A transgender woman in Brooklyn has been awarded $25,000 in her legal battle against a landlord and realty company that refused to allow her to rent an apartment anywhere near “people and children.”
The woman, Giana Desir, won a recommendation on Monday from New York administrative law judge John Spooner in her favor, according to the New York Daily News.
In 2016, the New York City Commission on Human Rights, filed a complaint behalf of Gina Desir behalf against landlord Henry Walter and Empire State Realty and Management.
For Desir, who began her gender transition in 2013, this victory has been a long time coming. At the beginning of her transition, she claims her then-landlord would often give her “weird” looks whenever he saw her and created a hostile environment.
Two years later, that same landlord told her he would not be renewing her lease when it expired in October 2015. She says it was clear that she was being forced out of her housing due to her gender identity.
When a friend who lived in a different building, told her there were apartments available, Desir made an appointment to meet with Walter, the landlord there.
However, the second Walter laid eyes on her, he was visibly “shocked and surprised” and asked, “‘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.’”
Desir, who said she was humiliated by the exchange, says Walter then informed her he couldn’t rent her an apartment “around people and children,” but could perhaps find her a place “in a basement somewhere with its own entrance” and not “around too many people.”
Walter also suggested she stop the transitioning until she landed an apartment, and voiced fears that people would think he was sexually interested in her if he permitted her to live on his property.
However, Desir obtained an apartment through welfare benefits, but said Walter’s “devastating” comments, along with those of the four other landlords who treated her the same way, shattered her self esteem and sense of independence.
Walter being the fifth, was “the last straw,” she told the Daily News Monday, which is why she finally decided to fight back.
“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 said. “When someone doesn’t have housing, that puts them in a very vulnerable, very difficult position.”
It “felt good to do something,” she added.