A trans woman is suing for the right to go topless… after discovering only men are allowed to.

Under Chicago’s liquor licensing laws, it is forbidden to display “any portion of the female breast at or below the areola” in a bar or club.

The provision expands to “any employee, entertainer or patron to engage in any live act, demonstration, dance or exhibition on the licensed premises”.

Performance artist Bea Sullivan-Knoff, a trans woman who performs as Bea Cordelia, has launched a lawsuit against the city of Chicago and embattled Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The lawsuit contends the law is discrimination as it “reinforces archaic stereotypes and overbroad generalizations of the impropriety of women’s breasts versus men’s breasts.

“While men, whether as performers or patrons, in Chicago’s hot and humid summers routinely remove clothing from their torsos, whether as artistic expressions or simply to cool off, women are prohibited from doing so due to the threat to venues’ liquor licenses.”

Ms Sullivan-Knoff says she wants to be able to perform while topless, to help counter hatred and misunderstanding towards transgender people.

She said: “Since most of this negative rhetoric centers on the specifics of trans bodies, and most times invasively so, I most often perform about the body, which often involves the presence of my nude body or partially nude body onstage, in an attempt to reclaim a part of myself too often taken from me.”

Attorney Mary Grieb told ABC: “In 2016 in a city as diverse as Chicago, there should not be an ordinance reflecting 19th century ideas about sex and gender.

“Moreover, Ms Sullivan-Knoff is a 23-year-old engaged in the very difficult task of making a living as a young performance artist, yet has been prevented from performing deeply personal pieces due to the City’s transphobic and blatantly sexist ordinance that should be an embarrassment to a modern city in the 21st century.”

The city has not yes responded to the lawsuit.