Chicago Trans Activists Say Ordinance Overdue
City ordinance would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations
[CHICAGO, IL] - As Chicago aldermen move closer to outlawing discrimination based on gender identity and expression, people who have seen and experienced such prejudice say the action is overdue.
"I know many male-to-female transgendered people who've been discriminated against in employment and living situations," said Jacob Mueller, of the Office of LGBT Concerns at the University of Illinois-Chicago. "Most of us trans people fear for our safety at one time or another."
The proposed ordinance, sponsored by Alds. Bernie Hansen (47th Ward), Billy Ocasio (26th Ward) and Gene Schulter (47th Ward), would make it illegal in Chicago to discriminate in housing, employment and public accommodations because of a person's real or perceived gender identity or expression. The city's human rights ordinance protects gays and lesbians but not gender variant people.
"I personally know some people who are absolutely afraid to dress at work, at school or when they apply for housing," Mueller said. "That shouldn't happen."
Jamie Weinhold Collier, former assistant executive director at Horizons Community Services, said the problem is widespread in Chicago.
"There are probably hundreds of trans men and women in the Chicago area who have completed their transitions but are fearful of the impact of disclosure," she said. "Passage of the amendment will give them the same protection that gays and lesbians have when they're outed at work or where they live."
Lois Bates, of Nouveau Femme, said there's a small comfort zone for transgenders in some North Side neighborhoods, but said most don't feel safe where they live, work or go to school.
"We're all over the city," she said. "And I know discrimination is out there. Everybody would like to express their gender as they see fit, but you have to survive. A transgendered person out in the streets is not safe."
Bates said passage of the ordinance would also help transgender youth.
"It would make a difference in the schools and for young transgender people in foster care," she said. "I know youth seeking shelter who find problems. There are problems with them getting kicked out of school for how they're dressed. They get harassed, even harassed by teachers."
Collier said protecting gender variant people from bias is also a gay and lesbian issue.
"It's one more step for broader acceptance of gender variance behavior which is positive for all sexual minorities," she said.
The proposal is in the human relations committee of the City Council, chaired by Ocasio. Schulter, signing on as a chief co-sponsor, said two weeks ago he hopes to convince the council to pass it quickly.
"We really want to get this out of the City Council," Schulter said.
Hoping to put pressure on more aldermen to line up behind the measure, community activists host a 6:30 p.m. public meeting at Ann Sather, 929 W. Belmont, May 23. It's Time Illinois, transGenesis, the Chicago Department of Public Health's Office of GLBT Health and the Advocacy Committee of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues organized the forum.
Mueller expressed confidence that aldermen and Mayor Richard M. Daley will support the measure.
"This is going to be wonderful when it passes," Mueller said.