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Kim Hunt is Paving the Way for Equality for All Women

Kim L. Hunt has used her platforms in storytelling, public speaking, and civic engagement to curate brave, inclusive spaces for social change for over 25 years. Her personal vision is to co-create the beloved community that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and others have talked about.

Ms. Hunt is currently the executive director of Pride Action Tank (PAT), a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC), where she also serves as the senior director of Policy & Advocacy Operations. In these roles, she builds relationships among stakeholders and a culture that enables inclusion and innovation by ensuring that all participants can fully participate in co-creating ideas and community. PAT is a space for expanding and growing diverse, curated tables aimed at tackling intersecting issues of marginalization. As a hub and action/think tank for transforming data, research, and evidence-in-action to drive convenings across sectors, PAT collaborates to develop actionable and sustained policy changes and/or innovative solutions within the Midwest with and for LGBTQ+ people and other historically marginalized communities. AFC mobilizes communities to create equity and justice for people living with and vulnerable to HIV or chronic conditions.

Prior to co-founding PAT, Ms. Hunt was the executive director of Affinity Community Services, a 30-year-old social justice organization that works with and on behalf of Black LGBTQ+ people, especially those who are femme-identified.

The Chicago Defender spoke with Kim Hunt about her advocacy work with the LGBTQ+ community and paving the way for equality for all women.

Chicago Defender:   Can you talk to me about your work with Pride Action Tank?

Kim L. Hunt:  Yeah, happy to do that. We are like a project incubator and think tank on LGBTQ+ issues. We have a super collaborative model and work very closely with those who are impacted by the issues that we work on, as well as organizations that work in that space and policymakers, funders, researchers, and others. We create what I like to call co-creating futures together because we really are bringing a lot of different people to the table to discuss an issue. We look for themes, potential projects, and policy changes, legislative or administrative and we work to put those into practice.

Chicago Defender:  What are some of the top issues facing the LGBTQ+ community, in particular, facing Black women within this community?

Kim L. Hunt: What is often missed with the LGBTQ community is that we represent society. Everything is right there under the rainbow. So, the things that impact Black women, Black cisgender women, and Black trans women are issues similar to straight Black women. Equitable pay, access to quality health care, good housing…all of those things are true with Black women whether they are Cis, Gay, Straight, or Trans. When you add to that sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression sometimes you don’t know what you’re being discriminated for, when you carry all of these identities. We spend a lot of our time educating Black people about LGBTQ people in the Black community, and LGBTQ people about Black people in the LGBTQ community. It is a nuanced discussion specifically talking about Black women within this community, but the violence directed towards Black trans women and other trans women of color is off the charts.

When Black trans women or trans women are murdered, many of those cases go unsolved. Even in reporting these crimes, many of them are misgendered. That’s an entirely different level of difficulty for transwomen who are never afforded the right to live fully in their identity.

Chicago Defender: When you say “fully live in their identity” what do you mean?

Kim L. Hunt:   Some trans people let go of their given birth name. That’s called their “dead” name. They use a different name but often using a different name can be difficult because people are not always to afford to have their names legally changed. There are many barriers, but the cost of even changing a name can be prohibitive.

Chicago Defender: Similar to a straight woman changing her name after a divorce?

Kim L. Hunt: Exactly. In addition to the paperwork, there are the additional costs of going through the legal changes that they have to go through to get all those documents in order.

Chicago Defender: We are in an interesting time where younger generations are more accepting of the LGBTQ+ community but we still have a long way to go with older generations. Are you hopeful we are moving to a more tolerant society?

Kim L. Hunt:  I am very hopeful. National study after national studies shows that younger generations compared to older generations get it. They know the language, they understand the words, they have friends or maybe a part of the community in larger numbers but at the same time, there is still more work to do among all generations. Younger generations have a different comfort level, but we still have a long way to go. There is still so much work to be done. There is still a troubling amount of conservatism when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity.

But to your point, you know, folks in our generations are the ones who are often in leadership positions, who are elected officials. These are the ones who are pushing back on issues like marriage equality. This is what you see with some of these horrible bills coming out of state and local governments. These aren’t just dangerous they are outright discriminating. Particularly against young people, in the name of protecting them such as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida. It’s awful and it’s creating environments where young people won’t fill safe.

We need to change the laws to be better, but we also have to work on the changing of minds and hearts and that requires a level of vulnerability on both sides. For folks who have an LGBTQ+ identity, we must lean into the discomfort of sharing and feeling safe to do that. We have to sit through those educational moments for those who want to be our allies and for our loved ones who recognize our humanity. There’s nothing evil about being a person who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual, pansexual, any of those things bisexual, straight, heterosexual. It boils down to seeing the humanity in others and that’s a hurdle we must get over.

Chicago Defender:  It is ironic to me that some of the issues Black women face center around toxic masculinity and what harm that type of culture does to Black women. The LGBTQ+ community deals with the same it seems. How does the culture of toxic masculinity affect the LGBTQ+ community?

Kim L. Hunt: You said a mouthful there. Yes, let’s take intimate partner violence for example. If two lesbian, queer, or trans women are in a situation where one is abusing the other, and police are involved, it’s often chalked up to just “two women fighting” and not domestic abuse. It’s not on the record because the relationships aren’t recognized. So many abuse victims in our community don’t get the help they need.

When people don’t identify with society’s “norms” and fall outside those expectations they are often harmed. Harm could mean many things. It could be physical harm, or it can be the harm of being invisible or discriminated against in people’s attitudes or in the laws and practices or the policies of organizations and institutions.

And that toxicity that you named is also what leads to the deaths of so many trans women. There’s this notion that a woman means a particular thing and a man means a particular thing. People get outright angry when others don’t present that way. As it relates to Black women it is about support. It’s about supporting all Black women and that includes transgender Black women, queer Black women, or however they identify on the sexual orientation scale.

I think we can all come together and become more powerful than we realize. I’m always looking for opportunities to help make that shift in the world.








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