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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Out at CHM hosts its first 2023 event
by Vern Hester

This article shared 2123 times since Thu Jul 6, 2023
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On June 28, Chicago History Museum (CHM), 1601 N. Clark St., transformed itself into a "supportive space for trans joy" to mark its support for transgender individuals. The event was presented as part of Out at CHM, a community- focused effort which comes together for LGBTQ+-specific programming about Chicago.

This edition, titled "Trans Joy" featured a panel of LGBTQ+ and trans activists, among them Bonsai Bermudez, the co-founder and executive artistic director of Youth Empowerment Performance Project, or YEPP; and Jae Rice, who serves as deputy CEO of Brave Space Alliance, the critically important Black- and trans-led LGBTQ+ agency located on Chicago's South Side. The panel was moderated by Kim Hunt, who currently serves as the executive director of Pride Action Tank and is also senior director of policy and advocacy operations at AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Chicago History Museum's senior manager of public and community engagement Greg Storms opened the discussion by noting that, "Given our current social and political climate, our committee wanted to focus this event on the transgender community. As we have seen, there has been a gigantic upsurge of transphobia and especially anti-transgender legislation across the nation the past several years."

Storms noted that community programming centering the trans and non-binary communities often takes what he called a "Trans 101" approach, thus helping the audience learn the fundamentals of being an ally to those communities. Other programming often foregrounds the traumatic aspects of living in a transphobic society as well. As such, CHM was determined to counter-program with a night of joy that featured the transgender community at its center.

"We wanted to create a program that can center the more joyful and positive aspects of what it means to live as a transgender and/or nonbinary person in this world, surrounded by people who love and support you, and how living as your true, authentic self and having support around you can be a wonderfully joyous thing," Storms said.

Hunt first asked, "What does queer joy mean to you?"

Bermudez admitted, "It's hard to talk about joy without trauma. This year I think of it as a conversation between the spirit, body and mind. There is harmony in the conversation that allows us to tap into joy. I was born in Puerto Rico and early on nature became a big part of my identity—the mountains and the river. A big part of my joy is returning to nature."

Rice next commented slyly that queer joy meant, "Being able to pick your own pronouns." He added that BSA, as a South Side organization, is "very central in the community. We have wraparound holistic services and anything that affirms your trans identity you can find at BSA. This brings me joy because we are of the community. We can step back and see what the trans community needs."

Contemplating the importance of YEPP, Bermudez said "Chicago is one of the largest cities to produce major artistic talent. I started at the Broadway Youth Center and was surrounded by many radical queer and trans creative people. I thought about it and realized, 'This is what we need—the process of creation.' I brought my career as a dancer and in theater...everything together to create a program.

" Now twelve years later we have a huge space for trans youth of color. We have people impacted by their issues and we decided from the beginning to address what they needed through performance and theater. When I look at the whole process, the momentum, the structure, and how our youth are ready to take it over... When you see trans people stand up in leadership, that brings me joy."

Hunt subsequently asked Bermudez and Rice how they ported joy with the people they work with.

Bermudez replied, "Unfortunately when we talk about Black and Brown people, we think of not having our human rights. We live in an ocean of trauma. We have to ask, 'What are the things that bring us to health? We have to keep learning how to create our own eco-system where we can move forward."

Rice said, "One of the most successful programs we have at BSA is our Voguing University. Joy is a resource and we are going to put much of our effort into Vogue University. Queer and Black people fighting on the dance floor...pure joy at BSA. We just want you to be here and be fine. We don't want anything from you, we don't want your money, we don't want your stats... We're being as intentional as possible."

When asked who she looks up to as a role model, Rice said, "Kim Hunt is it for me. … She continuously gives me advice and encourages me. … Everyone needs a Kim."

After being asked the same question, Bermudez said, "The older trans folks are people I look up to—they're inspiring to me."

For more information on the Brave Space Alliance go to . For more information on The Youth Empowerment Performance Project go to .

This article shared 2123 times since Thu Jul 6, 2023
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