Val Camilletti


1) Birthdate:


2) Birthplace:

Chicago, Illinois

3) City/state where you live currently:

Cicero, Illinois

4) Career:

Record store owner

5) Did you serve in the U.S. military?


6) How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?

Woman – I suppose bisexual still fits, although most of my relationships as an adult were with women.

7) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?


8) If you are GLBT, please describe when you first “knew”:

In my late teens I realized that I was attracted to both men and women and that the possibility of relationships with either as individuals was not improbable.

9) Who did you first “come out” to and when?

Sometime in the mid '60s I told a few close friends that I had had experiences with other women, but just never talked about it much.

10) What troubles did you face as a GLBT person?

I have never really experienced direct conflict with others regarding my sexuality.

11) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT community?

I’m not sure I would call them mentors, because I have never learned to follow in their footsteps, but there are three individuals from the GLBT community whom I admire enormously. Marie Kuda, Toni Armstrong Jr., and Tracy Baim, all of whom had and continue to have the foresight and devotion to record the history and ongoings throughout the community for multiple decades. Without their persistence in compiling the stories of failures and triumphs, their commitment to the power of the written word and images, the GLBT community in Chicago and beyond would have no face at all.

12) Involvement in organizations (GLBT and/or mainstream):
Animal Care League of Oak Park (board member and donor)
Sounds of Joy choral group/Oak Park (board member)
Women in Music (early volunteer with distributor Thelma Norris)
Lavender Bouquet (key volunteer)
Donor to Lyric Opera; Howard Brown; several AIDS organizations; Make a Wish Foundation
Donor to Live to Sing/Sing to Live chorus (men and women impacted by breast cancer)

13) When you were coming out, what were your favorite GLBT bars in Chicago?

In the 1970s: Petunia's, His & Hers, Togetherness

14) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out?

Coming out fears, women's roles, lesbian separatism, evolution of "women's music,” divisions within the movement of lesbians/gay men, and representation of GLBT in popular culture.

15) What issues do you see as key in the GLBT community today?

AIDS, gay marriage, honest representation of GLBT in parenting issues.

16) How have AIDS and/or other health issues impacted your life personally?

The most impactful event due to AIDS was the loss of a very close gay male friend to the disease in 1994; he was really the only close personal friend I lost to AIDS. However, breast cancer is an ongoing devastation – many friends surviving and dying of the disease. I am closely associated with the Sing to Live chorus, which includes many friends and customers.

17) How would you describe the “diversity” within the Chicago GLBT community?

I am somewhat removed from the activism of the community these days except for what I read, but it appears from the sidelines that there is not as much animosity from the various delineations as there once was.

18) Describe what you feel your personal legacy is to the Chicago GLBT community.

Most of my legacy would come as a role model for women as business owners following their own path regardless of how they identify themselves sexually. Hopefully, I will also have left lots of stories.

19) This project is also about “defining moments.” Please discuss some of those in your life.

The defining characteristic of my entire life is the good fortune of having been raised as an adored, only child in an immigrant household. The result of that good fortune is the realization that whatever my life choices or work or orientation produced, their unwavering acceptance could not be shaken. Though no life is without challenges, even in the turbulence of youth, I always knew that rejection at home was an impossibility.

Out and Proud in Chicago: An Overview of the City's Gay Community, the book is edited by Tracy Baim and features the contributions of more than 20 prominent historians and journalists. It is published by Surrey Books, an Agate imprint, and is hard cover, 224 pages, 4-color, with nearly 400 photos.
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