When Giana Desir, a transgender woman, started transitioning, an already challenging situation became even more difficult. Her then-landlord refused to renew her lease. She went looking for another place to live in New York and ended up being humiliated and still without a home.
On the recommendation of a well-meaning friend, Desir met with landlord Henry Walter from Empire State Realty and Management about renting an apartment. But when she met him, the situation got ugly fast.
Walter seemed “shocked and surprised,” Desir said in her complaint.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were transgender? Thank God, I had you come here at night. What would people have thought if they had seen you,” Walter told Desir.
Walter told her he couldn’t rent her a place “around people and children,” but could find her an apartment “in a basement somewhere with its own entrance” and not “around too many people.”
He also suggested she stop transitioning until she found housing since no one would rent to her since she “would look really crazy.”
Walter was the fifth landlord in a row to refuse to rent her an apartment. For Desir, it was the last straw. She went looking for justice and took Walter to court.
Three years later, an administrative judge ruled in Desir’s favor, agreeing that Desir was humiliated and denied service. The judge awarded her $25,000 total. Walter had to pay a fine of $15,000 and a civil penalty of $10,000. Walter was also ordered, “to undergo anti-discrimination training.”
“All these responses and these reactions are based in negative stereotypes about trans people. They put us under a huge umbrella of negativity, and then decide that’s enough to deny us common housing that any individual deserves,” Desir told the New York Daily News. “When someone doesn’t have housing, that puts them in a very vulnerable, very difficult position.”