Sexology, science, surrealism
When you’re as multifaceted as Daina Almario-Kopp, you need two business cards. And in her case, cards that are bursting with information:
One describes her as “consulting sexologist, researcher, writer, sexuality educator.” It lists her blogs, “Science of Human Sexuality” and “Sexual Mythbusting.”
The other card labels Almario-Kopp an “ESL (teacher), Tutor, Translator, Tour guide.” It includes her third blog — about surrealism — and calls attention to her art, costuming, photography and her band, Hypnagogic Telegram.
Both colorfully illustrated cards note that she is fluent in German, French, Russian and Lithuanian.
Almario-Kopp (her first name is pronounced like “Dinah”) is a 45-year-old senior majoring in gender and women’s studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
She’s been active in LGBTQ rights since she was 18 and appeared on “The Phil Donahue Show” with her mother and sister. The focus was on transsexuals and their families; her sister Ann, 10 years her senior, is transsexual.
Almario-Kopp has been in touch with fellow LGBTQ activists in Russia and Lithuania about doing lectures and workshops in Chicago at the Center on Halsted (an LGBTQ community center) and/or at UIC.
“Lithuania has the reputation of being hostile and intolerant, but it’s part of the European Union, so it can’t get away with too much homophobia,” she said. “God knows what will happen in Russia.”
Almario-Kopp’s related blogs — sexualmythbusting.blogspot.com and scienceofhumansexuality.blogspot.com — cover topics like the history of sex education (1800s to Obama), the science of sexuality in “Sherlock” on BBC, homosexuality and bisexuality in female bonobos, and seven looks at Alfred Kinsey’s work.
Last year she was education and research chair for the Bisexual Queer Alliance of Chicago, and she is current vice president and public relations chair for a bisexual and queer group on campus, Bi-Quest. She is also logistics officer for the campus chess club.
She recalls two pivotal events in her life. In 1987, she traveled to Washington, D.C., to see the AIDS Memorial Quilt: more than 48,000 3-by-6-foot panels, most commemorating the life of an AIDS victim. “The quilt covered the entire Great Lawn,” she said. “The severity of AIDS and how many had died was striking.”
Two years later, while attending the Berlin University of the Arts, she was present at another historic moment: the fall of the Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany. After the wall came down, she said, she was the first person to skateboard in no-man’s-land.
She’s a member since 1997 of the Chicago Surrealist Group and writes the blog DainaSurrealism.blogspot.com. She is planning a collective exhibit on Lewis Carroll — a major inspiration for surrealists — in London in November, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Almario-Kopp is also a senior at Columbia College Chicago, where she is majoring in fashion design with a minor in art history.
She grew up in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood plagued by crime and a crack cocaine epidemic. “That’s why Germany was a good escape,” she said. She attended international boarding school there on a scholarship.
Returning to New York for high school, she experienced culture shock and decided to earn an equivalency diploma, then went back to Germany for college.
“I may have grown up poor, but at least my environment was culturally rich,” she said. “My grandparents spoke Russian, my mother taught me Lithuanian at home, and in Germany I learned German. Now I’m teaching myself Spanish. My goal in life is to speak 10 languages.”
She is the multilingual lead singer and dancer for Hypnagogic Telegram, which she calls “more of a vaudeville act than a band.”
After graduation in May, Almario-Kopp will seek a Fulbright scholarship to continuing studies of human rights and equality in Russia and Lithuania.
“I’m looking into a master’s in gender studies at Humboldt University in Berlin,” she said.