A trans woman was turned away from a soup kitchen and told to ‘dress like a man’.
Isabella Red Cloud from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, identifies as Two Spirit and uses female pronouns.
On Saturday (22 April), she went to the Union Gospel Mission for breakfast, but was refused service because she was wearing a dress.
The mission, which provides hot meals to the city’s homeless, impoverished, and unemployed, is not affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church.
She says the staff member, only identified as Don, ordered Isabella to ‘dress like a man’ before she would be served.
‘I was told I could come back when I was dressed appropriately,’ she told the Argus Leader.
In an interview with LGBTQ Nation, director Fran Sternberg refused to recognize Isabella’s gender identity, even after reportedly confirming he knew what being transgender meant.
‘I don’t know a thing about a woman being turned away,’ he said.
‘It was a man that was turned away.’
He also the mission sometimes ‘have to refuse service to somebody because they’re disruptive, or whatever’, and that his mission was acting according to the Bible.
‘We try to keep a safe place and if there’s any disruptive action of anybody, no matter what it is about, we ask them to leave and come back at some other time,’ he said.
‘[Being out as a trans woman] creates an animosity and we try to keep a safe place for others.’
According to the Argus Leader, Steinberg also confirmed it was not the first time a trans woman was turned away for wearing a dress – despite arguing they were ‘more concerned with how you’re being than how you look’.
‘It’s not about transgender, it’s about what’s in the heart and soul of a man,’ he said.
‘God created you as a man.’
Isabella is currently homeless and couchsurfing with friends.
She returned to the mission on Sunday (23 April) because she wanted to attend church service, but the mission turned her away again.
On Monday (24 April), one of Isabella’s friends shared a video of the encounter on Facebook.
The same employee who turned Isabella away on Saturday called the police on the group.
She said they were sitting, praying, and singing for about 10 minutes before police arrived.
They treated the group respectfully, Isabella said, and expressed their disappointment at the situation.
Officers escorted the group out and haded each of them a trespassing notice, saying they are required by law to stay off the premises for six months.