Judge Allows suit challenging Chicago ban on Topless Female performances to proceed


By Jake Morask

Per Debra Cassens Weiss of the ABAJournal, a Transgender Woman’s ongoing lawsuit against Chicago’s ban on  topless female performances at liquor establishments will be allowed to proceed thanks to U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood.

Bea Sullivan-Knoff is claiming in her suit challenging Chicago’s ban on topless female performers that the ordinance is a double standard that violates the equal protection clause and is “unconstitutionally vague when applied to Transgender people.”  There is no ordinance against male topless performances and according to Judge Wood, Chicago’s justification for that is based on the notion that a woman’s body has a higher capacity to excite arousal than a males, but noted that notion may be founded in sexist assumptions and “societies sexual objectification of women.” A motion to dismiss the suit was denied just a few weeks ago, so this is another victory for Bea Sullivan-Knoff. As for what the actual performance is, Weiss explained “In one of Sullivan-Knoff’s acts, she appears on stage with a brown paper bag over her head that reads, “Touch Me.” She wears only a sheet, Wood wrote. Audience members are invited to touch Sullivan-Knoff’s body, and after a set period of time, she removes the bag. Sullivan-Knoff says she fears legal repercussions if she continues to perform the act.” The act was intended to show how the government controls and objectifies Transgender bodies and dictates the terms of their identities. If Sullivan-Knoff succeeds in her suit, the victory would highlight how there is a double standard in how male, female, and transgender bodies are allowed to be depicted is undoubtedly true. In so many sporting events and public places in general, men’s bodies are flaunted freely and without issue but there are ordinances controlling how women can express theirs.  So, there has been a clear attempt by society to control women’s bodies through attempts at abortion bans, attacks on maternity leave, and yes, ordinances such as the ones Sullivan-Knoff is challenging. There has been an even clearer attempt at controlling and demonizing Transgender bodies; i.e. bathroom bans, bans on Transgender people serving in the military, dog whistling political ads and yes, again ordinances like this one. Hopefully the wave of hatred and hypocrisy ends soon.

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