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CHICAGO — Trikone Chicago has spent more than a decade trying to help queer South Asian people — and even the coronavirus pandemic couldn’t hold them back this Pride Month.

The 11-year-old group has been integral to providing resources, making space and building a community for queer and trans South Asians to gather and celebrate in Chicago.

The pandemic did make them cancel events — including the group’s once-monthly queer Bollywood dance party, called Jai Ho — but the organizers have gone digital so they can keep up their work. Where they once hosted events at Mary’s Attic in Andersonville or at members’ homes, they now meet online for “family gatherings.”

Masala Sapphire, a board member of Trikone Chicago and host of Jai Ho, said it’s important to have spaces where queer and trans people feel free to express themselves without fear. 

Left to right: Masala Sapphire, Mango Lassi and Abhijeet are members of Trikone.Provided

“That’s our biggest thing that we try to do, is to hold safe spaces for queer and trans South Asians and their allies,” Masala said. “Everything that we do is geared towards that: Our Bollywood dance parties are come as you are, dress how you want to dress. I hope that people are allowed to come whichever way they want to come.”

Trikone Chicago is loosely affiliated with its parent organization, Trikone, which is one of the oldest gay advocacy groups in the United States. Trikone is geared toward LGBTQ+ South Asians and started in 1986.

While Trikone started in the Bay Area and has had many offshoots, Trikone Chicago has focused on building community among queer and trans South Asians in the city since its start 11 years ago.

Ishani Chokshi, a Trikone Chicago board member who started in the position last year, said she was encouraged to run by two people who were on the leadership team at the time. To her, it’s important Trikone Chicago embraces women and femmes as part of its events and community-building work, and the group’s female-dominated leadership has proven inviting for members.

“It’s incredible to see how a different queer community space can be made,” Chokshi said. “There’s a big narrative of like, ‘Cis gays are losing their space if we make it femme-friendly and invite women,’ and it’s just a total myth.

“It’s a big problem how a lot of our spaces are dominated by cis men, so the very fact of seeing that our space is different is very powerful in terms of attracting more people to come who are not cis men.”

Pre-pandemic, Trikone Chicago hosted events to cater to different needs in the community: book clubs, moving screenings, potlucks. The different sizes and types of event helped members who might not be comfortable coming out to large groups of people.

Chokshi said it has been a little trickier to plan as many online events. They’re figuring out what to do during the pandemic, which has made it “really hard,” especially since the group is so focused on building in-person community.

But the group is planning a drag show for later in July, and they host family gatherings where community members can talk online.

And the pandemic hasn’t slowed down the need for Trikone’s advocacy work.

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump in late June temporarily suspended the issuing H1-B visas, which are used by a large number of South Asian immigrants. Visa holders already in the United States are exempt, but Trikone is trying to help South Asians who are experiencing issues due to that order.

Chokshi said people are dealing with economic instability and anxiety because of visa issues under the Trump administration.

But Trikone can help people in need get help.

“A lot of our members and friends have been deported or have had to move because of the expiration of their visas,” Chokshi said. “The big way we do support is through interconnection. We have lawyers in our group and various different ways of assistance, so through our networks we have a lot of resources to give.”

Many of these resources can be accessed by reaching out to Trikone board members through its website, Facebook page or on Instagram.


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Eric Garcetti on Coronavirus: Some of the Spread Did Come From Our Protests

LOS ANGELES, California — Mayor Eric Garcetti told a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon that the recent Black Lives Matter protests in the Los Angeles area were, in fact, partly responsible for a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

“Some of the spread did come from our protests,” Garcetti admitted, in response to a question from Breitbart News.

Garcetti had enthusiastically supported the protests and participated in them at close quarters, even removing his mask at one point to address a crowd. However, he had also warned demonstrators about the risk of COVID-19 at the protests.

Those warnings appear to have been correct, as cases have spiked within the Los Angeles area in recent days, prompting a return to closures for some businesses and for public beaches over the upcoming Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Another journalist followed up to ask Garcetti if he knew precisely how may coronavirus cases had been traced to the protests. He said that he did not have an answer at hand, but that public health officials felt “more certitude than just a couple days ago” that the protests had been responsible for some of the spike.

With that said, Garcetti insisted that people still had the right to protest. “I want to see march for racial justice continue,” he said. “I don’t want to let up, I don’t want to see us just disappear.”

However, he added, that people who participated in protests should remain “socially distant,” bringing masks and hand sanitizer, and maintaining additional separation from people who are shouting and chanting.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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