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Lakeview, Wrigleyville, Northalsted

Brave Space Alliance Opens Gender-Affirming Makeup Room After Raising $60K In Supplies

The Chicago Black Drag Council partnered with two gay bars to raise about 4,000 makeup items for the city's only Black- and trans-led LGBTQ center.

Transgender activist and leader Zahara Basset marches with protesters during a 2020 Black Trans Lives Matter march.
Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — The Brave Space Alliance, Chicago’s only Black- and transgender-led LGBTQ center, has opened a gender-affirming makeup room after raising about $60,000 in supplies.

Nearly 4,000 makeup items were donated to the Brave Space Alliance, 1515 E. 52nd Place, to launch the service, said Tatyana Chante, mutual aid coordinator for the organization.

Chante said Black, Brown and Indigenous sex workers, as well as trans and gender-nonconforming people, can visit the center’s makeup room 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays and Fridays to pick up makeup and accessories.

“It’s part of our gender-affirming care and another way for us to take care of the community,” Chante said.

The Brave Space Alliance is still accepting makeup items, but donors are encouraged to check with staff first to see what’s needed.

The makeup room was created as part of a partnership with the Chicago Black Drag Council, a collective of Black nightlife performers fighting racism and transphobia within the LGBTQ community.

The drag council also raised $656 last month for the Brave Space Alliance. This month, the group is raising money for Molasses, an artistic collective of Black, queer and trans people.

Chante, who is also a part of the Black Drag Council, said they recruited LGBTQ bars Roscoe’s and Replay Andersonville as makeup drop-off points in an effort to encourage more gay bars to actively support the city’s transgender people.

Business leaders in the Northalsted district, Chicago’s designated LGBTQ enclave, have long been accused of contributing to the neighborhood’s issues with racism, transphobia and misogyny. But Chante said supporting services like the Brave Space Alliance is a good step toward repairing harm.

“It’s great that they wanted to help out this time, and I hope that they continue doing the work,” Chante said. “There’s still so much more that we need to work on within the LGBTQ community to undo hundreds of years of oppression and mico-agressions.”

Credit: Jake Wittich/Block Club Chicago
Tatyana Chante, mutual aid coordinator for the Black- and trans-led Brave Space Alliance and an organizer with the Chicago Black Drag Council, speaks during a June 1, 2020, protest.

Chante said Brave Space Alliance has a second gender-affirming room, for transmasculine people, in the works. It will have boxers, packers, binders, clippers and other helpful items.

The organization is also launching a winter coat drive Nov. 14 at its Hyde Park office, Chante said.

“If you can afford to spend money at a bar in a pandemic, then you should be able to pay someone’s electricity bill or buy them a winter coat,” Chante said. “It’s going to be a tough winter with many people struggling from the pandemic, so we must help each other out.”

The Brave Space Alliance has emerged as a leader throughout the coronavirus pandemic and uprisings spurred by the slaying of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

The organization opened a crisis pantry immediately after the state’s shutdown orders began, and it opened its doors to protesters who were attacked and arrested by local police during the Floyd uprisings.

After launching its Be Brave! fundraising campaign to make those services permanent, the organization also raised enough money to purchase its home in Hyde Park, which Brave Space Alliance has been renting since earlier this year.

The center “is ours and no one can take it away from us,” said LaSaia Wade, Brave Space Alliance founder and executive director. “We appreciate all of you for believing in us and for the love and support. We’re looking forward to our future.”

Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.

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