Marilyn Keller


1) Birthdate:


2) Date you first mark as getting together w/husband and how many years married:

Jerry Keller and I met in 1949 and married in 1952. We celebrated 48 years together. He died in 2000.

3) City/state where you were born:

Chicago, Illinois

4) City/state where you live currently:

Niles, Illinois

5) Education:

Two years junior college

6) Career:

A payroll business called Keller Talents; I worked with my husband Jerry.

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


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

Straight Female

9) Do you have children and/or grandchildren; if so how many of each and gender?

One daughter (Lynn), one son (Irwin), and two grandsons (Zevi and Ari).

10) Who did you first “come out” to about your gay children and when?

In the mid ‘80s, my son Irwin was an activist in the gay community and was visible in the press and on TV. I had to come out and now, in 2008, I still come out to new people I meet. The best part of coming out is educating the people you tell. I have been fortunate that no one has given me a negative response.

11) What troubles did you face as the parent of two GLBT children?

I don't recall any.

12) If you are not GLBT, describe how you came to be an ally of this community.

Having two gay children made me an automatic and loving ally.

13) Did you have mentors in the Chicago GLBT and/or national PFLAG community?

Jerry and I went to Chicago PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the mid ‘80s and were greeted by many caring and kind people.

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

Jerry and I were members of Chicago PFLAG from the mid ‘80s to early ‘90s when we started Glenview PFLAG, meeting at Congregation B'Nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim, our synagogue in Glenview. I have been on the board and an active member since then.

15) What were the key issues faced in the GLBT community when you first came out as the parent of GLBT children?

Equal rights for the gay community.

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

The right to legally get married (federal and state).

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

I have gone to Springfield with Equality Illinois several times to lobby for various issues. I do my share of letter writing and phone calls to congressmen. I find that in doing advocacy, I’m being of help to the GLBT community. It is my passion. Going to Springfield to lobby is very meaningful to me. I have lobbied two years consecutively to be able to help pass a human rights bill in the state. I have also lobbied in favor of a civil union bill which, hopefully, will be passed soon.

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

Having been a PFLAG member for over 20 years, I have spent many hours helping parents come to the realization that their children are "normal" and deserving of parental love and acceptance.

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

Marching with PFLAG in Chicago's Gay Pride Parade for a number of years was a very emotional and wonderful experience. Lobbying in Springfield has been very exciting and memorable.

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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