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Native Transgender Woman Denied Food at Christian Shelter Because She Was Wearing Dress

Denied food and shelter, Isabella Red Cloud, a Native Transgender woman was told to leave a shelter until she changed her dress

Isabella Red Cloud, a Native transgender woman who identifies as Two Spirit was asked to leave the Union Gospel Mission of Sioux Falls, South Dakota because she was wearing a dress. As she was being escorted from the facility, a staff member identified in the video as “Don” told Red Cloud she would have to leave because she was “dressed inappropriately,” and that she could not come back until she “dressed like a man.”

Red Cloud returned the next day with a few friends and was again asked to leave. Again recording the incident on her phone, she was cited by police with illegal trespassing and was given a citation.

Red Cloud says she was hurt, cried and considered suicide. She told ICMN in an interview why she decided to video the incident and post it to Facebook.

“I was filled with so many thoughts and I really didn’t know what to do. All I knew at that moment was that I had to do what I needed to do to get this out there to the public, she said.

After posting that video to Facebook, the incident went viral and garnered the attention of several media organizations and LGBTQ organizations nationwide.

In an interview with LGBTQ Nation about the incident involving a member of their staff and the Native transgender woman,the Union Gospel Mission of Sioux Falls Fran Stenberg said, “I don’t know a thing about a woman being turned away. It was a man that was turned away,” Stenberg said, who confirmed that he understood the term “transgender.”

affiliate KDLT news.

Screen capture NBC affiliate KDLT news.

Though the Facebook video is no longer available, NBC affiliate KDLT news has a section of the video for viewing on their news site.

“...Occasionally we have to refuse service to somebody because they’re disruptive … [Being out as a trans woman] creates an animosity and we try to keep a safe place for others,” said Stenberg. 

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According to the LGBTQ Nation article: "It’s interesting to note that on the mission’s website the founder is listed as Thomas F. Morse, a convicted felon who served time for murder."

On the Sunday after Saturday’s incident, Red Cloud says she returned to the mission waving a rainbow flag and attempted to join the Union Mission’s Sunday evening church services. Red Cloud was given a citation as they were praying and singing.


Though she was cited, Red Cloud says the police were supportive of her position as a Native Transgender woman. Red Cloud says she has also since received a lot of support on Facebook. “There has been an outpouring of comments. There were a few not-so-nice comments, and I tell people not to be mean to me. It’s a matter of composing myself to do the right thing. But there has been a great outpouring.”

Facebook video here:

Because Red Cloud has recently left being incarcerated for theft and is currently couch-surfing, her friend Lisa Marie has posted a GoFundMe fundraising page to help Red Cloud get back on her feet.

“This is so outrageous and saddening that this happens still in today’s world,” writes Marie on the page. “I'm trying to help her get some food & rent for her own place. As they would not even let her stay either. We shall rise against this hatred.”

Red Cloud says she is glad to have taken a stand as a Native transgender woman and that her motives were unselfish. “I am not doing any of this for money or to get any kind of internet fame. This is about human rights. We are all human beings.”

To support Isabella Red Cloud’s GoFundMe page visit it here.

Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) - ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wows and Sports Editor - Follow @VinceSchilling