A transgender attorney who was cited by Illinois gubernatorial candidate Jeanne Ives as the basis for an unflattering portrayal in a campaign ad has responded — and she isn’t pleased.
Ives, a state representative challenging Gov. Bruce Rauner for the Republican nomination, began running a commercial over the weekend accusing Rauner of betraying conservative values. One part of the ad shows a very masculine-presenting person in a dress thanking Rauner “for signing legislation that lets me use the girls’ bathroom.” The spot also featured images many observers found racist and sexist, and the Illinois Republican Party condemned it.
Ives attempted to justify the transgender portrayal in a speech Monday at the City Club of Chicago, saying, “The transgender man, that’s exactly what typically a transgender man looks like.” A member of the audience yelled, “No, it’s not,” and Ives replied, “With all due respect, look, I’ve had him show up at my door.” She later told reporters that she was referring to Joanie Rae Wimmer, an attorney who once went to Ives’s home while defending a man accused and eventually convicted of leaving threatening phone messages for the politician, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Speaking to the Tribune later Monday, Wimmer said, “First of all, I’m not a trans man, I’m a trans woman. I don’t think I look like the guy in the ad, but even if she does think that, that is not the point. I think she’s a dangerous person — I think she’s only a short way away from the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany. … The only difference is that instead of going after Jews, she’s going after transgender people like me, and immigrants and black people.”
“I guess I’m hurt that she doesn’t find me attractive,” Wimmer added, laughing. “But what she’s trying to do is make trans women appear to be confused men that are mentally ill. She’s demonizing a group of people. I suppose she is upset because I pee in the women’s room at the DuPage County Courthouse. I don’t think I have to prove how beautiful or attractive I am — I like the way I look, but trans women typically don’t look like the man in the ad because they have hormone therapy to treat what is essentially a birth defect.”
Ives spokeswoman Kathleen Murphy commented to the Tribune via email, saying, “That Joanie Rae Wimmer would equate Jeanne Ives saying she doesn't want men in the same bathroom or locker room as her elementary school daughter to Nazis who tortured and murdered 6 million Jews tells you exactly who is the extremist and who is recklessly advancing intolerant views.”
Ives does have a history of anti-LGBT views. The client who brought Wimmer into contact with Ives was a gay man responding to an interview the politician gave in 2013, as Illinois was considering a marriage equality bill, calling same-sex relationships “completely disordered.” Gay people, she said at the time, are “trying to weasel their way into acceptability so that they can then start to push their agenda down into the schools, because this gives them some sort of legitimacy. And we can’t allow that to happen.” Illinois legislators did eventually pass the bill, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn, Rauner’s predecessor, signed it into law.
Illinois voters will choose each party’s nominee for governor in the primary election March 20. The leading Democratic contenders are businessmen J.B. Pritzker and Chris Kennedy, and state Sen. Daniel Biss. The general election will be November 6.