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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-06-08



LGBTQ+ and allied organizations rally against bigotry and hate
by Carrie Maxwell

This article shared 1070 times since Thu Apr 28, 2022
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A statewide coalition of LGBTQ+ and allied organizations held a press conference and rally April 27 in Chicago's Federal Plaza in response to the wave of nationwide bigotry and hate against the queer and trans community, including the more than 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed in multiple states across the country.

This event happened one month after an initial press conference/rally that took place March 28 ended abruptly when Ex-Cons For Community and Social Change members, wearing bulletproof vests, interrupted and drowned out the speakers with bullhorns.

Among the speakers on April 27 were Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker, Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton, Equality Illinois' Mony Ruiz-Velasco, Life is Work's Zahara Bassett, Youth Outlook's Carolyn Wahlskog, Affinity Community Service CEO Latonya Maley, ALMA board member David Guana, Chicago Therapy Collective's Iggy Ladden, Planned Parenthood of Illinois' Radia Mchabcheb, Lambda Legal's Kara Ingelhart, Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson, Chicago House's Elizabeth Ricks and Eisha Love, Brave Space Alliance's Stephanie Skora and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District candidate Precious Brady-Davis.

"I am here today because I will not be silent," said Pritzker. "I stand with you."

Pritzker added that his goal is to keep everyone in Illinois safe. He said things are scary right now for so many members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially trans people. Pritzker vowed to "advocate for stronger protections" in Illinois and at the national level for the LGBTQ+ community. He also named some of the most recent Black trans women who have died in Illinois.

Stratton said, "We are here to say, collectively together, that enough is enough" of the homophobia and transphobia, and that LGBTQ+ people "have a right to be angry about in the face of hateful legislation being filed and passed in states all across this country" and a "right to demand better." She added that now is the time to speak out and "say gay" at every turn (a reference to the recent Florida "Don't Say Gay" law), and "that trans is beautiful" and "will not be cast back in the shadows." Stratton also invoked the names of the late Black trans Chicagoans Elise Malary and Tatiana "Tee Tee" Labelle.

Ruiz-Velasco spoke about the previously scheduled rally that was "violently interrupted" and, as a result, "silenced" Black trans voices. She added that this event was a way to "reclaim our space and send a loud, visible message that we will not be silenced." Ruiz-Velasco said one of the goals of this event was to show young queer and trans people that they are supported and that hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated.

Bassett led the crowd in a chant ("We will not be silenced) and said the anti-LGBTQ+ bills being introduced are an attempt to "attack our unity" and "a genocide on trans identity." She said that, according to the Human Rights Campaign, trans deaths have grown from 21 people in 2015 to 44 people in 2020. Bassett added that there needs to be more funding directed toward Chicago's West Side to help LGBTQ+ people who live there so they can thrive. She called on everyone to keep talking about trans people's deaths beyond a two day news cycle so authorities provide answers to the community.

Wahlskog said it is wrong for elected officials in multiple states to take away student's rights to learn about LGBTQ+ history, ban trans students from bathrooms and sports and prevent trans youth from receiving gender-affirming medical care. She singled out what is happening in Texas. Wahlskog said that Illinois still has to address the inequities in the foster care system that negatively impact LGBTQ+ youth and that there has been an uptick in homophobic and transphobic slurs directed at LGBTQ+ students during this current school year. She added that LGBTQ+-inclusive laws have to come with proper enforcement mechanisms.

Maley spoke about how all of these anti-LGBTQ+ bills are "everyone's issue" because "they are a coordinated attack to segregate us, silence us and erase us and we are not going to stand for it." She added that these bills result in discrimination, violence and negative healthcare outcomes. Maley said the presence of one supportive adult in an LGBTQ+ young person's life is so important and that more people should step up in this manner. She said that anti-LGBTQ+ politicians need to be voted out of office nationwide.

Guana said Latinx LGBTQ+ people are "taught to be silent" for many reasons and this has caused over 40 percent of queer and trans youth to contemplate suicide. He added that 2021 was the deadliest year for trans people nationwide. Guana also spoke about the LGBTQ+ community's resilience including coming out at younger and younger ages in recent years. He said now is the time for the LGBTQ+ community and allies to come together across the country to push back on the hate and bigotry coming from states like Texas and Florida.

Ladden said that they were speaking on behalf of Alexis Martinez who was ill and could not make it to the event. They spoke about Malary's recent unsolved death and how much she would have loved being at this event. Ladden spoke about Malary's activism and said everyone in the LGBTQ+ community should seek out therapy for their own mental and physical health.

Mchabcheb spoke about being a "proud Brown queer Muslim woman" and that the work Planned Parenthood of Illinois does to help trans youth access gender affirming care is vital. She read the names of the nine reported trans people who have been murdered so far this year. Mchabcheb said this hatred and violence is "rooted in white supremacy" and everyone "must do better" to stop this.

Ingelhart said Lambda Legal is fighting back against these anti-LGBTQ+ laws and directives including in Texas where they won an injunction that stopped state officials from investigating parents of trans kids.

Johnson spoke about how anti-LGBTQ+ attacks "do not define us because if you oppose a five year old from talking about her two dads at school that says nothing about the dignity of their family, it says everything about your anti-family views." He said that those who criminalize parents who seek out medically appropriate care for their trans child are showing their hatred, not love and this also applies to denying trans youth who want to play sports on the teams that align with their gender identity.

Ricks said that Illinois has the second most restrictive name-change law in the country that ranges from a 10 year to lifetime ban depending on one's criminal record. This creates barriers in housing, employment and medical care among other necessary things. She spoke about HB2542 (Illinois Name Change Modernization Act) sponsored by Illinois state Sen. Robert Peters and Illinois state Rep. Kelly Cassidy that would amend the current law to give trans and gender expansive people "more freedom" when seeking to change their name. Ricks urged everyone to call their state Senator and tell them to vote yes on this bill when it comes up for a vote.

Love spoke about her experience as a Black trans woman who still is unable to change her identification due to a felony record. She said this barrier impacts every part of her life including looking for a job and called on everyone to make sure HB2542 becomes law.

Skora said "we are pissed" because, for 20 years (until 2019), no trans person's murder was ever solved by the Chicago Police Department and that only changed because of the work Brave Space Alliance did to hold them accountable for their inaction. She said that violence prevention includes having somewhere to live, a job and $500 in emergency money among other protections and that each one of the partnering organizations for this event need more funding to do their work properly.

Brady-Davis spoke about possibly becoming the first trans person elected to public office in Illinois. She said "we deserve a seat at the table." Brady-Davis also said everyone must support the Illinois Name Change Modernization Act and called on the legislators in attendance to get this bill across the finish line.

A number of other elected officials were also in attendance including Illinois state Rep. Greg Harris, Cassidy, Illinois state Rep. Lamont Robinson, Illinois state Sen. Mike Simmons, Illinois state Sen. Karina Villa, Peters and Illinois Human Rights Commission Chair Mona Noriega. Ruiz-Velasco said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot sent her regrets for being unable to attend the event and also released a statement of support.

Partnering organizations included ACLU of Illinois, Affinity Community Services, AIDS Foundation Chicago, ALMA, Bisexual Queer Alliance Chicago, Brave Space Alliance, Center on Halsted, Chicago House and Social Service Agency, Chicago Therapy Collective, Equality Illinois, Golden Rainbows of Illinois South, Indivisible Chicago, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, LGBTQ Community Fund at the Chicago Community Trust, Life is Work, Peoria Proud, PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Prairie Pride Coalition, Pride Action Tank, Rainbow Café, She Votes Illinois, Unitarian Universalist Advocacy Network of Illinois and Youth Outlook.

This article shared 1070 times since Thu Apr 28, 2022
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