A transgender woman was turned away from a South Dakota soup kitchen and told she could only return if she started dressing “like a man.”
Isabella Red Cloud, 26, identifies as Two Spirit and is currently unemployed. She wore a dress on Saturday when she visited the Union Gospel Mission of Sioux Falls, the only place in town that serves a hot meal three times a day to the homeless and impoverished.
When she arrived, she was told by a man identified only as “Don” that she needed to leave because she was “dressed inappropriately.” He added that she’d be welcome to come back if she returned “dressed like a man.”
As she was being escorted out, Red Cloud activated Facebook Live and recorded what was happening.
“I don’t know a thing about a woman being turned away,” director Fran Stenberg told LGBTQ Nation. “It was a man that was turned away,” he said, adding that he understood what the term “transgender” meant.
“What I know about, simply, is that it was a decision that was made, and occasionally we have to refuse service to somebody because they’re disruptive, or whatever. That’s as much as I know about it.”
When pressed about what was disruptive about a woman seeking food, Stenberg replied that this wasn’t the first time Red Cloud had done this, meaning presenting herself as the woman she is.
“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 explained. “[Being out as a trans woman] creates an animosity and we try to keep a safe place for others.”
Red Cloud was released from prison for auto theft in February and is currently staying with friends. She says the last time she tried to visit the mission was seven years ago before beginning her prison sentence. The incident on Saturday left her feeling depressed, but concerned friends came to her aid with love and support.
A small group of these supporters joined Red Cloud in a march Sunday from the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Joseph to the Mission. They waved a rainbow flag and attempted to attend Sunday evening services.
This time, Don, the same man who ejected her on Saturday, called police to have them removed for trespassing.
Red Cloud said police treated them with respect and expressed that they were disappointed in the actions of the Mission.
“Officer Cooke was really, really supportive,” she said, adding that she has received a lot of support since posting the incident.
“I wear who I am on my sleeve and because I do that, I’m looked at as a sinner,” Red Cloud told local news station KDLT. “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.”