Transgendered Hurricane Survivor Released After Six Days in Jail

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A transgendered Hurricane Katrina evacuee jailed for six days for showering in the women’s bathroom at relief shelter was released Friday after the Human Rights Campaign, among other national rights organizations, persuaded the county attorney not to press charges.

Arpollo Vicks, who was born male but lives as a woman, was arrested Sunday by Texas AM University Police for criminal trespassing after she exited a women’s shower facility at Reed Arena.

Vicks, 20, had been staying at the shelter with other evacuees bused in from New Orleans.

Brazos County Attorney Jim Kuboviak said he first became aware of the situation on Friday. Upon reviewing police reports, he ordered that Vicks be released. “Vicks lacked criminal intent to violate the law,” Kuboviak said. “If Vicks had been rummaging through stuff or doing any harm, that would have been different.”

Vicks was held in an isolation cell in the Brazos County Jail for six days until she made a collect call to the Human Rights Campaign in Washington for help. HRC, the National Center for Transgender Equality, and other human rights activists lobbied the Texas emergency shelter until the charges were dropped and Vicks was released.

Vicks, who also goes by the name Sharli’e Dominique, said she simply was trying to take a shower in the facility she felt most comfortable using. The shower, she said, was a welcome respite after spending a harrowing five days living with little food and water on an Interstate 10 bridge and at the New Orleans convention center.

Corps of Cadets Commandant John Van Alstyne, who runs the shelter, told police he had warned Vicks not to use the women’s rest room after another shelter resident complained. Vicks, though, said she had received permission from a shelter volunteer.

Vicks’ 16-year-old cousin, who also is transgendered, was also arrested for showering in the women’s bathroom. She was released to the custody of her older sister earlier this week.

After Vicks was released from jail, she met up with Claudette Peterson, a former director of an HIV clinic who read about Vicks’ arrest in The Eagle on Friday morning.

“I hate that it happened in the first place,” Peterson said. “But I’m not surprised. When I saw the article, I immediately began calling people. I just wanted to help. I have never met Arpollo before this afternoon. I’m not African-American and I’m not transgendered, but Arpollo is my sister.”

Peterson connected Vicks with the Montrose Counseling Center, a Houston organization that is providing support and housing for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered hurricane evacuees.

Ann Robison, executive director of the center, said offers from around the country poured into her office Friday once word spread about Vicks’ situation. Many people wanted to offer safe housing or donations for Vicks.

Vicks, dressed Friday in the only clothes she had – a white T-shirt with the word “sexy” on the chest, a pair of blue jeans and flip-flops – said she was relieved finally to be out of jail.

“Right now I’m glad it’s all over,” she told reporters. “I’m not angry. I still have some animosity, but it’s good to finally get a little support.”