Shadi Petosky, a trans woman, was denied a room on Airbnb after she informed her would-be host that she is trans. As of today, that host has been removed from the Airbnb platform, BuzzFeed News has learned.
After Petosky told the host in question that she is trans, the host canceled her reservation out of what she described as concern for the discomfort of her teenaged son.
Petosky says she reported the host via a formal complaint to Airbnb when the incident originally happened, over a year ago, but never heard back from the company.
On Monday, Nick Papas, a spokesperson for Airbnb, told BuzzFeed News in an email that "Discrimination has no place in the Airbnb community. We are removing this host from Airbnb."
Petosky told BuzzFeed News that she "posted about it now because they've been getting more scrutiny recently," adding that she "had no idea it was going to blow up as much as it did." She has previously spoken out on discriminatory treatment by TSA agents at the airport, said on Twitter that she informs hosts that she is trans out of concern for her own safety.
Airbnb is a public participant in Pride Month; the company's current pinned tweet on Twitter celebrates the "colorful fingerprints of our community" using the hashtag #HostsWithPride.
However, Petosky pointed out on Twitter, the company does not have a specific policy that protects LGBT guests from discrimination, though it does have a general discrimination policy that mentions sexual orientation.
"They should definitely have a universal nondiscrimination policy as part of their platform," she told BuzzFeed News. "It could be stricter than local laws, and make it so the people who are running these businesses have to comply with these policies so that the customer feels like they have recourse."
On Twitter, someone asked about the possibility of filing a lawsuit against Airbnb, but on the phone with BuzzFeed News, Petosky said the process would be too emotionally draining. A black man from Virginia recently sued the company for discrimination under the Civil Rights Act and Fair Housing Act, among other things.
This morning, ahead of its annual developer conference in San Francisco, Airbnb announced the launch of Airbnb Connect, a diversity program aimed at recruiting minorities and women.
Petosky told BuzzFeed News that she rarely uses Airbnb, and that although she has had good experiences with the platform in the past, she generally prefers hotels.
"You know that no one is going to have any issue with you when you arrive," she said. "You know there's not going to be a problem, because they have the regulations. I feel more comfortable going to a hotel for sure."
Caroline O'Donovan is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Caroline O'Donovan at email@example.com.
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