Shoppers browsing at the Queer Market. Credit: Jeff Hirsh

Patty Finley looked out at the 20 booths and lots of customers filling Raymond Park on Saturday afternoon, and could not help but reflect on how quickly the Evanston Pride organization has grown, both in size and in influence.

The booths were from gay-owned and gay-supportive businesses, as part of Pride Month.

“The Queer Market,” Finley said, “really showcases our local small business owners, our artists, our makers, to bring visibility to the community.”

Patty Finley and Sandie Elliott at their Queer Market booth. Credit: Jeff Hirsh

Finley is a board member of Evanston Pride, a group that came into being only three years ago.

It’s perhaps hard to believe that there was not an organized LGBTQ group in a liberal, college town such as Evanston before that, but other than a church-related organization and a gay/lesbian alliance at Northwestern University, it’s true.

Board member Sandie Elliott remembered attending meetings of the Northwestern alliance when she was in high school, because there were no other options.

She said the market “says to the community that we’re here, and all-inclusive. This is a community event.”

Even the use of the word “queer” shows how much things have changed.

Once, it was a negative, tinged with hostility by some who used it as an insult.

Now, it’s used in the same sentence as “Pride.”

Finley said what happened was “taking back the word to mean what it truly means” for the people involved.

According to USA Today, “The Q in LGBTQ stands for queer, in most cases, but it can also mean questioning. LGBTQ is an acronym of identities related to sexual orientation and gender identity.” (Sometimes “I” for intersex and “A” for asexual are also added to the abbreviation).

Jackie Boyer. Credit: Jeff Hirsh

Jackie Boyer was one of the “Queer Market” vendors, for her company, Pride Coffee Roasters.

“It’s a Pride-oriented, LGBT-owned business,” she explained.

“We make a statement” with the name, but at the same time, Boyer added, “Pride involves everyone.”

And as Finley, Boyer’s wife, stated, “the question is not why” to say ‘Pride’ with pride, it’s “why not?”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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