This year, Chris King made her debut in local politics when she ran for Galesburg City Alderman of Ward Six. If she had been elected, she would have been the first openly transgender woman of color to serve as a city alderman in the state of Illinois.
King fell to opponent Wayne Allen by less than 200 votes, but she was positive about the outcome. King was able to convince several people within her ward who felt ignored and disenfranchised by the current alderman to go out and vote.
King was also pleased that the reactions to her running for alderman were all positive and that people rarely had issue with her being a transgender woman.
“I am really proud of Galesburg and the fact that [being] trans was never really an issue. So, I think the question is: Is it not an issue? Are people not voicing their opinions about it? … I was prepared for it to be brought up, but it was never really an issue,” King said.
Despite being met with an overall positive attitude by constituents, King said that those who were close to her were still worried about exposing herself in the election. The rhetoric coming out of Washington was a huge concern with regard to racial insensitivity and transphobic messages.
“In our political climate, we need people of color to stand up,” King said. “We need women to stand up. We need people of the LGBTQ community to stand up. We need to be sure that we have a voice, because if you don’t, people can take your voice away.”
Although King believes that the times are changing and is hopeful for the future of the trans community, she said growing up in Galesburg and realizing that she was a transgender woman was a long and difficult process.
“I originally identified as a homosexual male, and I grew up in a church where the two biggest sins were having an abortion and being gay,” King said. “Being gay was very tough Ñ my mother was very supportive, [but] some of the other people in my family were like, ‘Well this is just a phase, it will go away.’”
After coming out as trans over a year ago, King recognizes that there are new challenges to face within the society she lives in and the trans community as well. She worries about the current presidential administration, who she believes attacks people who are different.
“I already have to, as a transgender woman of color, worry about being attacked in the street or attacked online or having my rights taken away and not being used to use the bathroom my gender identity falls in line with,” King said. “So, that’s already a worry Ñ losing those things. And then you have an administration who makes it okay.”
Now that the election is over, King expects to get back to her life and to continue being an activist within Galesburg. As the Chair of Community Relations Commission, King looks to encourage more people to speak out when they’re being discriminated against. She will also be looking to start a new support group that will be addressing issues such as transgender visibility and provide a space for dialogue.
King also encourages younger members of the trans community, including students, to take the time to reach out and find people who will support them, whether it be through a group, friends or family. Even when times are tough, she believes it is important to be surrounded by people who are accepting.
“You have to come to the point when you can love yourself. Find a support group. Find people around you who you can trust to talk about things with. And, if not, reach out to people,” King said. “If there’s someone in your life who isn’t accepting, find others who are. Because if they can’t love you because you’re being who your true authentic self is, then they really don’t love you.”