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Local lesbian overcomes criticism, shines at CBOT
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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Virginia McGathey endured countless verbal attacks during her early years working at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT). Women weren't commonplace and she often encountered chauvinistic reactions and responses from fellow traders.

She always swung back with vicious, biting barbs.

"In the early days, it was mostly men, [so] I took a lot of crap from them—to the point where I would go home in tears. I was so mad because my feelings were hurt. They would say some really vulgar things to me," McGathey said. "It wasn't until I realized that I was thinking too much about what they were saying. I really had to work on myself, to tell myself that you could call me whatever names you wanted, and say it as often as you'd like, but it's not true."

They jabbed at McGathey as a rare female in the trading pits and also because she's a lesbian. But that criticism motivated McGathey—and she's stood the test of time, and countless defamatory remarks.

McGathey, who turns 55 in October, now lives in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago. She is a south suburban native who has lived in the city since she was 18. She is partnered for the past three years with Emily Beswick, a banker who originally is from Sioux City, Iowa, and has lived in Chicago for about five years.

McGathey graduated from high school in 1975, and then started as a runner at the Chicago Board of Trade, earning about $100 weekly before taxes, she said, laughing.

She has worked her way up to now owning her own company—McGathey Commodities, which was established in 1986, a brokerage company at the Chicago Board of Trade servicing options on all grain futures. McGathey Commodities has grown from a one-broker operation to its current crew of five brokers and two assistants.

"When I first tried to get a job, no one would hire me because I didn't have any experience, even to be a runner," said McGathey who, admittedly, offered to work for free, just to get the experience. After a week, she was told that they liked and appreciated what she did—and that they were going to pay her for that first week, too.

"My idea was, I was going to make millions (of dollars); travel for six months (of the year), then work for six months (and repeat)," she said, laughing.

That isn't exactly how her career panned out, though she certainly has been successful, overcoming countless obstacles en route.

"Women today are still discriminated against," McGathey said. "I appreciate the women who came before me, and I know it was their commitment, their sacrifice to have paved the way for me to have gotten as far as I have.

"That's part of the reason why I now want to make a difference, do something significant, help others."

That's especially true regarding the LGBT community. She has, after all, been out her entire career.

"When people found out [that I was gay,] I found out that I was at times more uncomfortable than they were," she said. "I was worried about what they would think or what they would say, but it ultimately proved to be OK."

McGathey is also a director at Viridian Energy, and has found an away-from-work passion at the golf course. She runs an annual golf outing, is one of three women "full playing" members at Ridgemoor Country Club, she said, and is a 10-time golf champion at that club, which she joined in 1996.

McGathey was a silver medal-winning golfer at the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.

"I love golf, if only because you're outside," said McGathey, who also plays softball and sailing, among other sports. "And yes, golf has helped me tremendously in all male-dominated businesses. For whatever reason, my value and credibility goes up because I am a good golfer. I can't tell you how helpful golf has been to me."

McGathey is still uncommitted about competing in the Gay Games in Cleveland next summer. "I want to, but I have so many things happening," she said.

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