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D.C. shelter accused of rejecting trans women

Lawsuit, human rights office complaint filed against facility near U.S. Capitol

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Sterling Washington, Mayor's office of GLBT Affairs, gay news, Washington Blade

Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, told the director of a D.C. shelter for homeless women that refusing to admit transgender women violates the D.C. Human Rights Act, according to a lawsuit. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A shelter for homeless women located three blocks from the U.S. Capitol is violating the D.C. Human Rights Act by refusing to admit transgender women unless they provide “documentation” of a legal name change or gender reassignment surgery, according to separate complaints against the facility by two transgender women.

In a lawsuit filed April 5 in D.C. Superior Court and a complaint filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights on March 22, the two women charge that employees at the John L. Young Women’s Shelter at 119 D Street, N.W. said they could not be admitted because of their status as transgender women.

An attorney with the D.C. Trans Coalition filed the lawsuit on behalf of Lakiesha Washington against New Hope Ministries, Inc. of Woodbridge, Va., which operates the John L. Young Women’s Shelter under a city funded contract.

The lawsuit says Washington, who was homeless, attempted to gain admission to the shelter on April 3, when the lawsuit says the alleged discriminatory action took place.

An unidentified female employee at the shelter asked Washington, “Are you a woman or a man,” the lawsuit says. “Ms. Washington replied, ‘I’m a transgender woman.’ The employee then asked Ms. Washington if she had any documentation, to which Ms. Washington replied that she did not.”

The lawsuit says the employee then told Washington, “We don’t do transgenders here. You have to leave.”

In a separate discrimination complaint filed with the Office of Human Rights, D.C. Trans Coalition member Andy Bowen says a shelter employee provided more details when Bowen asked about the facility’s policy regarding transgender women in a Feb. 5 phone conversation.

“The respondent stated that I would need to provide proof of a sex change,” Bowen said in her complaint with the OHR. “When I asked what would constitute proof, respondent answered that I would need to furnish documents of a name change or proof of surgery.”

Bowen told the Blade on Monday that she initiated her phone call to the shelter after learning that the John Young Shelter “has a history of refusing service to transgender women.”

John Shetterly, executive director of New Hope Ministries, told the Blade on Monday that he was looking into the allegations in the lawsuit and the OHR complaint and would be able to provide the shelter’s assessment of what happened within days.

The lawsuit states that Sterling Washington, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs, contacted Shetterly by phone on March 18, more than two weeks before Lakiesha Washington was refused entry to the Young Shelter. It says Sterling Washington informed Shetterly of reports he received that the shelter was refusing services to transgender women.

The lawsuit says Sterling Washington told Shetterly that the shelter’s action violated the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based, among other things, on gender identity and expression.

“Nevertheless, Mr. Shetterly did not take action to bring John L. Young into compliance with the law, and Ms. Washington suffered injury as a result,” the suit says.

The lawsuit calls on the court to “[t]emporarily, preliminarily, and permanently enjoin defendant…from continuing to discriminate against transgender women.” It also calls for the court to order New Hope Ministries to pay a civil penalty to the city’s general fund and to grant the plaintiff an award of attorney’s fees and other expenses associated with the litigation.

Court records show the court has scheduled a hearing on April 12 to consider a motion filed on Washington’s behalf by attorney Jeffrey Light for a temporary restraining order to force the Young Shelter to stop refusing admission to transgender women while the lawsuit is pending.

Elliot Imse, a spokesperson for the D.C. Office of Human Rights, said the office would have to make a legal determination on whether New Hope Ministries is exempt from the Human Rights Act based on its religious status before the office can begin to review the case on the merits.

The Human Rights Act provides an exemption, under certain circumstances, to religious organizations that allows them to limit “employment, or admission to” the organization based on religious beliefs.

In its most recent IRS 990 report released to the public, which covers the period of July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, New Hope Ministries says it generated $1.25 million in revenue and incurred $918,015 in expenses. The report shows that $817,509 of its revenue came from “government grants.”

The report doesn’t say from which government entity the grant money came. The Blade has made inquiries with New Hope Ministries, the Office of Mayor Vincent Gray, and the D.C. Office of Partnerships and Grants Services to determine if any of the grants came from the D.C. government. Officials with those offices couldn’t immediately be reached.

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31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Cathy Brennan

    April 9, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    It's shameful that trans activists continue to pressure women to give up our safe space instead of creating their own. 1 in 4 homeless mothers reported being physically abused by an intimate partner in the last year in a 2003. (NCFH, 2003 ) Additionally, a 2005 survey showed 50% of U.S. cities report domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness(USCM, 2007). Trans groups should not prioritize taking services away from already marginalized groups.

    • Jessica Jacqueline

      April 9, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      ok Cathy your being discriminatory and im from women's and gender rights and such as i know there are alot of people have brought up some past cases where there where supposed trans women and etc abusing or causing other issues to women and its just a stereo type and im not sure if that's one thing you are using but anyways just using it as a point.Everyone has to stick up for there rights and trans people have too where else are they going to go you answer me that and to many others.

    • Octavia Dahl

      April 9, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      Jessica Jacqueline " where else are they going to go you answer me that " well…men's shelters for one.

    • Cathy Brennan

      April 9, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      Jessica, trans activists should work to create trans-safe spaces instead of destroying women's safe space. I bet women would gladly ally with them in that endeavor.

    • Leslea Alexander

      April 10, 2013 at 12:04 am

      Which is more "discriminatory", men who are forced to go to women's shelter because they look like women, or men who are kindly directed to a shelter that is specifically created for their sex whether or not they look "manly" enough? "Trans" activists should be pressuring MEN'S shelters and battling their homophobia!

      • M

        April 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm

        Finn; The problem isn’t whether they “feel” like women- it’s a matter of if they ARE women from a biological standpoint. I’ve met a trans guy (born a girl) who was into men. Just because they’re a ‘woman’ in their hearts doesn’t mean they won’t violate other women. Also, if they’re let in other straight men may act like women to penetrate those places of safety. As long as they have a penis and are biologically male, legally they should be treated as men. The law is black and white, there shouldn’t be a grey zone that anyone can take advantage of.

    • finn

      April 10, 2013 at 4:24 am

      But Trangender women are women! They may have had the bodies of men originally, but inside they are women. have a heart! Where are they supposed to go? Someone said to men’s hostels – but transgender women are NOT MEN!!! I wish some people would open their minds a little and have some compassion.

    • Cathy Brennan

      April 10, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Yes, Leslea, exactly right.

    • Adrienne J Davis

      April 10, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      I doubt it, quite honestly. If you look at transwomen as 'not really women' then why on Earth should they expect you to 'ally' with them? If you would happily see a transwomen put in a men's shelter–because, you know, that would be the safest place *ever* for a gender non-conforming woman–then there's no reason to believe that you give a good goddamn about the safety of transwomen. Not that you wish them harm, I wouldn't ever say that. Rather, I think that you would see any harm done to transwomen as 'regrettable' but not something to be ameliorated.

    • Adrienne J Davis

      April 10, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      You know, you played your cards by speaking of transgender women as 'men who look like women'. Your concern for women is apparently seconded to your disdain for transwomen. In other words, XX women benefit 'for free' but the important bit for you is not treating transwomen like women. This is why I said that I doubt that women who believe as you do would actually work to help transwomen find shelters appropriate for them because–and this is important–you do not think of them as women, you think of them as, at best, 'men who look like women'. One of the great loves of my life was a transwoman and she was never anything but a woman to me. Look, be anti-trans if you wish but admit that that is what you're doing. Have the courage your convictions and don't pretend that your reasons are noble or elevated because they are no more noble than anti-gay activists who claim that they don't look down on gays and lesbians, they just think our relationships are not 'real'.

  2. Hector

    April 9, 2013 at 3:45 pm

    Homeless women are some of the most vulnerable of our citizens and now they don’t even have a safe place to sleep thanks to this kind of lawsuit. So all I have to say is that I’m a woman and I’m just automatically allowed into spaces that are deemed women only? This is insane and discriminatory against women. Maybe they need to set up a trans only shelter and stop putting vulnerable women at more risk.

  3. Octavia Dahl

    April 9, 2013 at 7:51 pm

    Wow, more erasure of women's spaces.

  4. Jason Lee Bakke

    April 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    so they qualify for the religious exemption and yet they file 990s. interesting.

  5. Leslea Alexander

    April 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Does it ever occur to anyone that it is not unreasonable for a homeless shelter three blocks away from the U.S. Capitol to require proofs of identity, for an obvious counter-terrorism reason? How can they otherwise be able to ensure that it is not a terrorist disguising themselves as a homeless?

    • Darla Lathan

      April 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm

      It is not unreasonable to not require ID at a homeless shelter, since they usually don't have any, being subject to theft in their sleep. A metal detector and bomb-sniffing dogs could determine a disguised terrorist. Perhaps the Secret Service should have undercover agents in all buildings near the Capitol?

  6. Leslea Alexander

    April 10, 2013 at 12:01 am

    New Hope Ministry is a Christian religious organization. What do they expect when they violate the Christian religious law? (Deut. 22:5 KJV.) Go find a secular shelter or gay shelter?

    • Darla Lathan

      April 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      Perhaps all shelters should be secular and LGBT-friendly.

    • Adrienne J Davis

      April 10, 2013 at 7:52 pm

      Crazy talk! How would we know who the 'right' kind of victims of domestic violence are if that happened?

    • Barrie Daneker

      April 11, 2013 at 4:02 pm

      Now it's Un-Christian to be trans gender? what else will this religious zealots think up next. No more tax dollars to religious organizations…this way the private sector will fill the gap and we can finally free everyone from religious over tones.

  7. Leslea Alexander

    April 10, 2013 at 12:08 am

    According to New Hope Ministries website:
    108 shelter beds for females.
    126 shelter beds for males.

    There are always less female shelter beds than male beds. Men steal from women in need when men are allowed to defraud themselves into women's shelters. For every male admitted to a women's shelter, one female is thrown out on the sidewalk to be assaulted and raped by other homeless males, cops, and criminals.

    • Darla Lathan

      April 10, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      Perhaps shelters should have equal numbers of beds for both sexes.

  8. Gemma Seymour-Amper

    April 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    Watching Cathy Brennan and the rest of the radfems urinate all over themselves in public isn't even entertaining, anymore. Someone send a crate of Depends to Hudson Cook LLP, stat.

    • Jessica

      April 13, 2013 at 12:48 am

      Sadly they dehumanize these two women who needed a roof over their heads. They are so stuck in the 80’s with their Transsexual Empire reasoning even though it’s been rebuked for twenty years.

  9. Ward Randolf Kendall

    April 11, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    This situation does pose an interesting dilemma: transgender women, by today's laws, have every legal right to stay on the women's side of a coed shelter. They've a legal right to "get naked" with genuine women in the women's shower, since they're "women" too. And since lesbianism is also protected under the law, these transgender women cannot be faulted if they run a hungry eye up and down some genuine woman's succulent ass or juicy breasts, provided they don't "touch".

    As for guarding against terrorists disguised as transgender women, checking that "lump" between the legs of a transgender woman could either be a stick of dynamite – or just that "she" is anxious to get to know "her" fellow bunk mates…

    • Karen St John

      May 22, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      And if she had that lump excised a few years ago?

  10. C-dog

    April 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    If they are not women, they should not be admitted to a women’s shelter. Period. Based on DCLGBT Office’s interpretation of the DCHRA, any man could say he is pre-op transgendered and then demand to sleep in a women’s shelter–even with a full beard and all his male plumbing. That is not fair to the women who expect to be in an all female environment. I feel sorry for anyone who is homeless and in need of shelter, but just because these people say they are women does not make them women!

  11. Richard Bates

    April 12, 2013 at 1:49 am

    If I wore a beak, I still wouldn't be a bird.

  12. M

    April 13, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    As long as they have a penis they’re still male no matter what they “feel” like. It’s a genitals that identifies your biological gender, they didn’t do anything wrong. At least they’re still letting in reassigned trans.

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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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