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Pride protest ignites stormy debate in D.C.’s LGBT community

Accounts differ wildly in assessment of No Justice No Pride actions

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No Justice No Pride activists end their self-imposed blockade and march down P Street. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The actions of protest group No Justice No Pride, members of whom formed a blockade Saturday evening that required the Capital Pride Parade to be rerouted and delayed by more than an hour, have inspired a wide range of strong reaction from parade participants, long-time D.C.-area LGBT activists, Capital Pride officials, observers and others.

Social media was ablaze Saturday and throughout the weekend with some saying the group, a self-described ad-hoc coalition of activists that “seeks to end the LGBT movement’s complicity in systems of oppression that harm LGBTQ2S (i.e. queer/two-spirit) communities,” ended up doing little more than angering and alienating people who should be their allies while others said the loudest denunciations seemed to come from cis, white, gay men who were mad because their party got delayed.

“I think their parade interruption was ill advised,” said Lane Hudson, a longtime, D.C.-based gay activist. “From what I know about Capital Pride, they are very open minded and welcoming. To suggest otherwise is simply not true. If there is a lack of LGBT, queer and two-spirit involvement, it’s because of a choice (by those folks) not to get involved in Capital Pride. … It’s about who shows up.”

SaVanna Wanzer, a Capital Pride board member, trans woman of color and founder of Transgender Pride (an official Capital Pride event), agrees.

“When we have our (Trans Pride) organizational meetings, it’s the same six people who show up every year along with the executive producer and producer of Capital Pride,” Wanzer said. “I don’t know if any of the protestors have any desire to volunteer with Capital Pride or not, but we’d love to have more trans people of color on the board.”

On Saturday, June 10 about 3:30 p.m., a couple hundred No Justice No Pride protesters held a march of their own on the Capital Pride Parade route walking together while pop songs blasted from a loudspeaker and participants chanted anti-corporate slogans. Later another group joined hands with a chain-like material on P Street between 15th and 16th streets, N.W. in the planned route of the parade. Ten protesters formed a chain, chanting slogans and clashing vehemently with bystanders. Eyewitnesses said they saw no violence erupt though some No Justice protesters say they were kicked and spit on.

The parade was significantly delayed and eventually was rerouted. There was a strong presence of D.C. Metro Police at the site of the protest. No arrests were made.

No Justice No Pride members distributed pink sheets in which they demanded that Capital Pride add more trans women of color to leadership positions, more stringently vet which corporate sponsors are allowed to give money to Capital Pride, prevent uniformed police officers and military personnel from participating in the parade because of fraught histories with these groups and LGBT people and many other issues. A full list of their demands can be found at nojusticenopride.org.

The group found supporters among the D.C.-area LGBT establishment.

“It does seem to be predominantly the cisgender, white gay men who are the most upset these people weren’t dragged away and arrested,” said one long-time local black lesbian activist who is not allowed to speak on the record because of her job. “But D.C. has a long history of allowing protesters to exercise their First Amendment rights. We’re not going to drag people from the street so you can continue to party. That’s ridiculous. This is a backlash against the white gay men from Logan Circle. Did they want this to turn into the next Ferguson? Think a little bit about the pros and cons and check your privilege at the door.”

Others, though, say the No Justice protesters had no interest in having their concerns addressed in a reasonable way and refused to back down. A pre-Pride meeting at National City Christian Church on May 8 was heated on both sides. No Justice No Pride plans a “debrief and forum” on Friday, June 23. Look for the group on Facebook for details.

“There are people out there who are never going to be satisfied, 100 percent no matter what you do,” Wanzer said. “They’re always going to have a complaint, they’re always going to have something to say. They say they’re protesting for the rights of trans people of color, but not all the local trans people of color are on the same page with them. We don’t need them to protest or speak out on our behalf. What they did was inappropriate because it took away from the enjoyment and the feel of Pride. If anything it backfired in a way because it made those of us in Capital Pride more unified.”

Others say the protesters have several good points but did themselves more harm than good with their tactics.

“It remains to be seen if tactics like disrupting Pride parades engage or alienate the community and allies,” said Dave Kolesar, a local white gay man. “And with regard to corporate sponsorships of Pride, there was a time not that long ago when finding corporations to sponsor events was nearly impossible as a conservative backlash would inevitably follow. So while it is always a legitimate concern to be able to strike the right balance between corporate and grassroots involvement, I would be cautious about pushing corporations away.”

Hudson agrees.

“Most of the corporations they are targeting have 100 percent ratings on the (Human Rights Campaign) Corporate Equality Index. While intersectionality is much needed, it cannot always require purity. Life, including activism, is a set of choices. Progress isn’t always perfect and it can always be built upon.”

Others say the No Justice No Pride protesters don’t understand the long and tangled history the D.C. LGBT community has with some of the groups they targeted. Cathy Renna, a longtime activist who spoke on behalf of Capital Pride this week, says she knows of trans folks who worked for defense contractors Northrop Grumman, one of the groups No Justice said was not an appropriate Pride sponsor, when they couldn’t continue their military service with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” still in effect.

And to tell military and police they weren’t welcome at the parade, Renna says, was unrealistic.

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No Justice No Pride protesters in action on Saturday (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“I think there was a good faith effort during and after the community forum to try and address some of these concerns, particularly with the police contingent but Capital Pride was not going to exclude them because they did not want to exclude any groups,” Renna said. “Most people understand the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit has a long history working with our local community and anytime you have a crowd of any size like that in D.C., there’s going to be a sizable police presence.”

“I have a lot of mixed feelings,” said Ruby Corado, a long-time D.C.-based trans activist who runs Casa Ruby, a local LGBT community center. “While I acknowledge that some of their issues are valid and I think there’s value to what the group is saying, I struggle with how they’re doing things. … I really do think shutting down the parade for three hours was a little bit too much, I really do, because there were a lot of people there, lots of trans and queer people of color, who’d worked really hard and were there to celebrate. Yes, sure, do hold Capital Pride accountable, but everyone needs to be held accountable, not just Capital Pride.”

Yet accounts of exactly what happened, how the protest was handled and who exactly was behind it differ based on whom you ask. Several local trans residents declined Blade requests for comment for fear of angering No Justice protesters.

Renna spotted a group of about 50-75 people carrying a tri-colored banner that said “No Justice No Pride — Queer & Trans Resistance” on Friday on 14th Street, N.W. and said it appeared to be a significantly different group than those who protested at the parade. Emmelia Talarico, a No Justice No Pride senior organizer said she had no knowledge of who that group was.

“As far as I know, that didn’t happen,” Talarico, a trans woman, said. “If some folks did that, they did not meet with us as representatives of No Justice No Pride.”

Talarico also denied other rumors circulating this week that some of the protesters at the Saturday parade were paid. She said the reality was quite the opposite.

“That’s not at all true,” she said. “We did pay for about six or seven people, black trans women, to perform at the healing space we had but that was because we felt that they deserved to be paid for their work like anyone else would be. No one who was in the blockades who took action in the street were paid. Some of us even emptied our bank accounts to make this happen.”

She also said assertions by some that the No Justice folks were far-left radicals who are out to destroy Pride in D.C. and in other cities is wildly inaccurate.

“We don’t want to destroy Pride, we want to make it better,” Talarico said. “It’s not about destroying Pride, it’s about making it into something that’s more representative of all of us and honors those of us who are struggling at the margins. A lot of this is coming from fissures that have been boiling beneath the surface for decades. The reason people are reacting so strongly is because we’re forcing them to see it for the first time in a long time.”

Accounts also vary as to how much dialogue happened in previous years about some of these issues and whether concerns were brushed aside and if Capital Pride was given a reasonable amount of time to address their concerns this year.

“I can honestly say that we as a team, and I’m speaking as a board member of Capital Pride, we are working as a team to better all or at least most of the issues they’re protesting,” Wanzer said. “But it can’t be done overnight. It’s an ongoing effort and we are taking steps and working on it.”

Wanzer said she finds it interesting that No Justice seemed to have no issue with Transgender Pride this year.

“The fact that there even is a Transgender Pride doesn’t fit their narrative, so they just ignored that,” she said.

Sgt. Brett Parson of D.C. Metro Police, a long-time spokesperson for the department, said no arrests were made because “it was a peaceful event,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Blade.

“As long as a First Amendment assembly is peaceful, MPD makes every effort to facilitate that expression of rights while also ensuring the safety and security of the community,” he said.

Talarico said that’s not true.

“I was not surprised but I was very disappointed at the way several folks, mostly cis, white gay men, were treating the activists,” she said. “We had bottles chucked at us, trash dumped on us, I got punched, shoved, kicked and spit at. We brought our own de-escalators. We came peacefully and with people trained to make sure this would be a non-violent protest.”

In a post-parade official statement, Capital Pride organizers said they were “troubled by reports that some onlookers responded to the protesters with verbal and physical harassment.”

There’s also confusion as to the degree to which GetEQUAL, an advocacy group that fights for LGBT issues “through confrontational but non-violent direct action” is intertwined with No Justice No Pride. GetEQUAL Director Angela Peoples has been active with No Justice. Talarico said the two groups have been working together.

No Justice No Pride’s list of demands of Capital Pride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“We really respect them and love working with them,” Talarico said. “I definitely commend them for all the help they gave us. I would say they are a very good group.”

But as to rumors GetEQUAL may be behind similar protests in other cities, Talarico said she had no knowledge of such actions. Peoples did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We are aware of actions that have happened in Tel Aviv, in Boston, Pittsburgh and we know that there are actions being planned in Philadelphia, New York, somewhere in Washington and in San Francisco. Some of those folks have been reaching out to us asking for tips, advice and support.”

Talarico said she is unaware of any single group spearheading the efforts, though.

“Some of the narrative we’ve been pushing seems to be resonating with people across the country on their own issues and I think a lot of the grievances are shared,” she said. “A lot of these Prides have a lot of corporations that are trying to exploit trans and queer youth and a lot of those grievances are shared. I would like to see a lot of these cities work tightly with their local communities that are under attack and address their own grievances.”

Another recurring theme in some of the No Justice criticism is that the group has lost sight of who the real enemy is. Renna, a longtime activist who formerly worked with GLAAD and was around during the ACT UP AIDS protests in the ‘80s, says she’s never seen the LGBT community at this level of internal conflict before.

“We’ve certainly had disagreement in terms of tactics, but it’s just a bit heartbreaking to feel like people are now attacking other people personally and that has not happened in the past. There’s been such a complete lack of any benefit of the doubt or any sense of community negotiation that both sides understand in terms of the bigger picture and trying to do things realistically. Some of these demands are so overreaching and just not true.”

Deacon Maccubbin, who started Capital Pride in D.C. in 1975, said No Justice’s actions show ignorance of Pride history and are a disservice to the trans and LGBT people of color who enjoy the parade annually.

“There were so many disappointed people at the parade,” he wrote in an online post to a GetEQUAL social media comment that he gave the Blade permission to reprint. “There were kids of all colors and gender expressions who practiced for weeks to make their contingents, their dance routines, their signs and placards be something they could be proud of. Shame on you. There were huge numbers of people of color, joy visible on their faces, their voices strong and proud. … You stomped on their day of celebration. You had no consideration for what they may have gone through to be there and what sacrifices they may have made just to survive until 2017. … Today’s action was a total fail. There was nothing to be proud of in it.”

Capital Pride organizers said they will continue to “encourage a robust, civil and healthy conversation within the community about all of the issues that impact us … in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

The Blade’s Michael Key and Lou Chibbaro Jr. contributed to this report. 

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Mixed reviews from transgender Republicans on Caitlyn Jenner’s run

Remarks on kids in sport a sore point among LGBTQ advocacy groups

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Caitlyn Jenner was quickly repudiated by LGBTQ advocates after she entered California’s recall election as a gubernatorial candidate — and her fellow transgender Republicans are mixed over whether or not to back her up.

Transgender Republicans are few in number, but some are in high-profile positions and have been working with their party to change its approach and drop its attacks on transgender people, whether it be in the military, public bathrooms, or school sports.

Jordan Evans, a Charlton, Mass.-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully last year ran to become a Massachusetts Republican State Committee Woman, told the Washington Blade she had high hopes for Jenner as a fellow transgender candidate, but they were quickly dashed after her campaign launched.

“My feelings changed quickly after Caitlyn made it clear that she was less interested in using this opportunity to present the Republican Party and conservative movements with an accessible and high-profile introduction to the trans community and simply wanted to be a trans woman who espoused the same destructive approaches that we just so happen to be seeing all over the country,” Evans said.

Evans said the high hopes she had were based on the transgender advocacy she said Jenner was doing behind the scenes and the potential for two prominent LGBTQ Republicans to run for governor in California. After all, Jenner may soon be joined in the race by Richard Grenell, who was U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence before becoming the face of LGBTQ outreach for Trump’s failed re-election.

But Jenner’s approach to the gubernatorial recall in California, Evans said, is “putting trans youth at risk for a campaign that isn’t even transformative for Republicans during this volatile time.”

“Even her current messaging is superficial and does nothing to help dispel claims that she’s unqualified,” Evans said. “The only positive thing that I’ve seen come from this is conservative mainstream media using her correct pronouns, but that is not worth the damage that she’s inflicting.”

Much of the disappointment over Jenner’s campaign is the result of her essentially throwing transgender kids under the bus as part of her campaign at a time when state legislatures are advancing legislation against them, including the bills that would essentially bar transgender girls from participating in school sports.

Jenner, declining to push back on these measures and assert transgender kids have a place in sports, instead essentially endorsed the bills shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“If you’re born as a biological boy, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete in girls’ sports,” Jenner told TMZ, which asked her about the hot-button issue during a Sunday morning coffee run.

Jenner dug deeper into MAGA-world at the expense of solidarity with the transgender community. Last week, Jenner retweeted Jenna Ellis, who has a notoriously anti-LGBTQ background and was criticized just last year for refusing to use the personal pronouns of Rachel Levine, who’s now assistant secretary of health and the first openly transgender presidential appointee to win Senate confirmation.

Jennifer Williams, a New Jersey-based transgender Republican who unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the New Jersey General Assembly last year, said via email Jenner “did much good for several years by educating millions of people around the world about transgender folks,” but won’t countenance the candidate’s remarks on transgender kids in sports.

“In regard to her current run for California governor, her recent comments regarding transgender youth playing sports are confusing,” Williams said. “Just last year, she said that she supported transgender female athletes. Caitlyn should consult with tennis great Billie Jean King, soccer star Megan Rapinoe or WNBA legend Candace Parker on the subject of transgender athletes in women’s sports, as they are very well versed on the matter.”

At a time when state legislatures are pushing through legislation targeting transgender youth, restricting their access to sports and transition-related care, Jenner’s refusal to repudiate those measures has become a focal point for opposition to her candidacy from LGBTQ advocacy groups, who say she’s “out of touch” (although none were supporting her even before she made those comments).

The LGBTQ Victory Fund, which supports LGBTQ political candidates and public officials, has signaled it wants nothing to do with Jenner.

Sean Meloy, vice president of political programs for LGBTQ Victory Fund, said Jenner hasn’t applied for an endorsement from the Victory Fund “and she shouldn’t bother to.”

“Her opposition to full trans inclusion – particularly for trans kids in sports – makes her ineligible for the endorsement,” Meloy said. “There are many great trans candidates running this cycle who are champions for equality.”

To be sure, Jenner used her celebrity status as a former reality TV star and Olympic champion on behalf of transgender lobbyists, urging donations to groups like the National Center for Transgender Equality and going to Capitol Hill to lobby Republicans on transgender issues. Jenner has also given money for transgender kids to attend college, giving transgender advocate Blossom Brown a check for $20,000 on “The Ellen Show” in 2015.

Blaire White, a transgender conservative and YouTube personality, drew on these examples of Jenner helping transgender youth in a video earlier this month and said the two once had dinner together, but wasn’t yet ready to make a endorsement.

“I will say that until she lays out all of her policy positions and until she’s more on record in long form really talking about what she wants to do for the state of California, I can’t say for sure I would vote for her and would not vote for her,” White concluded in the video. “What I can say is: I’m interested. And also, being under Gavin Newson’s governorship, I would literally vote for a triple-amputee frog over Gavin Newsom, so she already has that going for her.”

Jenner’s campaign couldn’t be reached for comment for this article on the repudiation of her campaign from LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Gina Roberts, who’s the first transgender Republican elected to public office in California and a member of the San Diego GOP Central Committee, said she’s neutral for the time being as an elected Republican Party leader, but nonetheless had good things to say about Jenner’s candidacy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Roberts said. “It’s kind of indicative of how cool the Republican Party in California is because nobody really cares or it makes any difference. I mean, I was the first elected GOP transgender person in California and I think we’re ready for No. 2.”

Asked whether Jenner’s comments about allowing transgender kids in sports was troubling, Roberts said that wasn’t the case because she has her own reservations.

“I have pretty much the same opinion because … there’s so many nuances in that,” Roberts said. “If somebody transitions after they’ve gone through puberty, there is a big difference, especially in high school. If they transition beforehand, it’s not a big deal.”

A gun enthusiast and supporter of gun owner’s rights, Roberts said she competes in women’s events in shooting sports, but there’s a difference because she doesn’t “really have any advantages all those young, small ladies can pull a lot faster than I do and shoot faster than I do.”

Roberts concluded she’ll personally make a decision about whom she’ll support in the California recall election after Grenell announces whether or not he’ll enter the race, but can’t say anything until the San Diego GOP Central Committee issues an endorsement.

“He’s a good friend of mine, too,” Roberts said. “I know both of them. I think they’d both be certainly better than Gavin Newsom, I have to stay neutral until the county party decides who they’re going to endorse. I will support somebody or another in the endorsement process, but I can’t publicly announce it.”

Although LGBTQ groups want nothing to do with her campaign, Jenner’s approach has garnered the attention of prominent conservatives, who are taking her seriously as a candidate. One of Jenner’s first interviews was on Fox News’ Sean Hannity, a Trump ally with considerable sway among his viewers. Hannity was able to find common ground with Jenner, including agreement on seeing California wildfires as a problem with forest management as opposed to climate change.

Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary in Trump’s final year in the White House and defended in the media his efforts to challenge his 2020 election loss in court, signaled her openness to Jenner’s candidacy after the Hannity interview.

“I really enjoyed watching @Caitlyn_Jenner’s interview with @seanhannity,” McEnany tweeted. “I found Caitlyn to be well-informed, sincere, and laser-focused on undoing the socialist, radical, a-scientific policies of Biden & the left. Very good.”

In theory, that support combined with Jenner’s visibility might be enough to propel Jenner to victory. In the recall election, California will answer two questions, whether California Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled, and if so, which candidate should replace him. The contender with the plurality of votes would win the election, even if that’s less than a majority vote, and become the next governor. There isn’t a run-off if no candidate fails to obtain a majority.

With Jenner’s name recognition as a celebrity, that achievement could be in her reach. After all, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the 2004 recall election in California as a Republican based on his celebrity status, and ended up becoming a popular governor.

But the modest inroads Jenner has made with the acceptance of conservatives and potential to win isn’t enough for other transgender Republicans.

Evans, for example, said Jenner’s candidacy is not only a disappointment, but threatening the potential candidacies of transgender hopefuls in the future.

“It’s difficult to be in electoral politics, and that’s even more true when you’re a member of a marginalized community,” Evans said. “Caitlyn’s behavior is making it even more challenging for the trans community to be visible in a field where we desperately need to be seen. She’s casting a tall shadow on our ability to have a voice and is giving credibility to lawmakers and local leaders simply unwilling to view us with decency and respect.”

Williams said Jenner should avoid talking about transgender issues over the course of her gubernatorial run “and instead focus on the hard, critical policy issues facing California.”

“It is a state in crisis and she has to run a very serious campaign and not rely on her celebrity or LGBTQ status to win over voters’ hearts and minds — just like all other LGBTQ candidates around the country need to do when they run for public office,” Williams said.

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100th anniversary celebration of Dupont Circle fountain set for May 17

GWU student creates tribute video

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The iconic Dupont Circle fountain turns 100 this month. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

LGBTQ residents and longtime visitors to D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood are expected to be among the participants in the 100th anniversary celebration of the installation of the Dupont Circle fountain scheduled to be held at the circle on Monday, May 17.

Aaron DeNu, president of Dupont Festival, a nonprofit arts and cultural programming group that’s organizing the celebration, says it will take place from noon to at least sunset inside Dupont Circle.

The celebration will take place one week after the May 10 release of a YouTube video, “How Dupont Circle Evolved as a Hub for LGBTQ+ Life in the District,” produced by George Washington University student Dante Schulz. Schulz is the video editor for the G.W. student newspaper The Hatchet.

Among those appearing in the documentary video are veteran LGBTQ rights activists Deacon Maccubbin and his husband Jim Bennett, who owned and operated the Dupont Circle LGBTQ bookstore Lambda Rising beginning in the 1970s, which is credited with contributing to Dupont Circle’s reputation as the epicenter of D.C.’s LGBTQ community for many years.

Also appearing in the video is longtime D.C. gay activist and Dupont Circle area resident Craig Howell, a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance.

“At this point in time due to COVID restrictions we’re not going to be doing any particular formal gathering of folks,” DeNu told the Washington Blade in describing the May 17 celebration. “But we’ll have a soundtrack that’s playing throughout the day from that original ceremony – the same songs they used in the original dedication a hundred years ago,” he said.

DeNu said the event will also feature “historic imagery” related to Dupont Circle and the people who have gathered there over the years.

“So, we’re really just inviting people to come and have lunch, stop by the park after work, and just stop and reflect on 100 years of Dupont Circle fountain, take a look at the imagery and see some old friends and hopefully stop by and see the Dupont businesses that are around the area,” DeNu said.

The LGBTQ video produced by Dante Schultz can be accessed here.

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Trans woman sues D.C. Jail for placing her in men’s unit

Lawsuit charges city with exposing inmates to ‘risk of sexual violence’

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Sunday Hinton (Photo courtesy of the American Civil Liberties Union of D.C.)

The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. and the D.C. Public Defender Service filed a class action lawsuit on May 11 on behalf of a transgender woman being held in the D.C. Jail on grounds that the city violated its own Human Rights Act and the woman’s constitutional rights by placing her in the men’s housing facility at the jail.

The lawsuit charges that D.C. Department of Corrections officials violated local and federal law by placing D.C. resident Sunday Hinton in the men’s unit at the D.C. Jail against her wishes without following a longstanding DOC policy of bringing the decision of where she should be placed before the DOC’s Transgender Housing Committee.

The committee, which includes members of the public, including transgender members, makes recommendations on whether a transgender inmate should be placed in either the men’s or the women’s housing unit based on their gender identity along with other considerations, including whether a trans inmate’s safety could be at risk. Under the policy, DOC officials must give strong consideration to the recommendations of the committee.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, says the committee has not met or acted on any trans-related jail housing matter since January 2020.

It says Hinton was taken to the D.C. Jail on April 26 after a judge ordered her held following an arrest for an alleged unarmed burglary in which she attempted to take $20.

It notes that the Department of Corrections has a “default” policy of placing transgender inmates in either the male or female housing unit at the D.C. Jail and other city detention holding facilities based on the inmate’s “anatomy.” If a female transgender inmate is anatomically male, the inmate – barring other mitigating circumstances – is placed in the male housing facility under the default policy. Similarly, a male transgender inmate who is anatomically female is placed by default in the women’s housing unit under the DOC policy.

“DOC’s policy of focusing on anatomy rather than gender identity is both discriminatory and dangerous,” the ACLU says in a statement released on the day it filed the lawsuit on Hinton’s behalf. “It forces trans individuals, particularly trans women, to choose between a heightened risk of sexual violence and a near-certain mental health crisis,” ACLU attorney Megan Yan said in the statement.

Yan was referring to yet another DOC policy that sometimes gives a transgender inmate placed in a housing unit contrary to their gender identity the option of being placed in “protective custody,” which the lawsuit calls another name for solitary confinement. The ACLU and the Public Defender Service have said solitary confinement in prisons is known to result in serious psychological harm to inmates placed in such confinement.

“Because DOC’s unconstitutional policy exposes every transgender individual in its custody to discrimination, degradation, and risk of sexual violence, Ms. Hinton seeks, on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, a court order that strikes down DOC’s unlawful focus on anatomy as the touchstone for its housing decisions regarding transgender individuals,” the lawsuit states.

It further calls on the DOC to use “gender identity, not anatomy, as the default basis for housing assignments” for transgender inmates and to provide all trans individuals a prompt hearing by the DOC Transgender Housing Committee.

It calls for the DOC to be required to implement the recommendations of the Housing Committee “so that each person is housed as safely as possible and without discrimination.”

In addition to the lawsuit, Hinton’s attorneys filed an application for a temporary restraining order to immediately require the DOC to transfer Hinton to the D.C. Jail’s women’s housing facility. The attorneys also filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the DOC from using a transgender person’s anatomy as the default or sole criteria in making housing assignments at the jail.

In response to a request from the Washington Blade, DOC spokesperson Dr. Keena Blackmon sent the Blade a DOC statement responding to the lawsuit.

“The Department of Corrections is dedicated to the safety and security of all residents in its care and custody,” the statement says. “DOC is committed to following its policies and procedures relating to housing transgender residents,” it says. “Ms. Hinton recently arrived in DOC custody and, per the agency’s COVID-19 protocols, was placed into single-occupancy quarantine for 14 days.”

The statement adds, “Once that quarantine ends, Ms. Hinton will go before the Transgender Housing Committee to determine her housing based on safety needs, housing availability, and gender identity. D.C. DOC is sensitive to Ms. Hinton’s concerns and will continue to ensure that its residents’ needs are met.”

DOC spokesperson Blackmon didn’t immediately respond to a follow-up question from the Blade asking why the Transgender Housing Committee has not met for over a year, which the ACLU has said resulted in all transgender female inmates being placed in the male housing facility.

Blackmon also couldn’t immediately be reached for a second follow-up question asking for DOC’s response to the lawsuit’s claim that DOC officials told Hinton’s lawyers that she was being placed in the men’s housing facility because she was anatomically male.

The lawsuit says the DOC default policy of placing Hinton in the jail’s male housing unit violates the D.C. Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on gender identity. The act has been interpreted to mean private businesses or the city government cannot prevent a transgender person from using facilities such as bathrooms or locker rooms that are in accordance with their gender identity.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Hinton has been arrested a total of 24 times in D.C. between 2006 and 2018. All except three of those arrests are listed as misdemeanor offenses, with just three listed as alleged felony offenses. One of the arrests is listed as a traffic offense.

In nearly all of the prior arrests, the court records identify Hinton by her birth first name, with her last name of Hinton used in all of the arrest records.

The burglary offense for which Hinton was charged on April 26 of this year and for which she is currently being held the D.C. Jail would  normally not result in a defendant being held in jail while awaiting trial. The fact that Hinton is being held rather than released pending trial suggests her prior arrest record may have prompted a judge to order her incarceration.

ACLU attorney Yan, who is among the attorneys representing Hinton in the lawsuit, said Hinton’s prior arrest record should not be a factor in the lawsuit.

“We don’t think any of the underlying things are relevant to her claim in this lawsuit, which is based on her identity and the fact that her constitutional and statutory rights to be free from discrimination are being violated,” Yan said. “At the end of the day, Sunday is a transgender woman and she’s a woman and she deserves to be held according to her gender identity as she desires.”

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