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Hundreds rally at Chicago’s first transgender pride event

By Brynn Cassie West| Chicago Phoenix
Monday, July 30, 2012
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CHICAGO — Nearly 300 people attended Chicago’s first transgender, gender-non-conforming and intersex pride event, held at Union Park Sunday. The intention of the rally was to focus on the theme of “enterprising from the margins,” highlighting community driven efforts to create safe spaces and support among the TGI community.

“Enterprising from the margins means looking at what the TGI looks like and how it evolves,” said speaker and rally organizer KOKUMO.

KOKUMO performs at Chicago’s first transgender, gender-non-conforming and
intersex pride event on Sunday.

The event, titled Trans, Gender-non-conforming and Intersex Freedom Rally and Picnic, or TGIF, was a mix of introductions by representatives from various organizations providing services to the community and performances by local artists El Rey, Mercedes Bonet and performers from About Face Theatre and Chicago Queer Choir.

Other organizations were there to provide on-site services, like the AIDS foundation of Chicago, which provided free rapid HIV screenings. Soy Quien Soy provided a free self-defense class.

The purpose of the rally and picnic, for organizers, was to provide a space in which the community could celebrate its achievements as well as recognize the hardships faced by gender non-conforming and intersex individuals.

“This is a rally,” KOKUMO said. “We are in a state of emergency. We need to discuss how we can live our lives not just survive.”

However, survival is tragically not a reality for many people under the TGI umbrella, particularly transgender women of color. The event was dedicated to the memory of lives of transgender women of color lost.

Lois Bates, an HIV/AIDS advocate who died late last year and Paige Clay, a young transgender woman of color, were among those recognized with a moment of silence. Their names also numbered the Wall of Remembrance which was set up by rally organizers.

While the Wall of Remembrance encapsulated a spirit of mourning for the community that often grapples with tragedy, A Wall of Celebration was also present to provide space to reflect on all the positive aspects of the community enduring and focused on service to one another.

While organizations who provide services to the broad LGBT community were represented and celebrated for their contributions to transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex individuals, there was a marked tension with the general tenor of LGBT politics.

“I don’t have to wait my turn. My turn is now!” said Alexis Martinez, co-organizer of the rally and organizer for Chicago Dyke March. “I don’t like the word pride, I’d rather have dignity and respect.”

However, rather then taking away or competing with Pride events, TGIF hopes to expand and carve out a place for itself as a example of how the transgender and intersex community is working in every area of the country.

“The Midwest is really doing work for the TGI community, it’s not just the West Coast or East coasts,” said KOKUMO.

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