Hordes of homos will descend on Chicago this weekend for the International Mr. Leather contest. And, as per tradition, many participants will pop into legendary S&M club, Chicago Hellfire Club. Unfortunately, trans men aren’t invited.
Chicago Hellfire Club – one of the oldest S&M clubs in the nation – enacted a strict no female-to-male policy ten years ago, thus barring a significant portion of the S&M community.
Of their unfriendly policy, former Hellfire Club president and long-time member, David Igasaki said:
The general rule of thumb is that there has to be a penile attachment… They don’t want to admit women. It’s not that people are anti-women or personally discriminate against transgender people. It’s just that as a sex club there is a desire to protect a gay environment during play.
Igasaki claims that Hellfire Club can bar FTM’s because its a private club.
Critics, however, claim that the Club goes into public space to recruit members. One transman comments: “I don’t think that a private club would set up a table at a public venue and allow anybody to talk with you and inquire to attend an event.” And transmen aren’t the only ones fighting the Hellfire.
The 15 Association, another S&M group, has distanced itself from the Hellfire Club and even made a point of adding a gender non-discrimination policy to its regulations. The 15 Association leaders, however, won’t go so far as the censure the Hellfire Club. Chairman Steven Gaynes commented:
We disagree with them on this, but we don’t want to make it into a situation where there are any bad feelings. We are not coming down on them, we are just not doing business with them.
One Club member, however, has spoken out against the policy. David Schultz wrote a damning editorial in the club’s newsletter. Unfortunately, club leaders trashed that particular edition, thus silencing his dissent.
The Chicago case isn’t the only case of transphobia going on right now. Lesbian director Catherine Crouch’s come under fire for her independent film, The Gendercator, a sci-fi flick about transmen who attempt to “convert” lady lesbians into butch bullies. Crouch describes her creation thus:
In 1973 a group of hippie women are celebrating Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobby Riggs. They are partying in the rural woods outside of Bloomington, Indiana. Our heroine Sally is a simple minded, sporty type who overindulges at the party and passes out under a tree. Sally wakes up 75 years later in 2048 to discover (amongst other social changes) that feminism has failed utterly and completely. Sex roles and gender expression are rigidly binary and enforced by law and social custom.
Sally [learns] that in the early 2000s the evangelical Christians took over the government and legislated their strict family values, legally sanctioning only “one man, one woman” couples. Advances in sex reassignment surgery have made it possible to honor an individual’s choice of gender AND government policy. Sally is comfortable in the middle of the genders, an unacceptable choice in 2048.
The film – which Crouch hopes will “foster discussion about female body modification and medical ethics” – has been pulled from the San Francisco Film Festival and a number of other festivals are considering doing the same. To help matters along, a group of San Francisco based activists have created a petition reading:
We, the multigendered LGBT community and its allies, declare that there is no space for hatred and transphobia in our community institutions. We reject the notion that transsexuality is anti-feminist or anti-gay. We demand that our community artists be held accountable for the messages that they deliver, and that artistic projects not be allowed to hide under the mask of “sparking dialogue” when the intention is actually to divide and demonize.
If you’re not about transphobia in the queer community, we suggest you head on over, read the rest of their words and sign away. If you support discrimination – head on over to the Chicago Hellfire Club and get fucked.
Chicago SM club under fire for anti-trans policy [Bay Area Reporter]