HRC spotlight: Chicagoan fights for the rights of all

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As a kindergartner, Xavier Esters was called gay – a slur he didn’t understand at such a young age. That was the beginning of a school career darkened for being different.

“I’ve always had to fight for embracing and celebrating me being me,” the Chicago resident said. “I would get ridiculed about the way I walked or the tone of my voice.” So Esters did what many LGBTQ youth do; he hid his identity and tried to cover. It wasn’t until college that he came out and began to live his full identity.

“For me, HRC was a way to fight the fight in a concrete way,” said Esters, who began volunteering with the leading LGBTQ advocacy nonprofit Human Rights Campaign five years ago as a resident of Charlotte. After moving to Chicago four and a half years ago, he continued volunteering for HRC, joining the organization’s Steering Committee. He has since been elected to the Board of Governors and serves on the National Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

"HRC has been a visible beacon for the rights that I am fighting for and have been fighting for on behalf of my community for a long time”, Esters said.

U.S. Bank supports the work of volunteers such as Esters during Pride Month and beyond by becoming a national partner this year of HRC, the nation’s largest civil rights organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer equality. Also, for 10 years in a row, the group has given U.S. Bank a perfect score on its Corporate Equality Index of best places to work for LGBTQ employees.

“We appreciate the dedication of HRC volunteers to advocate for equality for all people—not just the gay community,” said Ann Dyste, U.S. Bank’s LGBT segment lead. “Xavier and so many volunteers work tirelessly on a wide range of issues to level the playing field for everyone.” The fight is personal for Esters not just because of his past, but because of his family members’ experiences.

“I literally have representation of every part of the LGBTQ name in my family,” he said.He is particularly concerned for his aunt, who transitioned to female and the risk she faces as a transgender black female. “It’s not accepted in the black community,” Esters explained.

“There is a disproportionate amount of women of color who are impacted by violence than non-people-of-color. It’s something I worry about for her.”

 

In 2016, 27 transgender women of color were killed in the U.S.—the highest number recorded, according to gay rights organization GLAAD.

Esters translates his concern into action such as being the co-chair of the HRC’s Chicago gala for two years and reminding people that the fight is far from over just because gay marriage is now legal nationwide.

“We have to talk about how someone could be married on Sunday and fired on Monday in over 30 states in this country. For me, HRC is working on every aspect of someone’s life,” Esters said. “If I can’t be there for you, how can I expect you to be there for me,” he said. “We all have to support one another as we continue to fight.”