The Gay Studies Program of The Wright Institute for Lifelong Learning hosted a workshop for gay men Nov. 5-6 at the Center on Halsted. The workshop ( "Being Out With a Purpose" ) examined life purpose from a gay perspective.
Workshop leaders John Aquilina ( director of the Gay Studies Program ) and his partner, Chuck Munro ( an original co-founder and curriculum director for the Gay Studies Program ) , noted that for many gay men the closet "has somehow expanded."
"In our many conversations with other gay men, a theme that consistently emerges is the painful isolation that many of them have felt growing up," stated Aquilina, adding that many, "still do to one degree or another."
The weekend consisted of various workshops geared towards challenging and inspiring participants to explore new opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. Each workshop was co-led by Aquilina and Munro for the entire two-day program.
"Our participants [ were ] those who it is safe to say, have lives they are satisfied with but are seeking something greater," said Aquilina, "whether [ it be ] greater depth and meaning, greater connection in their relationships, better performance on the job or just to have more meaningful conversations with other gay men."
The workshops sought to assist participants in realizing or defining their own personal goals ranging from, "family, relationships, career and spirituality." Read more story below....
"During the course of any workshop those goals may shift or become more sharply defined as the weekend progresses," said Aquilina.
On goals that Aquilina and Munro have for their participants, the inspirational duo stated that they wish to "create an environment of mutuality in which [ participants ] can see new possibilities for themselves ... in short, to lead them and ourselves to our next most radiant self."
Most of Aquilina and Munro's work has been geared towards gay men though they state that their, "vision is to support gay men to be leaders in the ongoing gay/straight conversation."
Aquilina pointed out that, after all, it was a straight man that sparked the support for the Gay Studies Program. Dr. Bob Wright is a Chicago entrepreneur and executive coach who co-founded the Wright Institute in 1994, which helped introduce the Gay Studies Program in 2002. Wright still serves as a mentor for Aquilina and Munro and, according to the two, continues to push them onto their next leadership challenges.
"We have both been inspired by other greater speakers and that has ignited our hunger to inspire others in a similar way," stated Aquilina, "We are considering adding our original conference format back in, in order to enrich our program offerings and address some of the very urgent issues affecting our community now."
In the past, Aquilina and Munro hosted a two-day conference that featured several notable gay authors and scholars such as Andrew Harvey, David Nimmons ( author of Soul Beneath the Skin ) and Daniel Helminiak ( author and professor at the University of West Georgia ) .
Despite the success of the weekend's "Being Out with a Purpose" workshop, Aquilina and Munro said, moving forward, they would like to "develop more programs that address the issue of coming out."
Aquilina said that there is still an issue of rampant homophobia, "we feel a great deal of safety on Halsted street ... in Chicago [ but the ] wider world needs to be told who we are."
Aquilina hopes to be able to address issues of homophobia from bullying in schools to the severe punishments that many gay people face in other countries stating that gay people need to "be more aware of the implications of being out and not being out."
"Being Out with a Purpose" wrapped up in the early evening on Nov. 6 leaving many participants with a refined vision guided by the inspirational expertise of Aquilina and Munro.
"We certainly are influencing and making a difference in peoples' lives in ways that we never have imagined," said Aquilina.