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'Erased And Forced Out,' Trans Collective Shuts Down Pride Parade

By Ariel Cheung | June 26, 2017 5:52am
 A collective of trans and queer people protested during the Chicago Pride Parade, shutting it down for about 10 minutes to call for more inclusivity within the city's LGBTQ communities and organizations, along with other political action.
Trans Liberation Collective Protests Pride
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BOYSTOWN — Amid the exuberant cheers and waving of rainbow flags to celebrate the brightest aspects of gay pride, some of the community's uglier history is lost in the background, activists said.

On Sunday, a collective of trans and queer people of color shut down the Chicago Pride Parade at Belmont and Halsted to remind people of that history — and demand better for the future. 

Nearly 40 protesters marched between the WGN floats and the Chicago Coalition of Welcoming Churches in the second leg of the parade, which began at noon Sunday at Montrose and Broadway and finished just after 4 p.m. at Diversey and Sheridan Road.

But for nearly 15 minutes, the coalition — filled with members of the Black Transgender Gender Non-Conforming Collective, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace, Assata's Daughters and Pilsen Alliance — chanted explicative-laced insults toward police officers and Donald Trump and denounced LGBTQ organizations they said overlook marginalized people within the community.

"The rainbow masquerade is not enough," Vita Cleveland declared into a megaphone, fellow protesters echoing them. Later, Toni Marie Preston cried out in a hoarse voice that, "Black trans lives matter."

Encircled and hoisting papier mâché depictions of often-forgotten transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the group interrupted the flow of the parade as police officers flocked to the scene in droves. 

Protesters carried sculptures of Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two often-forgotten transgender activists who were in the Stonewall riots and the first organizers of the earliest Pride parades in New York City. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

But unlike the #BlackOutPride protests that halted the 2015 Pride parade, the protesters moved from the parade route before it came to members being detained and handcuffed. Activists also disrupted the parade in 1992 and 2008.

The collective published a statement to better outline its mission and its opposition to "the ever-increasing corporatization, whitewashing, gentrification, racism and cisnormativity that have infused Pride for decades."

READ THE FULL STATEMENT HERE

Among the more tangible goals: To launch a Trans Pride celebration in 2018. Akin to the Dyke March or Black Pride, the event would harken to the earlier, more politically minded Pride Parades.

Members also took issue with mainstream LGBTQ organizations like Center on Halsted, Howard Brown Health and Equality Illinois, accusing them of exclusionary practices that mean much-needed services are denied to trans and queer people of color as wealthier residents and people living on the North Side are favored.

"If you're going to say you're for equality, you really need to be about it and stop making excuses for why you don't have a black trans woman on your board or you're not hiring black trans women," Preston said. 

In hopes of equality for all, their objectives spread across the political spectrum, calling for Palestinian liberation, supporting anti-colonial movements in Puerto Rico and the Standing Rock resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

They joined with Black Lives Matter Chicago in demanding that the Chicago Police Department disband and prisons be shut down and for the end of charter schools in Chicago and better distributing of funding toward impoverished schools on the South and West Sides.

Despite almost a half-century of progress toward equality, LGBTQ folks — particularly queer people of color —  have a much harder time finding steady employment and housing.

Protesters headed by the Trans Liberation Collective shut down the Chicago Pride Parade for about 10 minutes to call for more inclusiveness in LGBTQ communities and organizations. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

People who are gay are more likely to be poor. Trans and queer people of color face up to four times the national unemployment rate, and an epidemic of violence that disproportionately affects them.

RELATED: 27 Murdered Trans Women Portrayed In 'Say Our Names' Lilly Wachowski Exhibit

And many of their contributions have been erased from the pages of LGBTQ history, activists said. Johnson and Rivera, for example, protested in the Stonewall riots in New York City and helped organize the earliest Pride Parades in New York. 

'We need to be recognized while we're still living," Preston said. "Black trans women and gender non-conforming femmes are dying at ridiculous rates, so people need to invest in our lives and divest in corporations who don't give a damn about us."