Jun 3, 2024 - News

Chicago's LGBTQ+ community addresses equity, safety concerns

Animated illustration of a pattern of waving Pride Flags.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As Chicago gears up to celebrate Pride month, the LGBTQ+ community has seen a string of challenging moments in 2024.

Why it matters: The month is not only a time to celebrate with parties and performances, but a moment to reflect on issues like equity and safety.

The vibe: The month's celebrations culminate in the massive Pride parade that snakes through the Northalsted neighborhood.

What they're saying: "We have so much to celebrate in the 55 years since the Stonewall uprisings in New York City, leading to the fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States," parade coordinator Tim Frye said in a statement.

  • "It's still very important to remember that there is much more remaining in our fight for equality."

Case in point: Hate crimes and vandalism continue to plague the community. The State Department announced an unusual travel advisory for LGBTQ+ Americans last month, citing an increased risk of terrorist violence.

  • Locally, vulgar vandalism showed up this week at Hollywood Beach, the unofficial queer beach in Chicago. "We demand to feel safe in our tiny corner of the world," actor and activist Mitchell Fain wrote on Instagram.

State of play: LGBTQ+ leaders felt shut out of the city's planning process for the Pride parade, the Midwest's biggest pride celebration and the biggest neighborhood parade in the country.

  • Mayor Brandon Johnson announced plans to scale back the parade, surprising leaders and even his own LGBTQ+ advisory panel, who were miffed they weren't consulted.
  • After pressure, the mayor said some groups would be added back to the parade, but it's still a smaller parade than in previous years.
  • CPD and the mayor's office made the decision in part to curb police overtime costs, especially with the Democratic National Convention coming in August.

Zoom out: Gov. JB Pritzker, along with the state legislature, strengthened protections and rights last year after the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans.

The other side: Other states, including neighboring Indiana, have introduced and in some cases passed bills targeting LGBTQ+ people.

  • "With queer rights under attack across the country, especially the vicious and cynical attacks on the trans community, Illinois is a state where all can live authentically and without fear," Illinois Department of Human Rights director Jim Bennett tells Axios. Bennett's work at Lambda Legal was instrumental in the push to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013.
Cartogram of U.S. states showing the share of adults who identify as LGBT from an analysis of survey data conducted 2020-2021. Overall, 5.5% of the U.S. adults identify as LGBT. D.C. has the highest share, at 14.3%, while Mississippi and West Virginia are tied for the lowest, at 4.1%. States in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest tend to have a higher share of LGBT residents.
Data: UCLA Williams Institute; Cartogram: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The intrigue: Even with a welcoming governor and a supportive Chicago community, Illinois ranks near the bottom in estimated queer population.

  • An estimated 4.5% of Illinois adults identify as LGBTQ+, lower than the national average (5.5%).
  • Only West Virginia, North Carolina and Mississippi rank lower.
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