To acknowledge the International Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31), the inaugural "Trans Visibility Pageant: Standing Up to Hate" was held at the Kehrein Center for the Arts.
The trans-led social-services organization Life Is Work hosted the event, which aimed to uplift the transgender community while honoring the accomplishments of local TGNC community leaders and LGBTQ activists. The event featured live performances, a trans pageant, a raffle, a host of local and national trans talent, and a VIP buffet.
In a press release for the event, Life Is Work CEO Zahara Bassett said, "Last week, we saw another wave of hateful anti-LGBT+ legislation pass in state governments and 2021 saw the biggest number of violent attacks and murders of people in the (trans) community on record." The release went on to say, "Just as we saw 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' in the '90s and The Defense of Marriage Act in the aughts, we are now watching a wave of anti-gay legislation sweep the country in a blatant attempt to win mid-term elections by stirring up homophobia and transphobia."
Professional talent included performers Amalia Black, Tahjee Iman and Lila Star Escada, with Passion Jackson appearing and Washington DC media personality Monroe Alise serving as emcee. The contestants included Keri Triad, Phalen and Avital Shtapura, and they competed in three categories: talent, presentation and evening/formalwear. Triad took first place, with Phalen and Shtapura finishing second and third, respectively.
Among the many recipients of awards were activists Fredy Roberts-Ramirez, Monroee Diamond, Zi' Renae Young, Jae Rice, LaSaia Wade, Dr. Maya Green and the late Elise Malary. (Mallary's award was accepted by members of her family.) The recipient of the Miss Ketty Teanga Trailblazer Award was author/activist Reyna Oritiz. The recipient of the Lois Bates Trailblazer Award was Trisha Lee Holloway, and the My Sister's Keeper Lifetime Achievement Award went to activist and medical doctor Dr. Lourdes Ashley Hunter.
While accepting her award, Hunter said to a wildly enthusiastic audience, "We live in a world where we are told we don't belong, that we don't matter, that we should be dismissed. Every day, trans people wake up wondering if [they] will make it through another day. Well, we are here to dismantle that shit."
Co-sponsors and community partners of "Standing Up to Hate" included Howard Brown Heath, The Chicago Department of Public Health, the Trans Women of Color Collective, the Human Rights Campaign, Chicago House, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Amazon and Equality Illinois.
The mission of Life Is Work is to support and uplift Trans people of color through direct services, activism and advocacy through case management and guided program assistance with employment, legal services, and safe housing options.
The Life is Work Resource Center is at 5463 W. Chicago Ave. and can be reached at 312-796-6020. The Center is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.