Transgender and racially oppressed, a cornerstone of LGBT power

pride at work
Pride At Work, the officially recognized LGBT constituency group of the AFL-CIO, marches for Pride by the Queens Pride House.

By Michelle Zacarias

Reprinted from and edited to reflect New York conditions

Last weekend, a coalition of progressive and community-based groups supported Chicago’s Annual Pride Parade by bringing attention to the needs of racially and nationally oppressed people and transgender people within the LGBT community.

Members from the BTGNC Collective, Black Lives Matter Chicago, Jewish Voice for Peace, Assata’s Daughters and Pilsen Alliance, and other groups conducted a speakout during the march at the intersection of Belmont and Halsted to highlight the connections between LGBT struggles and other aspects of the struggle for a more democratic U.S.

According to studies conducted by GLAAD, the deaths of 27 transgender people were reported the 2016 calendar year. That number does not include transgender people whose deaths were not reported due to misgendering in police reports, news stories, and sometimes by the victim’s family. In 2017 thus far, thirteen Trans individuals have been killed – all people of color. Among them was Keke Collier, a Chicago resident and black Trans woman shot on February 21 in Englewood, Chicago. She was 24 years old. These alarming numbers are reflection of the way in which the movement for LGBT equality is connected to the movements for racial justice. It also shows that the LGBT community cannot win when the “T” is forgotten.

Chicago’s Annual Pride Parade in Boystown has long been a staple of my childhood. Some of my oldest memories derive from watching the floats of drag queens dance by me as I excitedly reached out to catch beads from behind the barricades. These memories stayed with me while I was growing up and coming to terms with my own Queer identity.

The Chicago Pride celebration could better reflect the needs and struggles of the entire LGBT community. For years we’ve lauded “Boystown” as a safe haven for Queers, but it has not fully included minorities, women, or non-binary people. Lakeview is heavily policed, and has not been safe for racially and nationally oppressed people or Trans and gender-nonconforming individuals. Many have suffered from unwanted sexual aggression. The Pride Parade has suffered as a result of inadequately addressing these problems.

So much of the response to our action has been affirming and uplifting, but more unity is needed. Celebrations like Pride wouldn’t exist without the likes of Black Trans femmes and Queer people of color. Women like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera made our modern-day LGBTQ movements possible. They screamed, marched, rioted, and laid their physical bodies on the line for the advances that LGBTQ people have so far attained in this society. Too many racially and nationally oppressed people in the LGBT community have have fought for our livelihood and safety for our Pride parades and the wider movement to be overtaken by the same corporate powers that continue to promote the racism, displacement, sexism, and cis-normativity that divide our people.

I am beyond grateful to the Trans/gender-nonconforming individuals who risk their lives every day, to the Black/Brown organizers of this city, to the Chicago Queers who have created a home for me. It is in the company of these bodies that I have found value in my own. No individual’s life should be measured by their race or gender identity and we intend to continue fighting against efforts on the part of the corporate class to sow division in the LGBT movement. No justice, no pride. Happy Pride Month.


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