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2023 Trans Visibility Pageant contestant Sebastian wears the colors of the trans flag.

2023 Trans Visibility Pageant contestant Sebastian wears the colors of the trans flag on March 31, 2023, outside the Kehrein Center in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood.

Lou Foglia for WBEZ

The Rundown: A glimpse into the lives of trans Chicagoans

Good afternoon! We could see a high around 78 degrees tomorrow, though pack an umbrella because thunderstorms are also in the forecast. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. How it feels to be transgender in Chicago

Illinois is emerging as a haven for gender-affirming care in the Midwest as several GOP-led states, including nearby Indiana, have restricted health care for transgender Americans.

Today, WBEZ shares the stories of trans Chicagoans to help get a better understanding of what life is like in the area, which has seen a rise in hate crime against people over their gender identity and/or sexual orientation in recent years.

“We’re not here by coincidence,” said Zahara Bassett, CEO of Life Is Work, a resource center that organizes Chicago’s Trans Visibility Pageant. “We’re here by thriving and striving and fighting continuously.” [WBEZ]

Nationwide, more than 400 anti-trans bills have been introduced by state lawmakers so far this year, reports The Washington Post. At least 29 bills targeting trans rights have become law in 14 states since January. [Washington Post]

2. High-risk Americans could soon be cleared for a spring COVID-19 booster

Americans 65 and over, as well as people with weakened immune systems, could soon be eligible for a new booster dose of Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The booster was approved yesterday by the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may give the final OK today. If that happens, the booster could be available within days, The Associated Press reports.

For most Americans, the FDA is planning to move to a once-a-year vaccination, just like flu shots.

Officials will hold a public meeting in June to decide on a reformulated dose based on which coronavirus strain they believe will be more prevalent in the fall and winter. [AP]

3. A dangerous animal tranquilizer has already shown up in Chicago street drugs

The Biden administration this month warned a cocktail of street drugs made from fentanyl and xylazine represents an “emerging threat” facing the nation.

Xylazine, which is used to sedate horses and other animals but not approved for human use, has already led to more than 350 deaths in Cook County in recent years, reports my colleague Matt Kiefer.

At least 161 overdoses were reported by the county last year, a 46% increase from the previous year, according to a review of medical examiner records. A majority of the victims were Black.

“Grouping overdose data by race shows 55% of xylazine deaths involved Black victims,” Kiefer reports. “This mirrors a broader trend of African Americans being overrepresented in opioid-related deaths in Cook County.” [WBEZ]

4. Vallas outspent Johnson nearly 2-1 in the mayoral election

Campaign finance reports filed this week show Paul Vallas raised $18 million and spent nearly $17 million in his losing bid for mayor of Chicago, reports the Chicago Tribune.

“Much of the money Vallas raised came from business leaders and private equity investors, many of whom have also contributed to Republican candidates across the country,” the Trib reports.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, meanwhile, raised $8.6 million and spent $9.3 million, with a bulk of that haul coming from progressive labor groups aligned with the Chicago Teachers Union or the Service Employees International Union. [Chicago Tribune]

Speaking of the election, voters ousted only one incumbent in the City Council — the smallest rejection of sitting members since Chicago switched to the 50-ward council system a century ago. [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Chicago is the fourth wealthiest city when counting the number of millionaires

There are 124,000 millionaires living in the city, reports Crain’s Chicago Business, citing a report from investment migration firm Henley & Partners.

That headcount makes Chicago the fourth wealthiest city in the U.S and the 11th-richest city globally.

Chicago also saw “a 24% increase in its number of high-net-worth individuals from 2012 to 2022, boasting an impressive 295 centimillionaires, those with net worths between $100 million and $1 billion, and 24 billionaires,” Crain’s reports.

New York City was home to the most millionaires in the U.S. (340,000), followed by the Bay Area (285,000) and Los Angeles (205,400). [Crain’s Chicago Business]

Here’s what else is happening

  • The Supreme Court temporarily extended access to abortion pill mifepristone until Friday. [AP]
  • Ralph Yarl is making a stunning recovery at home, according to a family lawyer. [AP]
  • Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” rules were expanded through 12th grade. [ABC News]
  • Here’s a look into Dominion’s strategy to get Rupert Murdoch to pay up $787.5 million. [New York Times]

Oh, and one more thing …

If you’re feeling hungry and in the mood for diner food, Moon’s Sandwich Shop on the Near West Side has been serving stick-to-your-bones American cuisine for 90 years, reports Amy Bizzarri for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Moon’s opened for business in 1933, and the diner became famous in its early days for its 5-cent hot dogs and 10-cent hamburgers.

But in 1964, the diner’s location on Chicago Avenue had its food license pulled by Mayor Richard J. Daley, claiming Moon’s was a “hangout for many notorious hoodlums.” Moon’s second owner, Joseph Gambino, sued to have it reinstated.

But longtime customers and Moon’s current owner, Jim Radek, say Moon’s on Western Avenue has always been a neutral ground of sorts.

“In the ’70s, gangs were divided by Western Avenue. The Gangster Disciples ruled east of Western; the Four Corner Hustlers ruled west of Western. There used to be a car wash nearby that was run by three young brothers; one of those brothers was ‘Big Louie.’ Well, one day, Big Louie was being chased by 20 or so guys, so I flagged him, and he ran inside Moon’s. Moon’s is like a sanctuary. As a general rule, people knew then, and know now, to respect this space,” Radek said. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Tell me something good ...

What is your favorite game to play? It can be a video game, board game or whatever. And it can either be a game you enjoy now or when you were a kid.

Andrew G. writes:

“My husband and I are both ‘gaymers’ and formed a connection through our love of video games. We both love action, adventure, RPG-type games, and we both have a love for the Legend of Zelda series and FromSoftware games.

“FromSoft’s Elden Ring was and still is one of our favorite games, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is legendary in the series. We’ve easily sunken 100+ hours into each game and currently cannot wait for The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom!

And Sarah writes:

“I love games. I’ve always wondered how Cribbage was played, so this year for Christmas my husband made me a wooden cribbage board. A few online videos later and we taught ourselves to play. It’s really fun!”

Feel free to email me, and your response might be shared in the newsletter this week.

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