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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

Here Are Some Queer Films And Shows To Watch To Start Pride Off Right

Entertainment

Here Are Some Queer Films And Shows To Watch To Start Pride Off Right

posefx / onedayatatimepoptv / Instagram

Pride Month is here and that means it is time to highlight the already celebrated LGBTQ+ shows and movies that have made a mark on us. Since Pride and the COVID pandemic are coinciding, it is a good time to watch some of the best examples of LGBTQ+ Latino entertainment.

“Moonlight”

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, “Moonlight” brought Afro-Latino, Black, and queer storylines together. The movie follows a young Black man in Miami and his own trials and tribulations growing up with a mother who is addicted to drugs. His life is changed thanks to an Afro-Cuban man who takes him under his wing and shows him how to make it through his adolescents.

“To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar”

One of the most popular classic films in LGBTQ+ cinema. “To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar” follows three drag queens who drive from New York to Los Angeles for a national drag beauty pageant. Chi Chi Rodriguez, played by Joh Leguizamo, convinces the two competing queens to let him ride with them. Along the way, Rodriguez learns what it means to be a drag queen and the queens all learn a lot from a small, rural community filled with unexpected love and understanding.

“Pose”

“Pose” brings the ballroom culture straight to your living room. Set at the beginning in 1987 New York City during the peak of the AIDs epidemic, “Pose” empowers the queer people of color of the time. Ballroom culture is an underground dancing culture that has jumped into the mainstream because of “Pose.” The show takes the narrative of HIV-positive people of color in the time and empowers them rather than tears them down.

“Tangerine”

“Tangerine” is the story of a prostitute on a mission. The main character gets out of jail and learns that their boyfriend and pimp has started a new relationship with another woman. So, she and her friend set out to find him and teach the two a lesson for straying from her while she was incarcerated.

“Gentefied”

“Genetfied” is the latest Netflix hit and it is all about gentrification and the fight to keep Boyle Heights Latino. In the overall story, there is a lesbian relationship that is leaving everyone with all kinds of envy.

“One Day At A Time”

Netflix really misstepped here when they pulled the plug on their production of “One Day At A Time” but Pop TV saved the show. The first three seasons are currently on Netflix so you can still watch all of those episodes and enjoy the growing openness of Elena as she comes out.

“La casa de las flores”

This telenovela is truly one of the most incredible projects with LGBTQ+ characters today. Even Valentina, the famed drag queen from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is in the latest season solidifying the shows LGBTQ+ status.

READ: The Trailer For The Final Season Of ‘La Casa De Las Flores’ Is Here And We’re Not Ready To Say Goodbye

A Gay Character Is The Lead Of Pixar’s Short ‘Out’ And It Will Hit You In The Feels

Entertainment

A Gay Character Is The Lead Of Pixar’s Short ‘Out’ And It Will Hit You In The Feels

Pixar

“Out” is the latest Pixar short with a heartwarming story that will make you cry buckets.

The studio-first, stars a gay male character named Greg who is struggling to come out as gay to his parents. Just when his parents come to help Greg move, a “rainbow-riding purple sparkly” cat and a pink dog, swap the dog’s body with Greg’s.

Sounds pretty adorable.

Pixar’s latest short follows Greg while he struggles to come out to his parents.

The short, which is just under 10 minutes, debuted on Friday on the Disney+ streaming service and was written and directed by Steven Clay Hunter. The filmmaker has produced various Pixar films, including “Toy Story 4” and “Finding Dory,” and has been an active part of Pixar’s SparkShorts series. If you already didn’t know, the shorts series are meant to highlight and discover new storytellers and give them space and support to experiment with different approaches to animation.

Of course, users on Twitter were quick to make the hashtag #PixarOut go viral in no time.

Many expressed their gratefulness for having a project that promotes diversity and love, while others lamented not having had access to such a film sooner when they were growing up and coming out.

The new Pixar film opens a pretty big door for Disney and its audiences.

Last year, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)revealed a study that found only 18.4% of mainstream films released in 2018 had included LGBTQ characters. At the same time it highlighted that none of Disney’s releases at the time had an LGBTQ character.

“Out” is on Disney + for you to check out!