By Julie Slowinski
At this point, I pulled out my little cardboard sign with BLM scrawled on it with a giant black sharpie. The waiting around was in the sun, so part of the reason I was holding it up, at this point, was to give my wig covered head a bit of shade – trying to play it cool and hoping no one would notice my dual objective. On the subject of signs, lots of people had the most elaborate signs with great artwork and lettering – really put my rudimentary little piece of cardboard to shame. I was surprised and heartened to see so many signs in support of trans lives – “trans lives matter” and “black trans lives matter” signs were all around me. We’ll get back to this subject in a bit.
So, the march finally started and it was all that I expected – lots of chanting, “Say his name! George Floyd! Say her name! Breonna Taylor! No Justice! No peace! Helicopters flying over and several little drones, which I expect were also filming. But, after about a block and a half, we stopped. I think it was to get the organizers and VIPs into place at very front, but who knows. So, there was about 15 minutes of just standing, which was unexpected and not part of my ‘heels calculation’. Finally, we got started again and as things progressed the pace of the marchers picked up. I noticed that people that were next to me were now way ahead. The heels were definitely slowing me down, but I was like, “No worries, I’ll get there when I get there.”
At the end of the march there was small stage and a number of people were scheduled to speak. Itching for a smoke, I found a spot away from the crowd and after a nicotine break, I took the opportunity to change back into flats and put back on my cardigan. I then proceeded to rejoin the crowd and get a little closer to here the speeches (see the aerial pic of the crowd, probably 2-3 thousand). At this point I was glad to be alone, cuz I’m kind of a wanderer in these situations and it’s a lot easier to slip through the crowd as a single. There were a number of times where everyone would kneel down or sit, which was made quite a bit harder being in that tight dress and essentially bare knees – the BLM sign got an unexpected second utility as a kneeling pad.
A lot of the early speeches were about how the white LGBT community doesn’t support drag performers of color, which is definitely a valid point, as well as how many LGBT POC don’t feel all that welcome in the mostly affluent Northside neighborhood of Boystown, another good point. But, the highlight for me was when they started talking about trans women of color, most of which live on the south and west sides of the city. I guess, you’re getting a hint of how embarrassingly segregated Chicago is – started after the 1921 riots, was perpetuated by the redlining of the 50’s and continues to this day even with gentrification. I’m guessing you all know about the outrageous murder rate of black trans women – google Selena Reyes-Hernandez for the latest murder, right here in Chicago. At this point, I’m gonna digress a bit and first time attending a Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) service. It was in 2018 and at the Center on Halsted, the most prominent LGBT center in Chicago, which is of course located in the heart of Boystown. It was a nice ceremony, hosted by a somewhat awkward white lady, but for the most part it was just some reading of names. In the end, we all felt sad and then went back to our privileged lives. Well, the next year, the CoH co-hosted the TDOR service with an organization called Brave Space Alliance. I had never heard of them, but they were having the event at a south side church. This was a totally different experience than the year before. While the lives lost were remembered, there was no dry reading of names. What there was, was awards and recognition of people dedicating their lives to helping the trans community, especially trans POC. From that point on, I have been a huge fan and advocate for Brave Space Alliance – sharing their website and encouraging people to donate as often as I can. By the way Lilly Wachowski, from the Matrix, is on their Board of Directors.
So, what does this have to do with the march? Well a couple of representatives from BSA were speakers and I was elated to see the mostly white crowd finally hearing about this awesome organization. At one point, they told the crowd, “pull out your phone and google Brave Space Alliance. Yes … right now. Find the site and donate … yes, right now.” And, I actually saw people doing it. It was awesome to see less lip service and more action. If you’re interested in donating yourself, and I hope you do, the site is here: https://www.bravespacealliance.org.
After that, I started feeling a bit fatigued – probably because I had skipped lunch and it was going on 7:30. So, decided to bug out and find some food. I also wanted to get some pictures of Boystown, specifically a couple of the bars that got looted, have been boarded up, but decided to respond by putting BLM murals on their boarded up windows. There was outdoor seating at the Kit Kat Club, but the line was too long. So I kept walking south. Thought about tacos at DS Tequila, but then noticed that there was no line at Wood. In addition to loving their food – I’ve been there a half dozen times – Wood was the very first restaurant Julie went to in Boystown. While waiting for a table, the host suggested I grab a drink at the bar. Now, let’s remember that this was my first time out in 3 1/2 months and that I have a tradition of my first drink of a Julie night out is always a cosmopolitan. O.M.G … I was so happy to have that martini glass in my hand. At this point, I put my sparkly heels back on, gotta be glam for dinner, and asked the host to snap a few pics – make sure you get the shoes. Dinner by myself was uneventful, but thoroughly enjoyable. Just as I was about to leave and head home early, cuz it was a Sunday and I had to be at work early, I noticed my earring on the ground. Trying to figure which ear it fell out of, I noticed both were gone. Okay, here’s the most important part of this long story – the takeaway point for you ladies. In this time of Coronavirus and with the necessity of masks, you gotta be mindful about those earrings when taking off the mask – I’m guessing I lost the first one long before getting to the restaurant.