Gay & Straight Coalition Jazzes UP Michigan City

Former Associate Directory of Public Engagement for the Obama Administration, Matt Nosanchuk, speaking at a jazz brunch hosted by Northwest Indiana Gay-Straight Coalition.

On Sunday June 2nd, in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District the Northwest Indiana Gay Straight Coalition hosted a Jazz Brunch to help raise money for Michigan City’s 2nd annual Michigan City PRIDE Fest. For those who are not familiar with the NWIGSC it is a fairly new non-profit formed just a few years ago that according to the groups website is “​A community based organization-fostering policies, initiatives and activities that create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community in Northwest Indiana.” The charity brunch was attended by Indiana State Senator Mike Bohacek (R), who co-authored Indiana’s newly passed hate crimes bill and guest speaker Matt Nosanchuk, former Associate Director of Public Engagement of the Obama White House. Jazz music was provided by the Bill Boris Trio.

The Bill Boris Trio as they perform during the Jazz Brunch at the Uptown Center.

In his opening remarks Mr. Nosanchuk commented on the 50th anniversary on The Stonewall Riots, marking the beginning of the modern gay rights movement. “The memory of Stonewall and what it represents led to the emergence of the first Pride Parade in New York on its first anniversary.” Michigan City has become the leader in Northwest Indiana for its inclusion of the LGBTQ community as it sees more and more former members of Chicago’s LGBTQ community leave the city to pursue a life in the “Region.” Michigan City gives new and life long residents the appeal of living on Lake Michigan, but without the inflated cost of living that you find in Chicago, yet living here allows easy access to everything Chicago has to offer.

As its already large LGBTQ community grows, Michigan City is now one of the many smaller cities around the nation that hosts its own PRIDE festival and was the first city in the Region to do so. Historically the LGBTQ population here has been large but under represented and far from organized, but recent years have seen organizations like PFLAG open a chapter here. PFLAG offers support to families and members of the LGBTQ community and is also a sponsor of Michigan City PRIDE Fest. As important as PFLAG is to offer support to the community at large, organizations like NWIGSC are just as important because they will be advocating real change in the laws that concern the LGBTQ community as well as pushing for real policy change locally and in Indianapolis, policy change that will have a lasting effect on this community.

Addressing the audience Michael Jefvert, who is a member of NWIGSC board, commented that when he was originally from Indiana and upon graduation from college promptly left the state. He along with hundreds of other young adults that just happen to identify as LGBTQ leave the state because they do not feel accepted in the city or town that they grew up in. How many talented and creative people who just happen to identify as LGBT or Q has Michigan City and the surrounding communities lost because of laws or policies that promote and foster old prejudices? Prejudices that make people feel excluded in their own hometown. Prejudices that can lead to violence against members of a marginalized community.

Organizations like the Northwest Indiana Gay-Straight Coalition and PFLAG are needed and those organizations are on the front lines of bringing real change and real understanding so that maybe one day we won’t lose talented, smart, and creative young members of our community to cities like Chicago, New York, or Indianapolis.

As 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots our community reflects on the progress that we’ve made and the progress we have yet to make. As more and more conservative states enact so called “religious freedom” laws, which are largely created to give businesses a license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community grass roots organizations like the Northwest Indiana Gay-Straight Coalition will have the backs of the LGBTQ community they represent and the ears of the policy makers who make the laws that have a lasting affect on all of us.

The More You Drink, the Prettier I Get, Reflections on 5 Years of ‘Welcome to the Other Side’

Wilma Fingerdo and her partner in crime Jayda Pill, Photo by Christopher M. Voorhees

I recall distinctly placing a bet with the other WTTOS cast members shortly before our first show regarding the projected longevity of our shows. I believe the estimates averaged about a year, at that time. The local gay bars were in a slump, and Encompass had just closed. We weren’t sure that there was a market for drag shows. Regardless, EJ Marx had been approached by the owners of the Warehouse in Portage about putting together a show, and performing at their venue. I was initially hesitant about the idea, but thought we could give it a try. I had always blamed the recent onset of gay dating apps, like Grindr, for the closure of our local hangouts. There’s no reason to “go out”, I would say, when a “blow job is just a click away”. Looking back, I was short sighted, and didn’t take into account the camaraderie that was such a huge part of meeting at those gay establishments.

Dena Richards, Photo: Facebook

I was absolutely amazed that our reception for our first show! There were hundreds of attendees, and, of course, Welcome to the Other Side was born. We decided at the time, that we would host shows every other month, and we did that for the next few months, eventually working other venues into our schedule. Please understand that then, and now, I love a lazy weekend, without heels, eyelashes, wigs and girdles, and there was no way that I would strap my ass in a dress every weekend. We decided to take offers from what we considered to be the best venues. I still believe that we work with the best venues. There are many things that are important to me when we work with a partner, now, and into the future. First, and foremost, don’t screw

E. J. Marx, Photo by Christopher M. Voorhees

our patrons. I expect reasonable drink and food prices. Second, a reasonable level of service. Third, their acceptance of the gay and trans community. When Indiana proposed their religious freedom amendment, and gays weren’t able to buy pizzas in Shit hole, Indiana, I called each of our partners, and personally confirmed that they were open for everyone.

Kane Richards, Photo by Christopher M. Voorhees

My goal, now and into the future is to provide entertainment and a welcome environment for our gay, straight, trans, and questioning guest. I love an environment where everyone can feel comfortable in their own skin, and I sincerely hope that we have provided this for you. We have the best job in the world. We can to meet up with our friends, have some drinks and some laughs, and provide a little refuge from society’s judgement. Will you see us in 5 more years? I don’t know, but I can speak for all of us at Welcome to the Other Side…. We appreciate you, and thank you for the fun that we’ve had thus far. Hope to see you Friday.

XOXO
Wilma

Wilma Fingerdo and the entire cast of ‘Welcome to the Other Side’ will be performing at the Uptown Center for Performing Arts in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District for their 5 years anniversary show Friday May 5th, 2017.