Chicago woman who calls herself a “fag”, files complaint against spa for preventing her from showering with men
December 14, 2012
Chicago woman Levi Pine, a boycott organizer for service-industry union UniteHere, filed a complaint with the Illinois Department of Human Rights after she was asked to leave the men’s shower facilities in a public spa. Pine, who is female, has been cosmetically using synthetic testosterone for the last year to masculinize her appearance, but has not undergone any surgical alterations nor has she attempted to change her legal sex marker.
According to the Windy City Times (which uses male pronouns for Pine):
The manager, who identified himself as John but declined to provide a last name to Windy City Times, questioned Pine about his gender. Pine told John that he was transgender, and John said he could provide Pine with a private shower.
In a post on “Queer” website Bilerico titled “Bathing In Discrimination” Pine explains “I’ve been taking testosterone for about a year and I’m pretty hairy but otherwise intact as I came. This weekend, I was in my full hairy birthday suit in the men’s wet spa area of King Spa & Sauna just outside Chicago when a fully clothed manager approached me. While I was naked, he asked me if I am male or female. I explained that I am transgender.”
The manager asked her to use the areas set aside for female-sexed bathers, and offered an alternative: a private bathing area.
“When I refused, he had me talk to some “marketing” guy on the phone who told me that they “could not accommodate my special needs,” that they “needed to appeal to a wider audience,” and that if I wouldn’t move into a private room I’d have to leave.
I insisted that I had no special needs, that all I wanted was access to the same facilities as every other paying customer. That didn’t change their minds. I asked the manager to look me in the eyes like I’m a human being. He wouldn’t. They gave me a partial refund.”
Pine compares her “right” as a female to bathe with men in a public spa with the Civil Rights Movement, and ends her post with a call for a boycott of the spa, also stating: “Call them, email them, write bad Yelp reviews about them.”
The Illinois Human Rights Act protects the rights of individuals who proclaim social sex-roles as a form of personal identification, but the Act also contains a public accommodations exemption for sex-segregated areas of public nudity.
The 2005 Act defines sex-role identification (“Gender Identity”) as a form of sexual orientation:
“Sexual orientation” means actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person’s designated sex at birth. “Sexual orientation” does not include a physical or sexual attraction to a minor by an adult.”
The exemption for public accommodations which are “distinctly private in nature” reads as follows:
(A) Private Club. A private club, or other establishment not in fact open to the public, except to the extent that the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of the establishment are made available to the customers or patrons of another establishment that is a place of public accommodation.
(B) Facilities Distinctly Private. Any facility, as to discrimination based on sex, which is distinctly private in nature such as restrooms, shower rooms, bath houses, health clubs and other similar facilities for which the Department, in its rules and regulations, may grant exemptions based on bona fide considerations of public policy.
The Windy City News quotes transgender attorney Joanie Rae Wimmer as proposing that Sex-Role Identification overrides Sex-based exemptions. Wimmer’s legal opinion is that the rights of men and women who personally identify with sex-roles normally assigned to those of the opposite sex overrides the rights of others to sex-segrated showers. From the article:
“The Illinois Human Rights Act does make exceptions for the case of “sex” in locker rooms, health clubs and other settings. But Wimmer said she believes that exception only applies to “sex” and not to “gender identity,” two different protected categories.
Pine has filed an IDHR complaint against the spa, sent a letter to the spa and notified the Cook County Department of Human Rights. Pine said he simply wants an apology, and wants the spa to adopt a new trans-friendly policy.
The Illinois Human Rights Commission will have to rule on Wimmer’s assertion, and decide whether – in Illinois at least- personal identification with a particular sex-role, regardless of legal sex, overrides the public’s right to sex-segregated areas of public accommodation in spas and locker rooms, etc. throughout the state.