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Vives Q features trans activists Parker and Betancourt
by Nina Matti
by Nightlines: Weekly picks to plan your nightlife calendar

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The National Museum of Mexican Art was busy and lively Aug. 2 for Vives Q's First Tuesday event. Attendees gathered at the Pilsen museum to snack, chat and learn from the evening's special guests, Joe Betancourt and Channyn Lynne Parker.

One of Vives Q's cofounders, Emmanuel Garcia, conducted interviews with the two influential trans activists about their careers, lives and identities. Betancourt, president and CEO of Betancourt Realty, was the first interview. Betancourt left home at age 13 when he felt he was no longer accepted in his parents' home, worked as a busboy to provide for himself and his girlfriend and got his own apartment at 15.

Through his struggles as a teen and his eventual success as a business owner, Betancourt said he learned a very important lesson. "Whatever you do in life, workwise, always do the best you can, no matter what it is," Betancourt said. "If you're cleaning toilets, clean them the best you can. Whatever you do in life, you should always try your best to succeed."

Betancourt came out publically as transgender this past March in an interview with Windy City Times. "We need more and more people to come out," he said. "I came out because I knew it was time. I know so many people in the political arena, business world [and] clients from my real estate business. Many of them are straight. I said to myself, 'Hey, me coming out will tell them we're not different.'"

In her interview, Parker focused on her identity as a Black trans woman and career as project manager for Chicago House Social Service Agency's TransLife Project. As a community caseworker, Parker's job was initially intended to cater specifically to the trans community; however, in reality only about a quarter of the people she works with are trans, she said. Parker said this points toward widespread issues in healthcare services. "If the masses feel safe just coming to me," she said, "then what is everyone else doing wrong?"

Parker said discrimination and biases are the roots of problems in healthcare. "Services are an attempt at covering very blanketed needs with the assumption that we all need the same thing," she said. "I think we need to deal with individuals from a more holistic standpoint. … We need to begin to do a lot more individualized work."

When it comes to finding ways for ordinary people to make an impact on the issue of trans homelessness, Parker said the most important thing to do is give everyone a fair chance. "I didn't come from a really disenfranchised background, but at the end of the day, I'm still a Black trans woman. Someone gave me a chance. And that chance meant the world," she said. "It changed my entire life."

After the two powerful and educational interviews, local performers presented their original works in the form of song, dance and poetry, bringing the event to an impactful close.

The final Vives Q of the year will be Sept. 6.

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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