Chicago Police Officer Who Identifies As “Egyptian And African American” Sues City After Being Prevented From Changing Legal Race

Natasha Biase

A police officer in Chicago is pursuing legal action against the city in an effort to have his legal race changed. In the lawsuit, veteran police officer Mohammad Yusuf states he “currently identifies as Egyptian and African American” and hopes to update his race from Caucasian.

In the suit, filed on February 19, Yusuf, who has been an officer since 2004, explains he “currently identifies as Egyptian and African American” and hopes “to correct the racial designation listed on his police personnel file.” At the time of joining the force, the only available racial designation to choose from were Caucasian, Hispanic, and African American.

In addition to arguing that “race and ethnicity are social constructs,” the suit also explains that Yusuf has provided DNA test results from 23andMe that prove he is not a Caucasian man. 

Although Yusuf’s request to update his race was denied because the Chicago Police Department (CPD) does not believe changing one’s racial identity is possible, the suit notes that police officers can update their gender to “match their lived experience” following a transition.

“Despite allowing officers to update their gender identity, CPD has unequivocally refused to extend the same respect and acknowledgement to changes in racial identity, creating a double standard in racial recognition.”

It continues: “CPD’s categorical bar with respect to changing racial markers on personnel paperwork is contrary to even its own practice with respect to officers who wish to change their gender,” continues the suit.

The lawsuit, which alleges the city of Chicago is violating Title V of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, explaining that the CPD’s refusal to allow Yusuf to update his race is hypocritical considering transgender individuals are not required to provide proof of their transition before having their gender updated in police records.

“On further belief, CPD also does not require that transgender individuals provide proof of their transition before making the change. That practice is consistent with mainstream medical organizations, which oppose requiring surgery in order for transgender individuals to change their identity documents.”

In addition to stressing that Yusuf has been an exemplary officer for the last two decades, the lawsuit also accuses the force of bypassing him for promotions due to his listed race, and instead awarding them to “African American officers with problematic histories.”

Speaking with Daily Beast, Yusuf’s lawyer, who is also the wife of a Chicago police detective, said that while she approves of the city’s decision to allow officers to update their gender identity and “allow them to identify as the proper gender,” it is “just very arbitrary” when “it comes to race.”

The first hearing for the case will take place on May 14 in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois.

Last year, Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker signed HB-0009 into law, removing barriers for individuals wishing to legally change their gender. Although transgender individuals were initially required to provide documentation from a doctor to begin the process of changing their gender, the revised law allows people to self-declare by signing a statement affirming their gender identity.

“Here in Illinois, we recognize that gender transition is a personal journey that doesn’t always follow a prescriptive medical path, but still deserves to be honored legally,” explained Governor Pritzker.

“In a time of increasing violence and hateful rhetoric against the trans, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming community, it is more important than ever to reaffirm our state’s commitment to recognizing the rights and dignity of LGBTQ+ Illinoisans.”

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Natasha Biase

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