Harold Washington College and Transgender Discrimination in Chicago

Chicago or the Windy City as some may call it, is known to many. On their hometown website, in the about page, they describe themselves, "As a multicultural city that thrives on the harmony and diversity of its neighborhoods, Chicago today embodies the values of America's heartland-integrity, hard work and community and reflects the ideals in the social fabric of its 77 distinct neighborhoods."

Sounds lovely doesn't it? Truth is, the city that claims to be "multicultural" and "thrives on the harmony and diversity of its neighborhoods" is not that city to the transgender people living there.

Meet Anadarith Hurtado who brought to light the rampant discrimination of Harold Washington College.

The Local CBS affiliate ran a piece on them here. You can watch the video below:

Hurtado, who prefers the pronoun they, submitted the following to their professor as the research topic they wanted to write about:


Where they write "There are a group that seem to not feel the same equality, justice and freedom, that group being transgender individuals..." the professor immediately responds in red ink:

"These people don't have rights. They choose to be transgender. Pick another topic."

I'm sure every member of the transgender community has issues with that statement. I know I do.

Just in case things weren't clear enough, the professor sent out the following information for those students whose topics went against the teacher's beliefs:


Two specific entries to take note of are:

5. Homosexual couples should not receive the same marriage benefits as heterosexual couples.

7. No one living in the United States can be eligible for government programs of any kind if they do not speak English.

Not only does this professor not respect the rights of transgender people, but they do not respect the rights of gay people and even immigrants.

I contacted Anadarith and they put me in touch with Ryan Mcdowell who was vice president of the college's Pride Alliance group at one time.

Through Ryan, stories were shared with me about other incidents of discrimination at HWC.

Charlie Lang (Graduated from Harold Washington College in the spring of 2015):

The first instance of transphobia I faced at HWC came from a sociology teacher whom, when I approached her to let her know my name and pronouns didn't match the roster, told me she "had no idea I was transgender, because I still looked like a girl." Upon emailing her later on that day and letting her know that what she said was offensive, I received no response or apology and nothing was said about it for the remainder of the semester.

Secondly was in a psychology class, Where during a lecture on genetics and chromosomes I raised my hand to ask how this is effected in terms of intersex children, was told flat out by the teacher that, not only did that question not pertain to the lesson, but that I should just "Google it".

After that last instance I approached an office on the 11th floor (business/president's office) to ask to file a complaint of discrimination and was told we didn't have an office that handled those issues, and I'd have to address them to the Board of City Colleges via a written form.

Another student anonymous trans student said:

I had registered for a physics class, and wrote to the professor 'cause I wasn't sure if I was registered and was worried that either I wasn't all the way registered or that it'd be in my legal name which was still different at the time, but the same rare last name.

I hadn't paid for the course yet or taken a CCC class before, so I wanted to make sure I'd be allowed in class, He instructed me to stop by the registration/admissions office before class, so I did. When I came to class he called me up to the front of the class to explain it to him, in front of the whole class, he saw that my name was different and outed me in front of the class, and called me a liar. Finishing by saying to me 'from now on, what we say is the truth.'

And from Ryan himself (Student from 2012-15. Former Harold Washington College Pride Alliance Public Relations, Vice President and Presidential Officer):

Once I started to transition I had to inform my teachers that my name didn't match what was on the roster. I would usually do this in the form of an email or a in person conversation. This semester in particular I was unable to speak to the teacher before the class started. She called out my birth name as it was on the roster and I didn't say anything because I didn't want my peers to know me as that. After the class was over I went up to her and informed her what my name and pronouns were and if she would please use them from now on, to which I got a smug 'thanks for letting me know.' The next class she called out the same name and I spoke up saying 'we talked last week after class about my name and pronouns' and then she got quite upset saying 'I'll only call you what is on my list' I informed her this was not okay and it was a discriminating action on her part. After the class I went to her office to talk to her further about the situation and was met with being told how she is going to call the dean and security because I 'threatened' her and disrupted the class. I immediately went to the dean and told my side of the story. There was a meeting set up between her, the dean, security and myself to talk about what happened and if I was going to get disciplinary action brought against me. Two days before the meeting it was canceled and I was told how 'we will just forget about this and move on.'

Then once I did legally change my name I went right from the courthouse to the school to change it there. This was in May and I wouldn't be back in school till August, so there was plenty of time to update it in the system. When I got back to school in August, I sat down in my first class thinking I won't have to worry about anything and the teacher calls out my birth name. I was more than upset about this happening. I leave the class and immediately go to the student services office to see what happened and why it wasn't fixed. I show them my name change paperwork and get the process done again and was told everything was fixed. The next day I go to the first day of another class and the same thing happens. This time the teacher was quite rude and felt the need to go into a rant about how 'there is no such as conflict between genders because there is only one gender, male' and other sexiest comments. This time I went upstairs to the dean's offices to complain and get my name changed completely. Eventually their solution was to change my whole schedule around, withdrawal from the classes I picked and put me in different classes. Then to send emails to the new teachers so they knew to call me by the right name. No action was ever brought against any of the teachers that I have encountered participating in discriminatory behaviors.

During my contact with Mr. McDowell, he informed me that the college had set up a PR control event to address these issues at the school, which was most likely provoked by Anadarith being on the local news.

It sounded like something was finally going to be done:


Except, the meeting never took place.

Mr. McDowell told me that it had been cancelled because of "no space" when we can clearly see Room 102 had already been sanctioned.

Harold Washington College still has made no efforts to correct or discipline anyone involved.

But it's not just HWC. During my research I ran across some articles of interest.

It seems in November of last year, district 211 decided to join in on the bathroom debate.

In January of this year, district 200 chose to follow suit.

If that isn't bad enough, in March of this year, Illinois itself is now considering a "bathroom bill."

You have to wonder, "What will this all this lead to?"

You could ask Paige Clay, Tiffany Gooden or Keyshia Blige, if they were still alive.

Discrimination is a seed that grows into a tree of hatred capable of horrible things.

So my question is, "Chicago, what are you teaching your children?"