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Real estate agent sexually harassed trans woman and told her she couldn’t live near ‘people or children’

Patrick Kelleher March 11, 2020
Giana Desir trans woman Human Rights Commission

Giana Desir (Facebook)

A trans woman who was told she couldn’t live near “people or children” and was sexually harassed by a real estate broker has been awarded significant damages.

Giana Desir, from Brooklyn, New York, will received $50,000 in compensation from the real estate broker due to the discrimination she faced, the city’s Human Rights Commission has ruled, according to Gothamist.

Furthermore, Henry Walter and his company Empire State Realty Management have been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $15,000, which will rise to $25,000 if they refuse to participate in training on trans rights and sexual harassment.

Trans woman Giana Desir hopes the ruling will help to create ‘a level playing field’ for trans people.

The Human Rights Commission’s ruling comes almost a year after an administrative judge in New York ruled that Desir had been humiliated and discriminated against by Walter and his company. Desir hopes that the Human Rights Commission’s ruling will help to create “a level playing field” for trans people seeking housing.

Desir’s difficulty in securing a place to live began after she transitioned, and in 2015 she was denied a lease renewal on the apartment she had lived in for two years.

She then contacted Walter, who was “jovial” with her in phone conversations, but when they met, told her she couldn’t be housed near “people or children”.

I hope this creates an even playing field for us. I hope this opens people’s eyes in hiring transgender women.

Desir said Walter suggested she rent space in a basement and subsequently sexually harassed her, claiming he would “spank [her]” with his ruler.

The woman also said that Walter insisted she not tell anybody else he had helped her to secure accommodation as they would assume he “let [her] suck [his] dick”.

She also claimed in her complaint from last year that, when she arrived to meet him, he said: “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.”

She said transphobic discrimination in housing is a common issue.

Last year’s court case saw Desir awarded $15,000 in compensation and Walter was ordered to pay a $10,000 civil penalty charge. However, in the Human Rights Commission’s ruling from earlier this month, the damages were raised to $50,000 alongside the civil penalty.

“I know a lot of my friends who could not get apartments even though they were able to pay for the apartments because of their gender identity,” Desir told Gothamist following the ruling.

“I hope this creates an even playing field for us. I hope this opens people’s eyes in hiring transgender women.”

Human rights activists hope the decision will help to set a precedent around anti-trans discrimination for future cases.

 

 

 

More: Brooklyn, Empire State Realty Management, Giana Desir, Henry Walter, human rights commission, New York

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