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Transgender woman sues D.C. police, U.S. marshals

Claims authorities placed her with male detainees after 2009 arrest

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Gay News, Washington Blade, Transgender, Patti Hammond Shaw
Gay News, Washington Blade, Transgender

Patti Hammond Shaw (Photo courtesy of Patti Hammond Shaw)

A transgender D.C. woman alleges in a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service that she was improperly placed with male prisoners after a 2009 arrest.

Patti Hammond Shaw of Southeast Washington said she turned herself in to officers at the Sixth District station on June 18, 2009, after she received a letter that stated there was a warrant for her arrest for filing a false police report. Shaw claims that she showed officers her identification that proved she was legally female, but they placed her in a cell in the men’s section. She further alleges that male prisoners “asked to see her vagina, breasts and buttocks.”

D.C. police subsequently remanded Shaw, who underwent sex reassignment surgery in 1999, to the custody of U.S. marshals. She said she insisted that she is a woman, but Shaw claims that they insisted she was a man and referred to her by her birth name Melvin. The lawsuit states that the male marshal who searched Shaw “groped her breasts, buttocks and between her legs repeatedly and excessively.” She further alleges that other marshals made crude comments about her breasts and gender.

The lawsuit claims that marshals placed Shaw in a holding cell with approximately 30 men who were going to traffic court. “Several of the men in the holding cell touched Ms. Shaw inappropriately, verbally harassed and propositioned her, threatened to punch her if she did not show her breasts to them, and shook their penises at her,” it reads.

Shaw also claims that she was forced to urinate in a cup in “full view of the men in the holding cell.” She further states that a male detainee to whom she was chained touched her “inappropriately several times” as they went into D.C. Superior Court. Shaw said that the marshals told the man to stop harassing her and instructed her to ignore him. She alleges that the male detainee continued to harass her and the marshals “did not take any further action.”

“Going through something like this was very, very, very hard for me being a transsexual woman,” Shaw told the Blade. “I kept telling them I was a woman and they said, ‘that’s what they all say.’ They didn’t believe that I had sex reassignment surgery. They didn’t believe me at all.”

Arrestees receive a Police Department Identification Number that is linked to their name and gender when they are taken into custody for the first time.

D.C. police in 2007 adopted a policy that states trans arrestees must remain in a holding cell by themselves. Personnel are required to remain cognizant of a detainee’s gender identity and expression, and immediately notify their commanding officer if their record indicates a different gender than the one that they present at the time of their arrest. The policy further states that MPD staff should pass this information along to the U.S. Marshals Service or other law enforcement agencies that may transport a prisoner.

Neither the MPD nor the U.S. Marshals Service responded to the Blade’s request for comment, but the lawsuit alleges that D.C. police failed to adhere to their own policy. It further accuses Steve Conboy, former U.S. marshal for the D.C. Superior Court, of “intentionally disregarding gender information about transgender detainees” that MPD employees relayed to members of the U.S. Marshals Service. The lawsuit also names Benjamin Kates, former acting U.S. marshal for the D.C. Superior Court, as a co-defendant.

U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle last November dismissed Shaw’s lawsuit on procedural grounds, but she said she could pursue them in U.S. District Court in spite of her belief that they would ultimately not proceed.

Shaw’s attorney, Jeffrey Light, told the Blade that his client’s incarceration with male inmates was based on where “her genitals used to be.”

“There’s absolutely no legitimate reason for that,” he said. “Individuals have different ideas about where they would be safest. Some people want to be in a cell by themselves, some people would prefer to be in the general population with people of the gender with which they identify. It makes sense when anybody is in custody in the criminal system where they feel safest is taken into account.”

Shaw is seeking unspecified monetary damages that a jury would ultimately determine if her case goes to trial.

Light said he has met with Michael Hughes, the gay current U.S. marshal for D.C. Superior Court, to discuss the concerns highlighted in Shaw’s lawsuit. He said Hughes’ office has solicited input from the D.C. Trans Coalition on how to improve the treatment of trans prisoners while in custody.

“This was a very positive step that we were invited to work on that,” said Light.

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7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Amy

    July 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    While I’m glad she’s suing, the tone of the article implies that pre/non-op women deserve that kind of treatment. Women should be treated with respect and placed in the proper facilities regardless of op status.

  2. pamela hayes

    July 3, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Check out what The Blade wrote–The lawsuit claims that marshals placed Shaw in a holding cell with approximately 30 other men who were going to traffic court.

    Pamela Hayes replies–“30 other men? The Blade is lambasting–rightfully so–the DC authorities for disrespecting and mentally abusing this trans woman, but the Blade does it themselves. If The Blade is supportive of her than they should respect her and not characterize her as a man. That is the crux of her lawsuit. Shame on The Blade.

  3. L.A.

    July 4, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Having been in the same situation but not post-op, the M.P.D refuse to even recognize any trans woman’s status what-so-ever. I know Ms. Shaw fairly well and she’s a legitimate female by the legal and medical definitions. Although D.C. puts pro trans laws on the books the rank and file officers and U.S. Marshals simply ignore them.. The police have obvious homophobic attitudes and they don’t try to hide that fact.

    Chief Lanier should do a better job of instilling integrity in her police officers. They act like a bunch of ghetto gang-bangers when they’re around trans-women!

  4. Sharon Hairston

    August 12, 2012 at 6:56 am

    This was very sad. I too know Ms. Shaw and it saddens me to know that she went to do the right thing by turning herself in and then she’s treated in this manner. Shame on you WMPD.

  5. Henrys Photo Service

    March 13, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Yes. This was like throwing a woman in the mens jail. Those that are not attracted to Transsexuals would not understand, but there are more men than you think, that are attracted to Transsexuals. -H

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Virginia

Va. businessman apologizes for burning of rainbow flag poster

‘Shocked and horrified’: Ashburn incident caught on video

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Organizers of an event where a Pride symbol was burned say the incident was a misunderstanding.

The owner of a Virginia technology company that hosted a private Veterans Day party on the grounds of an Ashburn, Va., brewery in which a company employee used a flame-throwing device to ignite a rainbow flag poster said the selection of the poster was a mistake and he and his company have no ill will toward the LGBTQ community.

The Washington Blade learned about the poster burning from a customer of the Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn, where the incident took place on its outdoor grounds. The customer made a video of the incident with his cell phone and sent a copy of the video to the Blade.

The video, which includes an audio recording, shows a man using a hand-held flame-throwing device to ignite the rainbow poster, which was hanging from a cable and appeared to be mounted on cardboard or a thin sheet of wood. Bystanders can be heard laughing and cheering as the poster is set on fire.

The poster consisted of a variation of the LGBTQ Pride rainbow flag that included the word “love” configured from an upper white stripe on the rainbow symbol.

The customer who took the video, who has asked not to be identified, thought the decision to set the poster on fire was a sign of disrespect if not hatred toward a longstanding symbol of LGBTQ equality and pride.

Chris Burns, Old Ox Brewery’s president, shared that view, telling the Blade he and his staff were “shocked and horrified” when they learned later that a rainbow flag poster had been burned on the brewery’s grounds. Burns said Old Ox supports the LGBTQ community and participated in LGBTQ Pride month earlier this year.

He said the company that held the private party paid a fee to hold the event on the brewery’s grounds, but the brewery did not know a rainbow poster would be burned.

“I’m mortified that our event was interpreted in this way,” said Nate Reynolds, the founder and partner of Hypershift Technologies LLC, the Falls Church, Va.-based technology company that organized the Nov. 11 party at Old Ox Brewery. “I can assure you that ZERO ill-will or offense was meant,” Reynolds told the Blade in a Nov. 24 email.

“We held a small private party for a few clients, which included a demonstration of Elon Musk’s Boring Company ‘Not a Flamethrower,’” he said in his message. He was referring to one of billionaire businessman Elon Musk’s companies that specializes in boring through the ground to create tunnels for cars, trains, and other purposes. 

“After so many being isolated during COVID, we wanted to have an event that was lighthearted and to some small effect, silly,” Reynolds said in his message to the Blade.

According to Reynolds, in thinking about what should be used for “fodder” for the flame-thrower, he went to a Five Below discount store and purchased items such as stuffed animals and posters, including a “Space Jam” movie poster as well as what he thought was a poster of the British rock group The Beatles.

“When I pulled the Beatles poster out of the tube it was instead the ‘Love’ poster,” he said, referring to the rainbow flag poster the Blade asked him about in an earlier email.

“All I focused on was the ‘Love’ wording and not the rainbow and did not draw the conclusion that the poster was an icon that represents the LGBTQ community,” Reynolds said. “It was my own ignorance of not connecting the symbolism of the poster. If I had realized it was a symbol of the LGBTQ community, I would not have used it,” he said.

“I feel terrible, and I want to emphasize that I am solely responsible for this mistake – not the Old Ox Brewery,” he wrote in his message. “Nobody at Old Ox had anything to do with this activity.”

Reynolds added, “Hate has no place in my heart, and I sincerely apologize for any offense that could have been drawn from what I now realize was poor judgement on my part. I simply didn’t correlate this poster with the LGBTQ pride symbol.”  

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Before Reynolds issued his statement of apology, Burns, the Old Ox Brewery co-owner, told the Blade in an email he was “saddened and upset” over the rainbow poster burning on the grounds of his brewery.

“We do not wish to benefit from this event,” he said in his email message. “Therefore, Old Ox is donating 100% of the revenue generated from the private event to GLSEN.”

GLSEN is a national LGBTQ advocacy group that focuses on education and support for LGBTQ youth. Burns said Old Ox Brewery also donated proceeds from a Pride month event it organized earlier this year to GLSEN.

LGBTQ activists and organizations contacted by the Blade said they were unfamiliar with the variation of the rainbow flag with the word “love” that was the subject of the poster burning incident. The poster is available for sale at Five Below stores in the D.C. metropolitan area for $5.

Small print writings on the poster show it is produced by Trends International LLC, which describes itself on its website as “the leading publisher and manufacturer of licensed posters, calendars, stickers and social stationery products.” The Blade couldn’t immediately determine who designed the poster.

 The video of the poster burning incident can be viewed here:

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Fairfax schools returns LGBTQ-themed books in high school libraries

Review found ‘no pedophilia’ in texts as critics claimed

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(Book cover insert courtesy of Amazon)

The Fairfax County Public Schools announced on Tuesday that following a detailed review by two committees appointed by school officials it has returned two LGBTQ themed books to its high school libraries that had been temporarily withdrawn after being challenged by critics who claimed they included sexually explicit content inappropriate for students.

The two books, “Lawn Boy,” a novel by author Jonathan Evison, and “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” which is described as an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe, each contain descriptions of sexual acts.

But supporters of the books have argued that they have won praise by literary critics and, while describing intimate relationships, they tell stories that do not fall into the category of pornography.  

Fairfax County Public Schools, the name used for the county’s public school system, on Tuesday said in a statement that a thorough review of the books by two committees consisting of educators, school officials, parents and some students found that neither book contained content that could be considered to depict pedophilia as claimed by some parents and others opposing the two books.

School officials announced they had temporarily withdrawn the two books from school libraries following a Sept. 23 meeting of the Fairfax County School Board where strong objections to the two books were raised by parents.

“Two books that were subject to formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries,” Tuesday’s statement by the school system says.

“The decision reaffirms FCPS’s ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” the statement continues. “Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

The statement says the final decision to reinstate the books was made by Noel Klimenko, the Fairfax County Public Schools’ assistant superintendent for its Instructional Services Department.

The two books have received favorable reviews in various literary publications. Both have received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, an annual award that recognizes the year’s 10 books written for adults that the association says have a special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.

“The robust committee process took place over several weeks and considered whether the books flouted regulations by being obscene or harmful to juveniles as defined by the Code of Virginia,” the school system statement says. “The members also considered the work in line with an excerpt from the FCPS Student Rights and Responsibilities Handbook pertaining to possessing obscene visual imagery as defined in the Code of Virginia,” the statement says.

“After careful consideration, neither books were deemed to have fallen foul of these regulations,” it concludes.

The decision by Fairfax school officials to reinstate the two books came about six weeks after more than 425 LGBTQ students and allies from over 30 Fairfax County public high schools sent a letter to the school board and the school system’s superintendent urging them to reinstate the two books.

The Pride Liberation Project, a coalition of LGBTQ and allied students in Fairfax County, organized the joint letter.

“Student representatives from over 30 schools, including nearly every high school in Fairfax County Public Schools, have signed this letter, and many of us are students of color, low-income, gender expansive and not out to our families and communities,” the letter states.

“We are writing to ask you to reject calls to remove Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer’ and Jonathan Evison’s ‘Lawn Boy’ from Fairfax County Public Schools libraries,” the letter says.

It points out that “hundreds of books in our schools already depict heterosexual relationships and physical intimacy,” and says singling out LGBTQ themed books with similar stories of intimacy for rejection is unfair.

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Transgender Zimbabwean woman in Md. wins asylum case

Mattie Tux Horton lives in Rockville

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Mattie Tux Horton, right, with her lawyer Ankush Dhupar in Los Angeles. (Photo courtesy of Mattie Tux Horton/Facebook)

A transgender woman from Zimbabwe who lives in Rockville won her asylum case in late October after living in the U.S. for the past five years. 

Mattie Tux Horton was represented by Ankush Dhupar from the Los Angeles law firm Paul Hastings LLP.

“I feel at ease,” said Horton. “Although a lot is going on in the [United States], it’s [significantly] different compared to where I’m coming from.”

Horton said that she now considers the U.S. to be her home. 

Although she has been living in Maryland for a while now, receiving asylum stripped away the anxiety associated with returning to Zimbabwe had the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency denied her request. 

With protection from the U.S. government, Horton gets to live in a safe environment and without the vile treatment she encountered in Zimbabwe because of her transness.

In her hometown of Bulawayo, Horton faced constant public humiliation and was once fired from her job as a graphic artist because of her dress presentation, according to an interview she did with Medium. 

She was attacked by a violent group of men in 2014, and was outed later that year following a holiday trip to South Africa, according to the interview. 

This incident garnered media attention and The Sunday News, a Zimbabwean newspaper, published an article in which it misgendered Horton throughout the entire piece. 

This prompted Horton to apply for a U.S. visa so she could attend an LGBTQ leadership conference in D.C. and remove herself from the cacophony in her town.

The Sunday News later ran a story about Horton’s departure in which they misgendered her again and referred to her as a “transgender man” and “alleged gay.”

Horton arrived in D.C. in December 2016 and began her asylum process there. 

While visiting a friend in Los Angeles, she connected with the city’s Human Rights First chapter that referred her to Dhupar, who represented her pro bono. 

Dhupar is a labor and employment law attorney at Paul Hastings LLC and he volunteered to work on Horton’s case as part of his firm’s partnership with Human Rights First to do pro bono LGBTQ advocacy work.

Horton’s asylum was his first ever immigration case.

While the legal underpinnings of immigration were new to him, Dhupar did not struggle to situate his modus operandi because of how compelling Horton’s case was.

“I always referred to the facts of the case because the law is geared towards helping situations like [Horton’s] where someone fears for their life in their home country,” said Dhupar. 

Dhupar also added that Horton’s case was a prime example of why the asylum process exists.

Horton submitted a psychological evaluation in February 2021 that would expedite her asylum case and grant her an interview notice sooner than usual. 

At that point she had lived in the U.S. for more than four years, but she still had to wait a couple more months before she was called for an interview. This caused Horton to feel trepid about whether her case was strong enough. 

“I went through depression and had psychological breakdowns,” said Horton. “I have friends who were called in for an interview months after moving here and didn’t have to wait five years [like I did].”

This hurdle, however, gave Horton and Dhupar adequate time to build an indisputable case. The two built a personal relationship that kept them vigilant despite the abounding uncertainty. 

“She was a perfect advocate for herself and took the initiative to make sure the case did not fall on the backburner,” said Dhupar. 

Now that she has won her case, Horton is taking time to relish on her recent success. 

“I’m going to take a breather,” she said.

She also plans to secure full-time employment in 2022 and build a makeup brand. Horton currently works part time as a steering committee member — a role she says is fulfilling — at the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project- Transgender Law Center.

There, she links Black trans and gender nonconforming individuals to education, employment, legal and healthcare resources.

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