Members and allies of the Chicago transgender community spent their afternoon networking over drinks and finger food at an Equality Illinois fundraiser at the Mayne Stage in Rogers Park on Saturday.
“The focus is a really laidback fun afternoon for everyone,” Equality Illinois Development Associate Kevin Mork said. “The ‘T’ is an equal part of the LGBT community and we do focused events within the broader community and this is one of those.”
Transgender community members at the event said Equality Illinois has been inclusive in past political deals like Illinois’ non-discrimination law, which includes discrimination based on gender identity.
“For me it’s a broad-based organization. They know how to do political activism and they’re diverse across the whole spectrum of LGBT,” Emma Vosickey said. “Without them we’d be floating in the ether someplace. That’s one of my reasons for coming today.”
Randy Hannig, director of public policy for Equality Illinois said the group’s focus this year will be electing pro-LGBT candidates in the election and on gaining full marriage equality during the next general assembly.
Vosickey said equal marriage rights affect the trans community, too.
“Oh, God, yes,” Vosickey said. “I’m married. My wife is female, and while we’re certain we fall within the civil unions law, we’re not sure about the status of our marriage – whether they affirmatively approve or it’s approval by omission. I don’t want to think that the state just looks the other way.”
Vosickey married as a male and has since transitioned, leaving a gray area legally at both the state and federal level.
Hannig said Equality Illinois is still waiting until February to see what bills will be filed this year. That will help shape their legislative agenda. He said a possible trans issue that could be addressed is adding “gender identity” to the state hate crimes statute, which currently covers sexual orientation only.
Close to 100 attended the Winter Season Transgender Community Social, many of them new faces, Mork said. Proceeds will benefit the educational work that Equality Illinois does around the state.
Andy Karol was one of the newcomers. She displayed her gender-fluid photography in the lobby in coordination with the event.
“I’m trying to get more involved,” Karol said. “I’m a very passionate person and that passion extends to the LGBT community. I’m trying to play more of an active role. It’s good to start on a local level.”