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Gender Policing Permitted at Chicago Gay Bar

September 22, 2009

01You might imagine (at least, in an ideal world) that gay clubs are safe spaces in which people may freely express their gender identities, even if those identities do not match their biological or legal sex. And, historically speaking, this has been true. After all, the leaders of the Stonewall riots — an event that, by now, is almost exclusively associated with gays and lesbians — were predominantly genderqueer and transgender people.

But a lot has changed over the past four decades, and the acceptance of transgender people, drag queens and gender non-conforming people in gay and lesbian spaces has drastically diminished. Case in point: yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reported that Hunters Nightclub, a local gay bar, now requires customers to provide a government-issued photo ID that matches their gender presentation.

Queerty highlights the problem with this policy:

Officially, the new ID policy is to crack down on cross-dressing prostitutes advertising their services on Craigslist, and using Hunters as a place to do business. But by forcing everyone, including men dressed “ladies of the night,” to show ID with a photo of them dressed as the gender they look like, Hunters is also discriminating against transgender/transexual clientele. And dudes who just like to dress up as ladies now and then.

The Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is already speaking out against Hunters’ policy, calling it a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

I understand why bars need to work hard to curb prostitution and other illegal activities. But that, in no way, justifies discrimination against those who present their gender differently than legally identified. I mean, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why one’s gender presentation at a nightclub (and a queer nightclub at that) might not line up with one’s gender presentation on a photo ID. One might not have the financial resources to be able to medically and legally transition to his or her gender of choice, meaning he or she relies on dress and lifestyle alone to live an authentic life. Another person might see his or her gender identity as fluid, altering gender presentations so regularly that needing to update his or her photo ID with every shift would be an unnecessary burden. And some people simply identify as cross-dressers — they may be men who fully identify as men but enjoy wearing women’s clothing on occasion, and what better place to indulge in such a desire than a gay bar? These are people who risk discrimination and violence walking down the street. To now face those same consequences at a gay bar, a place where genderqueer and cisgender LGB folks used to combat injustice side-by-side, is completely ridiculous and counterproductive. The LGBT community is known as such for a reason. And communities are meant to stick together, not throw the most marginalized members under the bus whenever it isn’t convenient to have them around.

Or, as Michael Lehet concludes on ChicagoNow:

What are they going to do during Halloween?  What happens if you get a really butch lesbian; or a really femmy guy and their picture doesn’t quite look like them?

What are they going to start requiring next…a weight check?  Will they have a scale at the door where you have to stand and verify that the weight on your ID matches your current weight?  If that happens then I’ll never be able to go to another gay bar ever again.

There are other ways to cut down on prostitution without punishing innocent people. And this sort of rule is a slippery slope.  It’s always wrong to discriminate against someone based on appearance alone, but when those people are fighting the same battles for equality as you, it is particularly egregious.

What are your thoughts? Has anyone heard of this type of rule being implemented at other gay bars? What can we do to prevent similar rules from being enforced elsewhere?

  1. Jennifer Simonson permalink
    November 11, 2009 2:56 am

    I am no legal mind, but unfortunatly, I do beleive that the law currently on Hunter’s side. Bars have the right to select who they server. Let me know.
    Since I am mtf pre-op, this restriction won’t effect me, since State of Illinios issued me a female ID many years ago. Plus the few times I can go to bars, it tends to be streight bars; however, I should check in with a few old freinds.
    The problem is that this can set a precedence, that errode at freedom of expresssion. Chicago is an archtypical city, where we don’t celebrate our differance, but rather hide in a grandure of illusions, thus disgising our hypocracy. Halstad Street is well marked indicating gay town to anyone, where it states that if you are gay, say here, but don’t dare to venture beyond your boarders; because this is the true policy behind Chicago. The Chicago Police tends to support these policy. Call 911 in Chicago, and tell them that you have been beaten badly, and they find out that you are transgender, the police will laugh at you and treat you as if you deserve worst. Remember that poor LGBT are not welcome anywhere, but rich is O.K.
    If you are poor, it can be worst, because there are too many people in Chicago can never have the money to go to the bar. In Chicago the yuppie class with their narrowing veiw of the state of Chicago, has deemed that we are not responsible for the poor, die already, we don’t want to know. (Can you paint my house for 25 bucks, you don’t need more, you’ll use it drugs anyway.)
    Chicago is a quinessential model proudly exhibiting the attack on the working class poor (under $35,000 annum). Chicago leaders would deny this; however, listen to your better off freinds and in this tight circle it becomes obvious that they want the city pruge its underprivledged.
    Now that the economy is bad, this process gets amplified. The wannabe elitist are now scared of lossing their jobs, and they tend to be the people that likes Hunter,s policy, because these people acheaved their lifes by reiterating corporate dogma. They lack any courage that many LGBT had to indure to sirvive.
    What we end up with is screwed up thinking.
    Yea, you may call me overt, and my rant though true, is also an overgloss. We are in an age of rediculus overcomplication, and the never-ending fear that the boggymen will get us. Unfortunatly, policy like Hunters is just one of symptoms of a increasingly confused soceity, overburden with rules, looking for an answer.
    I hope this gives insight. Like to hear from you. Jennifer S. Chicago


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