State Representative (D-Chicago) Sara Feigenholtz sponsored a bill that would have made it easier for Transgender people to get new birth certificates.
Illinois law currently allows people to have their gender changed on their Illinois birth certificates if they present an affidavit from a doctor who performed a sex change procedure on them. But many Transgender people have such procedures done overseas and Illinois law doesn’t recognize affidavits from foreign doctors. The law would have allowed an Illinois doctor to simply certify that a person has undergone a sex change, including Transgenders who do so through hormone therapy and don’t have sex change surgery.
The bill went through the House committee phase easily, winning unanimous Democratic and Republican support. But, Rep. Feigenholtz said anti-GLBT crusaders decided to make it an issue when it went to the House floor and apparently convinced a few right-wing lawmakers to ridicule Transgenders in the process.
“Maybe you went somewhere and a voodoo doctor said you were now a man, where you had been a woman,” Rep. Bill Black (R-Danville) said as the bill was debated.
As some legislators laughed, Black continued, “I’ve often thought that perhaps I was a female trapped in a male body. I know—it scares me, too. I wish I didn’t have to shave everyday. …I’d like to smell better. I’d like to have softer skin.”
Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) followed Black’s lead, asking whether the state might start issuing sex-change documents to neutered deer. (A previous bill had been debated about controlling the deer population).
Even Rep. Art Turner (D-Chicago), who voted for the bill, switched to a mocking falsetto voice as he called out from the podium, “Have all voted who wish?”
The bill failed 32-78.
“I never expected it and I never in my 12 years in the House heard such awful things,” Feigenholtz said. “It was so premeditated and vicious.”
“From this discussion we saw the crude, the crass and the vile side of the Illinois General Assembly,” political director of Equality Illinois Rick Garcia said. “That our legislators would be so cold-hearted and crude to joke about and disparage our community’s most vulnerable members is shameless.”
The head of Illinois Gender Advocates, the state’s largest Transgender advocacy group, said the remarks could potentially be harmful.
“It’s infuriating for members of the Transgender community to hear government officials make jokes like that,” Stevie Conlon said. “When you make fun of people, you’re really setting up a situation that leads to violence against people.”
Conlon said the discussion illustrates how much ignorance there is in the Legislature about transgender issues.
“IGA and our community has our work cut out for us in terms of education,” Conlon said.
Rep. Feigenholtz said she would bring the bill back.
“I have not decided when, but I’m not done,” Feigenholtz said. “This bill will come back and it will pass. It’s a matter of when, not if. I’m not going to walk away from the Transgender community.”
After the huge broohaha with Don Imus, these people have learned nothing. For Reps Black, Rose and Turner and those who laughed and encouraged them to stand on a public floor and use an important issue to mock, dehuminize, and ridicule citizens of this state, is inexcusable. They owe the Transgender community, Rep. Feigenholtz, the Illnois House members, and the people of Illinois an apology for their insulting, insensitive, unprofessional behaviour.