Tom Chiola


1. Birthdate:


2. Birthplace:

Springfield, Illinois

3. Date you first mark as getting together with your partner Drew Jemilo:

September 9, 1994

4. City/state where you live currently:

Chicago, Illinois

5. Education:

Tom: University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) Law School
Drew: University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) School of Engineering

6. Career:

Tom: Circuit court judge
Drew: Information technology

7. How do you describe your sexuality and your gender?

We are both gay men.

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

I first came out while in law school in Champaign in 1976-77.

9. Who did you first “come out” to and what year?

I came out to Mom on her birthday in October 1978 after moving to Chicago. I came out to my girlfriend during the summer of 1977 while studying for the bar exam in Champaign. She was incredibly supportive, and we have stayed friends over all these years. I was at the hospital when her first child (not mine) was born. I was blessed with good friends who supported me in his coming out over several years. I have never used a pseudonym.

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

I was blessed with supportive co-workers when I attended work functions with my partner in the early ‘80s. There was very little in the way of overt discrimination.

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

I followed in the footsteps of Ron Sable as a candidate for public office. But the most consistent presence has been Art Johnston, with his tenacious efforts on behalf of our community, and Mike Bauer, with his passion for our issues.

12. List organizations (GLBT or mainstream) you have been involved in:

Metropolitan Sports Association/MSA (board member, donor, ran volleyball, softball, and bowling leagues)
IMPACT (board member and donor)
Lincoln Park Lagooners (donor, ran leagues)
Advocates for the Handicapped (board member and donor)
Open Hand/Vital Bridges (delivered meals and stocked shelves at North Side grocery center and donor)
Howard Brown (first pro bono project for people with AIDS in Chicago)
Proud to Run (race director and donor)
Legal Clinic for the Disabled

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

Broadway Limited (1978-79)
Carol’s Speakeasy (1978-80)
Sidetrack (since it opened)
Christopher Street
Big Chicks

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

Basic civil rights protections.

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

Equality in all aspects of our lives.

16. How has AIDS impacted your life personally?

I lost a generation of friends—how does one describe that?

17. If you consider yourself a “political” activist, how do you define this?

I was a candidate for judge, and I have lobbied for civil-rights protections for the GLBT community in Springfield and Cook County.

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

I hope that I have inspired others to run for office and helped open the door so that others may be successful.

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

Winning my race for circuit court judge.

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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