Things That Matter

NYC Determines Layleen Polanco’s Death Might Have Had To Do With Her State In Solitary Confinement

As PRIDE month comes to an end, we say goodbye to one of our trans sisters who was taken from us far too soon.

Bedecked in vibrant rainbows to celebrate the vivid woman they’ve lost, hundreds of mourners paid their last respects to Layleen Polanco. The transgender woman was found dead in Riker Correctional Center at the beginning of June. Since then, activists in the LGBTQIA+ community have come forward demanding Justice for Layleen.

Further information about Polanco’s last days are finally shedding some light on her death.

Twitter / @NationalBailOut

On June 7, 2019, the 27-year-old was found unresponsive in her cell. According to the the New York City Department of Corrections, attempts were made to resuscitate Polanco. Unfortunately, she was soon pronounced dead after she was discovered. Though there is no cause of death as of yet, the DOC has gone on record as saying that her death was not “the result of violence or foul play.”

That’s all the information we had about Polanco’s passing until earlier this week. The City of New York has recently disclosed that the trans woman was being held on $500 bail because of charges stemming from 2017. The incident involved a minor charge for prostitution and low-level drug possession.

According to reports, Polanco missed a court appearance for an unrelated charge that happened in April 2019. A warrant was issued for her arrest and Polanco was unable to post bail. Due to this, she was remanded to Rikers Correctional Center. As if this information isn’t troubling enough, we have also learned that Polanco spent her last 9 days of life in solitary confinement.

The information we’ve been given about Polanco’s time in Rikers reflect a woman in the midst of struggle.

Twitter / @ilmeeyat

According to her Rikers’ record, Polanco spent eight days in the prison’s hospital during the first part of May. The reason why is unknown to us because of patient confidentiality laws. However, we do know that Polanco was disciplined for fighting soon after she left hospital services.

Her punishment for this was to be moved to a restrictive housing unit that segregated her from the general population. Aside from the daily three-hour group therapy sessions, the rest of her time would have been served in complete isolation.

Correction Commissioner Cynthia Brann released a statement about Polanco’s death. It reads in part:

“This is a tragic loss and we extend our deepest condolences to her family. We are conducting a full investigation as the safety and well-being of people in our custody is our top priority.”

Polanco’s death has spurned activists, community members, family, and friends to protest the criminal and prison systems.

Twitter / @WhereIsMUNA

Protesters have gathered in NYC throughout June, calling for justice for the late woman. Polanco was a member of the House of Xtravaganza, one of New York’s iconic ballroom scene institutions. Her ballroom community and family have been some of the loudest voices calling for change in the wake of her death.

One of the demands coming from these protests is the closing of Rikers Correctional Center. The facility has had issues housing trans individuals in the past and Polanco’s death is the final straw for prison activists. Criminal justice reform advocates have long been pushing for Rikers’ closing. A November 2018 testimony to the New York City Council also found that the physical and mental needs of trans inmates aren’t always met at the facility.

Additionally, activists have called for the decriminalization of prostitution and minor sex crimes. This is a direct result of Polanco’s prostitution charge. Had she not been arrested in 2017 for prostitution, she never would have been in Rikers, to begin with. If her bail hadn’t been so expensive, Polanco would still be with us. This was all avoidable.

The struggle for Justice for Layleen is far from over. Still, we won’t forget and we won’t give in. Justice for this trans woman is justice for all trans women. We won’t stop until we have it.

Bad Bunny Honored A Murdered Trans Woman During Jimmy Fallon In Simple And Powerful Way

Entertainment

Bad Bunny Honored A Murdered Trans Woman During Jimmy Fallon In Simple And Powerful Way

A trans woman was shot and killed in Puerto Rico after she used the women’s bathroom at a McDonald’s. The attackers filmed her death as they laughed in her final moments. Adding insult to injury, many Puerto Rican news outlets covered her death as a man in a skirt. Bad Bunny, who has long championed for the LGBTQ+ community, used his time on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” to address the misgendering of Alexa Negrón Luciano after her humiliating and brutal death.

Bad Bunny took time during his performance on Jimmy Fallon to bring attention to a trans woman who was killed in Puerto Rico.

Credit: @DavidBegnaud / Twitter

Alexa Negrón Luciano was a homeless trans woman known in Puerto Rico. She was often ridiculed by people on the streets and on social media where photos were posted making fun of her as an oddball. That mockery and callousness of those around her reached a deadly conclusion last week.

According to reports, a woman customer at a McDonald’s in Tao Baja, Puerto Rico claimed Negrón Luciano tried peeping on her as she used the bathroom. She was then questioned by police as people took photos and posted them on social media. Twelve hours later, a video circulated on social media of Negrón Luciano’s assassination as the assailants are heard laughing on the video.

Media reports from Puerto Rico initially broke the story calling Negrón Luciano “a man in a skirt.”

Credit: @TropiSenpai / Twitter

Puerto Rico has long been criticized for the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. Last year, Puerto Ricans and celebrities took to the streets to protest against a “religious freedom” bill that would allow the discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community. The bill, initially supported by then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló, ultimately didn’t pass after strong pushback in Puerto Rico and from around the world.

Not long after the bill was blocked, Governor Rosselló was caught up in a group chat scandal where he and those who worked with him spoke about the LGBTQ+ community and women in disparaging terms. The group chat scandal fueled more protests and eventually led to Gov. Rosselló resigning from his position after growing outcry.

Despite presenting an LGBTQ+-friendly face to the world, Puerto Rico’s anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is still a very real fear for those on the island.

Credit: @AlyssaCortesNV / Twitter

The New York Times has reported that women’s and LGBTQ+ rights have advanced significantly in recent decades. However, an underlying fear of physical and legislative violence has scarred the communities. While some measures to protect LGBTQ+ people have progressed, like an employment non-discrimination law, there is a strong coalition of conservative and Christian evangelicals fighting the progress.

“This has served as a reminder that some of these advances are at risk, that there is still discrimination, that there is still homophobia,” Pedro Julio Serrano, an activist in San Juan, told The New York Times after the shooting death of gay Latin trap singer Kevin Fret. “We can’t forget that.”

This is why Bad Bunny openly correcting the media’s and people’s perception of Negrón Lucian is so important.

Credit: @MommyDearest64 / Twitter

Last year, at least 26 transgender and gender non-conforming people were murdered in the U.S. for being who they are. Mainly, deadly violence is focused on trans women of color with Black trans women dying at higher rates. The real statistics of these murders are hard to track because often the victims are misgendered by the media or family who never accepted them for who they are. So far, in 2020, there are believed to be at least two trans women murdered in the U.S.

Some responses to the performance show the work still needed to break the ignorance and hate around a vulnerable community.

Credit: @anamdelosreyes / Twitter

Trans people, like all people, deserve the same respect when it comes to pronouns and the right to live without fear and violence. Bad Bunny’s shirt addressing Negrón Luciano by name and not “a man in a skirt” is a significant moment in demanding that respect.

You can watch Bad Bunny’s full performance below.

Thank you for standing with the LGBTQ+ community, Bad Bunny.

READ: Bad Bunny Is The Modern Icon The Queer Latino Community Needs And Deserves Right Now. Here’s Why

Students Hold Sit-In To Protest Teacher Who Told Their Classmate To ‘Go Back To Your Country’

Things That Matter

Students Hold Sit-In To Protest Teacher Who Told Their Classmate To ‘Go Back To Your Country’

A group of students at Nicholas Senn High School in Chicago held a sit-in this week to protest a racist comment made by a gym teacher. According to students, a group of students stayed seated during the national anthem and a gym teacher told a Latina student to “go back to your country” in response.

Nicholas Senn High School students in Chicago held a sit-in to protest a teacher’s offensive comment.

According to NBC News, 17-year-old Yésica Salazar said she was at a Hispanic Heritage Month assembly when the Pledge of Allegiance was performed. She and other students remained seated as a form of protest against the anti-immigration rhetoric and policies in the country.

The incident allegedly occurred as the students were leaving the assembly for not standing. When they left, a teacher stopped the student and told her that she should “go back to your country.”

A video on Twitter shows the principal addressing the protesting students.

“I notified everybody within three hours of receiving the report. It is all in writing,” Principal Mary Beck told the students. “It is all time-stamped. I did my job. I continue to follow through based on the guidelines and policies that we have in place. Every time.”

Despite the answer, the students chanted back at her saying, “So, why is he still here?”

The school is predominately Latino and Black.

Senn High School is predominantly Latino and black. According to data, Nicholas Senn High School is 25.8 percent Black, 42.3 percent Latino, 11.2 percent white, and 17.5 percent Asian.

The “go back to your country” comment has grown in popularity since President Trump took office. There have been examples of comment shared all over social media and is directed to Black, brown, and Asian people. There have even been instances when people have used this phrase against Native American people. To be clear, it has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with racism.

People on social media are celebrating the students for holding people in power at their school accountable.

What do you think about the protest and response?

READ: Another Sexist Man Has Mocked The Feminist Protest Movement Sweeping Latin America By Dressing Up As A Victim