Billboards designed to promote transgender awareness, acceptance
By Melissa Espana Staff Reporter July 8, 2014 1:44PM
A crowd awaits the unveiling of a billboard at Madison Street and Kenton Avenue in the Austin neighborhood. | Photo provided
Sandi Woods, a youth leader at a Chicago transgender resource center, remembers hearing about a trans woman who was wrongly accused by police officers of engaging in sex work while simply walking down the street.
Although Woods has never experienced the problem many in the transgender community refer to as “walking while trans,” shes hopes no other transgender woman ever has to experience it.
“I don’t want trans women to be continually relegated to sex work,” Woods said. “[Trans women] want to be managers, or CEOs, or directors or any kind of job that any other person can have.”
Woods and members of Chicago House’s TransLife Center, a service center in Edgewater that helps trans individuals find housing, employment and medical care, want to help end discrimination against the transgender community through a billboard campaign.
Last week, 10 billboards were unveiled on Chicago’s West and South Sides — two areas where, according to Chicago House, trans women of color face the most violence and discrimination.
Each brightly colored billboard has a pair of legs in high heels and the phrases, “Respect transgender women,” and “She’s just walking, not working.”
TransLife Care Coordinator Channyn Parker said she hopes the billboards will make people think, and prevent trans woman from being stopped on the street for simply going about her day.
“Thousands of people drive down the street everyday,” Parker said. “You don’t know who is going to glance at that poster ... This may save someone’s kid from being put out. This may save someone from being arrested unjustly.”
The billboards were created through a partnership between the TransLife Center and Firebelly Design, a local graphic design company. Each year, Firebelly hosts a 10-day camp where young designers are challenged to address social issues.
This year, the organizations collaborated to raise awareness about the issues facing the trans community and to make the community more visible.
“The more visible we become, the more human we become in the sense that people can’t use their own perceptions and labels on us,” Woods said.
The launch of the campaign falls on the one-year anniversary of the opening of the TransLife Center. Since its opening, it has provided housing, hot meals and access to legal services and job opportunities for individuals in the trans community.