Tuesday, November 10, 2015
In the News: The Gaurdian
Transgender woman jailed for eight days sues Iowa hotel
Meagan Taylor jailed after hotel staff at the Drury Inn called police to report ‘men dressed like women’ were engaging in prostitution, ACLU complaint alleges
s hotel in Brentwood, Missouri. Photograph: Paul Sableman/
in New York
Tuesday 10 November 2015
Last modified on Tuesday 10 November 2015
A transgender woman was jailed for eight days after staff at the hotel where she was staying with a friend called the police to report two “men dressed like women” were engaging in prostitution, according to a complaint filed by the ACLU on Tuesday.
Last July, Meagan Taylor and her friend, both black transgender women, spent the night at the Drury Inn in West Des Moines,
, on their way to Kansas City for a funeral. But Taylor ended up spending the next eight days in a county jail for possessing her hormone drugs without a copy of her prescription, according to the ACLU’s complaint.
After the women checked into their room, staff called police to report that they suspected the two hotel guests, described as “men dressed like women”, were engaging in prostitution, according to the lawsuit. The next morning, the women were woken up by loud bangs on the door.
The lawsuit alleges that the Drury Inn discriminated against Taylor based on her gender identity and race, a violation of state law which defines gender identity as “a gender-related identity of a person, regardless of the person’s assigned sex at birth”.
For Meagan, a stop at a hotel on the way to a funeral landed her in solitary confinement because she is black and transgender,” said Chase Strangio, attorney in the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Project, in a statement. “This type of profiling of transgender women of color is all too common and is part of the cycle that results in 41% of black transgender women having been incarcerated at some point in their lives.”
, Taylor describes her ordeal as “humiliating, scary and traumatizing”.
She said that the hotel staff were suspicious of her and her friend from the moment they arrived, casting “disgusted” glances their way and whispering about them as if they weren’t there. At one point, the front desk clerk asked to make a copy of Taylor’s ID card even though the hotel had already processed her payment, she says in the complaint. The ID reflected Taylor’s birth name and gender because she said that she could not afford to legally change her name and update her documents.
West Des Moines police said that they were notified of “two males dressed as females who checked into the Drury Inn”, and that the hotel staff expressed concern about “possible prostitution activity”.
When the police searched their hotel room the following morning, the found no evidence of prostitution. However, Taylor was arrested and charged with possessing her hormone pills without a copy of the prescription, as well as two other charges.
She spent eight days in Polk County jail, several of them in solitary confinement, before activists raised enough money to post bond.
All charges were later dropped.
“As a black trans woman, I am used to unfair and discriminatory treatment, but this was extra upsetting because we were paying customers at a hotel and on our way to a funeral,” Taylor, 23,
in a post published on the ACLU’s website. “I felt like I had no rights.”
The jail Taylor was held at did not have a policy for transgender people, Taylor described in the post.
When they did the pat down, they had a woman pat down my top half, but a man pat down my bottom half, as if I’m not one person but two,” she wrote of her experience.
She said, however, that the jail had made attempts to accommodate her while she was there and had contacted an LGBT organization for assistance. They have since begun the process of creating a policy for housing transgender inmates in the prison.
But at the time there was no such protocol, and as such she was placed in a medical unit away from the other women in the general population. There she was given access to a telephone and video conferencing, but said she felt isolated and lonely.
Local residents staged a small protest in support of Taylor outside the Drury Inn following news of her arrest. Pastor Megan Rohrer, who heads Welcome, a San Francisco-based LGBT outreach program,
over $5,500 to cover Taylor’s $2,000 bond and for fines related to an earlier charge. The additional funds will be used to help Taylor pay for her name change and an ID that matches her preferred gender identity.
“When I came out as transgender, I expected I would experience some discrimination, but I didn’t know how strong it would be,” Taylor wrote. “When something bad happens, I try to think about things and sort out why they happened. When this all happened, I knew exactly what it was: the racial profiling, the transgender profiling, the harassment, the solitary confinement. I knew why it was happening, and I knew it wasn’t right.”
The Drury Inn did not respond to a request for comment.
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