Group raises money to help transgender inmate
A San Francisco minister with Midwestern roots is raising money to help a transgender inmate at the Polk County Jail.
Megan Rohrer, a transgender Lutheran minister who was born and raised in South Dakota, set out to raise $2,000 to post bail for (name redacted due to the preference of the individual), who goes by the name Meagan Taylor. Taylor, a 22-year-old cosmetology student from Illinois, was arrested Monday at a West Des Moines hotel and charged with possession of prescription drugs, malicious prosecution and on an Illinois warrant.
As of Saturday evening, Rohrer exceeded that goal and raised $2,173 for Taylor. The new goal is to raise $3,731.20 to cover a $1,731.20 fine Taylor received from Illinois, according the fundraising page.
Rohrer said she didn’t know Taylor’s background or the circumstances of her arrest, but she wants Taylor to be able to get out of jail, find a lawyer and “make her own decisions about how to proceed.”
Taylor is being held in the medical unit of Polk County Jail because officials didn’t know whether to place her in the men’s or women’s section of the jail.
Taylor was visiting Des Moines with a friend who also is transgender, and they were staying at a hotel in West Des Moines. Taylor told Register columnist Rehka Basu that she noticed the staff “acting really funny” around them. Then police showed up at their hotel room.
West Des Moines Police report they were notified about “two males dressed as females who checked into the Drury Inn,” and that “staff was worried about possible prostitution activity.”
An officer noted no prostitution, but Taylor gave a fake name with a Missouri ID. The officer also found the prescription drugs spironolactone and hydrochloride, which are diuretics, in an unmarked bottle. Taylor said they’re part of her hormone treatments.
It’s unclear why she had the Missouri license, or why that led to a charge of “malicious prosecution,” an aggravated misdemeanor. Police also found out that Taylor had an outstanding probation violation from Illinois, related to a 2010 conviction for credit card fraud. Taylor said she did her time for that — she was 17 — but still owes $500 in fines.
She is scheduled to appear in court Aug. 10, said Sgt. Vikki Palmer of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Palmer said even if the $2,000 bond were paid, Taylor may not be released because of the Illinois warrant.
Area residents are also showing support for Taylor as a group of nearly 20 staged a protest outside the Drury Inn on Saturday.
“We are looking to hold the hotel and the police accountable for what they did,” said Kaija Carter, one of the organizers of the protest. “Things like this happen in Des Moines, they happen in West Des Moines, and they need to come to an abrupt stop.”
The protestors delivered a letter addressed to the West Des Moines hotel’s general manager Kim Biery, listing five actions they’d like to see taken by the hotel management. The demands include a formal public apology, financial reimbursement for Taylor’s hotel room, cost of bail and cost of arrest, as well as the management’s participation in a restorative justice roundtable discussion.
Drury Inn staff declined to comment on the protest and the letter.
“Drury Inn targeted (Taylor) just because of the way she looked,” said Tony Taylor, who signed the letter. “That isn’t OK, so we’re putting them on notice and we’re putting West Des Moines on notice.”
Rohrer, who grew up in Sioux Falls and graduated from Augustana College there, said her nonprofit group Welcome is an advocate agency for the homeless and hungry, including those in the LGBT community.
She heard about Taylor from a college friend who lives in Iowa and who has stayed at the same hotel. “She was upset and wanted to know what we could do,” Rohrer said. “Two thousand dollars is not that much to raise and I knew we could rally to get (Taylor) proper legal representation.”
Rohrer said she has experienced situations similar to Taylor’s during her world travels because she is transgender.
Taylor’s story has caught the attention of the national LGBT magazine, The Advocate, which ran a story on its website Friday.
Contributions to Taylor’s fund can be made at sfwelcomeministry.blogspot.com.