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Organizer LaSaia Wade Says Chicago Is A Pinnacle of Organizing and Liberation

Written by on June 25, 2019


Chicago is a city known for its creative community of artists, activists and influencers. In our ongoing series, “This Is What Chicago Sounds Like,” we feature the voices and people who contribute to our city’s rich cultural diversity. This month, we celebrate Pride.

In this installment, we hear from LaSaia Wade. LaSaia is an Afro-Puerto Rican Indigenous Trans Woman, a founder of the Tennessee Trans Journey Project, a co-founder of Chicago Black, Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Collective, lead organizer of Trans Liberation Collective, and the Executive Director of Brave Space Alliance.

We photographed LaSaia at Brave Space Alliance before her conversation with Jill Hopkins about Black Queer identity, survival methods, and the strength of Chicago organizers…


Where in Chicago did you grow up? Where do you live now?

I grew up on the South Side, I was actually born in the heights. As we know, the heights and the South Side of Chicago connect rapidly… especially if you want to get into some trouble. I call Sauk Village home. I call it “peaceful hood,” because you have Black and Brown people all around you. You have your Black elders around you knocking on your door checking in if you need something or to see how you’re doing. When you see them you know their names: Joanne, Janney that lives down the street. It is loud, too. And what I mean by “loud” is you hear music coming up and down the street all the time and different types of music people listen to. And it feels peaceful, because we have land, breeze of wind coming through. And we can open our windows and not really pretty much worry about a lot. But we are still worried, because we are still Black.


What has it been like growing up/ living in Chicago as a member of the LGBTQIA community?

My visibility on who I am was different then than it is now; I’m more visible now in the he last probably 10 plus years. Then, I did not want people to know I was trans. I didn’t want people to know I was queer. And it was easier for me to navigate the world because of it. And I knew how the world treated us. And especially love life, right? I was a girl that, you know, dated the hood boys, that none of the homeboys wanted to be seen with me except at night time. I knew I was taken care of, because they paid all my bills. But, you know, you need to stay at home, right? If you want to go out, you have a limited amount of funds to go out. And if you’re going to go out, I don’t want many people to see me. So the way I lived then and the way I live now is completely different. Due to the way I was living then, I was able to finish school and go to college and then come back. It allowed me to learn a different type of survival method as well.

I want to be honest, we talk about visibility is all we need. But visibility, for me, is death. Visibility for most of us is death; the more the light comes on us, the more the light shows. And when it shows, it shows the cracks, it shows where the underwear was hidden up under the bed and it shows all the different types of secrets that our community has held, and held dearly, for our survival method. Now that the light is in the closet, we have to tell our survival methods, and the people that were trying to kill us now know how we survive. And in understanding what that looks like, we have to now figure out different methods of survival…. Now the world sees our death. That’s probably the good thing about it. And it’s that double edged sword, because the thing is that y’all are seeing that we are being killed out in these streets, but you still don’t care unless it hits home. And that’s the issue that we’re having, because until it hits home, until is a cousin brother or sister, it won’t really do the damage that it needs to do for you to actually be as upset and outraged as we are.

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How has the city shaped you and your mission at Brave Space Alliance?

I think Chicago is one of the pinnacles of what organizing looks like… one of the pinnacles of what liberation can be. Because we’re pushing education, because we’re pushing for our rights, it’s because we’re pushing for understanding around who we are. And it’s a constant, “Oh, no, you’re going to see me and I’m going to reclaim my time while you’re seeing me,” right. It’s a constant push with Chicago. I appreciate the queer community on the South Side, because they don’t give up.

At the end of the day, what would you like to have given back to the community?

I just want to be able to live my best life the way I want to live my best life. In all the glory of my transness and all the glory of my Blackness and all the glory of my queerness. And seeing and acknowledging these particular lines. I’ve been seeing more cis Black women coming in droves to actually assist Black trans women. Seeing they are women, being caretakers. That screams Chicago to me. That screams liberation to me. That screams home, that screams safety net.


Listen to the full interview:

Follow LaSaia on Twitter

Photography by: Seamus Doheny

Audio produced by Fyodor Sakhnovski

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