Brave Space Alliance, Chicago Therapy Collective and Life is Work joined forces to celebrate Trans Day of Remembrance under the banner New Era Together Nov. 19 at Venue West, 221 N. Paulina St., on the West Side of Chicago.
The event was held to honor the lives of transgender and non-binary individuals who were lost due to violence and discrimination over the past year.
Event emcee and Life is Work Housing Case Manager and entertainer Lia Stokes said, "As a Black trans woman who suffers from anxiety and PTSD, every day is a struggle. But we are here to celebrate, uplift, learn and love."
Speakers included Black and Pink Executive Director and Transgender Strategy Center faculty member Tatyana Moaton, as well as Life Is Work Founder and CEO Zahara Bassett; Brave Space Alliance Deputy CEO Jae Rice; Howard Brown Health Community Relations Associate Director Terra Campbell; Chicago Department of Public Health Individuals of Transgender Experience Public Health Administrator III Nick Selik; Chicago Therapy Collective (CTC) Executive Director and therapist Iggy Ladden; and Lace to Liberation Founder Beverly Ross.
Moaton said it felt good to be in her hometown again. She added, "As we gather today on this solemn occasion … we come together not just in grief, but in solidarity, in strength and in injustice in an unwavering commitment to justice and equality … As a Black transgender woman my journey has been one of both profound challenges and incredible triumphs. A journey that resonates with the stories of the people we honor today … I learned early on that my existence was a battleground."
She also spoke about everyone who has been marginalized and oppressed in one way or another, and said how important it was to remember the people who "walked so we could run, spoke so we could shout … we are not just victims, we are survivors, fighters and change-makers … [Let us] create a world where being transgender is not a sentence to a life of struggle, discrimination and fear; but a world that embraces and celebrates our diversity … turning our eyes to the future where we must shape, through our actions, our advocacy and our unwavering commitment to justice. Let us create a world where [transgender people] are celebrated for their contributions, bravery and their unapologetic authenticity … Let us remember that each [ person's name we read today] represented a life, a story, a dream and a potential that was unfairly extinguished."
Bassett started with the chant "trans power" and reminded everyone that, "This has been a rough year for us all, on so many levels." She also asked the audience to give each other hugs to spread the love in the room.
Rice said, "This is not just a day of remembrance; it is also a day of resilience, and a day to take back the power that they are trying to take from us. This is a day of community." He also encouraged everyone to visit the Brave Space Alliance website and take the Trans Area Survey "because if we aren't at the table, we are on the menu."
Campbell said she was proud to be a part of this event.
Selik invoked the workers' rights activist Mother Jones' quote, "mourn for the dead and fight like hell for the living," and said, "It perfectly encapsulates the meaning and purpose behind transgender day of remembrance."
Ladden spoke about losing their friend, work colleague and CTC founding board member Elise Mallory, last year and said their heart is with the Life is Work family over the loss of Lisa Love in recent months.
Ross asked the audience to observe 20 seconds of silence to honor those trans and nonbinary people who were lost this past year.
Center on Halsted (COH) Youth Member Mango read off the names of members of the trans and nonbinary community who died across the country over this past year, while other COH youth members held up five handmade quilts done by multi-generational trans, nonbinary and gender expansive community members to honor the lives that were lost.
Both Trinity Sapphire and Jayr Washington wowed the crowd with rousing and fierce spoken word performances that elicited cheers from the audience.
Honey Daniel served as the entertainment commentator during the ballroom competition where contestants competed for $3,000 in cash prizes in categories based on the Trans Flag colorsblue, pink and white.
The event also featured a picture slideshow of all the known trans and nonbinary people in America who died this past year as well as performances by Puma Bonet and Center on Halsted Youth Member Irma Fungi.
Event co-sponsors included Affinity Community Services, Amazon, Center on Halsted, Chicago Department of Public Health, Cook County Health Hospital Services, Equality Illinois, Human Rights Campaign Chicago, Lace to Liberation, LAGBAC, Chicago's LGBTQ+ Bar Association and Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating.