[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #13 in April 2013]
From the Archives: Housing is a Queer Issue. How Queer to the Left took on gentrification in Uptown
The Chicago queer activist group Queer to the Left formed in the late 1990s as a multiracial, multigenerational group of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people fighting for racial, economic, gender, and sexual justice. Initially forming to take on what participants saw as the racism and growing conservatism of the mainstream, establishment-oriented lesbian and gay movement, Queer to the Left focused its work in three main areas:
1. housing issues, especially the fight for low-cost housing and bottom-up rather than topdown community development
2. police brutality; and
3. the death penalty.
On housing issues, Queer to the Left worked with Community of Uptown Residents for Affordability and Justice (COURAJ). By holding demonstrations and protest marches, creating agit-prop, and organizing testimony at public meetings, their coalition won a campaign to develop nearly 200 units of low-cost housing at Wilson Yards at Broadway and Montrose in Uptown . They also protested the development of high-end condos and a Borders bookstore in the old Goldblatt’s building at Broadway and Lawrence and agitated for affordable rental housing as a component of any development using Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds. A related project called Gentrification Keywords addressed the crisis in low-cost housing in Chicago by providing critical definitions of terms such as “Affordable Housing,” “Suspicious People,” “TIF,” and “Yuppie Faggot.”
For more information on Queer to the Left, see http://www.queertotheleft.org. The flyer reproduced here was used at a Wilson Yards protest in 2002. It also appears at http://www.queertotheleft.org/gentrifications/wilsonyards.pdf. Queer to the Left disbanded in 2005. —Ed. ◊