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'Fearful' Of Future With President Trump, Chicago LGBTQ Mourn Progress

By Ariel Cheung | November 10, 2016 6:01am
 From left: Gaege Stenseth, Dynasty Lovet, Jocelyn David and Derek Chairs came to the Center on Halsted Wednesday, following the election of Donald Trump as president.
From left: Gaege Stenseth, Dynasty Lovet, Jocelyn David and Derek Chairs came to the Center on Halsted Wednesday, following the election of Donald Trump as president.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

BOYSTOWN — Despite the numbness and disbelief, crestfallen members of the LGBTQ community found solace in one another following Tuesday's election of Donald Trump as president.

"We're all tapping into the same energy," said Erik Glenn, an organizer with the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus. "We need time to process and mourn this idea that we were moving in this direction of justice and morality."

But, he added, "after the mourning, we have to get to work."

Facing the potential undoing of recent monumental victories — marriage equality and anti-discrimination protections among them — Chicago lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer activists and agencies say they are steeling themselves for a long four years of fighting off major setbacks to those gains. The concern focuses on a list of potential Supreme Court justices who have been characterized as fairly reliable votes against LGBTQ equality.

Hear Ariel talk about the reactions of the LGBTQ community.

"What's the point of making it happen and then having someone come into the White House and take it all back?" said Ashanti Blackwell, a 23-year-old transgender woman. "All of that for what?"

Meanwhile, others in the city are reaching out to friends and loved ones whose mental health spiraled in the wake of Trump's election.

Victor Gonzalez, 27, said he felt helpless as friends sank into depression or shared thoughts of suicide Wednesday. Across the country, calls to crisis support lines more than doubled in some situations, Time reported.

Gonzalez, a gay Latino who lives in Andersonville, also knows people living in the country illegally, as his parents first did when they came to the United States before he was born — although they've since found a legal path to their lives here.

"I always had that fear, growing up, of not having my parents around," Gonzalez said Tuesday. "And knowing now that we will have a president who has a very specific viewpoint on Latinos in general is really scary."

Gonzalez said he followed the election closely and at first supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primaries before voting for Hillary Clinton, whose shocking loss to Trump and his subsequent election as the 45th president sent thousands marching in protest through the streets of Chicago and seven other major cities Wednesday night.

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Searching for a flicker of hope, Gonzalez said he is trying to believe in Trump's victorious promise to work for all Americans and "come together as one united people." He also took heart in the quadrupling of women of color in the Senate.

"There's nothing we can do right now except hope for the best," he said. "I think the only thing we have right now is each other. I really hope people speak up and voice their opinions in a healthy way, and hopefully Donald Trump actually keeps his word and lets America show him the way."

Glenn also tried to cope with the added weight of the intersecting discrimination he faces as a gay black man, brought to the forefront in the ugly race.

"Many, many communities are looking to tomorrow to figure out if they're going to be safe or not," he said. "Not only from the policies that will come from this administration, but from a swelling community of Donald Trump supporters who are no longer shy about their true feelings toward them."

As part of the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Glenn said he's considering how best to widen the group's reach to those who might need it most under a Trump presidency.

"It's my job and my colleagues' job to make sure the black gay people growing up in Downstate Illinois, for example, know they're not alone," Glenn said. "Maybe we need to start visiting [other cities] just to let people know we're here."

Center on Halsted received an influx of calls Wednesday, as people looked for LGBTQ-supportive outlets and behavioral health services "because they are fearful of what the future holds," spokesman Peter Johnson said.

RELATED: City 'Despondent' Over Trump Victory, Rahm Rallies Somber Council

Center CEO Modesto Valle pledged, "We are here for you and we are here with you," in a letter posted on Facebook. "The LGBTQ community is no stranger to adversity. In fact, we have thrived in the face of it."

The center was joined by fellow Boystown stalwart, Howard Brown Health, in issuing reassurances to those they serve.

"The day after a bruising and contentious election, we sit with feelings of uncertainty and trepidation," wrote David Munar, president of Howard Brown Health. "And yet our resolve could not be stronger."

The organizations, along with Equality Illinois, reaffirmed their missions to advocate for anyone targeted by hate or violence. Equality Illinois extended "a consolidated voice" and solicited donations for communities threatened during the election cycle, immigrants, Muslims and victims of sexual assault among them.

"Now is the time to deepen our commitment to building bridges, not putting up walls," wrote CEO Brian Johnson. "

At Center on Halsted Wednesday, a group of people in their 20s debated the country's future over Styrofoam cups of ramen in the center's lobby, questioning the impact Trump would have on their daily lives come 2017.

"He can't just get a big boat and say, 'Anyone who's not Caucasian, everybody get on this boat,'" Blackwell said.

Nearby, Gaege Stenseth, 18, voiced a concern that Supreme Court justices appointed by Trump would take steps to repeal marriage equality.

"Me and my boyfriend want to get married and start a life," they said. "That's not going to be able to happen as easily."

While 24-year-old transgender woman Jocelyn David said she would have supported either candidate in victory, she was "hurt" by the idea of an administration that would reject a federal ban on gender identity-based discrimination and be in favor of conversion therapy and hate crimes masquerading as religious freedom.

"I just hope and pray that they have a change of heart," David said. "I wouldn't say [Trump] is going to make this world a horrible place, although I believe he has some things he has to work on."

The world was hardly perfect before Trump's election, and "in some perverse way, this may help a lot of liberal America wake up to the fact that this has been an ongoing issue that is coming to a head," Glenn said. "Some only believe our struggle so far up to a certain point, so we have a lot of work to do."

Glenn said he and other people of color and other minorities face opposition from liberals who doubt the validity of protests like those of Black Lives Matter groups while raising the misguided question of black-on-black crime.

"It's dark, but, in a way, I'm excited for all this energy and anger to be galvanized," Glenn said. "We can coalition and say, 'This is not going to happen again.' We have an opportunity to get out of this, but we have to do it together."

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