University Park, IL,
13:46 PM

Taking pride in GSU Jackie McKethen

Jackie McKethen

Jackie McKethen knows the challenges and proud moments of accomplishment that come with living life as a transgender woman. At age 76, she continues to open doors for the LGBTQIA community—including members of the Governors State University (GSU) community—to ensure fair treatment and respect.

As GSU celebrates Pride Month, the campus remains committed to fostering an inclusive campus and a conducive environment where everyone can learn and work. GSU strives to include LGBTQIA individuals in the curriculum, to honor pronouns and to encourage listening and acceptance. It is the university’s strong commitment to welcoming and supporting the LGBTQIA community that fuels McKethen’s dedication to the students as a longstanding member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board.

 “In general, there’s very little support for education of LGBTQIA youth,” McKethen said. “Some end up jobless or under employed and even homeless.”

  In 2018, McKethen was inspired to establish a scholarship at GSU for students who identify as LGBTQIA and/or are supportive of the community. She has tried to find a major donor for the scholarship, contacting individuals such as Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker and even Bill Gates. The balance of the Jackie McKethen Scholarship For LGBTQIA Students has grown slowly with contributions primarily from her and her late wife, Nora Scully, ‘78.

“We’ve been able to provide $500 for books and expenses to several students,” McKethen said. “One recipient wrote me a thank you letter that I have framed on my wall.”

Another moment of pride came recently when McKethen was elected to serve on the board of trustees of the Crete Public Library District, becoming the first transgender person elected to serve on a public library board in Illinois.

“I first got interested in politics when Barack Obama was president,” McKethen explained. “He was the first in our history to talk about helping and demarginalizing the LGBTQIA community in his State of the Union address.”

McKethen wants to ensure that the Crete Library offers a space for LGBTQIA teens and young adults to gather and meet each other, a big need in the south suburbs. She added that a valuable reference on transgender people is “Cross Dressing, Sex, and Gender” by Vern and Bonnie Bullough, and she wants to make copies available to the Crete Library and the GSU library.

McKethen grew up with a twin sister and became jealous of her wearing girl’s clothing. McKethen didn’t come out until 2004, after serving in the military, pursuing professional positions in banking, retail and collections, and raising a son with her first wife. Included in her experiences are attending Columbia College for fashion design and designing clothing for transgender people.

“The only things I haven’t done is bungee jumped and sky dived,” she said. “And I don’t think I ever will.”

Donors wishing to contribute to the Jackie McKethen Scholarship For LGBTQIA Students can do so by clicking here.