A year after speaking to the media
about being mistreated by police, Antonia Lara is facing life on the
Last March, Lara, a 27-year-old pre-op
transgender woman, shared a Twins Falls, Idaho county prison cell for
about a week with Majid Kolestani, a 42-year-old transsexual Iranian
refugee accused of murder. Lara was facing a charge of providing
false information to police.
After her incarceration, Lara turned to
the city's paper to complain about their mistreatment at the hands of
The women were identified as men by
their jailers and placed in a cell separate from the general prison
population. Lara told the Times-News that jail officials were
“They were making comments the whole
time, bringing people by the window so they could laugh at me like I
was some freak show,” Lara told the paper. “These people are the
people who are supposed to serve and protect.”
Citing officials' refusal to provide
Kolestani a bra and hormone treatments, a regimen she's taken for
over five years, Lara accused the county of transgender bias.
She also outed herself in the process.
The day after having her story published, Lara was fired.
“I was fired from my job before I
even walked in the door,” Lara told On Top Magazine. “My
employer had no clue I was transgender.”
Such blatant discrimination is
commonplace, says Denise Leclair, executive director of the
for Gender Education, a group that fights for the rights of
“Employers don't even bother to deny
it, because it is legal,” she said.
Anti-discrimination laws that include
gender identity often fail to protect transgender workers. For
example, the difficulty in securing documents that match a person's
identified gender can become an obstacle to employment, Leclair says.
“Transgender discrimination is a
problem in every state, whether or not they have legal protections,
as the vast majority of out transgender people have learned
firsthand,” she says. “Legal protections are really only the
beginning of the conversation.”
A year on, Lara says she remains
unemployed, has been forced out of Twins Falls and is homeless.
“I felt like I was black balled from
employment in the area, when the economy is already bad. I was
discriminated against by law enforcement and forced to move out of
the state with threats of harm to myself and my family.”
Lara, who began her transition at the
age of 18, says she's studying for a degree in medical
While saying she does not regret
standing up for the rights of transgender people – “I am proud to
be trans, proud to be a woman and proud to be a Chicana” – she
admits the incident has altered her life.
“Right now, I would flip burgers and
wash windows,” Lara says. “Honestly, I don't know what's next,
right now it's just focus on my education, try to eat and stay alive
everyday, and look for work.”