Over the past weekend, Isabella Red Cloud drove with her friend to a soup kitchen in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, hoping to get breakfast — and was refused service because she was wearing a dress.
Red Cloud, a transgender woman, recalled to KDLT that a staff member at Union Gospel Mission told her, “You have to dress like a guy and then you can come back."
"I cried, I contemplated suicide, I felt sad, I felt weak," she told KDLT.
Red Cloud also caught footage of the moment she was told to leave the premises and broadcasted it on Facebook Live.
The video, which has been viewed over 15,000 times at the time of writing, shows an unnamed employee escorting Red Cloud out of the building, repeatedly telling her that she's "trespassing."
Not only that, when Red Cloud returned with a friend the next day to attend a church service, she was turned away again. Red Cloud's friend, Jessica Tebben, caught the second incident on camera.
The same employee appears in the video, barring Red Cloud from entering, as her friends ask why her clothing makes any difference in whether or not she can attend a church service.
Union Gospel Mission told KDLT that they do not provide services to transgender people.
"We need to, first of all, make sure that it is a safe place because we have women and children here," Fran Stenberg, executive director of Union Gospel Mission, told KDLT. "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."
It's also not the first or only time that Stenberg has refused service to trans people because of their clothing.
According to the Leader, South Dakota does not have state-level protections in place for transgender people. Red Cloud's experience is another instance in which transgender people have been denied the right to exist as themselves in public spaces — and points to our need for laws that provide greater protection for trans and non-binary people.
Since the incident, Red Cloud's friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help her raise funds for housing and food.