Transgender women in Washington D.C. can now utilize the facilities in the John L. Young Shelter for Women.
D.C. superior court judge Geoffrey Alprin issued an order which requires the city-funded shelter to stop denying transgender women access to the facility, after Lakiesha Washington was denied entry for being Trans. On April 3rd, Lakiesha was refused entry into the shelter by an employee who allegedly told her “We don’t do transgenders here, you have to leave.”
It was stated that John Shetterly, the director of the shelter, didn't feel the shelter intentionally discriminated against Washington but due to the communal style bathroom facilities, having a transgender woman there would "create problems for the other female clients."
Since the filing of the lawsuit the John L. Young shelter will be providing staff with sensitivity training and updating the bathroom and shower facilities to better accommodate all shelter clients. Earline Budd, an official with Transgender Health Empowerment will be providing staff with the sensitivity training. Providing such training for employees will help ensure that cases like Washington's don’t continue to happen.
Although many trans organizations including the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC) call Washington D.C. home, and despite the city's long and tragic history of mistreating its transgender community being fairly well-documented, many in the city who work with underserved populations remain unaware of the challenges faced by trans people in our nation's capitol.
A large part of the problem is the fact that the widespread and crushing discrimination often faced by transgender people - and in particular, trans women of color - is still all but ignored in the media. This story, from Washington DC's WJLA, just as an example, talks about the ruling, talks about the lawsuit, and talks about the discrimination faced by Lakeisha at the shelter, but doesn't dig any deeper.
The mainstream media almost always fails to explore why women like Lakeisha frequently end up on the street.
Outlets like WJLA could easily have informed audiences that according to a landmark 2011 study, transgender people are four times more likely to live in extreme poverty than the general population, experience double the country's rate of unemployment, with around half having experienced harassment at the workplace. Outlets covering this story could have explained how Lakeisha's story of being turned away at a shelter isn't uncommon either, and that 55% of transgender women who have sought help from a shelter said they had been turned away.
But all of this information often doesn't make its way into the mainstream media, so people like that employee who told Lakeisha "we don't do transgenders here" would have maybe thought twice about sending her back onto the street.