When Kari Venteris felt frustrated by the lack of queer women in her suburban area, she was determined to do something about it. “I decided to organize a group to help eradicate the issue of queer invisibility in the suburbs and rural areas,” Venteris says. This Out&About was formed. Venteris' main intention? “To help lesbians find each other in the areas located outside of the big cities of Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago and to have a good time doing it.” Venteris spoke with Our Town about her endeavor.
Our Town Why is it such a struggle to meet other queer women outside of Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee?
Kari Venteris Generally, lesbians depend on the bars to find the community. However, many bars aimed at the gay and lesbian population are shutting down. Further, some towns are not large enough to support a gay bar. These circumstances drive the queer population into the straight bars where it becomes absurdly difficult. For newcomers to the area or other women seeking the lesbian community, it becomes a daunting task to find the local hangouts and to connect with other lesbians. Additionally, there are not many activities focused solely on the queer community, outside of Pride events, which are generally only in the larger cities and only occur for once weekend once a summer.
OT Why is Out&About necessary?
KV I hope with Out&About to make the community more consistently visible year round by having an organization whose sole purpose is to foster connections within the lesbian community through social activities.
OT Aside from the group, how have you met other queer women outside of the city?
KV It appears a large number of queer women are meeting online through sites such as OKCupid or Plenty of Fish. The Internet is a wonderful tool for connecting isolated groups, such as members of the queer community living in rural areas. However, we all know the inherent problems with meeting people online, such as misrepresentation. With Out&About, group members can grow to know each other in a more natural, relaxed environment to connect as friends or even romantically.
OT Any plans to take a group outing to Chicago pride?
KV We certainly plan on supporting Pride events throughout the area in order to not only support our community, but also to let interested parties know we exist.
OT What are your hopes for the organization?
KV My hopes are quite simple; I want to have fun while helping people make connections!
OT What are your future plans for the group?
KV Our inaugural event will be held at 1pm on Saturday, June 15th at Volcano Falls in Loves Park, IL. Afterwards, we will head out to Buffalo Wild Wings in Machesney Park, IL for burgers and beverages. Future events will include game nights, visits to attractions in the Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin area, and recreational activities, such as days at the beach, bike rides, or kayaking lessons. The future of Out&About will be largely guided by the membership.
To keep up with the club, find them on Facebook.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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