April 14, 2013 | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. shelter drops ban on trans women
Lakiesha Washington, gay news, Washington Blade

Lakiesha Washington, a transgender women who challenged the John L. Young Shelter for homeless women’s policy of denying admission to transgender women, holds a judge’s order requiring the shelter to immediately discontinue that policy. (Photo courtesy of DCTC)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order requiring a city funded shelter for homeless women located near the U.S. Capitol to stop denying transgender women access to the facility.

The Blade had previously reported about a lawsuit brought upon the shelter by a trans women alleging discrimination.

Judge Geoffrey Alprin issued the order after the executive director of New Hope Ministries, which operates the John L. Young Shelter for Women, chose not to contest a request for the restraining order filed by an attorney on behalf of Lakiesha Washington, a transgender woman who was denied admission to the shelter.

D.C. Trans Coalition attorney Jeffrey Light filed a motion seeking the restraining order as part of a lawsuit that accuses the shelter of violating the D.C. Human Rights Act by denying Washington access to the shelter on April 3.

“We don’t do transgenders here,” the lawsuit quotes an employee at the shelter saying when Washington, who was homeless, attempted to enter the shelter. “You have to leave,” the lawsuit quotes the employee as saying.

A decision by New Hope Ministries’ executive director, John Shetterly, not to contest the restraining order followed negotiations between Shetterly and Light earlier in the week, according to a statement issued by the D.C. Trans Coalition. The statement says Shetterly also agreed to provide transgender sensitivity training to the shelter’s staff and was taking steps to provide private bathroom and shower facilities to better serve all shelter clients, including transgender women.

Shetterly told the Blade on April 10 that the John Young shelter was reluctant to accept transgender women because its communal bathroom and shower facilities didn’t provide privacy for shelter occupants. He said the lack of privacy would create a problem in some cases where trans women and other female clients used shower facilities at the same time.

He said New Hope Ministries is supportive of transgender people and would never intentionally discriminate against them.

The D.C. Trans Coalition statement says the staff sensitivity training to which Shetterly agreed is being organized by Earline Budd, an official with Transgender Health Empowerment, a local organization that provides services to the transgender community, and by the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs.

“This is a great day for all transgender people,” Washington said in commenting on the decision by Shetterly to open the shelter to trans women. “Nobody should have to face discrimination and humiliation, and thanks to this case, homeless transgender people will now be safer.”

D.C. Trans Coalition member Andy Bowen, who filed a separate complaint against the John Young Shelter with the D.C. Office of Human Rights charging anti-transgender discrimination, told the Blade that she has dropped her complaint based on the latest actions by New Hope Ministries.

“D.C. has great nondiscrimination laws, but good laws do not equal adequate enforcement,” Bowen said in a statement. “This case showed the need for more vigilant enforcement, and if D.C. Trans Coalition has anything to do with it, enforcement’s gonna happen.”

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

21 Comments
  • Well this is good for the transgender person but terrible for women. Now anyone who says they’re trans can get into women’s shelters.

    • No – its just bad for bigots whose brains reside comfortably at the bottom of one of the outhouses at MichFest

    • When this shelter was operated by Catholic Charities there was not a problem with trans* women staying there. This has only been an issue since it was taken over by New Hope Ministries.

    • PF Jones, many women who worked in political action groups were consulted long before the doors to women opened up to trans* women. It’s been the law in Washington, DC since 2004 at least that women’s shelters are required to admit trans* women. The only new development is that this shelter refused to do so since taken over by New Hope Ministries.

    • Men don’t try to sneak into women’s homeless shelters in order to be around women. That just doesn’t happen.

  • Let the trans* community fund it's own shelters. This is just another way to funnel dollars meant to support women to support men who think they are women.

    • Brandi Marie Parker

      WOW what an ignorant comment and a bad re-flextion on you ! These dollars you speak of are FEDERAL dollars or State dollars which are subsidized by Federal dollars and are meant to support ANYONE who meets the State or Federal NOT your definition of female. So why don't you take your low brow comments and shove it !!!!

    • Susan Sant, many women who worked in political action groups were consulted long before the doors to women opened up to trans* women. It’s been the law in Washington, DC since 2004 at least that women’s shelters are required to admit trans* women. The only new development is that this shelter refused to do so since taken over by New Hope Ministries.

    • Yay Brandi Marie Parker!

    • With what money is the poorest demographic among poor demographics supposed to fund such things, I wonder?

    • its, not it's. And please don't presume to speak for anyone else's identity. A lot of people would be in for a surprise if they had their chromosones checked, if you're talking about one's sense of identity versus what society might perceive and what science would define.

    • Wow… you're talking about a population that struggles with the highest rate of poverty and homelessness… and you want to deny them access to even housing because… what? Out of spite because you don't agree with how they live their lives? There's this new thing out there, they call it compassion. I hear it's all the rage, maybe you should get some.

  • Gina Blazewing Bennett

    Way to go Washington DC. Way to stand behind your Trans*community and not put up with bullying crap.

  • When this shelter was operated by Catholic Charities there was not a problem with trans* women staying there. This has only been an issue since it was taken over by New Hope Ministries.

    Ms Kenyatta Brunson would have never had a problem with this when she was running John L Young.

    FYI The showers are not private but what Ms K would do is after the women finished showering and the bathroom was closed, she would then have the other women shower privately. It was a solution that worked flawlessly and required no remodeling or extra effort on anyone’s part.
    So sad to see this shelter’s standards of conduct go downhill since she stopped running things.

    PF Jones, many women who worked in political action groups were consulted long before the doors to women opened up to trans* women. It’s been the law in Washington, DC since 2004 at least that women’s shelters are required to admit trans* women. The only new development is that this shelter refused to do so since taken over by New Hope Ministries.

  • The fact that the ban was there in the first place is disgraceful, really. :s

  • In the make-up of the [American with Disabilities Act] {circa' 1985}, it would appear that [Lakiesha] would best be served by being a friend to those who use, and despitefully use. Especially in housing and accommodation. [New Hope] will have there "come-uppence"…."And on behalf of the human race, Welcome to this Crazy Place…"

  • This kind of thing is more common than people realize. When I was discriminated against on the job in New Jersey, I contacted the NJ Division on Civil Rights and the person on the phone told me that she had to check and see "if we do transgenders". This is the person taking calls at a state agency charged with administering one of the strongest anti-LGBT discrimination laws in the entire country.

    The difference in this case is that it wasn't ignorance at play here, it was based on an actual policy that was obviously illegal under DC law. My question is how well is such a law being enforced when shelters like this one apparently still feel free to ban trans women. Clearly, as Andy Bowen alludes to, there's as much of a problem in the administration and enforcement of DC's civil rights laws as there is here in Jersey.

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