Ruby Corado was 16 when her parents sent her to the United States to escape the civil war in El Salvador. When she arrived in Washington DC, she found very few resources for Latinos and none for LGBT Latinos.
When she was 20, she was working in real estate management and also entered into the world of social justice by volunteering at a hospice.
I saw that the nuns that were there didn’t have any shoes and they were looking to help these people. They would hug them and they would kiss them and would give them so much love. And this was a point in my life when I’m trying to make it in society, I’m trying to pretty much achieve the American dream, and here I am very young, 20 years old, and I see that these women were really giving.When she moved to DuPont Circle, she began welcoming LGBT Latinos into her home. Many of them were immigrants like her.
I kept seeing some of these kids– they were rejected by their family, they were having a hard time in school. I was like a big sister to them. I just didn’t understand why people would be so mean. I didn’t understand why they would reject their kids. I realized that I could be there for them.
Corado began transitioning in the 90s…and began facing discrimination herself.
This taught me that it was going to be difficult, but I was strong and I wanted to show these people that it’s not OK to do that.In 2003 a very close friend of hers was killed because she was transgender. On that very same day, a black transwoman was also killed.
I said, this is not about color. This is not about race. This is about hate against people that are different.By this time she had a paying job at Whitman-Walker Health, a health care facility focused on HIV/AIDS care for LGBT patients.
In March of 2008 a domestic dispute resulted in both her ex-boyfriend and Ruby being arrested. Although Ruby looked, acted, and dressed as a woman, she had not yet had genital surgery. Because of her genitalia, she was housed with the men. And she was instructed to strip by jail staff.
Ruby remembers being humiliated, but was determined to maintain her dignity.
I said, ‘You want a show? I’ll give you a show,’” Corado says. “I got naked. The guys went crazy.Corado remembers that it was even less pleasant having to urinate in front of the other inmates.
Ruby was released the next day.The DC Trans Coalition, which Ruby cofounded, organized a campaign to improve the treatment of transgender people who become incarcerated. In 2009 the District of Columbia adopted a policy of housing transwomen with other women. There would be no more strip searches in front of men.
Ruby Corado has become the goto resource in the trans community for city government officials.
We know that she’s connected and that she has information we don’t have.Last year Ruby stepped forward to create Casa Ruby, a multicultural center and safe space serving LGBT people of any race, color, or economic status.
--Gustavo Velasquez, DC Office of Human Rights
I wanted to open a multicultural center because I know people of different cultures still go through some sort of rejection or discrimination, and I wanted to be there for everybody. I wanted the community to come together.The center has now been open for 11 months. It is totally supported by contributions from the community. Ruby has personally invested $25,000 of her own money to keep the doors open.
The center offers a wide range of resources and programs including makeup artistry, sewing, English classes, Spanish classes, resume writing and STI testing. Corado says that the center focuses on job development to help people get out of poverty.
We’re teaching them about how to take care of themselves. I’ve had 750 clients in 11 months and provided over 3,000 services. I want them to be productive. I want them to be healthy. I want them to have access.Casa Ruby occupies three floors of a house in Park View. Although it primarily services the Latina trans community, it is open to all races and genders. Services include a daily hot meal provided by D.C. Central Kitchen, job consulting, psychological help, clothing, HIV testing, and being a safe place to go.
'As we speak, I owe the landlord $7,000.'You can help out Casa Ruby here.
She calls the landlord a “savior” and adds, 'It’s one of those things. I just can’t—I don’t even worry about it.'