On March 31, 2021, the Trans Chicago Empowerment Center hosted a powerful event for the International Transgender Day of Visibility. Lisa Isadora Cruz, a Latinx trans woman and coordinator for the Center, emceed the event. During her introduction, Cruz engaged the attendees by asking, “Why is Transgender Day of Visibility important?” Some declared that there needs to be more awareness as well as assistance for transgender people because they are so often “othered”. Lisa, in turn, answered her own question saying, “It was very, very difficult to become who I am today. The teasers, hard times, and disappointments … I made it. And I’m here.” Lisa also mentioned that we need to use our voices so that we may be heard and seen, especially to the government who disproportionately overlooks the transgender community.
Following the heart-warming and thought-provoking introduction by Lisa Cruz, Saanti Martin, a staff member of Trans Chicago, shared her poem entitled, “My Trans Is”. “My trans needs you, my trans needs us, my trans needs thus”, was part of this riveting poem, which calls everyone to action against the immense injustices continually suffered by the trans community.
The Trans Chicago Empowerment Center awarded special recognitions to transgender leaders in the community. Vincent Grey, a new case manager for Trans Chicago, received the “Trailblazer Award.” In his speech, he said, “These are the moments that we need to create for our trans community. Moments of love and care; not judgement, fear of legislation that questions the worth of a person for merely existing as themselves.” The next recognition went to Nissa Condes who was given the Legacy Award. Condes is a celebrated advocate for the Latina Trans Community in the Windy City. Speaking in Spanish, she shared with the attendees, “I have suffered a lot of persecution, just like many of my sisters. I have been victimized to the brink of death – as have many who lost their lives, but I never lost faith.” Mónica Fernández followed Nissa, and received the Advocacy Award. Fernández is the owner of DRAMA Beauty, a salon in Cicero. She promotes trans women by hiring them to work in her salon and by making space for them to grow. Fernández said, “I adore my trans brothers and sisters. I’m here to let you know that it’s okay to be different. Don’t stop and don’t change for nobody.” Following these amazing women, in spirit, was Eve Stiles who was unable to join the event, but sent her message that as an undocumented trans woman of color, she is “the voice for all her communities.” Stiles was recognized with the Resiliency Award.
After the special recognitions were awarded, Maya Lozano introduced a new documentary by Nathalie González-Pérez, entitled TRANScending La Division. Maya read, “No legislation will erase trans existence. Nathalie captures narratives of trans people who live in Humboldt Park in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and now.” The trailer follows the narratives of five transgender people and some of their family members who live in the Humboldt Park community. The documentary will be released this summer. Daniel Méndez, an associate director for The Puerto Rican Cultural Center, spoke after the trailer and stated, “At the end of the day, we’re all humans together. We need to be visible to who we are as individuals.”
Closing the event, Executive Director Dr. José E. López, spoke of the historical significance of International Trans Day of Visibility. Addressing the attendees as well as the Spanish language press in Spanish, López asserted in Spanish, “This is historic because in the heart of our neighborhood we are celebrating the visibility of a community that has been entirely marginalized. And now it is time that they cease to be people who are completely silenced, not seen nor heard, and that we start paying attention to them.” After the arousing and hopeful words of all who participated, The Puerto Rican Cultural Center shared delicious Puerto Rican food from Nellie’s with the guests who remained at the conclusion of the event – fully enjoying each other’s company through music, food, and stories.