Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=148503
Story Retrieval Date: 12/11/2013 5:50:37 PM CST
Transgender individuals still face many hurdles, even within the LGBT world. And the photo identification policy at northwest suburban Hunters Nightclub has come to represent some of them.
Hunters is a popular gay bar in an unincorporated area near Elk Grove Village that has come under criticism recently for tightened ID policies that some in the transgender community say is discriminatory.
Claiming that their liquor license was in danger, the establishment no longer admits patrons who don’t look enough like the photo on their IDs. The policy has come to be known as the “Two Faces, Two ID’s” rule and makes it necessary for gender variant people to obtain a second valid photo ID.
Seeking to reclaim what was seen by many throughout the entire Midwest as a safe and accepting space to be themselves, Genderqueer Chicago is leading the charge to draw attention to the matter.
The local blogging gender identity support group organized a "Tranny Storm" at Hunters in October, a part protest, part performance event.
Two of the participants were denied entry during the event and are seeking support from the ACLU, according to Kate Sosin, co-founder of GqC. The appearance of those turned away didn't match the gender on their ID.
“In terms of actually looking at what affects the trans community, that is so rarely done in the gay community and that’s one of the problems,” said Sosin. “We have a saying that goes, ‘In LGBTQ, the T is always silent.’ And that is one of the reasons the trans community is so fractured. There’s no real community and there are no resources.”
GqC has extended an offer to Hunters to discuss the ID issue at the Center on Halsted, a gay community support center, as a neutral space. So far, Hunters has not responded to the invitation. Hunter employees contacted at the bar said they couldn't comment on the issue.
In a letter to Gay Chicago magazine, nightclub owner Mark Hunter defended the ID rule. "It is mandatory for all and any patrons entering any retail alcohol establishment. This is not Hunters' policy. The law applies to all and we are not at liberty to make exceptions."
“This is a stupid decision from a business standpoint and it’s unacceptable socially, but it has very low priority when you look at the big picture of what’s really going on with trans people,” said Cyndi Richards, chair of Illinois Gender Advocates.
As a trans woman in her fifties, Richards said she still feels the sting of years of discrimination that have divided the community and continue to make it hard for the various trans groups in the area to work cohesively. “We need these young firebrand kids to be able to pass the torch too. But we need solidarity. I’ve been telling people over and over that we need more unity in community. This fracturing serves no one.”
Christina Kahrl, transgender program liaison for the Center on Halsted, offered some wisdom on how the transgenders community can come together despite external challenges and internal differences.
“The protesters at T-Storm were primarily worried about the precedent that it sets. [Hunters is] asking people to do something they don’t have to do, which is get a second ID," she aid. "Many people can’t do [that] anyway.”
“This represents a potential teaching moment about human rights ordinances and that you can’t treat gender variant people this way,” she continued.
When Kahrl’s not serving as the trans representative to the rainbow community at the center, she works as a sports writer. She said that having to assert herself and her identity in such a typically macho world as sports journalism taught her that patience with both the straight and LGBT world is just as important as the acceptance trans folk ask for in return.
“One of the challenges that the trans community needs to rise to is to deal ourselves in to LGBT issues. We do a lot of complaining about whether this or that organization represents us well enough, but unless we get involved we don’t have a complaint to stand on. We can’t keep hoping that they’ll take care of us,” she said.
Kahrl said she reminds transgender people in Illinois that while the fight is far from over, Chicago is a far more accepting place to live for people of varying identities than many places in the country. “Always remember that it could be so much worse.”
November in Chicago is a time for the comparatively small but incredibly varied transgender community to reflect on what work still needs to be done. Friday is the 10th transgender “Day of Remembrance,” a worldwide memorial to honor victims of transphobic violence and murder.
November is also Transgender Awareness Month for Center on Halsted, capped off by their “Night of Fallen Stars” gala, to be hosted Saturday by several the city’s LGBT organizations.
And there are further glimmers of hope for Illinois. The ACLU of Illinois recently convinced the Illinois Department of Vital Records to change a policy impacting post-op transgenders who had their reassignment surgeries overseas. All transgender individuals can now change their gender markers on their birth certificates to reflect their new genders, something only those who had their surgeries in the U.S. could do before.