Attendees at this year's Gerber/Hart Library Annual Benefit got more than dinner, live piano music and an auction Oct. 23. Keynote speaker and transgender singer/actress Alexandra Billings delivered a message that left many tearful and earned her a standing ovation.
In a room of about 100 people at the Swedish American Museum in Andersonville, Billings talked about her suicide attempts at a young age, her struggle to find her gender identity, her history of sex work and the best friends she lost to the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s. "I just wanted someone to hear me," Billings said. Billings challenged attendees to begin to "speak [ their ] truth," stating that young people were committing suicide because they "felt helpless and alone" and "because [ older generations ] don't speak." Billings ended her address on a hopeful note, drawing from her own success story. "I'm finally speaking, and I'm finally breathing, and people are listening to me," she said.
The Gerber/Hart Library celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Members of the Good Shepherd Parish presented library board president Karen Sendziak with a donation of records and a check for $10,000. Volunteer coordinator James DeLoach was honored for his five years of service to the library. Text by Kate Sosin and photos by Kat Fitzgerald ( MysticImagesPhotography.com ) ; more pictures online at http:// www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com