The politicians, activists and donors were out in force for the Human Rights Campaign's summer gala "Beyond," July 28 at McCormick Place Lakeside Center. Candidates for governor mingled with U.S. Congressmen and women, including keynote speaker Rep. Danny Davis.

Meanwhile, rock musician and Chicago native Chuck Panozzo celebrated a special homecoming as he came out as a gay man living with HIV at the HRC dinner. Panozzo, founding member and bass player of the rock group Styx, said he elected to go public to help make the world "a better place for the next generation."

"Coming out has touched my life in so many positive ways and really has set my spirit free," said Panozzo. "I'm in a better place than I've ever been in my life, and it's all because I acknowledged who I am and said 'I want to live my life as an openly gay man.'" Panozzo is a new spokesperson for HRC's National Coming Out Project. "I've lived in Chicago my entire life," said Panozzo. "But speaking to my gay brothers and sisters about coming out means I am finally home."

"We're pleased to have Chuck as a spokesperson and think he will reach a lot of people with his inspirational and hopeful message," said HRC National Coming Out Project Manager Candace Gingrich, who also attended the event.

While the band was rocketing to fame and topping the charts in the 1970s and 1980s, Panozzo's personal life was in constant turmoil as he dealt with being a closeted gay man in the often-homophobic world of rock-n-roll. In 1991, Panozzo tested positive for HIV and in 1999, he was diagnosed with advanced AIDS. Two years of aggressive therapy and the passing of his long-time friend from AIDS helped convince him to go public with his disease.

Source: Windy City Times