Meagan Taylor and her best friend, who are both transgender women, were traveling through Iowa on July 13 to a funeral for her best friend's brother when they stopped at Drury Inn & Suites in West Des Moines.
As the pair attempted to check in, "both the clerk and the manager gave us looks of disgust when they were not avoiding eye contact," Taylor wrote in a complaint she filed against the hotel with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in November.
The complaint says a hotel clerk asked Taylor for her ID, which identified her by her male birth name, and then photocopied the ID even though the clerk had already seen it earlier. After getting their room key, "We tried to put the looks of disgust and poor treatment out of our mind."
But Taylor, 23, could not not forget what happened next — an experience that entailed being arrested and then jailed for several days.
Hotel staff called 911 to tell police about "somebody that is a little unusual that is checking into the hotel," according to a recording recently obtained through a records request by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU, which is representing Taylor in her complaint, shared the recording with BuzzFeed News.
In the 911 call, a woman who identifies herself as the general manager says she was concerned because Taylor is "dressed as a woman, but it’s a man’s driver’s license.” She also wanted police to "make sure they’re not hookers either."
Here's audio of the call:
Here's a transcript of the call:
911 Dispatcher: Communications, this is Holly.
Hotel manager: Yeah, hi, Holly, this is Kim, the general manager over at Drury Inn & Suites. And I have somebody that is a little unusual that is checking into the hotel, and I didn’t know if there was any way to possibly run their name or information through the database. They’re dressed as a woman, but it’s a man’s driver’s license.
Dispatcher: OK, I can send an officer, but I can’t do it over the phone. What’s your address there?
Hotel manager: It’s 5505 Mills Civic Parkway. I’d want it to be discreet though.
Dispatcher: OK, well, um, I can’t do it on the phone, that’s the only thing. It’s against the law. So I can have someone come over. Where — are they in the lobby there, or?
Hotel manager: They went up to the room and stuff. So I guess if they just kind of discreetly park in the parking lot, instead of, you know, right out front, that would be great.
Dispatcher: Well, I’ll leave that up to them. But, what’s your number phone number, Kim?
Hotel manager: It’s (515) 457-9500.
Dispatcher: OK, so that’s a female, with a male’s driver’s license.
Hotel manager: There’s two males, but they’re dressed as females. And they have Illinois driver’s license.
Dispatcher: And are they — what are their driver’s licenses? Male or female?
Hotel manager: Male. And I took pictures with my camera, so.
Dispatcher: OK, so just because they’re dressed as — is it because they’re dressed as females, is that why you’re concerned?
Hotel manager: Um, It’s just, you know, it’s, I guess so. They’re dressed a little bit over the top, too. I just want to make sure they’re not hookers either.
Dispatcher: OK, gotcha. Okay, ma’am, we’ll have them swing over there.
Hotel manager: Perfect. Thank you.
Dispatcher: Bye bye.
Hotel manager: Bye bye.
BuzzFeed News left messages with Drury Inn & Suites to ask about Taylor's allegations that she was harassed based on her gender identity, but did not receive a response.
An ACLU lawyer representing Taylor in the complaint, Chase Strangio, told BuzzFeed News the hotel has not filed a response to the allegations filed with the civil rights commission.
Police arrived at the hotel room the next day, according to Taylor's complaint, and officers found hormones she takes as part of a medical treatment for gender dysphoria. She was arrested for not having a prescription, then jailed for a few days in solitary confinement.
Taylor was never charged with prostitution, the complaint said. The Transgender Law Center reported that Taylor had an outstanding warrant for an unpaid fine in Illinois. She was charged for possessing a drug without a prescription, but all of the charges were dismissed.
Strangio noted on the ACLU's blog that transgender women of color face high rates of discrimination and profiling as sex workers. "It is this type of profiling that leads 47 percent of Black transgender women to be incarcerated at some point in their lives," Strangio wrote.
"This ordeal was humiliating, scary, and traumatizing," Taylor concluded in her complaint. "I felt powerless and degraded. I realized I was not welcome in a public place simply because of who I am. Through no fault of my own, I was targeted, harassed, arrested, and forced to miss a funeral simply because I chose to stay at a hotel where I was unwelcome."