Conversations, Labels, and Hamburger Mary's

June 7, 2016

Thanks to participant and Auxiliary Board member Sarah Armour for this guest blog post sharing her experience at a recent event!

On the first Sunday in June, I went to Andersonville, Chicago, Illinois for a mini-fundraiser with Center for Independent Futures! Every Sunday and Monday night, Hamburger Mary’s hosts a different non-profit for HamBINGO, and proceeds from the games go back to the organization.

I was so happy and amazed that Center for Independent Futures decided to do the fundraiser at Hamburger Mary’s! Due to my disability, I have always felt connected to the LGBTQ community. The Gay/Straight Alliance was the first club I joined at Loras College. The club was a group of people who loved each other, and they inspired me to come out about my panic disorder and learning disabilities.

At Loras College, I had many experiences that opened my mind up to the ways we connect with other people! I was in the bi-college social work program with Clarke College way back in the day. One school night I attended a guest lecture given by the famous Dr. Mary Pipher. I was mesmerized by the lecture. It was about technology, but more than that, it was about how to connect with each other. How does the core human bond change our feelings? Really technology adds pressure to the 10th degree to the experience of being human! I bought Dr. Piphers book at the end of the night and I remember giving her gas about spelling my name without an H because her daughter spells it without an H...LOL!

In the last few months, I have been having an inner conversation in my own head about labels and how they are just words. We are all ashamed of labels at first, and maybe for the rest of our lives.

This is a quote from my journal: “Why do we feel the need to label others and ourselves, and does it really serve a healthy purpose in our society? Labels are how we connect with people through our common cultural, gender, religious, social/economic status, and age. We tend to group ourselves together based on the labels society gives us. But when it comes to labels related to disability, mental illness, sexual orientation, or race, why does it get complicated? Is it because we fear the unknown? Well, kind of!”

The night I wrote this entry, I was surfing the tube while dog-sitting. I caught the episode of “Glee” when Beiste, played by Dot-Marie Jones, and Punk, played Mark Salling, sang the “Mean” song. The scene was set on the very corner of the stage, just two people and a guitar. It was simple and elegant. I felt like it meant that the words were the point of the scene, not the song or how well they sang it. For a moment, the singers took off their inner masks as they tried to start their own conversations in their heads.

I remember rewinding the scene numerous times, trying to put myself on the stage. I laid down on the floor and cuddled with the dog, re-watching the scene. I believe that there are signs in the universe that make you stop and think, and this was one of them for me. Watching that scene, I started opening THAT DOOR to the scary conversations in my own head. I usually never write in my journal, but the thought bubble kept coming and I had to get it out on the page.

At Hamburger Mary’s, I felt this magic energy that said, “I am who I am! Come and judge me, I dare you!” My legs were shaking the whole time. When I arrived, I did what I always do when I first arrive at a new space: map it out. I sat right next to Alexis Bevels, the BINGO caller and star of the night. There was a safe corner there that nobody was by to give me a little bubble of space.

That night, there was a birthday and singing...another sign that I was meant to be there! The restaurant played songs that everyone yells along with at the top of their lungs. Niki Moe Horrell, Center for Independent Futures’ Development Director, hopes to do HamBINGO annually on the first Sunday of June, which is National LGBT Pride Month. What an awesome way to celebrate!

Every person has their secret label or their scarlet letter. Honestly, we all have 1,000 and it’s called the journey of life! Start the conversation with yourself and don’t ever let it stop!


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