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VIEWS: Revisiting the Queer Agenda: A honeymoon gift
by Andre Perez
2013-04-17

This article shared 2376 times since Wed Apr 17, 2013
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Organizations that poured millions into the Illinois marriage campaign are approaching the finish line, and I need to ask: Where to next?

When I came out in Massachusetts, same-sex marriage was legal. While the marriage fight was ramping up elsewhere, my community wanted jobs and healthcare. Ten years after winning marriage, Massachusetts boasts a thriving movement including LGBTQ prisoner support, professional conferences for transgender rights lawyers, and publicly subsidized health care.

Meanwhile, gay marriage eloped with astonishing amounts of resources. Takepart.com reports that Human Rights Campaign spent $30 million passing marriage amendments in just four states, and Californians spent $44 million to defeat Prop 8 according to the LA Times. After all that canvassing, calling, and protesting, wedded-bliss seems imminent.

What does this tell us? LGBTQ funders, advocates, and organizers can move heaven, earth and mountains of cash for a cause. Like in every marriage, compromises have been made along the way. The needs of trans people, queer youth and communities of color have taken a backseat, and now we need to call shotgun. I ask today, where do we want to be in 10 years and how do we plan to get there? Here are my top 5 agenda items for consideration:

1. Create a plan that supports LGBTQ homeless youth in accessing and maintaining stable housing. There are 15,000 homeless youth on the streets of Chicago according to Lake View Action Coalition, an estimated 30-40% of which are LGBTQ-identified. Chicago's current homelessness plan provides for less than 200 youth-dedicated beds, leaving thousands of queer youth out in the cold after being kicked out by their families. How do we leverage our resources to create more housing opportunities? What would our world look like in 10 years if we advocated for funding to address homelessness like ACT UP fought for funding to combat HIV/AIDS decades ago?

2. Hold employers accountable to employment non-discrimination laws. Legal equality is one thing, but changing daily life is another. Illinois was the fifth of 16 states to prohibit employment discrimination based on gender identity. However, transgender people still face widespread misunderstanding and harassment on the job. Discrimination during the hiring process, when gender-variant people feel most vulnerable, is difficult to prove. How do we help people access employment? How do we help people fight back against illegal discrimination?

3. End abusive practices by police and the criminal legal system. Trans folks, especially transgender women, report a wide range of misconduct from the Chicago Police Department. While working with LGBTQ youth, I regularly heard stories from trans and gender-variant people about being profiled as sex workers and falsely arrested, illegally searched and verbally humiliated, or even forced to perform sexual acts on officers. The notorious case of CeCe Mcdonald, a transgender woman in Minnesota who was convicted of murder after defending herself against a homophobic assault, highlights the injustice our community faces. How do we support people who experience police violence? How do we respond to problems without relying on police? How do we tell CPD that the LGBTQ community will not tolerate abuse and harassment?

4. Expand access to adequate, affordable, culturally sensitive, gender-affirming healthcare. In recently years, the number of organizations providing access to hormones for transgender people and supportive care for people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS increased dramatically. Unfortunately, the combined capacity of service providers still falls short of the need. Service providers operating at a sliding scale often have long waiting lists or their scales can't go low enough to be affordable to everyone. How do we support the organizations like Chicago Women's Health Center and Howard Brown in expanding their capacity to provide care? How do we change public policy so that more people, LGBTQ or not, get the care they need?

5. Hold LGBT community institutions accountable to the people they serve. LGBT social services organizations are full of well-intentioned people working hard to address the incredible need in our community. Unfortunately, structures and policies of these organizations sometimes miss the mark. Whether promoting financial transparency or cultural competence, these organizations need to open dialogues with clients. They need to develop ways of interacting with impacted communities that are responsive to their needs and concerns. Community advisory boards are emerging to fill this gap, but how do we ensure that those bodies actually have the power to change policies and daily practices?

Moving forward, I hope leaders from many LGBTQ experiences will come to the table for a heart-to-heart. We need to work together to create a broad coalition that empowers people who traditionally have been excluded from the movement. This means making room for new leaders and taking time to listen to one another. Only then, can we bring all the resources of this powerful community to bear on the places where LGBTQ's come face to face with power—prisons, schools, emergency rooms, job interviews. When our friends get back from Springfield, let's put some new items on the gay agenda.

André is the founder of the Trans Oral History Project, co-founder of Project Fierce Chicago, and a working board member of Orgullo en Accion. When André is not rabble-rousing, educating, or building community, you can hire him to photograph events and portraits by contacting him at andrealanperez@gmail.com .


This article shared 2376 times since Wed Apr 17, 2013
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