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Vives Q closes out summer series with testimonies to community
Video below article
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond
2016-09-11

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As the summer of 2016 began its closing month, so Sept. 6 saw the season's last Vives Q evening of engrossing, lively discussions and unforgettable celebration provided by the boundless talent of the lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, ally and undocuqueer ( LGBTQAU ) community.

Vives Q unleashed LGBTQAU expression in a space where freedom was not just a concept or a coveted goal but something tangible—to be experienced, feasted upon and savored.

That space was the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

The Vives Q 2016 organizing team of Eric Amaya, Daniel David Mendez, Vivian Delgadillo, Katia, Ketzaly Muñoz Almanza, Ilene Palacios, Jessica Ratchford, Jose "Cheche" Turrubiartez and founding members Antonio Elizondo and Emmanuel Garcia had to feel like a summer spent pulling together a series of monthly movement-building events designed to "enable intergenerational dialogue across multiple identities and communities" was worth all their donated hours of sweat equity required to make the evenings a success.

For special guest Myles Brady-Davis—an acclaimed trans advocate and community role model even outside of their ( preferred pronoun ) unflagging work as an individual giving officer at Howard Brown Health—the numbers of people watching while they fielded questions from Garcia and those texted from the audience, provided a moment of admitted discomfort.

Myles Brady-Davis told Garcia that they live for the work, not the notoriety.

"I'm allergic to the spotlight," they said.

Nevertheless, their recent marriage to equally renowned trans advocate Precious Davis became the subject of a great deal of media attention.

Garcia wanted to know what Brady-Davis's life was like "Before Precious" and particularly during their formative years.

"One thing that was very important to my family was knowing who you were and where you came from," Brady-Davis said. "Spirituality was important. Always be kind to everybody you come into contact with because you don't know what their situation is."

Surrounded by love and a strong family support system, Brady-Davis remembered knowing, "There was something special and something unique about me."

They added that their parents were supportive advocates of their identity even in the face of initial opposition from school counselors who eventually relented because "I went to a private school so, as long as the check cleared [they] were going to support me," Brady-Davis joked. "But then I went to a public school. That's when I was bullied and chased home every day. Public schools need to provide resources for teachers so they can deal with a child no matter what [the] issue."

Garcia wanted to know what people could do to create space or communities supportive of trans people.

"Have conversations about trans issues," Myles-Brady said. "In general, we need to have real conversations about what's going on in the world."

When the conversation turned to the need for increasing services on the South and West sides, Brady-Davis betrayed the passionate love they have both for their organization and the people it serves.

"Howard Brown is on the South Side now and that's where we should be," they said. "We should be everywhere because there are LGBT people everywhere."

It was a sentiment echoed by Vives Q's second guest speaker of the evening, trans Latina activist and advocate Reyna Ortiz, who noted in her biography, "Trans people are here, have been here and will always be here."

The audience was provided with the ability to feel the world in which trans people live when Garcia asked them to close their eyes while he read the words of a poem that emerged out of Ortiz's work with youth at organizations like Taskforce on Chicago's West Side:

"You are you. You look and feel like you, but on the outside you are a mesmerizing hue. You can't hide it any more. You make them question their world. They make you out to be contagious or infectious. Some fade away. Purple people are here to stay. Just trying to live in this world too. Fighting for your existence."

"I consider myself a trans resource navigator," Ortiz told Garcia, who graduated from the same high school. "When I was growing up, there wasn't any support at all. My family gave me love but no one gave me guidance on what to do as a trans person."

That changed when Ortiz was invited to sit on a DePaul University panel discussion. One of the other panelists was iconic Latina performer Miss Kitty whose generosity to her community was as inspiring as it was life-changing.

"She was really the first trans woman who I had a conversation with and I was just blown away," Ortiz recalled. "She was older than me and she'd lived this full life. After the panel, we were talking and she said 'girl you need to get on [hor] 'mones'."

It was then that Ortiz began to experience community for the first time.

"I fell into an unofficial community of trans women," Ortiz said. "They found ways to get what they needed for their transition. For decades, for me, for you, for any of us, trans women have been fighting harder and against more oppression than they are fighting now. They didn't just start because Caitlyn Jenner was on TV. If you don't acknowledge that, you are doing the community a terrible injustice."

Ortiz felt it was just as important for her to talk about the time she spent as a sex-worker.

"Trans women need $40,000 worth of surg'[ery]," she said. "Insurance isn't going to cover it. Who is going to cover it? The streets. I was having phenomenal conversations with other trans women who were sex working. We were creating this world within a world. I wanted to shine a light on it and its misrepresentation."

Ortiz noted that these days, options for trans people are opening up.

"The world is your oyster," she said. "There are organizations that can change your life."

It is possible that there were those who attended the Vives Q events over the summer who heard or saw something that was just as transformative.

The evening closed with performances from Poetic Justice, Deivid Rojas, Jade, Norma Seledon, Jezebel, Yassss Productions, Rosita Fuente and a tribute to legendary Mexican musician and writer Juan Gabriel by Milani Ninja and Gaby Badu. They were introduced by Elizondo, who served as the evening's MC. while music was provided by Michael Munoz AKA DJ MyQ Moon.

The joy of unbound art merged with a palpable underscore of disappointment from the audience that the Vives Q series had come to an end for the season.

There could be no clearer signal that, for Vives Q organizers and partners the National Museum of Mexican Art, ALMA, Chicago Freedom School, ElevArte Community Studio, Gozamos, Howard Brown Health, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, Project VIDA, Queer Youth Exploring Spirituality ( QYES ), United Latino Pride and VIDA/SIDA, their mission had not only been accomplished but exceeded.

The video playlist below contains multiple videos. Choose Playlist in the top left hand corner to watch videos out of order, if preferred.



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