Tag Archives: poverty

Discussing the Causes of Violence Against Trans Women

Violence against trans women does not only exist as individual hatred or bias-motivated crime. It comes in many forms and for many reasons. Trans women are systematically placed in circumstances where we are more likely than others to experience multiple forms of violence.

In order to end violence against trans women, it is important to understand that more than just personal prejudices are at fault. Other kinds of oppression like racism, laws like the criminalization of sex work, economic forces like poverty and gentrification, and many other forces are also at play.

Wednesday, DCTC’s Sadie Vashti spoke about violence against the transgender community with the Latino Media Collective. The interview was broadcast on the radio, but you can also listen to it anytime at this link. (The interview begins about 1/4th into the clip.) In order to be more accessible, click below to read an abbreviated transcript broken into headings by topic.

Note: The views expressed in this interview belong only to Sadie. DCTC is a collective of many people with a variety of views. To learn more about our official organizational principles and stances, see here. Also, this interview was conducted before the most recent attack on a group of trans women by an off-duty MPD officer. Continue reading

Standing Against the Criminalization of Sex Work

This op-ed piece was written by DC Trans Coalition member Sadie-Ryanne Baker, on behalf of and with help from the DCTC organizing collective, in response to troubling recent events.

Justice, Not Jails
DC must rethink impact on marginalized communities of policing sex work

On the weekend of September 25th 2010, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) raided a hotel in Northwest in a prostitution-related sting. After initial witness reports that dozens were detained, MPD has confirmed that six arrests were made on charges of soliciting prostitution.

Every week, the DC Trans Coalition receives numerous complaints involving police harassment. Many of these reports come from transgender, transsexual or gender-non-conforming (hereafter trans) individuals, especially trans women of color, who are involved in, or believed to be involved in, sex work.  Due to transphobic and racist police bias, many trans women are harassed and falsely arrested for sex work (the crime of “walking while trans”) while simply interacting in their own communities.

Whether they are sex workers or not, however, is beside the point. No one deserves the degree of persecution and violence these individuals face. While most survivors of policing abuses are unwilling or unable to file formal complaints, we continue to receive a consistently high volume of contacts from individuals who have been assaulted and/or verbally ridiculed by police. Many are treated inhumanely while in custody, despite MPD’s own General Order prohibiting such abuse. A soon-to-be-released study by the National Center for Transgender Equality notes that 71% of trans respondents had experienced harassment and disrespectful treatment by police officers and 45% were uncomfortable reporting crimes to police. After the most recent raid, DCTC was approached for advice from trans community members who are fearing for their own safety in the face of similar sweeping police actions. No one should have to live with this fear.

Due to discrimination, trans people are more likely to experience poverty, housing instability and un(der)employment than cisgender (non-trans) people. Many engage in criminalized activities, including sex work, in order to survive.  We are disturbed and frustrated that the solution most often employed by the DC government is to over-police and to arrest our community members rather than connecting these individuals to jobs, services and public assistance.

Since sex work is illegal, sex workers are denied protection with basic labor practices and human rights standards. If attacked or assaulted by a client, there is often no legal recourse. Marginalized groups such as trans women are among the most vulnerable. This becomes terrifyingly clear when we gather annually for the Trans Day of Remembrance. The list of murder victims heavily features sex workers, most of whom are trans women of color.

Rather than protecting these individuals from violence, many police actions only perpetuate violence. After incarceration, and the establishment of a criminal record, these individuals face the nearly impossible challenge of finding a ‘legal’ job. Instead, they are likely to find themselves back in the sex work industry. At the bottom of the social ladder, marginalized communities such as trans women of color are the worst hit by this cycle of jail and poverty. A preliminary glance at MPD’s arrest records, which we recently obtained from MPD via a Freedom of Information Act request, suggests that a trans woman is far more likely to be arrested for indecent sexual proposal than a cisgender person.

All LGBTQ people should be concerned when the state attempts to enforce morality. Instead of allowing the government to target sex workers as criminals, we must solve the underlying issues of racism, transphobia and poverty. Raids like the one conducted by MPD last week only perpetuate unsafe working conditions and further demonize sex workers, forcing sex workers out of the safety of the private room and into the dimly lit and significantly more dangerous public streets.

It is our hope that the incoming Gray Administration will rethink these failed policing strategies. We look forward to meeting with him to discuss possible alternatives. We need jobs not raids; we need fair wages and labor standards not “Prostitution Free Zones.” Whether individuals chose it freely or not, sex work is real work and will continue to be an industry for those with limited employment options.

We welcome help and support from our allies as we build upon our advocacy efforts. In these tough economic times, we need to develop real remedies designed to curb the persecution and violence that far too many sex workers experience when trying to make ends meet. The time to stand up for the most vulnerable among us is now. To learn more about how you can help support our work, please be sure to contact us at dctranscoalition.org.

From DC to Detroit, Queer and Trans Activists Making the Connection to Social Justice

Thanks to everyone who helped make the film screening, Trans Pride, the youth cookout and all the other summer events such a success so far! We hope the rest of the summer is just as productive. DCTC has a lot of exciting campaigns, events and projects in the works, so stayed tuned.

We know a lot of our friends and supporters are just getting back from the 2nd annual US Social Forum in Detroit, where over 15,000 community organizers gathered to discuss strategy and vision for building a strong social justice movement. DCTC was an anchor organization for the Greater DC People’s Assembly, one of over 50 such assemblies from across the country that brought our local priorities to the national forum. The DC People’s Assembly resolution was one of the few to mention “that transphobia and homophobia divide our communities, cause widespread suffering and intersect with other systems of oppression to fuel vast social and economic inequalities throughout the world” and to explicitly include the needs of trans communities.  We hope you’ll read the full resolution.

Also, check out the Queer and Trans Peoples’ Resolution for the Safe Self- Determination of Our People, assembled by the Queer and Trans Peoples’ Movement Assembly at the US  Social Forum. As detailed in a new report from Queers for Economic Justice (“A Fabulous Attitude: Low Income LGBTGNC People Surviving & Thriving on Love, Knowledge & Shelter”), issues like poverty, homelessness and immigration all impact trans and LGBQ people. It’s very exciting to hear back from our friends in Detroit that more and more queer and trans activists are beginning to prioritize issues of social and racial justice!

Back in DC, on Friday July 9th at St. Stephens Church (1525 Newton St NW) from 7-9pm, the DC Childcare Collective is hosting a discussion called “A Better DC is Possible!” The panel will discuss ways to bring people together to create a more just DC and will feature representatives from organizations like Empower DC and the Latino Economic Development Corporation. (Childcare provided; Refreshments to follow; $10 donation requested, no one turned away due to lack of funds). DCTC was originally scheduled to appear at this event but has had to cancel. We still encourage all of our friends to come out, support these other awesome groups and keep including trans communities in these crucial discussions!

Build the Safety Net!

Given the extremely high levels of unemployment and poverty in trans communities around DC, we are among those who will be hit hardest by the loss of important social services like health care and job training programs. Therefore, DCTC endorses this creative action and encourages all of our supporters to come out if they can!

Build The Safety Net!
Wednesday, May 19th 2010
Wilson Building
RSVP at http://bit.ly/BuildtheNet

Join Save Our Safety Net and the Fair Budget Coalition on May 19 at 8:30 AM as we build a human safety net around the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW).

More than $100 million has been cut from safety net services during the recession, and despite broad support for a more progressive budget, the Council is still considering cuts to programs such as job training, interim disability assistance, health care, rapid housing, and support for grandparent caregivers.

We have 6 Safety Net Superheroes on the Council, supporting progressive tax reform to generate the revenue we need to protect these safety net services. We have just one week before the vote and we need a 7th hero. We need you to help show Council members what a strong safety net looks like.

After our action, we will head inside the Wilson Building to thank our supporters and make sure holdouts come around in time for the vote.

Our Survey Results

Below, you will find the text of a fact sheet produced by DCTC summarizing the results of our survey on gender-segregated spaces in DC. Below that, you will also find some reflections on what this data means along with expanded statistics from the survey about employment, income, access to health care and so on.  See our page on Reports and Research for more studies and data on the trans community in DC.

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Introduction

In October 2006, regulations to enforce anti-discrimination protections for gender identity or expression went into effect in the District of Columbia. These regulations include specific protections for people to access and use gender-segregated public facilities consistent with their gender identity.  The regulations also included a mandate for the creation of more gender-neutral public restrooms in the District.  While these regulations are an important step forward, they have not yet been fully implemented and have been threatened by District agencies.

In November 2008, DCTC launched a survey to gather information about people’s experiences accessing or using gender-segregated public facilities.  The results reveal that people in our community have experienced significant problems with these facilities.  These problems have impacted people’s education, employment, health, and participation in public life.  The regulations of enforcement for the DC Human Rights Act must be fully implemented to address problems our community faces.

Reported Problems

The survey collected responses from 93 people who self-identify as trans and/or gender non-conforming and asked about experiences they have had with gender-segregated public facilities in DC, such as restrooms, locker rooms, and public housing facilities.  Out of 93 respondents, 65 (70 percent) reported experiencing problems as follows:

  • 63 respondents (68 percent) have been denied access to, verbally harassed in, and/or physically assaulted in public bathrooms.
  • 17 respondents (18 percent) have been denied access to, verbally harassed in, and/or physically assaulted in locker rooms.h
  • 19 respondents (20 percent) have been denied access to and/or verbally harassed in dressing rooms or changing rooms.
  • Out of the 8 respondents who have been housed in a public housing facility in DC (such as a homeless shelter, DC jail, or treatment facility), 6 respondents (75 percent) experienced physical assault, verbal abuse, denial of medical care and/or hormones, harassment, and/or being treated worse than others by staff.

Impact of Reported Problems

This survey assessed the impact of problems with gender-segregated public facilities in four areas: education, employment, health, and participation in public life.

Education:

  • 13 of 31 respondents (42 percent) who attended school in DC reported being denied access and/or verbally harassed in gender-segregated facilities at school.
  • 3 respondents (10 percent) reported these incidents negatively impacted their education in the following ways: caused excessive absences, poor performance, had to change schools, and/or dropped out of school.

Employment:

  • 16 of 60 respondents (27 percent) who have worked in DC reported being denied access and/or verbally harassed in gender-segregated facilities at work.
  • 8 respondents (13 percent) reported these incidents negatively impacted their employment in the following ways: caused excessive tardiness, poor performance, had to change job, and/or had to quit job.

Health:

  • 53 respondents (54 percent) reported having physical problems from trying to avoid using public bathrooms, such as “holding it,” dehydration, urinary tract infection, kidney infection, and other kidney-related problems.
  • 8 respondents (9 percent) have avoided going to a hospital, healthcare facility, or doctor’s office because those facilities have gender-segregated restrooms.

Participation in Public Life:

  • 54 respondents (58 percent) reported that they have avoided going out in public and 28 respondents (30 percent) reported not attending a specific event, both due to a lack of safe public restroom facilities.
  • 37 respondents (38 percent) reported avoiding particular public places due to a lack of safe restroom facilities.  The places respondents most frequently avoided include retail stores, restaurants, gyms, and bars (including gay bars).

Policy Needs

1)    DC must fully implement the enforcement regulations adopted in October 2006 for the “gender identity or expression” provision of the DC Human Rights Act.

2)    The new DC Department of Corrections Operations Memorandum must be fully implemented with regular review and revision to improve effectiveness.

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A total of 69 (74%) of our respondents identified as white; 20 (22%) as black/African American; 4 (4%) Latina/Hispanic; 3 (3%) as Native American; 5 (5%) as Asian/Pacific Islander; and 1 (1%) as Arab/Middle Eastern. Since respondents were able to mark more than one racial identification, 63 (67%) identified themselves as only white.

58 respondents identified as transgender, 26 as transsexual and 36 as genderqueer. (There were more possibilities listed, including but not limited to androgynous, masculine woman, feminine man, third gender, two spirit, crossdresser and drag queen, and respondents were able to check multiple answers.) 16 identified themselves as male-to-female and 36 as female-to-male. 60 respondents were assigned female at birth, and 40 were assigned male at birth. This would seem to indicate that trans women were underrepresented in the data.

34 (37%) were aged 18-24; 30 (32%) were aged 25-34; 15 (16%) aged 35-44; 8 (9%) aged 45-54; 5 (5%) aged 55-64 and 1 (1%) was aged over 65. Thus, our data is also extremely skewed toward young people.

15 (16%) of respondents were unemployed, 46 (49%) were part-time employed, 24 (26%) were full-time and 8 (9%) responded they had another form of income besides full or part time employment.  2 (2%) respondents were homeless, 10 (11%) owned homes, with the rest renting, living rent free or living in a college dorm.

Incomes were as follows:

  • 10 (11%) : no annual income
  • 17 (18%) : under $5,000
  • 8 (9%) : $5,000 – 9,999
  • 7 (8%) : $10,000 -19,999
  • 7 (8%) : $20,000 – 29,999
  • 10 (11%) : $30,000 – 39,999
  • 7 (8%): $40,000 – 49,999
  • 8 (9%) : $50,000 – 59,999
  • 9 (10%) : $60,000 – 69,999
  • 2 (2%) : $70,000 – 79,999
  • 2 (2%) : $80,000 – 89,999
  • 0 (0%) : $90,000 – 99,999
  • 5 (5%) : $100,000 or more

In other words, almost half (46%) of all respondents made less than 20,000 dollars a year. 8 (9%) had no insurance and 10 (11%) were on Medicare/Medicaid. Of the respondents who indicated they wanted some kind of medical procedure to help them transition, 34 of 57 (60%) said they could not afford it.

Removing the people who only identified as white, incomes were as follows:

  • 8 (27%) : no annual income
  • 6 (20%) : under $5,000
  • 1 (3%) : $5,000 – 9,999
  • 1 (3%) : $10,000 -19,999
  • 3 (10%) : $20,000 – 29,999
  • 6 (20%) : $30,000 – 39,999
  • 1 (3%): $40,000 – 49,999
  • 1 (3%) : $50,000 – 59,999
  • 2 (7%) : $60,000 – 69,999
  • 0 (0%) : $70,000 – 79,999
  • 0 (0%) : $80,000 – 89,999
  • 0 (0%) : $90,000 – 99,999
  • 1 (3%) : $100,000 or more

Thus, 53% of people who identified as something other than only white made less than 20,000 a year, compared to 46% of the total sample population including white respondents.

35 respondents (38%) believe they have been discriminated against based on their gender identity or expression in DC since the regulations on gender identity and expression in the Human Rights Act went into effect.  Only 2 respondents have reported the discrimination to the Office of Human Rights. In the “write more” boxes on the survey, people expressed that they seriously doubted whether reporting the incidents would be taken seriously.

The data is also very specific in that it is asking whether the person surveyed had experienced problems in DC since the regulations went into effect. Since many of our respondents did not actually live in the District, they may have experienced discrimination in other places, or before 2006. For example, we cannot even say the percentage of trans people surveyed who have been housed in public accommodations (i.e., jail, shelters etc). Since there is no federal prison in DC, anyone who has been sentenced to a felony or a sentence of over 6-8 months would have served time outside of DC.

Therefore it is possible that more than the 9% we discovered have actually been incarcerated or in homeless shelters outside of DC, or before 2006. Also, given that our data is skewed toward young, white, FTM-spectrum individuals, this number is also likely off.