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Preckwinkle holds LGBT roundtable discussion
by Matt Simonette

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Mayoral candidate and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle heard from LGBT advocates, community leaders and religious personnel, among others, as they addressed a multitude of issues pertinent to the LGBT community at a Jan. 7 roundtable discussion at the downtown offices of the Clark Hill law firm.

Preckwinkle said that she was meeting with a number of constituencies in Chicago as she sought the mayor's office in the 2019 race, and said that she was interested in hearing about concerns related to HIV/AIDS, LGBT youth, LGBT seniors and issues facing the trans community.

AIDS Foundation of Chicago President and CEO John Peller outlined the Getting to Zero campaign, a statewide initiative aiming to virtually eliminate new HIV transmissions in Illinois by 2030 by both increasing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis ( PrEP ) interventions and working to ensure that HIV-positive Illinoisans can reach viral suppression. Antonio King of Chicago Department of Public Health noted that advocates need to address social determinants of health, such as housing and job-training, in order for Getting to Zero to work. He also noted that city physicians need to be better educated on pre-exposure prophylaxis ( PrEP ).

Others noted that focused and intentional concentration on joblessness was especially vital for transgender Chicagoans. Activist Reyna Ortiz emphasized that, "Sex work and unemployment in our society go hand-in-hand."

Tatyana Moaton of Howard Brown Health noted that work on behalf of the trans community needed to address systemic inequities that lead to challenges for those individuals: "We're not digging to the deeper issues of how those manifest," she said. ... "I think that the next mayor who comes into place will want to bridge those gaps."

Many participants noted that trans individuals generally do not sit on boards or advisory committees that suggest policy or accountability for the community. Brian Johnson of Equality Illinois noted that no trans people of color sat on the Chicago Police Board or were prominent in the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. Johnson further added that murders of transgender Chicagoans were almost never solved, and contrasted that with the heightened police response to two murders in Rogers Park this past fall.

Pastor Charles Straight also spoke about the need to engage religious personnel in "intentional conversations" about LGBT-related issues, especially HIV/AIDS: "The mayor and the mayors representatives have to be intentional about how ... we are addressing the issues," he said.

Siloing of information was a key concern for many participants, noting that city departments frequently could not access information that could potentially bridge social-cultural gaps. One individual noted, for example, that service providers charged with finding housing resources for clients could not generally access information kept by Chicago Housing Authority ( CTA ). Ortiz also emphasized the need for providers to access information quickly.

Activist Keith Green and King both spoke about increased use of crystal methamphetamine amongst gay men of color; King said that he would likely reconvene the city's Crystal Meth Task Force in 2019.

At the session's conclusion, Preckwinkle responded positively to a suggestion for a strategic plan for the city's LGBT community: "I always think it's helpful to have a framework for your activities and actions."


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