Things That Matter

Bronx District Attorney Will Not Be Bringing Up Charges

Update June 8, 2020, 04:06 p.m. PST: The Bronx district attorney has announced that there is no criminality in the death of trans Afro-Latina inmate Layleen Polanco. The trans woman died while in solitary confinement at Rikers Island one year ago.

People are angry after Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark will not be pressing charges in Layleen Polanco’s death.

Polanco died while in custody at Rikers Island in New York when she died. The June 5 press release announced that no criminal charges will be filed against any of the guards in connection with Polanco’s death. Towards the end, the press release deadnames Polanco, a move made by media and reporting agencies that has caused anger within the LGBTQ+ community. To deadname a trans person is to use the person’s name at birth that does not correspond with the person’s gender and identity at the time of death.

“The purview of this Office is not to determine whether it was a wrong decision to place Ms. Polanco into Punitive Segregation while she was suffering from a documented seizure disorder,” reads a statement from DA Clark in the press release. the purview of this Office is to determine whether that decision rose to the level of criminal behavior. After an in-depth investigation by my Public Integrity Bureau, we have concluded that we would be unable to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that any individual committed any crime associated with Ms. Polanco’s demise. We will not be seeking any criminal charges related to this devastating event. I want to thank Ms. Polanco’s family for their patience and cooperation throughout the entirety of the investigation.”

The decision is reminding people that Black trans women are facing severe violence at the hands of police.

Black Lives Matter is organizing people across the world to demand police reform. Thousands of Americans gathered this weekend in various cities across the country demanding justice for Black lives following the death of George Floyd. New Yorkers are angry that a trans woman died in solitary confinement and one year later there is no justice for Polanco.

Update reporting provided by Jorge Rodriguez-Jimenez

Original: 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.

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More Anti-Trans Bills Have Been Introduced in 2021 Than Any Year in History

Things That Matter

More Anti-Trans Bills Have Been Introduced in 2021 Than Any Year in History

Trans rights are under siege in over half of the United States this year, as 28 states have proposed one or more anti-trans bills. The bills range from banning trans children from playing on sports teams to prohibiting doctors from giving trans youth life-saving care. 

Despite winning the White House and both houses of Congress, we cannot grow complacent. Now is the time for others from the LGBTQ community and allies to stand up and protect our trans brothers and sisters.

At least 28 states have proposed anti-trans legislation that could severely harm the community.

Less than three months into the new year, Republican lawmakers have already introduced a record number of anti-trans bills across the country.

According to a report published Monday by Axios, at least 73 pieces of legislation have already been put forward in state legislatures targeting members of the transgender community. Of those proposals, 65 specifically single out trans youth, such as bills prohibiting the kinds of medical care doctors can offer trans minors and others seeking to limit the participation of trans student athletes in school sports. 

Notable examples include legislative efforts by South Dakota and Mississippi, both of which passed bills in the past week blocking trans girls from competing in school athletics in accordance with their gender identity. After being approved by their respective Houses and Senates, their governors have vowed to sign them.

These would be the first bills of their kind to become law in the U.S. after numerous attempts to pass anti-trans sports bills in previous years. In 2019, a bill targeting trans student athletes failed in the South Dakota House by just one vote.

LGBTQ+ advocates are warning that the influx of this type of legislation will harm trans and nonbinary youth.

Trans advocates and experts argue that bills like this do not protect young trans people, and recent studies support this. In February, the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a report which argued that banning the trans community from certain sports programs would deprive an entire group of people of the benefits of athletics, including lower risks of depression, anxiety, and drug use. Despite so many states introducing legislation targeting trans youth in sports, the report also found that the argument of an “unfair advantage” does not actually hold up to data-driven scrutiny.

“This has been a significant part of my work at the ACLU for the past six years and I’ve never seen anything like this,” Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU, told CNN. “There have never been this many bills targeting trans youth voted out of committee and then making it to the floor.”

There is widespread opposition to anti-trans bills, and not just from LGBTQ+ civil rights groups. More than 55 major corporations have endorsed a statement against these bills and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in general; they include Facebook, Pfizer, Microsoft, AT&T, Apple, Dell, American Airlines, and many more. Nearly 550 college athletes have signed a letter to the National Collegiate Athletic Association demanding that championship games be pulled from states that have anti-trans sports laws or are close to enacting them. More than 1,000 child welfare groups have taken a stand against legislation that would keep trans youth out of school sports or deny them health care.

States that enact anti-LGBTQ+ legislation often experience boycotts, as was the case with North Carolina and its anti-trans “bathroom bill” in 2016 and Indiana with its discriminatory religious freedom law in 2015. The former has now been repealed, the latter amended.

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Trans Latina’s Account Of Transphobic Treatment At TSA Goes Viral— ‘Solution was to ask me if I wanted to be scanned as a man’

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Trans Latina’s Account Of Transphobic Treatment At TSA Goes Viral— ‘Solution was to ask me if I wanted to be scanned as a man’

The TSA has long come under fire for its mishandling of minorities. From their treatment and suspicion of certain ethnicities to their mishandling of binary scanning technology, it’s no secret that TSA officers are lacking in awareness when it comes to certain issues. This is particularly true when it comes to nonbinary and trans people. In fact, recently a ProPublica investigation revealed that trans people are often forced to endure invasive searches by the TSA in airports.

In some of the worst cases, trans people have reported being forced to show their genitals to simply fly.

Rose Montoya, an Arizona-based, Hispanic, bisexual, nonbinary trans model recently recalled an experience with TSA that was extremely transphobic.

In the viral TikTok video, which has racked up over three million views, Montoya recalled her experience with airport security and underlined why “we need to change how the scanners function and educate TSA about trans people”.

Speaking about the recent incident, Montaya recalled how “going through the scanner, there’s a male and female scanner for the TSA checkpoint… But going through the scanner, I always have an ‘anomaly’ between my legs that sets off the alarm. So she asked me if I had anything in my pants and I say, ‘No’, so she said, ‘Maybe it’s just the metal buttons on your shorts.’”

“So I went through the scanner again but I set off the alarm again, so I said I am trans woman and to just pat me down,” she explained. “Her solution was to ask me if I wanted to be scanned as a man instead. I didn’t, but I ended up doing it. And my boobs set it off, because of course. So I tried to make a joke out of it and said don’t worry, there’s just a bunch of plastic in there. Then she said we have to pat you down and asked if I would prefer a man to do it. I said absolutely not.”

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Montoya was recently traveling from Phoenix to Los Angeles to visit her boyfriend when she was subjected to humiliation by TSA.

Montoya’s experience sparked a conversation on TikTok and Instagram, where many trans people shared similar experiences with TSA.

a“It’s been proven that the system we have in place is broken and doesn’t work,” she emphasized. “We also need to train people on how to treat trans people. If I tell you I’m a trans woman, it most likely means I want to be scanned as a woman, treated as a woman, and patted down by a woman.”

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