I'm posting this note from Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality regarding a trans woman's plight at the hands of authorities in a Texas evacuation shelter...
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Date: Sep 9, 2005 4:53 PM
Personally from Mara
As many people have heard, a transgender woman, Arpollo Vicks was arrested last Sunday, September 4 at an evacuation shelter in Bryan, Texas for taking a shower. I have spoken with Arpollo upon her release from jail and I am very pleased to say that she is in very safe temporary housing with an ally in Bryan.
This has been an incredibly heartbreaking situation. I am glad that Arpollo is safe, although, because of this injustice she has become separated from her 18 year old sister and 16 year old niece who evacuated from New Orleans with her and who were her only family members whose whereabouts were known to her. She believes that her mother is in a shelter in Houston and that her sister and niece may have headed toward there. We will be working with her around housing for the next few days and in evacuating yet another town for safer ground. I have spoken with Ethan St. Pierre of Trans FM and he believes they have the funds to help relocate Arpollo and her family.
Basically, last Sunday Arpollo and her niece, who is also transgender according to news reports, showered at the Texas A&M University-run evacuee shelter and were arrested by the University Police who claim that another evacuee was concerned about the women showering. The minor niece was released to Arpollo's sister, but Arpollo has been held in isolation for five days at the Brazos County Detention Center.
Upon learning of this last evening and this morning, a group of local, state and national advocates sprung into action and pressured the University to drop all charges and accelerate Arpollo's release. These included some wonderful faculty at A&M, local trans people and allies, some fabulous folks in Houston including the Montrose Counseling Center, Phyllis Frye and her law firm. Also the Lesbian and Gay Lobby of Texas (LGRL) did amazing work as did Lambda Legal, HRC, the Task Force and the Sylvia Rivera Law Center on New York. [Forgive me if I have excluded anyone.]
I, and many others, have spoken plainly with University administrators about this situation and will be communicating further over the next few weeks.
Later today, NCTE, along with the Task Force and Lambda Legal will be releasing a guide on making evacuation shelters safe and welcoming for transgender evacuees. This document has been in the works for several days, but Arpollo's case shows the urgent need for it. We will be getting it into the hands of the major shelter managers such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army as well as trans support groups and the LGBT community centers in relevant geographic areas.
Finally, I ask that if anyone hears of situations like Arpollo's, you bring it to our attention immediately and we will activate a very swift response. No one, let alone someone who has just lost so much, should have to face the injustice that Arpollo has just gone through.
If you would like to know other ways you can help, I refer you to the following as places to donate money and to find links to other helping opportunities:
http://www.transfm.org/ - Ethan St. Pierre's network that is raising money to relocate trans people.
http://www.nyac.org - The National Youth Advocacy Coalition in conjunction with many other organizations including NCTE are raising money to help LGBT youth impacted by the disaster.
National Center for Transgender Equality
1325 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005