Beyond recognition in the newer versions of Queer acronyms, the Trans community continues to be overlooked and misunderstood by not only society as a whole, but also by many allies and even our own community. For some of the more closed-minded, ignorant, tea-party types, this denial of acceptance is undoubtedly intentional. However, it is a bit more unacceptable (and not always at the fault of the person) for our own community to be in the dark about even the most basic of issues that our brothers and sisters are faced with every day. If you weren’t sure about the definitions to the words I asked you about above, I am not here to guilt trip you. Unfortunately, the trans-culture is not as mainstream and accepted as the Gay and Lesbian culture that is slowly becoming much more accepted and open in the media and daily life. Instead of these words being common knowledge through life’s lessons, one must go out of their way to accumulate the knowledge that covers the rest of the LGBTs that surround us every day.
On Saturday, January 21st, Equality Illinois hosted their Winter Transgender Community Social at the Mayne Stage Theater in Rogers Park. On a damp, snowy afternoon, I was worried that the turnout would be low – much like any other badly weathered social I have attended in the past. However, I was happily proved wrong as I entered a beautiful venue filled with over 50 guests of all walks of life, all in a room to support this part of our community and maybe even find one of their own. From 18 year olds searching for a spot of comfort and support, to those who established trans-focused businesses many years ago, the event not only represented one letter, but the entire community. With a lighthearted, welcoming atmosphere, the venue had the sentiment of change.
As vice-president of the board Catherine Sikora and board member Christina Kahrl took to the microphone, the room slowly got more serious as if everyone knew that there needed to be a break in the fun and time to talk some business. Unlike many similar events around the city, the main focus of the social was not raising money. Instead of asking for bigger and more donations, Kahrl spread a message that undoubtedly gave goosebumps. Leading with many thanks for helping the 2nd semi-annual social turn out such a success, she reminded us of those transgender activists and leaders we lost this year. From Lois Bates, the transgender health manager of Howard Brown Health Center to Julie Johnson, the co-chair of the Be-All conference, we were reminded that with the loss of these spectacular individuals there are big shoes to fill. Though these women accomplished great things, there was a room filled with people who have the same voice, the same passion and the same ability to make change.
I realize that communities that lie outside of the Gay and Lesbian labels have to work even harder for equality, recognition and sense of community. For years my focus has been working together, raising awareness, and changing this dynamic of sole representation of cisgender (born male) men representing a community at large. This takes place not only in National organizations, but politics, activism, college alliances and even local LGBTQ events. For the first time in a very long time, maybe for the first time ever, I was truly surrounded by THE community. Sitting around with my L Stop family, a melting pot in itself, talking to the trans/gender queer/cisgender/gay/straight/Asian/black/white attendees, it felt like the desire, passion and ABILITY for progress was present under one roof.
If you would like more information on Equality Illinois, its events, and other news OR would like to donate your time check out www.eqil.org or call 773-477-7173
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Lauren was born and raised in South Minneapolis and like many other innocent midwesterners got sucked into the black hole of Chicago politics 4 years ago. As the LGBT Coordinator for the Gery Chico for Mayor Campaign she attempted to take on the entire city and hasn’t looked back since. Now working for a communications firm, she spends her extra time running around with cases of PBR playing in different sports leagues, hosting couchsurfers from all over the place, and deciding how she is going to change the world. A simple lady at her core, she has decided that the first person to send her an edible arrangement must be the one.