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ACLU Takes Action After Iowa Hotel Accuses Transgender Guests of Prostitution

Megan Taylor was jailed for more than a week after Drury Inn employees called police to report “men dressed like women” were engaging in prostitution according to the complaint.

Megan Taylor says she was on her way to a funeral in Kansas this summer, when she and a friend who is also a transgender woman decided to stop and spend the night at a Drury Inn in West Des Moines, Iowa. According to a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that decision resulted in Taylor spending eight days in jail on charges that were later dropped.

The ACLU filing claims that shortly after the pair checked into their room, hotel staff called police to report “men dressed like women” were engaging in prostitution. An ACLU spokesperson told The Guardian that not only was the pair not involved in illicit behavior, the ordeal was a direct result of the two women’s race and gender identity.

“For Meagan, a stop at a hotel on the way to a funeral landed her in solitary confinement because she is black and transgender,” ACLU attorney Chase Strangio, said in a statement. “This type of profiling of transgender women of color is all too common and is part of the cycle that results in 41 percent of black transgender women having been incarcerated at some point in their lives.”

Taylor says she was surprised to wake to officers knocking on the door of her hotel room the following morning and only later learned that hotel staff had called police. Though local law enforcement found no evidence of prostitution, Taylor was arrested for being unable to provide a copy of the prescription for her hormone treatment medication. The charges were later dropped but only after she had spent eight nights in jail. Much of her incarceration was spent in solitary confinement because the jail had no policy in place for transgender prisoners.

“When I came out as transgender, I expected I would experience some discrimination, but I didn’t know how strong it would be,” Taylor explained in court filings. “When something bad happens, I try to think about things and sort out why they happened. When this all happened, I knew exactly what it was: the racial profiling, the transgender profiling, the harassment, the solitary confinement. I knew why it was happening, and I knew it wasn’t right.”

Drury Inn officials have so far declined to speak to reporters about the lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

[Photo: Drury Inn]

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