Meagan Taylor and her friend, both black transgender women, were on their way to a funeral and checked in to the Drury Hotel in West Des Moines, Iowa to stay the night. How were they treated?
The hotel staff called 911.
Listen to the call:
There was no emergency. Just two young women stopping for the evening at a hotel. The caller complains that they are “unusual” because they are “two males, but they’re dressed as females with ‘male IDs’ and ‘dressed a little over the top.’” Even the dispatcher is somewhat incredulous that this would prompt anyone to call 911. She questions why the caller is suspicious and the caller explains, that “I just want to make sure they’re not hookers either.”
Meagan and her friend were not men dressed as women. They are women who triggered a set of racialized and gendered assumptions about who is appropriate and welcome in public space — still not transgender people of color in far too many places.
“When this all happened,” Meagan wrote. “I knew exactly what it was: the racial profiling, the transgender profiling, the harassment…I knew why it was happening, and I knew it wasn’t right. I knew something had to change. To experience so many levels of discrimination makes you feel like less of a person. I want to stand up for myself and other Black and transgender people. And so I did.”
Meagan’s story should be a galvanizing reminder of the tremendous amount of work to be done to end discrimination against and violence toward transgender people. We need explicit laws protecting trans people from discrimination in public accommodations, employment, credit, and housing like the law in Iowa that is enabling Meagan to take legal action against the Drury Inn. We need to end barriers to obtaining accurate identification so people like Meagan are not outed to discriminatory strangers when they present their IDs. We need to end the profiling of transgender women of color as sex workers by law enforcement and civilians and disrupt the cycles of poverty, incarceration, and violence that are killing too many in the trans community.
The ACLU has filed a civil rights complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission based on the race and gender identity discrimination she experienced at the Drury Inn.
This kind of thing should never happen.