Hunters Night Club in Elk Grove Village has a long history of serving Chicago's LGBT community. But over the last couple of years, policy changes regarding proper identification for transgender and cross-dressing individuals have barred much of that crowd from entry, leaving some Hunters patrons feeling marginalized.
The changes are largely due to a few incidents that have threatened the club's liquor license. Hunters manager Peter Landorf said the incidents involved transgender individuals doing inappropriate things in public and soliciting sex on the classified ads Web site Craigslist.
As a result, the club decided to be more cautious of who it lets inside.
"With all the stuff going on with Craigslist being watched by the police department, the last thing I need them saying is 'Meet me at Hunters,'" Landorf said.
Landorf said he recognizes Hunters has come down hard on the trans community ( and transwomen in particular ) , but the reasoning is to protect the business and its licenseits foremost responsibility.
"Unfortunately, you become tough on that community, I understand that," Landorf said, "but the bottom line is I have to protect the business. It is a fine line."Read more story below....
Hunters' policyin accordance with Cook County lawrequires a person's ID picture to match his or her appearance. When strictly upheld, this can naturally be an impediment to a transgender person whose alternate look is not permanent.
According to a transgender Hunters regular who has requested for the purposes of this article to be called "Sharon," the club used to accept a person's regular ID if a girl removed her wig or there was a distinct resemblance to the photo. Now, she says, the club has even turned away friends of hers that she considers regulars if they didn't have an ID of themselves in drag.
"These people spent money [ at Hunters ] , didn't cause any trouble and [ Hunters ] wouldn't let them back in," she said.
She said the crowd of transwomen at Hunters on the weekends has gone from an estimated 30 to 40 people back in 2007 down to fewer than 10 on an average weekend night.
Cindy C, a transwoman who says she has frequented Hunters in the past, told Windy City Times that she believes the stricter policy is discriminatory.
"The requirement by Hunters management that the ID match the look is solely to keep trans people out of their establishment on weekends," she e-mailed. "It is their place, I guess, but they should be straightforward in their desire to discriminate within the community."
Landorf said transgender people are more than welcome at Hunters, but explained that in his 10 years there, he's had to kick out far more transwoman than men, so he needs to make sure he knows the people he's letting in are who they appear to be in order to decrease liability.
"Are all of them trouble? Absolutely not," he said. "It's always the minority that makes it hard on the majority."
Regardless of the intent behind the stiffening of the policy, some members of the transgender community feel marginalized.
"I don't believe that if a T-girl has a legitimate [ regular ] ID that they should bar her because she [ doesn't feel comfortable going ] in drag to the DMV to get [ a fem ID ] ," Sharon said. "To change [ policy ] like that is just wrong."
Obtaining an ID picturing oneself as another gender is possible, but it is a difficult process. According to Secretary of State Jesse White's office, an alternate ID can be obtained with a medical report form; psychiatric or physician statement; or other document that shows a sex change has or is in the process of taking place.
Sharonwho has not had and does not plan on having a gender changesaid she was able to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles ( DMV ) and thoroughly explain the situation. She received a state ID identical to her license in terms of information, but it pictures her in drag.
The problem, she said, is that many transwomen are not comfortable going out to the DMV in drag given the risk it might pose to their day jobs or regular lifestyle if they were recognized.
But without that alternate ID, transgender persons will likely not be admitted to Hunterswhich would have a major impact on that community.