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Hotel Calls Police On Woman For Being Transgender

Being transgender is not a crime. But for one black transgender woman from Illinois, it would be the reason why she ultimately ended up in jail.

22 year old Meagan Taylor and her friend, who is also transgender, were staying at a hotel in West Des Moines, when hotel staff decided to call the police. The Des Moines Register reports:

The West Des Moines Police report said they were notified about “two males dressed as females who checked into the Drury Inn,” and that “staff was worried about possible prostitution activity.” So an officer went to their hotel room, and though no prostitution was noted, Taylor gave a fake name with a Missouri ID. The officer also found prescription drugs he identified as spironolactone hydrochloride (they’re listed as diuretics) in an unmarked bottle in her purse. Taylor says they’re part of her hormone treatments, but she was charged with possession of prescription drugs without a prescription.

She said she gave a made-up name but it’s unclear why she had the Missouri license, or why that led to a charge of “malicious prosecution,” an aggravated misdemeanor. Then the officer ran a check and found Taylor had an outstanding probation violation from Illinois, related to a 2010 conviction for credit card fraud. She says she did her time for that — she was 17 — but still owes $500 in fines.

Taylor, a cosmetology student, said she felt that the police were purposely looking for something to charge her with, since there was no evidence that she was engaging in sex work.

While the trans community has made impressive strides in visibility, as evidenced by celebrities such as Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, it’s clear that visibility is not a solution to problems that many trans people face. The transgender community is frequently subject to harassment and abuse by people in general, but also by the police. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 22% of trans people have experienced harassment by police, 46% are uncomfortable seeking assistance from police, 16% have been physically assaulted in jail, and 15% have been sexually assaulted in jail.

Additionally, many jails and prisons have policies that are harmful to trans inmates, or no policies at all. Polk County Sheriff Bill McCarthy told the Des Moines Register that Taylor is being kept in isolation in the medical unit because they aren’t sure where else to put her.  Taylor is the first transgender inmate they’ve had. Keeping transgender inmates in isolation, supposedly for their own protection, is somewhat common, though it is known to be psychologically harmful.

Taylor’s bond is set at $2000, but being from out of state, she would need a local to co-sign and she doesn’t know anyone in the city.  Her next court date is August 25. Activists who work on trans and racial justice issues are working to raise awareness about Taylor’s situation. #FreeMeaganTaylor has been trending on social media, and The Advocate reports that a protest in front of the Drury Inn took place on Saturday. A fundraiser has been set up to help with her expenses.

Of course, none of this would have happened were it not for the blatant transphobia of the staff at the Drury Inn. There is no reason to call the police on someone just because they are gender non-conforming, and it’s senseless that a non-violent woman is now being kept in jail because the Drury Inn Staff made assumptions based on how she looked.

Feature image via Ben/Flickr. 

 

Keziyah is a progressive feminist from Florida. She teaches English as a Second Language by day and watches Netflix by night. She is moving to Saudi Arabia very soon and is not sure how that makes her feel. Find her on Twitter @KeziyahL.