Meagan Taylor and her best friend, who are both transgender women, were traveling through Iowa on July 13 to a funeral for her best friend’s brother when they stopped at Drury Inn & Suites in West Des Moines.
As the pair attempted to check in, “both the clerk and the manager gave us looks of disgust when they were not avoiding eye contact,” Taylor wrote in a complaint she filed against the hotel with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in November. […]
In the 911 call, a woman who identifies herself as the general manager says she was concerned because Taylor is “dressed as a woman, but it’s a man’s driver’s license.” She also wanted police to “make sure they’re not hookers either.” […]
Police arrived at the hotel room the next day, according to Taylor’s complaint, and officers found hormones she takes as part of a medical treatment for gender dysphoria. She was arrested for not having a prescription, then jailed for a few days in solitary confinement.
Taylor was never charged with prostitution, the complaint said. The Transgender Law Center reported that Taylor had an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine in Illinois. She was charged for possessing a drug without a prescription, but all of the charges were dismissed.
Strangio noted on the ACLU’s blog that transgender women of color face high rates of discrimination and profiling as sex workers. “It is this type of profiling that leads 47 percent of Black transgender women to be incarcerated at some point in their lives,” Strangio wrote.
In a chat with me, Grace commented:
The drug in question was spironolactone, often known to trans women as “spiro”, which is probably the most common androgen suppressor prescribed to trans women. It is not a scheduled drug, though it is a prescription drug, which means the potential for abuse is essentially zero, but it should be taken with medical supervision. So this would have been, I’m guessing, an arrest for a violation of an Iowa law which requires prescription drugs to be kept in the labelled container. Which is great in theory, but I violate such a law every day that I have my meds in a pill minder.
In the course of my duties, we routinely come across prescription medications which are in pill minders, and once we identify them (using a program which permits us to search on things like the shape, color, and imprint), we routinely hand them back to people, as long as they are not scheduled drugs. Because seizing prescription medications can have negative consequences, as you might imagine, and why would we arrest someone for possessing something which is not dangerous, and which they’re legally allowed to possess, because they possessed it in a method which helped them to carry it with them and/or take it correctly?
You can listen to the audio of the 911 call:
This manager absolutely should be fired, and hopefully has been fired already. And the hotel should pay restitution – enough to hurt, enough to leave them with an strong incentive to make sure this never happens again.
Anytime a business discriminates against minority people is wrong. But it’s particularly reprehensible when hotels discriminate. The ability to travel around the country is one of the most basic freedoms we have. But that freedom isn’t meaningful if people aren’t able to eat on the road and depend on finding reasonable, safe accommodations. It’s not meaningful if checking into a hotel can mean being arrested and spending
three eight nights in jail.
The issue here isn’t just the hotel’s discrimination, but also the police department’s discrimination. Although all charges were eventually dropped, Taylor never should have been arrested in the first place. That she spent
three eight days in jail, essentially for being a trans woman of color, is disgusting. I don’t know how police departments can be incentivized to change – lawsuits? Disciplining the officers? Sensitivity training? – but clearly change is necessary. Trans women should be able to know that if they encounter police, those police will treat them like they’d treat anyone else, instead of searching for a pretext for arresting them. Police discrimination of this sort is an even worse threat to freedom than hotel discrimination is.
One final point: Assuming that someone is a prostitute because they’re black and trans is indefensible. And there’s no reason here to think that Taylor, or their friend, are prostitutes.
But even if they were – so what? It seems reasonable to me for a hotel to not want prostitution going on in their rooms – but of course prostitutes need be able to stay in a hotel. That prostitution is used as an excuse for this kind of harassment is yet another reason prostitution should be legal.