Laverne Cox Shares Stories From Solitary

August 21, 2014

Actress Laverne Cox is taking action to end the use of solitary confinement. This month, Solitary Watch highlighted the story of Synthia China Blast underscoring the violence, abuse, and sexual assault transgender women face in New York’s prisons. Blast has been held in solitary confinement for over a decade. In a joint letter to the New York State Department of Corrections from the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and the Trans Women of Color Collective, the practice of routinely placing transgender people in prolonged solitary confinement often results in irreversible mental and physical harm.

Synthia China Blast

Synthia China Blast, a transgender woman held in solitary confinement in a New York prison for over a decade.

NCTE commends Laverne Cox for putting a spotlight on solitary confinement. As detailed in Orange is the New Black, “protective” solitary confinement doesn’t actually protect anyone. But to end solitary confinement, New Yorkers must take action. That’s why the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, FIERCE, and the Audre Lorde Project have launched a petition demanding an end to so called “protective” solitary confinement in New York.

Sign the petition here.

Placing transgender people—or anyone else—in solitary isn’t protection; it’s torture. By putting pressure on New York prison officials, New Yorkers can make a difference now in the lives of some of our communities’ most vulnerable members.


NCTE and 20+ LGBT Groups Observe Moment of Silence for Michael Brown

August 13, 2014

NMOS FlyerOn Thursday, August 14, 2014, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) joins thousands across the country to observe the National Moment of Silence in remembrance of victims of police brutality. The event was organized in response to the fatal shooting of an unarmed African American youth, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, MO. Brown is one of several people in two weeks whose death is the apparent result of police brutality.

Transgender people have an enormous stake in ending police brutality. We know that transgender people, and especially transgender women of color, are incredibly vulnerable to police misconduct and brutality. The videotaped brutal beating of Duanna Johnson while in police custody, and the suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Nizah Morris are only two examples.

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 38% of Black transgender and gender non-conforming people who had interacted with the police reported harassment with 14% reporting physical assault and 6% reporting sexual assault. Because of these experiences, 51% of Black survey respondents, and 46% of all transgender survey respondents, reported they were uncomfortable seeking police assistance if they needed it.

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Free Marichuy: Trans Immigration Detainee and Rape Survivor Deserves Safety

August 4, 2014

Today, National Center for Transgender Equality joined nearly 60 local and national LGBT and immigrant’s rights groups in calling for the release of Marichuy Leal Gamino. Marichuy is a transgender woman and survivor of sexual assault in an Arizona for-profit immigration detention facility.

Advocates like NCTE have been in communication with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on this violent incident, and have urged DHS to release Marichuy. As NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin notes in the letter to DHS, “Marichuy’s story illustrates why the mass detention of immigrants must end. Thousands of LGBT immigrants like Marichuy are needlessly jailed each year, and hundreds of transgender women are routinely placed in men’s jails despite the obvious danger this creates.”

The National Center for Transgender Equality and our partners will continue to advocate on behalf of Marichuy and will press for policy change as the White House prepares to take executive action to reform U.S. deportation policies.
Learn more about how immigration laws and policies affect transgender people in our report, “Our Moment for Reform.”
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NCTE Joins #Not1More Protest to End Deportations

August 4, 2014

On Saturday August 2nd, hundreds of pro-immigrant groups from the around the country descended on the streets of Washington, DC calling for a halt to deportations of undocumented immigrants and for expansion of policies that allow undocumented or mixed status families to remain in the country together. The groups used the phrase “Not 1 More” as their slogan. More than 1,100 immigrants are separated from their families and communities each day through deportations according to the National Immigrant Law Center.

Not1More

President Obama has the ability through a legal mechanism known as “administrative relief” to allow undocumented immigrants to stay based on certain circumstances. Organizers of the rally called for the Administration to expand its guidelines for administrative relief. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) supports expansion of the guidelines and hopes that an immigrant’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation, as well as the likelihood of persecution or violence upon repatriation, is included.

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DC Poised to Repeal Discriminatory “Prostitution-Free Zone” Law

July 8, 2014

Since 2006, the Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) has had the power to designate any public space in D.C. as a prostitution free zone (PFZ), which has in turn given MPD officers the right to disperse or arrest anyone they believe to be meeting in the space for the purpose of prostitution. The Alliance for a Safe and Diverse D.C. noted in a 2008 report that PFZs enabled police officers’ existing inclination toward profiling people as sex workers based on personal appearance, race, and gender presentation.

NCTE Policy Director Harper Jean Tobin Attends Rally

NCTE Policy Director, Harper Jean Tobin, attended an April 2014 rally in D.C. in support of repealing prostitution free zones in the District.

The MPD stopped designating areas as PFZs in 2012 because of concerns that the zones were unconstitutional. However, the PFZ law is still on the books, and other municipalities around the nation have based their own similar laws on it. There have even been efforts by some businesses to revive use of the law.

Earlier this year, NCTE was part of a coalition of LGBT groups that reviewed how the DC MPD’s relationship with the LGBT community and its handling of hate crimes. Our report concluded in part that MPD had lost the trust of the LGBT communities, primarily because of the perception of profiling of transgender people and perceived indifference toward crimes against trans people. The report noted that these problems were connected in part to the trans people being perceived as being criminals and less worthy of respect and protection due to being involved in sex work.

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Reflections on the 2014 Black Trans Advocacy Conference

May 13, 2014

by Theo George, Online Communications Manager, National Center for Transgender Equality

The 2014 Black Trans Advocacy Conference (BTAC) kicked off in Dallas, Texas last month. The conference is three years old and included six days of activities, workshops, and seminars. This year’s theme was “One Earth. One People. One Love”.

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Photo: Esperanza Brown

I had no idea that this type of event existed until doing some of my own research earlier this year. These types of opportunities are desperately needed in Black trans and gender non-conforming spaces. As disturbing as the general findings were for the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), they were even more so when looking at respondents of color:

  • 34% of Black trans people live in extreme poverty, reporting a household income of less than $10,000/year.
  • Half reported having attempted suicide.
  • 50% who attended school expressing a trans identity or gender non-conformity faced harassment.

I remember reading the results of this survey nearly a year ago or so, a little after I began my own transition process, and being completely overwhelmed. It’s quite overwhelming for anyone to try and comprehend these types of discouraging statistics. Black transgender and gender non-conforming people seem to face tremendous obstacles in virtually all areas of life from employment opportunities to attending school.

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Step Forward: PGPD Abandons Live Tweeting Prostitution Sting

May 7, 2014

Yesterday evening, the Prince George’s County Police Department (PGPD) in Maryland released a statement after conducting a prostitution sting operation. The PGPD relented to community advocacy and chose not to live tweet during the raid. An announcement last week promised to live tweet photos of those arrested, but in the end there were no live tweets and no arrests.

The PGPD faced criticism from organizations like the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), HIPS and other sex worker rights groups after announcing they would tweet pictures of clients of sex workers at a planned sting operation. That sting operation took place on May 6th with no arrests.

“We’re glad PGPD abandoned the unwise plan of live tweeting after community concern,” said NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin,  “However, police should focus on protecting sex workers from those who assault or rob them instead of engaging in broad stings and public shaming. We hope PGPD will collaborate with community members, including advocates for sex workers themselves, on more constructive solutions to violence against sex workers.”

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