Chicago Love Stories: Equality Illinois
To celebrate love, happiness, and flowers here in Chicago, we at Flowers for Dreams are bringing you another year of Chicago Love Stories. In the past, we have looked at couples with small businesses and even your favorite Instagram pairs, but this Valentine’s Day, we’re featuring those involved with non-profits.
Equality Illinois was founded in 1991 and focuses on building a better Illinois through advocating for equal treatment, social justice, and protecting rights in the LGBTQ community. “The vision of the organization has always been to work towards a safer, more inclusive world for LGBTQ Illinoisans. Working on behalf of LGBTQ Illinoisans over the past few years is not only work that needs to be done, but it’s work that needs to grow and it’s the work that I have loved,” said Eric Wilkerson, Director of Development at Equality Illinois.
Eric and his partner, Michael, met through Instagram. Eric admitted that he “insta-flirted” with Michael by liking a handful of his photos and followed with a direct message. The two went on a date a week later back in August of 2015. Since then, the pair has strengthened their relationship by volunteering together, giving their time and energy to meaningful social causes like marriage equality. In their free time, they love to brew their own coffee and host dinner parties for friends.
“My coming-out process was a hard process for me back in Arkansas in 2010. Luckily, I was supported by family and friends, throughout the process, who each played a part in allowing me to become who I am today. What I learned, after coming out as gay, is that not everyone has that privilege. Not everyone is welcomed by their friends or family after coming out. Most importantly, while we have come a long way, people who identify as LGBTQ as well as LGBTQ couples are still discriminated against. Being able to hold Michael’s hand in public spaces is still challenging at times. We still look around us to assess our environment. I believe that organizations such as Equality Illinois can continue playing a role in eliminating discrimination and making couples, similar to Michael and I, feel more comfortable in public spaces.”
“I feel like there are so many wonderful memories. But one that sticks out, for me, is when he introduced me to his Mom and Dad. We met at Rocks in Lakeview and we were both so nervous. In that moment, I learned more about Michael than I had ever learned. I saw where he came from, I saw the love of his parents, I saw the relationship he had with his family, I learned more about what family meant to Michael, and finally, I learned that Michael trusted me enough to let me see such a wonderful piece of his world. None of it had to be said, which made it that much more beautiful.”