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Chicago's transgender community kicks off Transgender Week of Visibility with daylong conference, resource fair
by Jake Wittich
2024-03-30

This article shared 13357 times since Sat Mar 30, 2024
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Transgender community leaders, allies and politicians kicked off a weeklong celebration of transgender visibility in Chicago with a one-day conference and resource fair.

More than 100 community members attended the first-ever Spring Trans Health and Wellness Summit, held March 29 at the UIC Forum, 1213 S. Halsted St. The event was organized by Life is Work—a Black-, Brown- and trans-led social services agency on the West Side—in partnership with the Chicago Department of Public Health.

It kicked off what community leaders called Transgender Week of Visibility in Chicago, centered on Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), which happens every March 31 to celebrate trans people across the world while raising awareness for the issues affecting the community.

"As we approach Trans Day of Visibility on March 31, we hold space today to raise awareness about issues that affect our community and to celebrate trans people and legislative victories," said Myles Brady-Davis, communications director for Equality Illinois.

The event featured several panel discussions tackling topics like health disparities, gender-affirming care, harm reduction and sexual health. Speakers ranged from local community leaders and politicians to transgender activists from around the country.

Community leaders also celebrated victories, like the state's new policy allowing for gender-neutral markers on their IDs. State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin), who co-sponsored the bill with State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D-Downers Grove), was in attendance.

"So many people in our community face violence and harassment whenever they try to use their ID to travel or whenever they interact with police or banks," Brady-Davis said. "The X marker on the driver's license and state ID can be what helps improve trans individuals' ability to live authentically."

Trailblazers like Precious Brady Davis, commissioner for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD), were celebrated. Precious Brady-Davis, who was appointed to the role in 2023 and running for a 2-year term, is the first Black transgender woman to serve in public office in Cook County.

She spoke on the importance of transgender representation in government.

"When people see themselves reflected in the arc of history, they say 'I can be that too,'" Precious Brady-Davis said.

Dominique Morgan, director for Borealis Philanthropy's Fund for Trans Generations, was the summit's keynote speaker. Zahara Bassett, founder and CEO of Life is Work, is a member of the Fund for Trans Generations' inaugural Tenacious 10 for the Flower Crown Project, which is investing $2 million into 10 Black trans leaders for the next two years.

Morgan gave an empowering presentation about discovering and owning one's inner power.

"People are afraid and activated by the existence of trans people because they witnessed us manifesting what is our best lives and they don't know how to do it for themselves," Morgan said.

Kataluna Enriquez, the first openly trans woman to compete in Miss USA and current reigning Miss International Queen USA, joined local transgender leaders for an intergenerational discussion on housing.

The speakers—Enriquez, Emily Jade Aguilar, Lia Stokes, Flomichelle Battles, Beverly Ross—discussed how helping trans people experiencing homelessness needs to involve a comprehensive approach that supplements housing with jobs, livable wages, financial education and more.

"As I navigate the trans community, I oftentimes feel like it's just a band-aid," Jade Aguilar said. "We get the house, cool. But am I setting you up for failure or am I setting you up for success?"

The resource fair featured more than a dozen organizations serving transgender people, including Brave Space Alliance, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center's Trans Chicago Empowerment Center and Center on Halsted.

"We are hoping that you all walk away with a piece of hope and feeling empowered in the work we all do," Bassett said.

Life is Work was scheduled to continue with its third-annual Windy City Trans Visibility Pageant, happening 6-11 p.m. March 30 at the Kehrein Center for the Arts, 5628 W. Washington Blvd.


This article shared 13357 times since Sat Mar 30, 2024
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