Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Letter to Sun Times Media Wire

From: Erica Chu (
Sent: Tue 6/29/10 9:16 PM

To the Editor of Sun-Times Media Wire:

The story I'll be referring to in this letter is entitled "Man found slain near South Side church" dated June 21, 2010, and the web address is,south-side-church-death-062110.article?plckCurrentPage=2&

Your recent story addresses the murder of Credale Woulard and identifies this person as a man dressed in women's clothing. Though the article eliminates some potential motives for the murder, I am shocked and completely taken aback by the fact that there is no mention of this person being transgendered or being potentially targeted because of his/her variant gender identity.

The matter of transgender discrimination and particularly violence against transgendered persons is a major concern in the LGBTQAI community, and one that has motivated hate crime legislation such as the Matthew Shepard Act, which passed in Congress last year.

Though I am grateful that I heard of this story from a larger news outlet, I (and many others in the LGBTQAI community) are very disappointed with the insensitive way this story has been presented. It only further reveals how dangerous it is for transgendered people in this country. If the Sun Times sees Credale Woulard, often known as Sandy, and commits epistemological violence by calling her/him "a man dressed in women's clothing", imagine the kind of physical violence that can occur when a homophobic and transphobic person on the street feels their male heterosexual identity being threatened by attraction to Sandy.

Reporting like this only creates a more dangerous situation for trans people. Reporting like this renders invisible transgender identities and silently justifies the violence committed against trans people.

Perhaps you might view transgendered identities as fringe and therefore unimportant--especially when the victim of violence may very well have been a sex worker. Society may view prostitutes as unimportant, but it should not be so. If Sandy had been a cisgendered woman (what most people typically call a biological female), had she/he been white, had she/he come from some "respectable" or upper middle-class family, even if she/he'd been a sex worker, the media would treat this event much differently.

I challenge you to write a follow up story. I challenge you to bring some visibility to the problem of violence against transgendered people. Sandy's visitation and funeral is Saturday, July 3, 2010, 2:30 -7:00 PM at Midwest Memorial Chapel at 5040 S Western Ave in Chicago. For more information, you can contact the funeral home at 773-737-6959. Sandy has a sister, and she has a mother.

I also strongly recommend you read up on transgender and genderqueer identities and issues. The Center on Halsted may also be a good resource as might the Broadway Youth Center.

I did not know her/him, but I've done some internet searching to find this information. I write for the Gay Chicago Magazine and plan on addressing Sandy's murder in my latest column and may also address this story by the Sun Times Media Wire.

I would certainly like to hear from you regarding your plans to cover this story or your reaction to my accusation that you have written about this story insensitively and perhaps even ignorantly (whether unwittingly or not).

Again, I definitely appreciate that you have provided some information about this crime, but I think that the work you've done is grossly insufficient.

Thank you for your attention, and below I've copied some links to a couple stories I've seen in the LGBTQAI Chicago blogs. I also am pasting below some information about violence against transgendered people.

Erica Chu


Information from the Human Rights Campaign:

Hate violence. Transgender people are often targeted for hate violence based on their non-conformity with gender norms and/or their perceived sexual orientation. Hate crimes against transgender people tend to be particularly violent. Our best estimates indicate that one out of every 1,000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate crime. This estimation is based on data collected by the national organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance track the number of transgender people killed each year in hate-based attacks using media articles, community reports and other publically available data. By this count, they estimate that at least 15 transgender people are killed each year in hate-based attacks, although we believe the number to be higher based on transgender people’s common fear of going to the police and widespread misreporting. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates approximately 14,000 homicides in the country each year. Based on these figures, we can estimate that approximately one out of every 1000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate-based crime.
Update as of 07.06.2010: Still no response. I thought of calling, but there seems little chance that would accomplish anything. There are three good articles worth reading that have responded to the issues raised in the letter:

GCM Pride Week Issue - Learning to Listen

Feminist Thoughts
By Erica Chu

Learning to Listen

Every June is full of LGBT pride activities mainly centered in Lakeview and Andersonville and culminating in Pride Week and the Pride Parade. All kinds of groups participate in the parade and attend events throughout the month, yet some ethnic groups have separate weeks specifically designated for celebrating LGBT pride in their communities. During the first week of June, a week of activities for Latino Pride took place in Pilsen, Humboldt Park, and Lakeview, and during the first week of July, Black Pride activities take place across the city in neighborhoods like South Shore, the Loop, and Lakeview.

The other day a friend complained, “If we’re supposed to be inclusive, why have separate gatherings for Black and Latino LGBTs?” This friend was just trying to express a desire for unity, but I think these questions are worth attempting to answer.

Unity is something I’ve been trying to emphasize in this column: We who have experienced some measure of pain due to discrimination ought to think about how we can interact with others in a way that alleviates the discrimination they experience. A first step in accomplishing that goal is to see how they really are a part of us. If this LGBTQAI unity that we are supposed to work toward is so valuable, then why would African American and Latino organizers seemingly damage that unified “us” by calling for separate weeks of celebration? Shouldn’t we all celebrate our rainbow identities as one community?

This is a complicated issue that activists and academics have been trying to deal with in many contexts over many decades. Since everyone has so recently been excited about hockey, it may be helpful for us to think about a metaphor along those lines.

Let’s say you live in Chicago and you’re a hockey fan in a culture that highly values the Blackhawks. Now imagine (oh the horror!) you’re actually a Red Wings fan. If you were to participate in a hockey celebration, wouldn’t you want to express your Red Wings pride? If you tried though, who would listen?

Now in many circumstances you might celebrate hockey with Blackhawks fans, but wouldn’t you feel like they were overlooking, ignoring, and even viewing with suspicion your identity as a Red Wings fan? In addition, the people who aren’t into hockey may have learned to tolerate Blackhawks fans but may have less interest in understanding you. Is it any wonder then that you might occasionally have your own party where your voice of celebrating the Red Wings can be heard?

This metaphor is not perfect: hopefully there’s not this much segregation and competition among LGBTQAIs, and even though Chicago is a Blackhawks city when it comes to hockey, when it comes to people, Chicago is very diverse.

Still, this picture of the Red Wings fan in Chicago is a kind of representation of what it can be like for black and Latino LGBTQAIs during Pride festivities (as well as for members of many other ethnic groups). Sure, it’s a celebration of rainbow flags, but it often feels like a celebration organized by and for white rainbow flag bearers. A similar feeling of marginality can be experienced by members of the LGBTQAI community who do not identify as gay or lesbian.

Racism, transphobia, and phobias of many kinds unfortunately exist, and though we try to strive for inclusivity, folks within our community can still feel that they’re overlooked and even treated with hostility.

So as we enjoy the last days of this month of celebration, let’s keep in mind that in many cases, our gleeful shouts may have the unfortunate effect of drowning out the voices of those among us with other needs and interests. Let’s try to listen for those voices and learn from them as we strive for unity.

Sometimes it’s only apart from the larger group that some of these voices can be heard clearly. At such times, let’s be sure we are listening carefully and offering our support. Learning to listen to the marginal voice takes time and constant energy. Though it can be exhausting, trying is the most effective thing we can do.

Erica Chu is a student at Loyola University Chicago and is seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in Women Studies and Gender Studies. She manages the blog and can be reached at

GCM June - On the Road to Justice

Feminist Thoughts
By Erica Chu

On the Road to Justice

My church (Broadway United Methodist) welcomes and celebrates gay, lesbian, straight, asexual, bisexual and any variety of sexual identities. Most churches are very segregated, but my church is intentional about fighting racism and working for a racially inclusive community. Most churches see only cisgender and able bodies, but every Sunday, the pastors welcome people of all genders and all abilities. You’d think as a church seeking justice, they’d arrived, but their theme for Pride Month is “On the Road to Justice.”

I like that. We’re on the road, but we’re not there yet.

Recently, I spent the day in one of the smaller suburbs. I felt strange walking around in public and feeling gawking or disapproving eyes when I stood too close to or looked too endearingly at my partner. It was jarring because I spend most of my time in places like Lakeview, Edgewater, Andersonville, and the Loop. Occasionally someone stares or makes a comment, but all in all, I feel free, I feel safe, I feel that for me, justice is within grasp.

Last summer, I marched with a few dozen activists in Joliet trying to give visibility to the LGBTQ population there. I also marched with the Dyke March Collective in Pilsen and will march with them again on June 26th in South Shore. It’s important to lend our support to those like us seeking freedom and safety in the places where they live. If we become satisfied with just our neighborhood, we’ll never reach justice.

More important even than fighting for justice for those like us is lending support to those not like us right in our own neighborhoods and communities. How often do we encounter racism, sexism, classism, transphobia, ageism, and outright meanness about body type, clothes, or mental ability? Sometimes people we know, our friends, maybe even we ourselves do or say something that inhibits the freedom and safety of someone else. Being on the road to justice means educating ourselves, lending support, and speaking up when injustice creeps into our lives and spheres of influence.

Too often our neighborhoods and even our Pride month seem more about brunch, bars, and dancing then about justice. Have we forgotten June commemorates a key moment along the road for justice? Today, the potential for walking that road still surrounds us.

This month, let’s be especially diligent in fighting against the ignorance that has and continues to oppress people of all kinds, colors, and shapes. The road to justice isn’t always easy or comfortable, but every step is a very necessary step in the right direction.

Erica Chu is a student at Loyola University Chicago and is seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in Women Studies and Gender Studies. She manages the blog and can be reached at