Federal authorities have charged the owner of an RV park in central Florida with discrimination against a transgender woman after he sent her a note telling her to “act,” “talk” and “dress like a man” to avoid trouble.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Tuesday that it was charging 21 Palms RV Resort and its owner and administrator, Nathan Dykgraaf, for an alleged violation of the Fair Housing Act.
“The conduct alleged here provides a clear example of unlawful discrimination,” Damon Smith, HUD’s general counsel, said in a statement. “This Charge makes clear that the Department will take action to stop housing providers from subjecting transgender tenants to such unlawful conduct.”
According to the complaint, the incident took place in early January 2021, when the woman, a now-former tenant, came out as trans and “began widely wearing feminine-presenting clothing in public.”
On Jan. 13, Dykgraaf handed her a handwritten note saying that he was aware of her transition but asked her to present herself as a male, to avoid any trouble.
“I have been informed of your actions to have your sex changed to a female, I am told you have started taking the necessary medication and that after a period of time your change will be completed,” Dykgraaf wrote, according to HUD. “To avoid problems you must: 1. Act as a man 2. Talk as a man 3. Dress as a man 4. Avoid tight clothing that is revealing sexual organs. If you follow the above steps trouble will be avoided. Sincerely, Nathan D.”
After receiving the note, the woman, whose name wasn’t made public, “stopped fully expressing her gender identity, no longer publicly dressed as a woman at the [RV park] and avoided [Dykgraaf] out of fear of eviction or other trouble.”
She also avoided interacting with her neighbors and staff and limited her use of the amenities.
The woman, who had moved into the property in June 2018, filed the complaint with HUD in February 2021. On March 24, Dykgraaf wrote to HUD, stating that the woman was “not free to engage with other tenants about her clothing and transition that makes them uncomfortable. It is considered disruptive to the community ”
She moved out of the park six months later.
“No one should have to change how they express their gender identity to maintain their housing,” said Demetria L. McCain, HUD’s principal deputy assistant secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. “Setting restrictions like these is not only unacceptable, it is illegal,” she added.
According to the department, the charge will now be heard by a U.S. administrative law judge (ALJ) unless either party prefers to have the case heard in a federal district court.
If an ALJ finds that discrimination has occurred, the ALJ could; award damages to the woman for harm caused by the discrimination; order Dykgraaf to pay for any legal fees; and also “impose fines to vindicate the public interest.” If the matter is decided in federal court, the federal district court judge could also award punitive damages.
©2022 New York Daily News. Visit nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.