Several households in the Chicago and collar counties have received what are ostensibly newspapers, but are actually anti-LGBTQ+ mailers created and paid for by GOP supporters.
Area media reported the week of Sept. 5 that various mailers, published by conservative activist Dan Proft's Local Government Information Services (LGIS), were received at homes throughout the region and have been tailored to different communities and neighborhoods, touching on hot-button issues such as schools or crime.
Some of the articles appear designed to capitalize on designed to especially capitalize on anti-trans sentiment.
A Chicago City Wire issue dated Sept. 4-10 is headlined, "No more boys and girls? Pritzker family leads push to replace 'myth' of biology." The accompanying article features a photo of Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker alongside his cousin, transgender philanthropist/activist Jennifer Pritzker. Another article inside the paper is titled "Teaching boys to be girls," while yet another front-page story is critical of efforts in Naperville to teach tolerance of LGBTQ+ persons.
A nearly identical issue of the Lake County Gazette contained much of the same and layout.
Brian Johnson, CEO of the LGBTQ+ Equality Illinois advocacy, said that such tactics are not surprising to him in an era when anti-LGBTQ+ elements have been especially emboldened by aggressive political rhetoric.
"We are seeing people take advantage of queer youth and trans young people for their own political gain and its disgusting," Johnson said. "We are seeing hate groups perpetuate myths about LGBTQ+ people. They are seeking to reject science and deny our history in society for their own political gain."
He added, "We know queer people and trans people have been part of Illinois' fabric for as long as we've been a state."
A Sept. 7 commentary from writer Greg Hinz in Crain's Chicago suggested that headlines in various papers mirror rhetoric in anti-JB Pritzker advertisement taken out by People Who Play by the Rules PAC, another organization Proft runs. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot called one of those ads racist, noting that her image was manipulated so that her skin tone appeared darker.
Johnson said that heightened anti-LGBTQ+ agitation from the right means that the community needs to both leverage its existing relationships and educate the rest of the public about its history and issues. But most important, he suggested, is to name these tactics as the discrimination that it is.
"We just know that this is where allyship matters," he said. "We need LGBTQ+ peopleand the people who love, care for and work with LGBTQ+ peopleto call this vitriol out. We are working with dozens of community groups across the state to make sure that they have the resourcesto be able to share accurate, affirming messages about LGBTQ+ people."
Johnson remains hopeful that this messaging will largely fall on deaf ears, since so many Illinoisans likely know one or more LGBTQ+ individuals.
"There are half a million Illinoisans who identify as LGBTQ+," he explained. "When you then add up all the people who know an LGBTQ+ person, and care about an LGBTQ+ person, who love an LGBTQ+ person, we rank in the millions. So we do have the resources to combat this hate. What it will take is all of our allies being diligent and informed."
He emphasized that community members and allies need to push back in "individual conversations, social media feeds and in our work and in schools. Engaging that way, we will easily win back against these lies and this vitriol."
The Crain's Chicago Business article is at tinyurl.com/3srs2534 .