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Genderqueer 'Monopoly Man' Amanda Werner on breaking barriers
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Sarah Toce

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Genderqueer, nonbinary, trans, bisexual political activist Amanda Werner made an unexpectedly huge announcement to their colleagues at Public Citizen and Americans for Financial Freedom last National Coming Out Day ( Oct. 11 ).

"I'd been out to several of my friends and my inner circle, but I hadn't been out at work yet," Werner recalled. "It was something I was planning to do, but I was maybe going to wait until I got a new job or some sort of transition. But then when 'Monopoly Man' happened, I suddenly had journalists asking me what my pronouns were—and that had never come up before. Since I was in drag for the stunt, people felt they wanted to ask."

Werner's appearance at the U.S. Senate Banking Committee hearing on Oct. 4 went viral. During the televised hearing, Werner dressed as Monopoly Man from the popular childhood game and sat behind Equifax CEO Richard Smith. The effort was intended to provoke a national discussion on the subject of forced arbitration—and that it did.

Throughout the hearing, Monopoly Man played it up, adjusting their monocle and wiping their brow with an oversized $100 bill. When the hearing concluded, Monopoly Man chased down Smith with a bag of money—all while the cameras were rolling.

Coverage from the hearing played on repeat throughout CNBC, NPR, GQ, Time, Fox Business, the BBC, Teen Vogue and other publications/news outlets. Two days later, Werner participated in a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" and garnered more than 1.2 million views.

The instant national attention was something Werner had never had to deal with prior—and it made the decision to publicly embrace the correct pronouns that much more important. So, they came out publicly, on National Coming Out Day.

"I knew that I had to more formerly come out at work and explain to people what it meant," Werner said. "When I looked down and saw that it was National Coming Out Day, I knew I had to do it."

Werner is open and affirming about their journey.

"For me, identifying as nonbinary, genderqueer and trans means I don't identify with the gender I was assigned at birth—I don't see myself that way. I've never seen myself that way," Werner said. "For me, being genderqueer means I don't see myself fitting into either of the traditional parts of the gender binary. I don't see myself as a man or a woman. I see myself as a person."

Werner explained that because the public sees a more masculine presentation, it was imperative to come out as bisexual, too.

But was unleashing Monopoly Man really necessary? Werner believed so.

"Make no mistake: Forced arbitration is a rigged game, one that the bank nearly always wins. It gives companies like Wells Fargo and Equifax a monopoly over our system of justice by blocking consumers' access to the courts," said Werner. "The CRA resolution striking down the arbitration rule is a virtual 'Get Out of Jail Free' card for companies engaged in financial scams. It should not pass go."

Forced arbitration denies customers their day in court—requiring them to use a secretive, private arbitration system rigged to protect corporate wrongdoers.

"I spent the last two years directing a campaign to restore consumer's rights to sue banks and lenders in court," Werner said. "Over the last decade, financial institutions have been sneaking what we call 'rip-off clauses' into the fine print of their contracts. Basically this means that if they open accounts in your name, if they charge an illegal overdraft fee, if they leak your personal data like Equifax did, that if you try to sue them—you can't join together in court with other consumers who have been similarly harmed. Instead, you have to go into this secret arbitration system. It takes away our ability to hold them accountable."

Werner and their colleagues decided to drop off Get Out of Jail Free cards to senators to illustrate their point—and then kicked it up a notch with the costume and press. Werner fielded a hailstorm of tweets throughout the hearing to keep the attention on the prize: forced arbitration and what that means for consumers.

"It was well planned, I will say," Werner said. "It came together about a week before the hearing, so we didn't have a ton of groundwork to lay, but one of the things that was most effective was that we had a press release ready to go. During the hearing I was on Twitter just searching 'Monopoly Man' over and over ... so any time the camera wasn't on me, I was on my phone. I was able to see it take off in real time and had a little script basically that explained Monopoly Man with a link to our press release."

When someone publicly referenced Monopoly Man, Werner would "tweet at them immediately."

"Other lobbyists feel embarrassed to get into costumes and go in front of senators," Werner said. "I guess I don't really have that same shame about it."

What will Werner and their Monopoly Man alter ego do next? One can only guess!

Find out more about Amanda Werner and the issue of forced arbitration at .

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