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2017: Local LGBT news highlights
by Matt Simonette
2017-12-27

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Few years in recent memory could match the rollercoaster shifts between dread, exhilaration, anger and celebration—and what sometimes felt like every collective emotion in between—that Chicago's LGBT community experienced in 2017.

The year opened with the community still stunned by the November 2016 election of President Donald Trump. But as the weeks after the election passed, and Trump's inauguration came and went, Chicagoans, like so many other Americans, found a voice calling for collective resistance to Trump and his administration's policies. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, came out to march in solidarity—such as the January women's-rights march—or protest against the president's erratic and seemingly random policies, such as those that occurred at local airports after Trump's so-called "Muslim travel ban." It has been decades since national politics have sparked so much local action.

But not all local news centered around Trump. The state, after two years without a budget, finally cobbled one together, but not before numerous social service agencies were adversely affected. School districts contended with the rights of their LGBT students. Local activists and advocates continued to work on behalf of community members in many realms such as HIV/AIDS, housing and politics. Sometimes the impact of their work was small, but collectively it contributed much to the overall progress of Chicago's LGBT community.

Women's march: Just days after President Donald Trump is sworn in, 250,000 Chicagoans marched downtown Jan. 21 in support of women's rights. The event was one of many across the nation that day.

Airport protest: LGBT Chicagoans were among those who packed O'Hare Airport Jan. 28 to protest Trump's executive action restricting travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.

New appointments: In February, state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, was named Majority Conference Chairman for the Illinois House Democrats. State Rep. Kelly Cassidy, D-Chicago, was meanwhile named chair of the Public Safety Appropriations Committee in Springfield. Harris was this year instrumental in the passage of a law making it easier for Illinoisans to change the gender markers on state-issued IDs.

Transgender woman killed: In late February, a 24-year-old transgender woman, Chicagoan Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond ( aka Keke Collier ), was killed. She was nationally the fourth transgender person to have lost their life to violence in 2017.

Transgender Chicagoans on the march: In what organizers called "one of the largest and most diverse mobilizations for trans equality and equity to ever take place in the Midwest," well over 1,000 transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals gathered alongside cisgender allies March 3 for the Trans March for Liberation in downtown Chicago.

Task Force: U.S.Rep.Mike Quigley and the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus announced in March that it was relaunching the Transgender Equality Task Force.

Suburban coalition: Some Northwest Suburban parents formed a coalition with both Trans United Fund—a national advocacy political group centering on trans issues—and Equality Illinois to campaign for school board candidates who supported trans-affirming rules put into place when the federal government intervened on behalf of a transgender girl who had been denied access to the girls' locker room. Issues pertinent to trans students continued to take center stage this year, especially in and around Township High School District 211, the location of that 2015 federal intervention. In late November, another student there filed a lawsuit in order to gain public accommodations access. LGBT candidates, and supporters of LGBT issues, had strong showings in municipal elections throughout suburban Cook and collar counties on April 4.

Teacher suspension: On April 6, openly queer Saucedo Academy special education teacher Sarah Chambers was suspended from her position suspended indefinitely, pending further action. Chambers maintained that the suspension was in retaliation by CPS because of her Chicago Teachers Union executive board leadership role.

North Carolina ban: Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in April that he would introduce a resolution reaffirming the city's previous ban on non-essential travel to North Carolina for employees on city business.

Municipal ID: City officials introduced an ordinance in the spring allowing for the creation of a municipal ID program for Chicago residents. The Chicago City Council passed the ordinance April 19.

ETHS policy passage: The Evanston Township High School ( ETHS ) District 202 Board of Education passed a comprehensive policy affirming the rights of transgender and gender-expansive students on May 1. The policy passed nearly unanimously, with only one board member voting against it.

Anniversary gala: Center on Halsted marked its 10th anniversary and raised thousands with its annual "Human First" gala on May 20.

Panic-defense ban: The Illinois General Assembly unanimously passed a bill preventing a defendant from using the sexual orientation or gender identity of their victim as a legal defense on May 31. The bill's sponsors were state Sen. Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, and state Rep. Litesa Wallace, D-Rockford. Biss would later in the year announce a run for governor; Wallace signed on as his running mate, after his initial choice, openly gay Ald. Carlo Ramirez-Rosa, did not work out. The panic defense ban was signed into law in August.

Midsommar solidarity: The Chicago LGBTQ community and allies gathered June 11 at Andersonville Midsommarfest in solidarity with the Equality March for Unity and Pride in Washington, D.C.

Memorial defaced: An LGBT veterans' monument located in Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood, Illinois, was defaced in June.

Teacher support: Community members rallied June 24 after a former teacher at Saint Ignatius College Prep was fired after students outed and harassed him.

Summer controversy: A long controversy ensues after three women, one of whom carried a rainbow flag with a Star of David, are asked to leave a rally following the Chicago Dyke March on Pride weekend. The incident sparks renewed debate about anti-semitism, Zionism, intersectionality and the nature of progressive activism, among other issues, in the weeks that follow.

One million at Pride: One million persons took place in the 48th annual Chicago Pride Parade. The parade was halted mid-afternoon by protestors wishing to call attention to systemic inequities against transgender individuals.

Crew leaves longtime location: The LGBT sports bar Crew Bar + Grill announced that it would be closing its Uptown location at Lawrence Avenue and Broadway on July 15 and searching for a new home elsewhere on the North Side.

Budget, finally: After two years, Illinois got a budget. The General Assembly overrode Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto July 6 after a protracted session to prevent, among other consequences, Illinois bonds being reduced to "junk" status. As the budget crisis played out, numerous service-providers had to scale back or close outright.

Rauner's quick turnover: Rauner's administrative house-cleaning—operating in overdrive since the General Assembly overrode his veto of its FY 2018 budget earlier in July—claimed an employee, Ben Tracy, on their first day on the job as Rauner's assistant July 17 after several homophobic and bigoted social-media postings by that employee were located online. Tracy was quickly let go after the discovery.

LGBT-friendly housing facility approved: The Chicago City Council Plan Commission, on July 20, approved plans for a long-gestating LGBT-friendly housing project slated for Logan Square to proceed. The full council approved the development, John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Castillo Plaza, soon after.

Suspects surrender: A Northwestern University associate professor as well as a British payroll assistant wanted in the July 27 Chicago killing of a hairstylist were taken into custody in California. Northwestern University associate professor Wyndham Lathem, 42, and Oxford University employee Andrew Warren, 56, were suspects connected to the death of 26-year-old Trenton Cornell-Duranleau.

Church protest: More than 50 LGBT activists and allies turned out July 30 for a protest outside of Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester, to speak out against the dismissal of a woman church member after she married her female partner.

Book retained: The West Chicago Public Library Board of Trustees voted six to one Aug. 28 to retain the children's book This Day in June—both in the library and in its current location there—after some patrons asked that the book be removed. An additional library controversy followed in Downers Grove.

Uptown housing: A coalition of advocates for persons experiencing homelessness and unstable housing filed for an injunction on Aug. 28 halting plans to displace persons residing beneath Lake Shore Drive viaducts at Wilson and Lawrence Avenues. The following month, activists protested at the offices of Ald. James Cappleman.

Ill. to get new AG: Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced September 15 that she won't be seeking reelection in 2018. A huge number of individuals subsequently announce that they're seeking the post.

LGBT speaker: The Archdiocese of Chicago announced this fall that Cardinal Blase Cupich has asked Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest who is author of a controversial book about LGBT Catholics, to speak at Holy Name Cathedral during Lent early next year.

Happy anniversary: Longtime Rogers Park gay bar Touche celebrated its 40th anniversary this fall.

Aldermen for Congress: Openly gay Alds. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and Raymond Lopez both announced they'll be running to fill the seat of U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who's stepping down.

LGBT debate: Five Democratic gubernatorial candidates—Daniel Biss, Bob Daiber, Rio Hardiman, Chris Kennedy and J.B. Pritzker—took part in the state's first gubernatorial debate on LGBT issues Dec. 6.


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