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Australian, Irish consulates host LGBTQ+ advocacy panel
By Emily Reilly
2020-07-08

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Sarah Keating, the vice consul general of Chicago's Consulate General of Ireland; and Amanda Slone, the office services manager at the Australian Consulate of Chicago hosted a panel June 30 in honor of the marriage-equality campaigns of both countries. The panelists discussed equality efforts in the LGBTQ+ community.

Guest speakers included Tiernan Brady, Channyn Parker, Amazin LeThi, Dr. Sidhbh Gallagher, Kim Fountain, and Brian Johnson.

Brady, the global director of inclusion at the multinational law firm Clifford Chance, began the panel by bringing up his work at the firm, and its past efforts for human rights by utilizing their legal experience to support groups across the world. He emphasized the importance of the continual push for LGBTQ+ rights, stating, "That continual commitment to campaigning is never going to end..

"Australia voted 62 percent for marriage equality, but 38 percent voted no, and they didn't have to leave Australia the next day. That's a lot of LGBTQ+ people who came downstairs for breakfast to a family that didn't vote yes."

Gallagher, an Irish gender-affirmation surgeon, spoke next in a pre-recorded video in which she described her academic background that led her to her helping transgender patients at her private practice. She described surgical techniques that she uses, as well as future techniques currently being worked on and what these life-changing surgeries mean to her patients.

Parker, the director of strategic partnerships at Howard Brown Health, spoke next about the free healthcare services the facility provides for LGBTQ+ patients. She then discussed her own experience in advocacy and the struggles transgender individuals face.

"It's typically centered around transphobia and an overarching system that rejects trans people for trying to live their authentic lives," said Parker. "And when you couple those things with the intersections with race—we know there's such systemic racism on top of the negativity on top of people's identities."

Fountain, the chief operating officer at the Center on Halsted, spoke about the adaptations they're making because of COVID-19 in providing opportunities for the roughly 1,400 people who used it daily. Many services were able to continue, such as housing, HIV services, anti-violence services, emergency funding, etc.

LeThi—who is a member of Athlete Ally, a Stonewall ambassador and the founder of Amazin LeThi Foundation—spoke next on how her journey in sports advocacy stemmed from personal experiences of racism and homophobia. She described sports as a unifying platform, and she works toward equality with different governments with the Business Standards Foundation and by using leadership, sports and business to support homeless LGBTQ+ youth.

"If you're in a city, state, or country that has anti-LGBTQ+ bills or laws, it's your responsibility as a business leader not to continue to take money from the state, but you must champion equality for the citizens of the state," said LeThi.

Parker and Fountain stepped up in describing Equality Illinois' mission and significance, as Johnson, the organization's CEO, was unable to join due to technical difficulties. The organization works to improve Illinois through equal treatment in education, advocacy, and protecting LGBTQ+ rights.

The conference ended with panelists taking questions from listeners about rainbow capitalism versus genuine advocacy for the LGBQT+ community. The panelists also talked about the importance of keeping the momentum alive after LGBTQ+ victories, and dismantling internalized homophobia and racism.


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