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Trans Woman Says She Was Profiled, Wrongfully Arrested

by EDGE

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday July 22, 2015

A transgender woman of color, who was arrested by Iowa police July 13, says she was actually booked because of her gender identity, the Des Moines Register.

Megan Taylor, 22, was visiting Des Moines, Iowa with a friend, who is also a trans woman, from Illinois. The pair stayed in the Durry Inn. According to reports, hotel workers contacted police to report "two males dressed as females" and were concerned about "possible prostitution activity."

When cops showed up at the hotel room, they found Taylor, a hairstylist and a cosmetology student, in possession of hormones in an unmarked bottle and charged her with possession of prescription drugs without a prescription. Think Progress points out Taylor gave a fake name to police and argued that she was being treated unfairly. Police then charged her with "malicious prosecution," an aggravated misdemeanor.

Cops then conducted a background check on Taylor and found she had an outstanding probation violation from Illinois for a 2010 credit card fraud conviction. Taylor said she served her time for the crime when she was 17 but still owes $500 in fines.

"What happened to me was definitely based on my gender," Taylor said. "Transgender people are being gender and racially profiled and it has to stop."

Taylor's bond was set at $2,000 but she didn't know anyone locally to co-sign her release and she does not have a lawyer, Think Progress notes.

When Taylor was taken into custody, police debated where to place her - officials didn't want to place her with men, but were uncomfortable putting her with women. According to Polk County Sheriff's Office, Taylor requested "protective custody," which means she was held in the medical unit of Polk County Jail by herself. Think Progress reports when she was brought into custody, she was patted down by a female officer on the top half of her body, and by a male officer for her bottom half.

Since the incident, Pastor Megan Rohrer, a member of the Welcome Ministry in San Francisco, launched a crowdfunding campaign, which has raised more than $5,000 for Taylor's fines in Iowa and Illinois. The money is also going to be used to help her legally change her name and get a new ID with her preferred gender.

Think Progress reports a number of people have shown support for Taylor and about 20 people protested outside the Durry Inn last Saturday, asking for a public apology and for the hotel to reimburse Taylor for the room and cost of arrest. The Des Moines Register wrote protesters also wanted the hotel "to commit to training and development for hotel staff regarding positive interactions with LGBTQ communities and communities of color." Officials from Durry Inn have yet to comment on the incident.

While it was initially believed Taylor would remain in custody until August 10, the Des Moines Register reported Wednesday in a separate article that she was able to post her $2,000 bail, thanks to the donations from the crowdfunding campaign. The newspaper writes she signed an extradition waiver, which allows authorities to transport her back to Illinois.