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Transgender Afro-Latina Layleen Polanco Was Found Dead In Prison And Her Family Is Demanding Answers

The family of Layleen Polanco, a transgender Afro-Latina who was found dead in her prison cell at Rikers Island last week, is demanding answers.

On June 7, Polanco, 27, was declared dead after her body was found unresponsive in her cell at the Rose M. Singer Center, a dedicated unit for women, the Washington Post reports. It is still unclear how the woman, of House Xtravaganza, died.

According to the news outlet, a medical staff member attempted to revive Polanco using CPR and a defibrillator around 2:50 p.m. By 3:45 p.m., she was pronounced dead. The Correction Department, which has yet to release a cause of death, said that she did not die as “the result of violence or foul play.”

“This is a tragic loss and we extend our deepest condolences to her family,” Department of Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann told the Post in a statement.

The New York City medical examiner’s office is currently investigating Polanco’s death, but the late woman’s family said the state has not been helpful in providing them with much answers.

“We are heartbroken over the death of our beloved Layleen, whose bright light was an inspiration to all who knew her,” Polanco’s family said in a statement. “As we gather to mourn this tremendous loss, we are left shocked and outraged by the stony silence from the Department of Correction, Mayor’s Office, NYPD, and City government. The family demands answers, and we are entitled to them.”

Polanco’s death comes during LGBTQ Pride month, a time to commemorate the Stonewall riots that sparked the rise of the gay liberation movement and today’s fight for LGBTQ rights, and just nine days after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a monument honoring pioneering transgender women of color activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, who led the Stonewall uprising.

“Just days ago, Mayor de Blasio dedicated a monument to two pioneering transgender activists, telling the trans community that ‘we are sending a clear message: We see you…and we will protect you.’ The City failed to protect Layleen, and now it is trying to sweep her death under the rug. We will not allow it,” Polanco’s family said.

Her death also underlines activists’ calls to decriminalize sex work. According to the Rolling Stone, Polanco, who was scheduled to be released on June 13, was being held in Rikers on failure to pay $500 bail resulting from bench warrants — warrants that are issued when an individual does not appear in court — related to her arrest in August 2017. She was apprehended for misdemeanor prostitution and a low-level drug possession offense after allegedly agreeing to perform oral sex on an undercover officer in exchange for money during an NYPD sting investigation.

The details, or lack thereof, surrounding Polanco’s death has caused outcry on social media, with politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who decried her loss of life and said her family “deserves to know what happened to her,” and Decrim NY, an organization lobbying for a bill introduced this week that would decriminalize sex work in New York state, to speak out.

“We urgently need to decriminalize sex work now — actually decriminalize sex work, not just more reforms that widen the net and tie people up in the legal system — to protect our TGNC communities of color who rely on the sex trade to survive,” said Jessica Peñaranda, Decrim NY Steering Committee member and director of Movement Building at the Sex Workers Project at the Urban Justice Center. “We cannot have another death. Not one more.”

Polanco is the 10th Black transgender woman found dead in the country since January 2019.

Read: Bamby Salcedo Turned Her Experience As A Trans Latina Immigrant Into A National Organization

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Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

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Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress via Getty Images

Argentina has long been a progressive bastion in Latin America. It was one of the first countries in the region to allow same-sex marriage and also has anti-discrimination laws in many cities. It’s also been a beacon of hope for the transgender community, with the government long allowing individuals to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex.

However, transgender workers still face immense discrimination and that has left a reported 95% of the community without formal employment. To help try and address this issue, the nation’s leaders have instituted a program to ensure that at least 1% of the workforce is made up of trans workers. It’s an ambitious task but the government is already making progress.

Argentina launched a program to ensure better transgender representation in the workforce.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández signed a decree in September establishing a 1 percent employment quota for transgender people in the public sector. The law went into effect on January 1 and its aim is to bring more trans workers into the formal economy.

According to Argentina’s LGBTQ community, 95 percent of transgender people do not have formal employment, with many forced to work in the sex industry where they face violence.

“If all the institutions implemented the trans quota, it would change a lot for many of my colleagues. It would change the quality of their lives and they would not die at 34, or 40, which is their life expectancy today,” Angeles Rojas, who recently landed a job at a national bank, told NBC News.

There are no official figures on the size of the transgender community in Argentina, since it was not included in the last 2010 census. But LGBTQ organizations estimate there are 12,000 to 13,000 transgender adults in Argentina, which has a population topping 44 million.

Few countries in the world are stepping up to help trans workers quite like Argentina.

Argentina has long prided itself on its progressive policies. The nation was one of the first in the Americas to recognize same-sex unions and several cities have anti-discrimination laws aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community.

In 2012, Argentina adopted an unprecedented gender identity law allowing transgender people to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex. The law also guarantees free access to sex-reassignment surgeries and hormonal treatments without prior legal or medical consent.

Worldwide, only neighboring Uruguay has a comparable quota law promoting the labor inclusion of transgender people. And a law such as this one has the potential to greatly impact the lives of transgendered Argentinians.

Despite the program, transgender people still face enormous challenges in Argentina.

A recent report by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People published in December said “the vast majority of trans women in the region have sex work as their sole economic and subsistence livelihood.”

It goes on to say: In Latin America and the Caribbean transgender people have their right to work violated along with all their human rights, and this takes place “in a context of extreme violence.”

Despite legal protections, Argentina’s trans community remains at risk. Many of the country’s trans citizens live in the Gondolín, a building in the Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood, for protection and strength in numbers.

There have been advances in Argentina. This year, Diana Zurco became the first transgender presenter of Argentine television news, Mara Gómez was authorized by the Argentine Football Association to play in the professional women’s league and soprano María Castillo de Lima was the first transgender artist to go on stage at Teatro Colón.

However, the gap between the equality established by law and the real one remains large, warned Ese Montenegro, a male transgender activist hired as an adviser to the Chamber of Deputies’ women’s and diversity commission.

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Story Of NYC Lawyer Who Went To Prison For Blinding His Girlfriend Then Married Her After His Sentence Resurfaces Again

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Story Of NYC Lawyer Who Went To Prison For Blinding His Girlfriend Then Married Her After His Sentence Resurfaces Again

Crazy Love / Dan Klores

Burt Pugach gained national attention in the 1950s after he was sent to prison for blinding his girlfriend with lye after she broke up with him. Fourteen years later, the New York City lawyer wrangled in headlines once again when it was revealed that after all of this, he persuaded his victim, Linda Riss, to marry him.

Now, almost 46 years after their marriage, Pugach’s story is headlining websites again. This time, as a result of his death, which occurred on Christmas Eve, and triggered another bizarre tale.

The 93-year-old lawyer made naional headlines for the first time in 1959 when he was 31 years old and cheating on his wife.

In 1959 Pugach was a New York-based lawyer who began a courtship with Linda Riss who was 21-years-old and from the East Bronx. When Riss learned that Pugach was married and had a daughter, she broke off their relationship. Enraged, Pugach threatened to kill or hurt Riss saying “If I can’t have you, no one else will have you, and when I get through with you no one else will want you.”

Riss reported the threat to the New York Police Department but did not receive help. When she became engaged to another man she was violated by Pugach who hired three assailants to attack her. The attackers threw lye in Riss’s face, leaving her blind in one eye, almost blind in the other, and forever scarred.

Bizarrely, in 1974, after spending 14 years in prison for the crime, Pugach and Riss resumed their relationship and married. In 1976 they even co-wrote a book, A Very Different Love Story. This story gets weirder (and it doesn’t end here): in 1997, Linda supported Pugarch and appeared at a trial as a character witness for him when he was accused of threatening another woman with whom he had an affair.

Linda died of heart failure on January 22, 2013, and in 2007 their story was produced into a documentary called Crazy Love which was directed by Dan Klores.

Now, years later, Pugach is in the news after he died and it was revealed that he left his $15 million estate to a female caregiver.

According to Daily Mail, “the funds have been frozen by a judge after friends and former colleagues accused Shamin ‘Sheila’ Frawley of coercing Pugach into changing his will after he suffered a stroke.”

Court documents obtained by Daily Mail alleged that Frawley, 52, withheld food and medicine from him until he died. “Pugach revised his will at least five times after Linda succumbed to heart failure in 2013, gifting differing amounts to friends, but always leaving the bulk of the money to a foundation for the visually impaired set up in his late wife’s honor.”

Peter S. Thomas, the foundation’s attorney noted that ‘Burt lived his entire life for Linda. I cannot imagine that under any circumstances, as incapacitated as he was, that he would even think to cut out the foundation.”

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