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Happy Pride Month!

“Mom & Dad I have nothing to tell you”: An Analysis of Coming out (or not) During Pride Month

Now that June is here, and stores and streets alike have become much more colorful, those of us who are questioning their Sexuality or Gender Identity (or who are still in the closet) might be feeling more pressure to make a huge decision: coming out. A large portion of Queer representation in popular media tends to put quite a bit of focus on this, both in terms of the process of coming out, and the feelings and pressure that others may put on you to define your Sexuality, Gender, etc.

Certainly, during Pride Month, when the Queer community is much more visible, many more people will be thinking about their own Gender and Sexuality, and wondering if it may be time to make that crucial decision. Social media is filled with influencers and celebrities and friends alike coming out, sharing their Gender Identity and Sexuality with the world. Commercials are oversaturated with messages encouraging you to celebrate your identity by purchasing pride merchandise or sticking a pronoun pin on your backpack, and TV shows and books surrounding the LGBTQ+ experience almost always involve coming out in some form or another as part of the plot. The pressure to find your identity and broadcast to the world is a message that gets churned out everywhere, and during Pride Month, the message is especially glaring. While coming out can be an exciting opportunity to celebrate yourself and your community, I’d like to acknowledge that it is not always safe for everyone in the Queer community to come out.

In communities where LGTBQ+ issues are ignored or actively shunned, or in homes where Queer people might be reliant on people who may not be supportive of their identities, coming out might pose a threat to one’s safety. People who are not yet comfortable with their Sexuality, Gender, or other aspects of their identity may feel pressure to conform and fit themselves into a label in order to come out – but the truth is there is never any pressure to come out. Coming out can be an exciting decision, but it is also deeply personal. How you choose to identify and who you choose to share that identity with is your decision, and your decision alone. You may decide to come out to everyone in your life, or you may decide not to come out at all. You might even only come out to one person. But no matter what, you are always a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and you are always welcome in the community. Your identity is valid, regardless of whether or not you’ve announced it to anyone. You are not any less Queer, any less valid, or any less yourself.

In a time where we put pressure on ourselves to find certain niches and communities to land in, and where social media pressures your to fit as many aspects of yourself as possible into a neat label, not coming out might feel like you are doing yourself and the community a disservice, but that is not at all the case. It is a big decision, so take your time. Keep yourself safe, and most importantly, be gentle with yourself.

Have a wonderful rest of your Pride Month, no matter where you are in the process.

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Written by Mikayla Chen (she/they), ZCenter Intern/ BA Psychology Candidate at Lake
Forest College

ZCenter aims to end sexual violence, mobilize and educate the public, and support survivors of sexual assault. Our blog addresses issues related to ending oppression and violence, since all oppression and violence are intersectional with sexual violence.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email info@zcenter.org.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Please click below for a pdf version with all links needed for registration:

ZCenter SAAM Events 2022

*Standing Silent Witness at our Dempster Street location has been cancelled for 4/22/22, due to rain.

* Please note that the webinar for 4/20, Talking about Safety with Kids, has been cancelled.




Free Webinar: Writing Poems to Process Trauma

Come have a taste of what some of our clients are experiencing in the Expressive Arts Group! In this workshop, we’ll learn how creative writing can help our brains process trauma, and even write a poem of our own. No writing experience needed — just a pen, some paper, and an open mind.


Join us Wednesday, March 23rd

12:00pm – 1:00pm Central Time.

Register here for this free webinar.

For any questions about our free webinars or the Zacharias Education Network, please contact info@zcenter.org.


Meditation and Breathing Interactive Webinar

In these challenging times, we invite you to take time for yourself and your self care. Join two of our counselors as we work on meditation and breathing techniques.

Please note the date and time change:

Tuesday, February 22nd, 4:15pm – 5:15pm Central Time

Please join us for this free interactive webinar by registering here.

For questions about this webinar, please contact us at info@zcenter.org.

January Lunch & Learn Webinar

Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Relationships

Thursday, January 20th, 2022

12:00pm (noon), Central Time.

Registration is free. Please register here.

Join us for this free webinar on Thursday, January 20th, at noon Central Time. Meet two of our counselors to discuss bringing healthy relationship goals into the new year.


For questions or comments about our Lunch & Learn series, please contact kjones@zcenter.org.

November Lunch & Learn Webinars

Join us for our November Lunch & Learn Webinars. Each are free, but we do ask that you register in advance.


Military Sexual Trauma (MST) and How It Affects Our Veterans

Thursday, November 11

12:00pm Central Time

Register here.

Sexual Assault and the Law

Thursday, November 18

12:00pm Central Time

Register here.


October Lunch & Learn Webinars

Join us for four free Lunch & Learn webinars this month.

All are virtual and you need to register on Zoom. Please contact info@zcenter.org with any questions. We look forward to great discussion over lunch with you!

  • What is feminism? Thursday, 12pm, 10/7/21 Register here.
  • Patriarchy and Sexual Violence. 12pm, Thursday, 10/14/21 Register here.
  • Feminism in Trauma-Informed Care. 12pm, Thursday, 10/21/21 Register here.
  • A Feminist Approach to Sex Education. 12pm, Wednesday, 10/27/21 Register here.
A group of at least 30 people spent an hour April 23 at both of the center’s offices in Gurnee and Skokie silently sharing the personal stories of sexual assault and abuse through signs and T-shirts.

Lake County Journal: ‘Standing Silent Witness’ demonstration raises awareness of sexual violence

Aim is to ‘create a culture of respect, equality and safety,’ eliminate sexual assault and abuse

GURNEE – As long as sexual assault and abuse continues, workers, survivors, volunteers and friends of the Gurnee-based Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center will be “standing silent witness” in protest.

They presented relevant statistics, facts and artwork to stand in solidarity with survivors.

Held nationwide for the past two decades as a signature event during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, “Standing Silent Witness” aims to change the way the issue of sexual violence is thought and talked about, organizers said.

“It’s a visual demonstration of how survivors are silenced,” said Anna Lehner, director of development for the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center or ZCenter.

At each location, one designated person spoke and answered questions about the relevance of the event posed by those stopping or passing by.

The demonstration is one of numerous ways the center has worked to “create a culture of respect, equality and safety” and to eliminate sexual abuse and assault, organizers said.

Formed in 1982, the nonprofit ZCenter, https://zcenter.org, provides places where survivors of sexual violence can heal and aims to mobilize the community toward action. Services are available free of charge to all survivors.

A recently launched Superhero Campaign encourages ongoing gifts and donations to provide art therapy supplies, phone line access, self-care kits and counseling to the clients served by the center.

The center also has created a new “73 Seconds” podcast. The title represents the fact that every 73 seconds someone is sexually violated in the U.S., said Christine Berry, director of services for the ZCenter.

Beginning with its first episode in January, the podcast has covered a wide range of topics, all loosely tied to sexual violence. The most recent podcast featured the topic of human trafficking.

The center also has expanded prevention education services, Berry said, and often provides professional development training in the workplace on the issue of sexual harassment. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the center’s services now are offered virtually.

All efforts, including the recent “Standing Silent Witness” event, are about raising awareness and ultimately eliminating sexual abuse and assault, organizers said.

“Sexual violence is something everyone knows about, but nobody really hears survivors,” Barry said. “One of the things we do by standing silent witness is really bring light to the fact survivors have been silenced.

“Events like these are designed to put this in the forefront of everyone’s minds. It’s really its own version of a pandemic we need to bring light to.”

With Sexual Awareness Month hosted by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, organizations throughout the country are encouraged to take part in events such as Standing Silent Witness throughout the month.

Illinois’ 32 rape crisis centers participate in the national movement.

That means at least thousands of people are standing silent witness in solidarity with survivors, Lehner said.

The Gurnee event included a representative from the newly created LGBTQ+ Center Lake County, https://lgbtqcenterlakecounty.com, and other allies and friends of both the ZCenter and survivors, she said.

“It’s really just showing solidarity, strength in numbers … so people don’t feel alone,” she said.


Photo: Candace H. Johnson-For Shaw Media Helen Williamson stands with Hannah Koo and Jessica Gonzalez on Grand Avenue during the Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center’s “Standing Silent Witness” Sexual Assault Awareness event April 23 in Gurnee. All are on staff at the ZCenter. (Candace H.Johnson)

ZCenter has a new podcast!


Check out our newest venture into the digital space! This first podcast discusses human trafficking awareness with a special guest Jean Doi from Stepping Stones!

73 Seconds Podcast


For inquiries regarding the podcast, please contact Sarah Brennan: sbrennan@zcenter.org

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

Solidarity Statement

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center upholds our mission, ‘To provide a place where survivors of sexual assault and abuse can heal, and to mobilize the community toward action to end sexual violence,’ which encompasses an understanding that sexual violence is a personal, community and societal issue, impacted greatly by systems of oppression, particularly racial oppression.
Our culturally responsive service delivery model, personalized entry processes for accessing services, strategic outreach to underserved communities, and activism on a policy level, are driven by ZCenter’s mission and commitment to ending racism and promoting social justice. Our free Prevention, Advocacy, Crisis Intervention and Counseling services are provided in the spirit of equality, free from judgment or oppression. We believe that all the people we serve are entitled to respect, accessible services, privacy, empowerment, and advocacy.

As we witness the injustices of the death of George Floyd and so many Black lives, through individual and systemic racism, let us never forget the meaning of this moment and the history that brought us here. Our Rape Crisis Movement began through the activism of women of color, whose kin have endured centuries of pandemic racism.

ZCenter stands in solidarity with individuals and organizations who courageously work to dismantle racism and racist systems that cause destruction to African American communities.

ZCenter reaffirms our commitment to embrace a larger view of what a world free from violence in all its forms can look like.

We commit to bearing witness to the feelings and needs of our coworkers, clients, loved ones and neighbors.

We commit to ongoing learning, dialogue, and social justice activism to impact individual and systemic oppression.

We commit to providing culturally inclusive and equitable services for our communities of color, our LGBTQ+ community, and other underserved groups.

We commit to upholding the worth and dignity of all who are impacted by racial and social injustices.

We commit to partnering with community-based organizations, criminal justice systems, schools, health care and faith systems, to collectively address issues of service inequities and community needs.

We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.

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