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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 10, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 24
Trans TV producer charges Airbnb discrimination
No legal remedies available
Section One
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Trans TV producer charges Airbnb discrimination
No legal remedies available

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

TV producer Shadi Petosky was turned down by an Airbnb host because she is Transgender, she charged in a June 5 tweet.

Calling herself 'Accidental Transsexual Travel Activist,' Petoksy wrote on Twitter that 'I was denied @Airbnb because I disclosed I'm trans. Airbnb did nothing. Had I not disclosed, I'd be 'dishonest.'

Petosky said she was travelling to Minneapolis in 2015 and was seeking temporary accommodations. When she made her inquiry about the Airbnb listing, she also disclosed that she was Trans. The host then backed out.

'I appreciate your honesty,' the unnamed host wrote. 'I have to pass though, but thank you. I have a 13-year-old boy going through puberty. I don't want him to feel any discomforts in his own home. Again, thanks for your inquiry and your honesty!'

She then complained to Airbnb, she says, but the company subsequently honored the host with a 'super host' designation on the company website.

Petosky's tweet went viral, leading Airbnb to pull the host from its listings.

'Discrimination has no place in the Airbnb community,' the company said in a statement.

'We are conducting a comprehensive review and examining what can be done to ensure we resolve these kinds of issues quickly and help make sure everyone is treated fairly,' Airbnb Public Affairs Director Nick Pappas said in a statement to The Guardian newspaper.

Petosky is best known for animating the Yo Gabba Gabba! TV show. In 2015 she was involved in another travel mishap when Orlando airport security workers tried to detain her after a full-body airport scanner revealed that her genitalia did not match her gender expression.

Petosky can't seek a legal remedy in the Airbnb case because the company's hosts are protected by a legal loophole.

Although the state of Minnesota amended its Civil Rights Act in 1993 to protect Trans people from discrimination in housing and services, the law specifically exempts 'rental by a resident owner or occupier of a one-family accommodation of a room or rooms,' which would include the Minneapolis host.

An April 26 NPR story reported that Airbnb hosts also discriminate against people of color, a charge that actually led Petosky to go public with her complaint.

In a May 1 story in the Washington Post, legal scholars Aaron Belzer and Nancy Leong say that federal civil rights laws have exemptions similar to those found in Minnesota law, meaning that Airbnb hosts can't be regulated by federal authorities either.

One solution, Belzer and Leong argue, would be 'to treat all of Airbnb as one big public accommodation' and hold the company responsible for illegal acts of discrimination by individual hosts.

Petosky tweeted she is content with just raising the issue.

'I don't need anything,' she wrote. 'I have a lot of privilege in travel. Just adding the knowledge that the sharing economy can/does discriminate.'

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