City Council committee tweaks gender identity ordinance

If passed by the full Council, the revised ordinance will state a “legitimate governmental reason” for asking for gender identity is to collect “demographic information reporting on the diversity of city employees” or to “provide better services to the public.”

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Chicago City Hall

Sun-Times file photo

Two years ago, the City Council took a small but important step toward transgender equality at the behest of a former battle rapper once known for his homophobic and misogynistic lyrics.

The ordinance Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) championed as a form of personal redemption stated, “No form issued by the city shall ask an individual’s sex unless it is necessary for medical reasons required by law.”

In those relatively rare cases when “selection of gender identity from predetermined options is required by design of any city form,” the ordinance required those gender options to include “male, female and nonbinary.”

On Thursday, Vasquez said that his original wording went too far and needed to be fixed.

At the behest of Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the City Council’s Committee on Health and Human Relations approved an exception.

It states that a “legitimate governmental reason” for asking for an individual’s gender identity is for the “collection of demographic information reporting on the diversity of city employees” or to “provide better services to the public.”

Vasquez said the change will ensure there is “advocacy and tracking of those who are different and want to identify as nonbinary.” It’ll provide the information needed “to make sure the city is doing well on its goals of being a reflective and inclusive employer and set an example for the rest of the city.”

“What we’re doing is trying to accomplish two things: One, to make sure that people have the freedom to choose to identify themselves. And also that we, as an employer, are able to really improve the way we have a reflective workforce and that we are able to advocate for and learn from the folks we are hiring as a city,” Vasquez said.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) speaks during a City Council meeting on October 29, 2021.

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) speaks during a City Council meeting in October 2021.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Nancy Andrade, chairwoman of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, said the tweak is needed because the city “monitors the diversity of its workforce to make sure that we reflect the diversity that this great city represents.”

“By collecting demographic details, we make sure that we do reflect the city’s makeup and can explore other equity implications, such as differences in hiring patterns, pay, promotions, etc.,” Andrade said

“Also, there are grant programs out there which we would like to participate in. But those grant programs ask us for demographic information. And this ordinance would enable us to comply with that and to apply for these grants. So collecting workforce data is an essential tool to support us in reaching our goal to be a more equitable, inclusive city employer.”

On the day the original ordinance was passed, Vasquez acknowledged he was making amends for the lyrics he wrote during his rapper days.

“In my youth, I grew up ignorant of the struggles of our LGBTQ siblings. My ignorance led to many words and actions that I will forever regret,” Vasquez said on that day.

“I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and it led to toxic behavior that hurt and offended others. It is my belief that, had I grown up with a better understanding of our shared struggles, my actions would have been different.”

At the time, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) congratulated Vasquez — not just for championing the groundbreaking ordinance, but for maturing “from someone who perpetuated homophobia and transphobia to someone who is now working to right historical wrongs, particularly as it relates to issues of gender and gender identity.”

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