Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 27

Uplifting sayings decorate the walls: "Believe
in yourself" and "In this house we are real, we
make mistakes, we say I'm sorry, we give second
chances, we love."
But there are also sober reminders of Casa
Ruby's mission: A small poster honors Zoe
Spears, a 23-year-old transgender woman who
was killed in Baltimore in June. A wicker basket
of condoms sits next to the front door, and near
the reception desk is information about HIV
testing and a small sign that says, "Respect
my gender."
Casa Ruby is the heart of Washington, D.C.'s
transgender youth community, offering them
a place to sleep, something to eat, and help
with a range of social services that include
immigration support, mental health counseling,
and advocacy.
The shelter, on Georgia Avenue in Shepherd
Park just below the District of Columbia-
Maryland border, is the brainchild of Ruby
Corado. "I felt this was my gift to the community," she says.
But to Corado, who was born a male in war-torn
El Salvador, the question of how to go about
giving back to her community was something
that took her a long time to answer. "I didn't
want just another nonprofit. I wanted to build
a movement. I wanted the marginalized people,
people who are called 'disposable,' to come
together and build something."
That "something" came about thanks in large
part to legal help Corado received from the
D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center and its Nonprofit Legal
Assistance Program, which offered Corado
nonprofit trainings and matched her with pro
bono attorneys, both law firm and in-house
lawyers. Over the years she's managed a name
change for the nonprofit, updated its bylaws,
and more with guidance from attorney
volunteers.
But first, Corado, 49, had to overcome a
roller-coaster entry to the LGBTQ world of
Washington, D.C.

Approximately 6,000 individuals find their way to Casa Ruby every year to access its wide range
of services, from housing assistance to immigration support to mental health counseling.
working three jobs and handing over her
paychecks to the people who had taken her
in, since Corado's parents had remained in
El Salvador.
When a man in her house tried to rape her,
she ran away. At the Silver Spring Metro station,
she met someone who pointed her to the gay
community in Dupont Circle. There, Corado
says, she found a sense of belonging. "I learned
that people were fighting for our liberation."
But it wasn't until she met a transsexual woman
who walked dogs for a living that she really felt
understood. Her name was Miss Willy and she
was "fierce," recalls Corado.

Corado arrived in the city in 1986 as a slight,
feminine 16-year-old boy, sent by her father to
escape the violence and danger of a war that
destroyed her homeland, town by town.

Corado said to herself, "This is who I am. I am
a transsexual." She started dressing as a female,
wearing eye shadow, glitter, and long nails. But
even though she finally felt comfortable in her
own skin, she also saw a change in the way
others perceived her.

"I had no idea, really, about life," she says in
an interview with Washington Lawyer. "In El
Salvador, I was a very sheltered kid. I didn't even
know what sex was." But here, Corado was

"I remember the first time I put on some
makeup and made myself more feminine," she
says. She was bullied, told she wasn't wanted
in public places, and laughed at. She also

A ROUGH START

realized she had to stay within the geographical
boundaries of the Dupont Circle area.
Then something clicked for Corado. "I said,
'Wait a minute. I am in the nation's capital, in
the land of the free. I survived a war. All this
name-calling cannot kill me.'" Once again, she
embraced her identity. She performed in drag
shows hosted by the former gay bar Mr. P's,
even though she admits she was terrible at
lip-syncing. It was a way for the owner of the
bar to give Corado enough money to get
something to eat.
But on August 7, 1995, an African American
transgender woman named Tyra Hunter, who
had been badly hurt in a car accident, died
because paramedics refused to treat her when
they discovered she was biologically male.
Corado says she realized then, "I can die for
being me?"
It sent her on a downward spiral that included
periods of homelessness, prostitution, and
depression. She learned she was HIV-positive.
She saw that many transsexual people were
victims of violence and murder. "I kept saying
to myself, 'Where are we supposed to go?'"

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2019

*

WASHINGTON LAWYER 27



Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019

Digital Extras
Your Voice
From Our President
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Going Above and Beyond feature
On Safer Ground feature
Casa Ruby Profile
Pro Bono Effect
Member Spotlight
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Disciplinary Summaries
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 1
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 2
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Digital Extras
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 7
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 9
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 11
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Going Above and Beyond feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 13
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 14
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 15
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 16
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 17
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - On Safer Ground feature
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 19
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 20
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 21
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 22
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 23
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 24
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 25
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Casa Ruby Profile
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 27
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 28
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 29
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 30
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 31
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 33
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 34
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 35
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 36
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 38
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 39
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 41
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 46
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - 47
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover3
Washington Lawyer - November/December 2019 - Cover4
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