'We Want To See Ourselves': Rift Emerges Between Twin Rallies For Trans Rights

By Stephen Gossett in News on Feb 24, 2017 7:27PM

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Photo: Spencer Platt

Plans for two rallies emerged in Chicago following the White House's announcement on Wednesday evening that the Justice and Eduction Departments were rescinding the Obama-era guidance that directed schools to allow students access to the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. Both actions are mobilizing for the same cause, both have in excess of 600 people planning to attend, but only was organized by trans people—a fact which led to some sharp criticism for the other.

Jacob Milhouse Record, who identifies as gender queer and organized an action scheduled for March 3 across from Trump Tower, said their event caught momentum because "we want to see ourselves in the movement." Trans people want to see an action "for us, by us," they told Chicagoist.

Record, a 24-year-old Ravenswood resident, said it was vital that trans people be at the forefront of such movements considering the acute moment, noting the recent murder of Keke Collier and stressing that the bathroom directive is intended to demonize trans individuals. "I'm trans, and I personally wasn't seeing myself reflected in the movement," they said.

A case in point is the other high-profile trans-rights rally, they said. The four administrators in charge of the Facebook event page for Stand Up for Transgender Rights—which takes place on Saturday from 12 to 1 p.m. in Boystown, at Halsted and Roscoe—are cisgendered men, said Cole Anastasio, one of the co-organizers. But Anastasio said the group has taken great efforts to consider the criticisms against it, make sure the event is intersectional, and ensure that trans people are at the forefront of Saturday's rally.

Among the 10 to 15 speakers scheduled are representatives from the Center on Halsted, TransLatina Coalition and the Bisexual Queer Alliance, Anastasio said, plus trans women of color and non-binary folks "speaking for themselves." U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley will also appear. "For those of us who are not trans, we want to amplify the voices of those who are." he said.

Another criticism that was raised on social media and by the downtown organizers against Saturday's rally centered on its location. "A lot of trans people don’t feel safe in Boystown, particularly people of color... they’ve said they feel uncomfortable and not welcome," Record told Chicagoist.

Anastasio, a 32-year-old River North resident, agreed with the claim and said the rally is partially intended to put pressure on the Boystown community and businesses to be more welcoming, particularly to trans people of color. " We hope to affect some positive change" in that aspect, Anastasio said. Organizers for the Boystown event reached out to Ald. Tom Tunney (44th Ward), law enforcement and Lambda legal observers for assistance in ensuring safety at the rally, he said.

Both camps have been in contact, they confirmed. Record told Chicagoist they did not feel their concerns were well addressed in discussions with co-organizer Kevin Morrison; Anastasio said he continues to attempt to work together and offered his apologies if previous talks came across as "rude," as Record characterized them.

Anastasio said that they intend to "advertise and amplify" the March 3 rally, and he encourages people to attend both actions. Record said people need to "vote with their feet" and added they were "not going to be offended if someone goes" to the Boystown rally on Saturday.