Trans Panelists Back New Law
[CHICAGO, IL] - It's Time, Illinois! cosponsored a community forum to hear people from the Chicago transgender community tell their experiences with discrimination and violence because of their gender identity or perceived gender identity at Ann Sather Restaurant May 23.
|TOP, FROM LEFT: Panelists Justice Fairchild, Daniel Reyes, Lorrainne Baskerville, and Karl Warren.
Photo by Lynnell Stephani
The Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbian Issues and other groups also co-sponsored the event.
Spearheaded by Miranda Stevens-Miller, head of It's Time, the gathering raised community awareness and encouraged people to write letters to and call their local aldermen asking for the Hansen/Ocasio/Schulter Amendment to add "gender identity" to Chicago's Human Rights Ordinance to be passed by City Council. New York City recently added "gender identity" to their human-rights ordinance after a long-term struggle by activists.
It's Time recently published Discrimination 2002, its sixth report on discrimination and hate crimes against gender-variant people, a project they began documenting seven years ago to put a human face on such crimes and inequality. Cook County, alone, had 85 incidents reported. Seventy percent of those cases were from Chicago. Sixty percent of them involved transgender people. And just recently, Philadelphia added gender identity to their human-rights ordinance.
"The rest of the cases involved gays, lesbians and straights. This isn't just a trans issue. It's everyone's issue," said Miller.
Discrimination toward gender-variant people affects their ability to obtain employment, and decent housing. Many are victims of violence, STDs, homelessness and are forced into prostitution. Gender variants have been discriminated by the medical establishment often because of their gender identity or because they can't afford it.
Chicago's Northalsted Market Days aren't even free from incidents. Last year, a transwoman was dragged away from the event by an assailant unknown to her and brutally raped in an alley.
The Chicago Department of Health has an office of LGBT health (headed by lora Branch) and has been pro-active in support of this amendment. And Ald. Gene Schulter recently attached his name to the amendment.
"There is a great need to have this ordinance passed. Time is of the essence. I will do what I have to do to encourage my colleagues to support this ordinance. We must tell aldermen and the mayor that the time to pass this is not after the election. Let's get this done now," said Schulter.
Currently, the ordinance is still in committee. It will not be a problem to pass it out of committee. However, it is expected that it will be a struggle to get this on the floor for a vote by city council. Sponsors and activists alike do not want this amendment to be voted on until all the aldermen have been lobbied and it will receive a successful vote.
Lorrainne Sade Baskerville, a trans woman and activist, spoke about the difficulties she faced by a society that still found this issue an acceptable form of discrimination.
"We have spent six years educating and lobbying for civil and human rights because some individuals, courts, police and the government think it is a privilege to demean and judge others by their look. The way we look and who we are seen as destroys our ability to participate in society. I cannot even file a discrimination complaint with the Human Relations Commission when I have been rejected from services in the community," she said. "We can't let a heterosexist society define gender or life."
Daniel, a 23-year-old, spoke about his difficulty in finding a job, having to drop out of high school because of harassment, and after making a domestic violence call to the police was told that it was his fault because he was transgender.
"I don't feel if this gets passed things will change either. It's going to take a long time for people to get rights respected," he said. "I have friends dying on the street when all they want is to be a human being, go to school and work a 9-5 job."
Justice Fairchild lived as a butch lesbian for 32 years before coming out as a F-2-M transgender. Fairchild's employer let him go, after she changed her sex and now, as a male, Fairchild has a court case against them. In court, the defendants' counsel asked Fairchild personal questions such as what his genitals looked like.
"I lost everything I worked for in 32 years . my diploma, military records are all in a female name. It is humiliating to fight this in court but it makes a difference," Fairchild said.
Copyright 2002 Lambda Publications Inc. All rights reserved