LEE/LISA IACUZZI and his/her three-legged dog, Rowdy, aren't interested in fitting in.
A bigendered person who was born a woman but now identifies as a "he" and a "she" simultaneously, Iacuzzi has won two gender discrimination claims against different Portland women's shelters in the last six months. And Iacuzzi isn't stopping there.
Now, in a move that could have far-reaching implications across the country, Iacuzzi is vowing to pursue costly legal action against the shelters and use the proceeds to set up a queer shelter for similar people, unless they change the way they are implementing the city and county's housing gender-discrimination policies for bigendered people.
There's been no room at the inn for Iacuzzi, here in Portland. S/he was asked to leave the Bradley-Angle House women's domestic violence shelter in October 2006, allegedly for smoking marijuana. But the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) found that Iacuzzi had been treated differently there on the basis of her/his gender identity since arriving in August of 2006, when they ruled on Iacuzzi's case on May 20, 2008.
Among Iacuzzi's substantiated BOLI claims: That s/he was shouted at, offered money to stay in a hotel, and given the names of men's shelters after confessing to confusion about her/his gender identity. Iacuzzi says s/he'd have been in danger at a men's shelter and that her treatment was discriminatory—BOLI agrees.
"The way the policies are in effect at Bradley-Angle House right now," says Matthew Ellis, an attorney with Kell, Alterman, and Runstein, who is handling Iacuzzi's BOLI complaint about the shelter, "they may as well have a sign on the door saying, 'No bigendered people allowed.'"
After being thrown out of the Bradley-Angle House, Iacuzzi applied for housing at the Rose Apartments on SE 6th and Taylor, a single-room occupancy apartment building run by Reach Community Development. S/he eventually got a room there in March 2007, but alleges s/he was subject to ongoing harassment by her fellow tenants and the apartments' live-in manager, Jamie Barton.
Rose tenants called Iacuzzi "dyke, butch, gender freak, dildo, bitch, and faggot," s/he alleges, and posted notes on her/his door saying things like, "Why don't you move, no one likes you."
On October 17, 2007, Rose resident Glenda Meyers submitted a petition for a stalking protective order against Iacuzzi, documenting two alleged incidents of threatening, one of which was documented by Barton.
Iacuzzi says Meyers and Barton lied about her/his alleged threatening behavior. Iacuzzi also obtained a stalking order against Meyers on October 31, after Meyers and a group of tenants allegedly threatened to beat her/him. Reach declined comment.
On November 12, 2007, Meyers reported Iacuzzi to the police for "being in the building" where she lived, and Portland Police Officer Andrew Kofoed arrested Iacuzzi for violation of the protective order. Kofoed allegedly told Iacuzzi, "All you want is money, you will never get any press, you're a nobody."
Iacuzzi then spent 29 days in jail, where s/he attempted suicide on Thanksgiving 2007. Kofoed declined comment on his alleged remarks through the cops' Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz.
"Everyone's thing is to try to discredit Lee/Lisa and try to suggest that s/he's causing these problems her/himself," says Scott Leonard, an independent attorney who is handling Iacuzzi's BOLI claim and lawsuit against Reach Community Development. "But BOLI has looked into these complaints, and independent investigators have found them to be substantiated not once, but twice."
Iacuzzi's suit against Reach, for housing discrimination under county and city code, is seeking $350,000 in compensatory damages. S/he may also sue the Bradley-Angle House, s/he says.
"At this time, we are unable to comment on the specific facts of this matter, especially given that the allegations against Bradley-Angle House may impact a larger scope than just our organization," says Karla McFarland, executive director of Bradley-Angle House. "However, we maintain that there is no merit to Lee/Lisa Iacuzzi's allegations that Bradley-Angle House discriminated against her/him in any way."