Debra Shore & Kathleen Gillespie


1) Birthdates:

Debra: 1952
Kathleen: 1951

2) Birthplaces:

Debra: Chicago, Illinois
Kathleen: Grand Haven, Michigan

3) Date you first mark as getting together:

October 29, 1993

4) City/state where you live currently:

Evanston, Illinois

5) Education:

Goucher College (Baltimore, Maryland), BA
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland), Master of Liberal Arts
Columbia College (Chicago), Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government (Cambridge, Mass.)

Barat College (Lake Forest, Illinois), BA
Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, Michigan), Masters in Counseling and Personnel

6) Careers:

Debra is currently a member of the board of commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (, having been elected to that position in November 2006. She is one of nine members of the board overseeing a billion-dollar agency handling wastewater treatment and stormwater management for five million residents of Cook County and for industry.

Previously, Debra helped to launch Chicago Wilderness Magazine and served as editor of this regional nature magazine for nearly 10 years. She has been active with the regional conservation consortium known as Chicago Wilderness since 1996.

Kathleen is an executive search consultant and a partner with the nationally recognized search firm of Witt Kieffer Ford Hadelman and Lloyd. Kath has worked in search for more than 20 years and is a practice leader in the area of longterm care.

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

No (both)


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

Gay woman

9) Do you have children and/or grandchildren?

One son

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

In my mid 30s.

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

I suppose to my first female lover in 1989.

12) Involvement in organizations (GLBT and/or mainstream):

Democratic Party of Evanston (former board member, donor, volunteer)
Friends of the Forest Preserves (founder and former board member)
Illinois Environmental Council (former board member and donor)
North Branch Restoration Project (volunteer)
Stonewall Democrats (volunteer)
Audobon (donor)
Sierra Club (donor)
Openlands Project (donor)
Chicago Wilderness Magazine (donor)
Human Rights Campaign/HRC (donor)
Center on Halsted (donor)
Horizons Community Services (donor)
Lesbian Community Cancer Project/LCCP (donor)
National Center for Lesbian Rights (donor)
Equality Illinois (donor)
Chicago Foundation for Women (donor)
ACLU/Roger Baldwin Foundation (donor)
Friends of the River (donor)
Goucher College (donor)

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

Paris, 1989-1991
Charlie’s, 1993

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

AIDS, women’s health, and hate crimes

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

Equal rights, hate crimes, job and housing discrimination

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

A close relative is HIV positive and I have lost friends and acquaintances to AIDS.

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

I feel that the GLBT community in Chicago is very diverse but is racially segregated and also very divided by class; to a lesser degree, also by age and gender.

18) If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this?

By one vital measure, anyone involved in his or her community is a political activist. It doesn’t require being active in campaigns or political parties; rather, working to change and improve one’s community is being a political activist, in my view.

Regarding political activism in campaigns and parties, I began volunteering for political campaigns locally in 2002, working to help elect several progressive commissioners to the Cook County Board. In 2003, I became very involved in Governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and was slated to be a delegate for Dean from the 9th Congressional District. I was chosen to participate in the Illinois Women’s Institute for Leadership, a program designed to recruit and groom Democratic women to run for office.

In 2004, I volunteered on Melissa Bean’s Congressional campaign and did some work for Barack Obama and John Kerry. In 2005, I was approached to run for a seat on the board of commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and embarked on a campaign that lasted approximately eighteen months. I also attended the candidate training program sponsored by the Victory Fund, and I have been active in reviving the local chapter of Stonewall Democrats.

I am now involved as a volunteer for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign - serving as an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention - and for several other local candidates.

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

Once I was elected to the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, I asked about extending health benefits to the partners of the District’s same sex employees. The Board unanimously approved extending benefits not only to the same sex partners of our employees, but also to opposite sex domestic partners. This will make a tangible difference in people’s lives, for which I am grateful and proud. When I inquired why the agency had not done this before, I was told, “No one asked.”

Running for and being elected to a countywide office in the second largest county in the country as an openly gay candidate is an indisputable part of changing the political landscape here. Also working to help other open LGBT people run for office and helping to elected people who will promote equal rights at the local, state and national level.

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

Anyone who has had a child knows that as a defining moment, so the birth of my son is one.

Being elected to public office was a huge achievement, not mine alone by any means.

Falling in love with a woman certainly helped me figure out something vital about myself.

Facing down fear while climbing some high mountains in Colorado was probably important in ways that are not entirely clear to me, yet helped to define my self-image.

21) Additional comments and memories.

In June 2008, for the first time, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District had a float in Chicago’s Pride Parade — because I asked. The float has a large circular opening in a silver glittery structure with the words “Deep Tunnel” over the top of the circle. I wonder if these words have such resonance at any other public parades? In any event we were greeted with enthusiasm all along the parade route and the two drivers from the District were ready to sign up for next year!

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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