May 152017
 

Paula here.

South Dakota

Isabella Red Cloud

In the Gospels, Jesus feeds 5,000 gathered before him.  He doesn’t even preach until they are fed.  He didn’t ask for a show of hands as to whether his listeners were atheists or          believers, Jews or non-Jews, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc.  He fed them because they were hungry.

Union Gospel Mission – South Dakota, USA

A transgender woman asked to leave the Union Gospel Mission said she’d hoped to find more acceptance. Isabella Red Cloud went to the Mission on Saturday for breakfast, but was told she needed to change out of her dress and into male clothing before being served.

“I was told I could come back when I was dressed appropriately,” Red Cloud said.

Union Gospel Mission Director Fran Stenberg said he didn’t know the details of Red Cloud’s interactions with staff on Saturday or Sunday, but confirmed that staff has asked men to leave for wearing dresses on multiple occasions.’

Red Cloud went live on Facebook after being asked to leave. She said she was depressed about the situation until the following day, when she saw a steady stream of support from her Facebook friends.

At the urging of her friends, she returned to the mission with them and broadcast live once again, as the same unidentified employee escorted her out.

“If you are dressed in women’s clothing, you cannot. You need to leave,” the man said.

Thousands had seen the videos by Monday.

Union Gospel Mission Director Fran Stenberg said he didn’t know the details of Red Cloud’s interactions with staff on Saturday or Sunday, but confirmed that staff has asked men to leave for wearing dresses on multiple occasions.“It’s not about transgender, it’s about what’s in the heart and soul of a man. God created you as a man,” Stenberg said.

Stenberg said that visitors to the kitchen who rebel against the expectations – including sobriety and a peaceful demeanor – “create division,” which means they’re asked to leave.

“We’re more concerned with how you’re being than how you look,” Stenberg said, noting that the Mission had crossed paths with Red Cloud before.

Red Cloud said she’d been asked to leave in the past, but that it had been nearly seven years.’

Released From Prison and Homeless

She was released from prison three months ago, and has been couch-surfing ever since. Saturday was her first visit to the mission since her release. She’d hoped the policy had changed.

“Places like that are for people like me,” Red Cloud said. “They’re supposed to be there for everybody.”

Red Cloud went live on Facebook after being asked to leave. She said she was depressed about the situation until the following day, when she saw a steady stream of support from her Facebook friends.

At the urging of her friends, she returned to the mission with them and broadcast live once again, as the same unidentified employee escorted her out.

Kendra Heathscott, of TransAction South Dakota, said she hopes to start a dialogue with the mission to address the issue of transgender access to the soup kitchen.

“We would love to have the opportunity to talk to them and humanize the situation … we weren’t dressing up as women, we were dressing up as men,” Heathscott said.

LGBTQ activists say the policy at the Mission is a sign of a need for change in South Dakota, which has no state-level protections against discrimination on the basis of sexuality.

“Unfortunately, the protections do not exist for transgender people,” said Lawrence Novotny, chair of Equality South Dakota. “This is what the community is trying to change.”

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