I Was Called a Masochist Twice: Millennial Politics in Chicago
On two different occasions this week, I was called a masochist because I am often in situations where people say hurtful things about my identities and other marginalized populations. This isn’t false.
I attended a community gathering for Willie Wilson, who is running for mayor again, this time in the 2019 Chicago election. I was invited to a couple of these gatherings by a friend because she is working on his campaign. I trust her so I went to hear out Mr. Wilson.
Willie Wilson is running for mayor of Chicago on a compassion platform.
I respect this.
After getting past the fact that the meeting scheduled to begin at 3:00pm actually began at 4:20pm, Mr. Wilson shared about his beliefs and his “encouragement from the current mayor, Rahm Emanuel, to run.” Mr. Wilson is upset that Rahm “closed 52 schools” and “mental institutions” and he promises to bring them back. He talked about his faith and being “bought by God and nobody else." He also mentioned his commitment to “equality," a concept that I later publicly accused him of contradicting.
Questions from the audience included inquiries about decreasing violence, plans for small businesses, and “how to stop illegals from taking away jobs from black people.” I cringed. I shouldn’t be surprised that any candidate for elected office wouldn’t correct a constituent’s use of language because politicians often pander and appeal to a large audience. I sat quietly and reflected on what his definition of "equality" might be.
During the Q & A portion, the questions about the billions of dollars of pension debt, the need for social services and protecting TIF dollars were all met with some sort of “I don’t know, but you can be on my committee to help me figure this out.”
From what I could tell, I was the only white person in the room in this church space on the South Side. I didn’t want to take up space; rather I wanted to listen. After over two hours of listening and hearing repeated requests for us all to help on the campaign, I was itching to ask a question.
On this Trans Day of Visibility especially, I was reminded that I had to stop organizing with a lot of friends and people I cared about, who were also at this gathering, because they didn’t recognize queer and trans folks as fully human. Whether it was casually calling each other “faggots” or insisting that LGBTQIA+ issues aren’t black issues, I had to draw a boundary. I was hoping my interaction with Mr. Wilson would be different and that I would get a sense of support because he repeatedly told everyone else things like “I’m here for all of you and equality and for what you all want. I just need your help. Be on a committee.”
The last person in line for the Q & A, I stated my name and who invited me. I acknowledged that today, March 31, was Trans Day of Visibility. I said I would be on a committee but first I wanted to know Mr. Wilson’s understanding of LGBTQ issues in Chicago and what ideas he already has to address them. He wasn’t sure what LGBTQ meant and wanted to verify it means “lesbian and gay” and then he asked me to repeat my question.
I asked again, “What is your understanding of the issues that LGBTQ folks face in Chicago?”
Mr. Wilson said that he “has to be honest.” I didn’t doubt his honesty and I don’t doubt his commitment to compassion. However, what he said next was not compassionate and didn’t answer my question. He said that he “believes marriage is between a man and a woman.” A few audience members clapped. I was furious. I said something about him not truly being for equality then and that I couldn’t work with him, grabbed my coat, picked up my empty plate and left.
When asked about issues that queer and trans folks face in Chicago, this candidate brought up marriage.
I personally do not care about marriage.
I care about the high numbers of black trans women who are killed. I care about the lack of housing and food resources for the LGBTQIA+ community. I care that the suicide attempt rate for people who are transgender is 40% compared to 0.5% of adults aged 18 or older. I care about all the reasons that number is so ridiculously high. I care that the average life-expectancy for a trans woman of color in the Western Hemisphere is a mere 35. I care about all the reasons that number is so ridiculously low.
When people asked about tax money, resources, business, etc., Mr. Wilson said things like “I want what you all want, come work with me.” When I asked about issues a large population of his city face, he told me about his beliefs about marriage.
A masochist is “a person who enjoys an activity that appears to be painful or tedious.” Why would I repeatedly do these things if I didn’t enjoy it?
From photographing police officers who refused food and restrooms to black youth at an action for #NoCopAcademy to trying to understand why ex-social worker Alderman James Cappleman doesn’t care that people’s homes and belongings are being destroyed in his ward, I am involved with some painful campaigns. I am hoping to feel different about the elections for alderpeople and mayor, but I’m not holding my breath. My encounter with Mr. Wilson is just one tiny reminder of the reality.
I am 30. I became eligible to vote in 2006. I am a millennial and I am very proud to be a millennial, just as I’m proud to be nonbinary and queer.
I cannot recall any election that had a candidate I was excited to vote for. Every election is either voting against someone or picking the least harmful person. I am tired of that and find settling for less than we deserve to be dangerous.
I don’t want to be a masochist, so I’m going to avoid putting myself in another situation that painful when my voice will not be heard and my questions won't be answered.
It shouldn’t be high standards to have candidates who know what LGBTQ means and care that people in that demographic are suffering at disproportionate rates, who will address the hundreds of instances in which city employees kill those who they are charged with “serving and protecting,” and who don’t spend millions on advertisements rather than the community they allegedly care about.
Until we can find candidates who care about such basic concepts of humanity, quit blaming millennials for low voter turnout and start blaming the people in power who aren’t worthy of our votes.
PS: Maria Hadden, who is running for alderwoman in the 49th Ward (Rogers Park) is all of these things and so much more and I highly encourage you to both volunteer and donate to her campaign.