CHICAGO — A Lincoln Park nightclub denied entry to a trans person who was wearing a dress, the person said.
Jay Graber, who identifies as transgender and uses the pronouns "they" and "them," said they were turned away because they wore a dress while trying to get into PRYSM, 1543 N. Kingsbury Ave., on Dec. 30.
Representatives of the club did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Graber paid $40 for tickets in advance and went to the club with a friend named Lux on Dec. 30, they said. Once there, Graber said an employee told them the two couldn't enter because Graber was wearing a dress.
When Graber said that was discrimination, the employee instead said Graber couldn't enter because they were wearing sneakers instead of dress shoes, Graber said. The employee told Graber they could enter if they returned with dress shoes, Graber said.
Graber and Lux went back to an apartment and Graber changed into dress shoes. They returned to the club and the first employee scanned the pair's tickets — marking Graber's as "male" — and motioned them toward the club entrance, Graber said.
But that's when another employee, a door manager, stopped the two, Graber said.
That employee "told us 'there was no way in h--- he would be letting a dude in a dress into his nightclub,'" Graber said. The employee also said Graber "didn't fit the dress code," Graber said.
Graber and Lux said they wanted to speak to a supervisor about ticket refunds, but were "laughed at, misgendered and ridiculed" by the employees, Graber said.
A supervisor eventually spoke with the door manager, Graber said, and Graber held up a receipt and showed the supervisor the dress. The supervisor "made a disgusted face," nodded his head no and went into the club, Graber said.
At the same time, several men and women — including women wearing dresses — were let into the club, some of them for free, Graber said.
Graber asked the employees what was needed to wear to get into the club and explained they had paid for the tickets, several rides between home and the club and they wanted to see the artist who was performing, Graber said. The employees laughed and ignored Graber and Lux, Graber said.
After waiting outside for 45 minutes, the employee who had scanned Graber's ticket approached and said he wished he could have let Graber and Lux in but that "he had been told that we would not be let in no matter what I was wearing," Graber said. The employee then asked Graber and Lux to leave.
As Graber left, they saw a person named Jazmine, who is agender and also uses "they" and "them" pronouns. Graber, Lux and Jazmine spoke and left to go to a LGBTQ-friendly club in Lakeview.
Jazmine, who has shaved, green hair, said entry was denied because of Jazmine's "general look." An employee said Jazmine's pants were joggers — a loose type of pants usually worn for exercise — and were not allowed, though Jazmine was not wearing joggers.
A friend had been trying to convince bouncers to let Jazmine into the club, Jazmine said, but once Jazmine spoke with Graber and Lux the employees "weren't having it."
"I have never had any issues until last weekend" getting into clubs, Jazmine said.
Graber posted about the incident on PRYSM's Facebook several times and messaged the club, but the organization has not responded except to ask for Graber's contact information several days ago, Graber said.
Others have shared Graber's posts and have written posts of their own on PRYSM's Facebook page, criticizing the club. The organization has not publicly responded to them.
Jazmine contacted the performer the three had been trying to see, a French artist named Madeon, on social media. The performer apologized and said he would try to ensure the three received refunds and free tickets to his next show in Chicago.
Brian Johnson, CEO of LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Illinois, said being denied entry to a public accommodation because of one's perceived gender identity "seems like a pretty blatant violation of the Chicago and the Illinois human rights ordinances."
Equality Illinois would encourage anyone with a claim of discrimination to contact the Chicago Human Relations Commission if the incident happens in the city, Johnson said.
Ken Gunn, deputy commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, said victims of possible discrimination have 180 days to file a complaint with the commission. Once a complaint is filed, the commission will investigate the case and, if there is "substantial evidence of discrimination," the case goes to a hearing.
If the complainant prevails, the business that discriminated against the complainant can face a fine up to $1,000, Gunn said. The complainant can also go to court to receive damages.
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