A transgender woman was denied breakfast at a Christian shelter in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on April 22 and 23 while wearing a dress (videos below).
Isabella Red Cloud told KDLT how she was turned away by a staff member at the Union Gospel Mission:
You gotta dress like a guy, and then you can come back ... I cried, I contemplated suicide, I felt sad, I felt weak ... It took me everything in my power to sit there and not get violent. I just got out of seven years in prison, and every time somebody has ever said a derogatory word to me about my sexuality, or anything like that, I called them out in there.
After broadcasting her ejection on Facebook Live on April 22, Red Cloud returned to the shelter on April 23 on Facebook Live as the same unidentified employee told her to leave, reports the Argus Leader.
Fran Stenberg, the executive director of Union Gospel Mission, told KDLT that the shelter stands by its decision:
We need to, first of all, make sure that it is a safe place. We have women and children here. Sometimes certain situations bring about animosity, and so we have to eliminate that, and sometimes that causes us to have to make the decision to deny a service.
Stenberg said he didn't know the details of Red Cloud’s situation, which has gone viral on Facebook with thousands of views, but confirmed that the shelter has asked men to leave for wearing dresses.
"It’s not about transgender, it’s about what’s in the heart and soul of a man," Stenberg insisted. "God created you as a man."
Stenberg said when people do not act sober and peaceful, they subsequently "create division" and are asked to leave.
"We’re more concerned with how you’re being than how you look," Stenberg stated.
He said the shelter has had interactions with Red Cloud before.
Red Cloud said she was asked to leave the shelter about seven years ago, but hoped the shelter had changed its mind.
"Places like that are for people like me," she said. "They’re supposed to be there for everybody."
"I wear myself, who I am, on my sleeve and because I do that, I’m looked at as a sinner," Red Cloud, who self-identifies as a Christian, told KDLT.
"We are primarily just very disappointed," said Kendra Heathscott, a board member with TransAction South Dakota, an advocacy group for transgender people, who weighed in on the situation. "We would like the opportunity to sit down and potentially talk with the folks at Union Gospel Mission, to give them the opportunity to maybe humanize our experience more and get to know us on a personal level."
"We all have to love one another, regardless of who we are and who they are and how much hatred there is in our hearts for certain things," Red Cloud added.
She recalled that the police cited her for criminal trespassing, and banned her from the shelter's property.
A friend of Red Cloud has created GoFundMe page for people to donate.