A first for Illinois: An openly transgender judicial candidate

When Jill Rose Quinn saw a recent political ad widely criticized as mocking transgender people, she knew what she had to do.

"I thought, ‘You know what, I’ve got to say something,’” said Quinn, a Democratic candidate running for the Cook County Circuit judicial seat in the 10th subcircuit who is making history as Illinois’s first openly transgender judicial candidate.

The commercial, supporting Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives’ primary challenge to Gov. Bruce Rauner, features a deep-voiced man wearing a dress who thanks Rauner for “passing legislation that lets me use the girls’ bathroom.”

Quinn, a Northwest Side attorney, said at first she feared that responding would bring more attention to the commercial and Ives’s candidacy. And, of course, Quinn is running in an entirely different race. But, she said, the bigotry unleashed by President Donald Trump’s campaign compelled her to offer a counter perspective.

She reached out to a videographer to create her own campaign ad, gently parodying Ives. “We would try to do it with love in our hearts,” said Quinn, 63. “Without inspiring any kind of hatred or finger pointing or anything like that. I tried to school Jeanne Ives, as well as perhaps remind the public, that political campaigns are not supposed to be about, ‘Let’s find a group to pick on.’ Political campaigns are supposed to be about discussing issues and encouraging debate.”

In Quinn’s ad, which was posted to YouTube on Feb. 6, a diverse group of actors sarcastically thank Ives for “reminding us that the battle for equality continues.” At the end, Quinn faces the camera and introduces herself as “Democratic candidate for Circuit Court judge and transgender citizen.”

A representative of Ives’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

If elected to the seat, she would be the third known openly transgender judge in the country and one of a handful of openly transgender elected officials. Quinn would also be the second known transgender-identified political candidate in the state, said Mike Ziri, the director of public policy at Equality Illinois; Dr. Kathleen Robbins ran for a Parkland College board of trustees position in Champaign last year.


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