A black, transgender woman has filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, saying staff at a West Des Moines hotel treated her hostilely because of her gender identity and race.
Meagan Taylor and her friend Shyann, another trans woman, were traveling from Illinois to a funeral in Kansas City last July, when they stopped at the West Des Moines Drury Inn for the night. Taylor says she often stays at Drury Inns to accumulate customer loyalty points, and has always felt welcomed. But she says staff at the West Des Moines hotel were rude and eventually called the police.
"We tried to put the looks of disgust and poor treatment out of our mind," writes Taylor in the complaint. "Unbeknownst to Shyann and me at the time, a Drury employee (I think it was the manager) called the police upon our arrival, or soon there after, and reported that he or she suspected Shyann and me of engaging in prostitution on the basis that we were men dressed in women's clothing."
Transgender advocates say trans women are often falsely accused of being sex workers.
"Trans women have an expression, which is 'walking-while-trans,'" says Rita Bettis, legal director the ACLU of Iowa, which is helping to represent Taylor. "Meagan's goals in this case, I think are first and foremost to send a very clear message not only to the Drury that this is a right she has, that they have, not to be treated unfairly based solely on being transgender."
Police ultimately charged Taylor with giving a name other than what was on her I.D. and possessing prescription medication without a prescription. The medicine was Taylor’s hormone therapy, and both charges were later dropped.
Taylor was also held on outstanding fines related to a juvenile offense. She ended up spending eight days in the Polk County Jail before being bonded out, missing the funeral in Kansas City.
"Though no fault of my own, I was targeted, harassed, arrested, and forced to miss a funeral," writes Taylor.
Calls to both the West Des Moines Drury Inn and the chain’s corporate headquarters were not immediately returned.