in Dyer. I was raised in Hammond. Andre was the first to move to Illinois in the 1980s, settling first in Richton Park, then in Homewood. I moved to Illinois in 1997. Andre and I met in 1996 and will celebrate 20 years together this September. I am a retired clinical social worker. I am now a writer. My first book/graphic novel, “Goshena: Queen of the Big In-Betweena,” was released in September 2015. It just won an IPPY Gold Medal Book Award. My second book is due out next year, once my editor approves the final copy. Andre is a benefits actuary and works in Chicago. We were married in Illinois in 2014.
How did you choose Flossmoor?
Andre and I were living in a small two bedroom apartment in Homewood when we decided it was time to purchase a home. We looked at homes all across the South and Southwest Suburbs. But what brought us back to Flossmoor was that Flossmoor, like Homewood and the surrounding South Suburbs, seemed to be the most diverse. It may not be on everyone’s radar but same-sex couples need to take personal safety into account when deciding where to live, just as other minorities must do. With Flossmoor’s widely diverse population, Andre and I focused our attention on Homewood and Flossmoor. It was the best fit.
Did you have any idea there were other gay men or lesbians in H-F? Did that matter to you?
At the time we had no idea if there were other gay persons in H-F. We did know several lesbians living in other South Suburbs. So we decided if there weren’t any gay couples in H-F we’d be the first and open the door. It really didn’t matter to us if there were other gay couples in H-F. H-F seemed to be its own melting pot of people. We liked that. It was more important that a town have lots of different people and not be completely homogenous.
What has your experience been like as part of an openly gay couple in the H-F area? Do you get the sense that anyone cares about your sexual orientation?
Our experience has been wonderful across the board. We’ve felt welcome on all fronts. But it takes everyone involved to make a welcoming community. Sometimes you have to reach out. You can’t always wait for people to approach you. I feel strongly that people care about our sexual orientation, but only in the sense that they want us to feel accepted, safe, not judged and as part of the community. If someone starts a sentence with: “You know, I don’t really care that you’re gay …” It’s like saying: “You know, some of my best friends are (fill in the blank).” But we haven’t experienced that. And after all these years I think we would have.
Do you participate in the community?
I am an active member of the H-F Fitness Center. We are not members of any other specific organizations, but we feel strongly about supporting all of the local businesses in Homewood and Flossmoor. We will always choose local businesses first and only go out of the area if that business/service is not available here. As a writer and avid reader, I also utilize the H-F library system quite frequently. Visit your local library, people! They need you!
Would you recommend the H-F area to other gay men? Why or why not?
We would recommend H-F to other gay men. Flossmoor has nice shops in the downtown area, as well as nice restaurants. This goes for Homewood, too. And with the Metra right in everyone’s backyard in both communities, how can you miss? It’s an easy 40 minutes right into the heart of one of the best cities in the world.