On Saturday, Oct. 8, LGBT activists gathered at the corner of Halsted and Roscoe, then marched out of Boys Town and into Wrigleyville, demanding LGBT rights. Edgar Oscar Atadero, the president of ProGay Philippines, the country’s first LGBT group, was the keynote speaker at this year’s march. Also on the program were Orgullo en Accion, the Chicago Radical Cheerleaders, the Joel Hall Dancers II and Sangat Chicago, to name a few.
“This has been seven years that we’ve been having the Matthew Shepard March, yet … the problem of anti-gay violence continues,” said Andy Thayer, co-founder of GLN. “Yes, it’s important to say ‘no’ to violence, but we have to start dealing with the kind of situations that gives rise to the violence. That gives rise to the idea that you can lynch a young man and leave him on a fence in Wyoming. Matthew Shepard … was one of many.”
Thayer added that it is not only important to decry the violence against LGBTs, but to protest the lack of civil rights. “The fact is we wouldn’t have this level of violence against our community if we were full, legal equals in this country, whether you are talking about marriage, whether you are talking about adoption rights, the whole enchilada.”
Nilsa Irizzary of the newly formed Orgullo en Accion ( “Pride in Action” ) , a Latino/a LGBT organization, spoke about the religious right dividing the African-American and Latino communities, as well. “I am sick and tired of seeing our people divided,” Irizzary said. “I’m sick and tired of seeing our people bashing each other. And I say that not only as a Latina, but as a gay person.”
Thayer mentioned the importance of recognizing all types of violence, including the post 9/11 violence against the Arab and Asian communities.
“The ugliness of xenophobia has come out in such an ugly way, that you guys cannot even imagine,” Ifti Nasim, president of Sangat Chicago, said. He spoke about Michael L. Jackson’s alleged involvement in the death of cab driver and member of the Pakastani community, Haroon Paryani. “My dear brothers and sisters, whether you’re gay, straight, white, black, brown … you have rights to live peacefully side by side.”
Atadero, organizer of that Philippines’ first Gay Pride Parade, flew in for the rally and march. He spoke of the oppression of LGBTs in his country, caused by American colonialism, heavy Catholic and Muslim influences, and its anti-woman and homophobic female president.
“It’s important that you people, the LGBTs in the streets, come into alliance together and let other people know what’s happening in the Philippines and other countries,” Atadero said. He added that the corporate agenda of the U.S. government and other countries is related to homophobia, violence, racism and misogyny. “We must not only struggle against homophobia and discrimination, but the LGBT people should build strong alliances with other popular movements, not only in the United States, but all over the world, because homophobia and discrimination against LGBT people will only stop once we resolve the basic contradiction of capitalism and other forms of economic oppression.”
“Please remember us in your struggles, because the people in developing countries are also counting on you to spread the message,” Atadero added.