Tag Archives: racism

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 Discussing the Causes of Violence Against Trans Women

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.

National Coalition of Local Transgender Advocacy Groups Being Formed

The DC Trans Coalition was invited to participate in the formation of the first-ever national coalition of state-level trans political organizations. (See the press release below for more information.) This weekend, one representative from DCTC will be heading to Memphis to help hammer out a vision and strategy for this newly-formed group. DCTC is excited to travel to Tennessee to bring the perspectives of our local communities and our grassroots organizing experience to this discussion. We hope this group is accountable to and beneficial for marginalized trans folks across the US, and that we can share useful knowledge to help us move forward in each of our local efforts. If any of y’all have friends in Memphis, be sure to let them know they should come on Saturday!

UPDATE: The organization now has a name: the Trans Advocacy Network. They also released a second press release after the meeting in Memphis, which you can now read below the original one.

Continue reading National Coalition of Local Transgender Advocacy Groups Being Formed

Trans Day of Action 2010

The DC Trans Coalition formally endorses this march and calls on our allies and supporters who are able to travel to New York City to join our contingent in the Sixth Annual Trans Day of Action for Social and Economic Justice!

When: Friday, June 25, 2010 – 3:00pm
Where:
To Be Announced (NYC)

On June 25, 2010, Trans and Gender Non Conforming People of Color and allies will take to the streets of NYC once again and demand justice to let the world know, that the rebellion is not over and we will continue fighting for justice, raising our voices until we are heard.  We call on all activist and organizers for justice, both local and organizations around the country and world to endorse this call to action and to build contingents to march in solidarity together.  Below are the points of unity which hold together the purpose of this march.

To endorse Trans Day of Action 2010, send an email to endorsetdoa@alp.org.

See below for Points of Unity and more info about the Day of Action.

Continue reading Trans Day of Action 2010

Urgent Action Alert! Stop the Criminalization and Displacement of DC Residents

Dear DCTC Friends and Supporters, via our allies at DC Jobs with Justice, we have an important request.

Please take action today to keep the DC Council from criminalizing transgender people, day laborers, youth, sex workers, and the homeless!

Tell the DC Council to withdraw the “nuisance provision” that will allow private citizens to go after people they think are “public nuisances” in DC court.

Under the Neighborhood and Victims Rights Amendment Act (Bill 18-595), introduced by Jim Graham and Jack Evans this Spring, any private citizen or community group would be able to file a lawsuit or obtain an injunction against someone they think constitutes a “public nuisance” – a concept so broadly defined it could cover many lawful activities, such as hanging out on a corner with friends or waiting for work in a park or parking lot. There are already laws on the books in DC prohibiting loitering – this proposal will only put the law in the hands of vigilante groups who seek to harass community members.

This is a clear and blatant violation of the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to assemble. This provision is especially troubling given its vague language that opens the door to profiling on the basis of real or perceived race, class, gender identity or sexual orientation, and could disproportionately be used against transgender people, day laborers, young people, sex workers and the homeless. Yet another law designed to criminalize, marginalize and displace working people in the District.

What can you do?

1. Email or all Councilmember Jim Graham and the Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary (sample letter and contact info below)

2. Join DCTC and many others at the hearing, Monday, April 19th at 11:00am at the DC City Council, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

3. Testify at the hearing against the nuisance provision. To testify send an email to htseu@dccouncil.us or call  (202) 724-8038

For more information contact rcastel@dclabor.org or call 202-974-8281.
________________________________________

To:
Jim Graham, jgraham@dccouncil.us
Jack Evans, jackevans@dccouncil.us
Phil Mendelson, pmendelson@dccouncil.us
Yvette Alexander, yalexander@dccouncil.us
Muriel Bowser, mbowser@dccouncil.us
Mary Cheh, mcheh@dccouncil.us

Subject: Oppose New Nuisance Law in Bill 18-595

Dear Councilmember,

As a supporter of the DC Trans Coalition and a constituent, I am writing to you because I’m very concerned about Bill B18-595, recently introduced by Jim Graham and Jack Evans. A provision in this bill will allow private citizens and community organizations to go after people who they think are “public nuisances” in D.C. court. I think this is a very bad plan to address the safety of our communities. This provision not only has the strong potential to be unconstitutional and opens the door for profiling on the basis of real or perceived race, class, gender identity or sexual orientation, but it also won’t work to make us safer. I would like to see you and the council put more attention and money towards alternatives to increased policing and incarceration; for example, funding quality recreation centers, schools, and jobs.

A few reasons why you should remove the nuisance provisions of the Bill:

1.      The definition of “community-based organizations” in the proposed law opens the door for vigilante groups to target certain DC residents, including already vulnerable populations such as transgender people, youth, the homeless, sex workers and day laborers.

2.      The definition of “public space” would allow someone to file a lawsuit against someone for an activity that takes place in a yard or on stoops and porches-spaces that are assumed private property.

3.      The definitions in this proposed law, including what is a public nuisance and what is a public space is so broad that it opens the door to racial profiling.

4.      This proposed law creates a backdoor way to criminalize vulnerable populations and those otherwise engaged in legal activities, since it includes fines and jail time for those who violate a public nuisance civil court order against them.

5.      There are already laws prohibiting loitering and other public nuisances.  We don’t need to give every person on the street the power to criminalize their neighbors’ behavior.  We should let the police do their jobs.

6.      This proposed law would clog the courts with the frivolous lawsuits of neighbors who are annoyed with each other.  DC should not be the nation’s lawsuit capitol.

7.      This proposed law targets people who have nowhere else to go. People wouldn’t congregate on the street if there were adequate recreation centers and shelters.

Thank you for your attention. I hope that when this bill comes before the Committee on Public Safety, you will vote against the nuisance provisions, and take seriously these suggestions to look at alternatives.

Thank you,

Name
DC Trans Coalition Supporter
Constituent of Ward # _____
Full address
Email phone

End Unjust Arrests, Sentencing and Sex Offender Registration of Sex Workers

The DC Trans Coalition signed the following Statement of Support with community organizations in New Orleans, and we want more people to know about this. It’s time to build an international movement to end violence and criminalization of sex workers which, as the authors of this statement recognize, disporportionately affects low income transgender women of color and other marginalized communities.

We stand in solidarity with trans women and all others in New Orleans and elsewhere who are affected by these archaic, draconian anti-sex work laws! Here in DC, we face similar laws such as the Prostitution Free Zones and a “three strikes” policy that makes the third arrest for solicitation a felony offense. These policies drive rampant police profiling and the over-incarceration of many trans women, especially trans women of color.

Individuals can sign the General Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/desiree1/petition.html )
To add your organization, send org. name, contact name, and contact info to belltoweroverflo@hotmail.com.
More info: www.colorlines.com/article.php?ID=673

Statement of Support for Resistance in New Orleans
End Unjust Arrests, Sentencing and Sex Offender Registration of Sex Workers

We the undersigned extend our support for Women With A Vision’s No Justice Project, a campaign to combat the sentencing of people arrested for sex work under the 203-yr-old “crimes against nature” felony-level law in New Orleans, LA. We believe that the unjust application of this law, which requires those sentenced to register as sex offenders for 10 years, and places ‘sex offender’ on their photo identification cards, among other prescribed penalties, further marginalizes and wrongfully criminalizes vulnerable communities.

It is apparent that the application of this law is gender-biased and reflects a broader problem of over-criminalization of low-income people and people of color. The overwhelming majority of those sentenced under the law are African-American, and nearly all are women, with transgender women also being disproportionately impacted.

We believe that no person should be arrested, let alone charged as a sex offender, for selling sex. We also hold that marginalized communities; including people of color, sex workers, transgender people, and drug users; must have greater access to health care, education, housing, general economic wellbeing, safety, and freedom from state violence such as imprisonment.

We will work together, under the guidance of organizations and individuals in New Orleans to support this important campaign. We encourage all other organizations concerned about racial justice, gender justice, economic justice, health, human rights, and sex worker rights to do so as well.

Current Organizational Signers Include:
BAYSWAN, Challenging White Supremacy, COYOTE, Critical Resistance New Orleans, Desiree Alliance, Different Avenues, Dr. Mary Frances Berry- Former Chair of US Commission on Civil Rights, International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, New York Harm Reduction Educators, NOW Nevada, NOW Southern Nevada, Peter Cicchino Youth Project, Prostitutes of New York, Sex Workers Interests Organization (Denmark), Sex Workers Outreach Project-Chicago, Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center, TAP Communications, Women’s Organisation Network for Human Rights Advocacy (Uganda), Women’s Reentry Network, Woodhull Foundation

Check Out Our Op-Ed in Metro Weekly

DCTC helped write and publish an editorial in this week’s edition of Metro Weekly. The piece is titled “Unpacking the Numbers: Racism, Poverty and the Response to Anti-LGBTQ Hate Crimes in D.C.” We really hope you’ll pick up a copy of MW, or you can read it online by clicking the link above.

In order to meet the word length requirements for publication, we had to edit a great deal of it down. So we also decided to post the full length (and slightly sloppier!) version online, complete with citations and more detailed analysis. You can read that here, below the cut!

Continue reading Check Out Our Op-Ed in Metro Weekly