The New York City Council passed a resolution on Dec 10, asking that the legislature repeal a law that has come to be known as the Walking While Trans Ban.
The law has been used by police to disproportionately target trans women of color for how they walk, what they are wearing, and when they are in public. There has been a 120% increase in arrests for loitering since 2018 and black and trans-Latina and cis women make up 3/4th of these arrests, said Council Member Carlina Rivera.
The walking while trans ban has a five-fold detrimental effect on transgender people’s quality of life. It targets trans women of color making them hesitant to go outside, degrading their lives as constitutionally guaranteed. It also makes them understandably reluctant to report other crimes to the police. Additionally, it makes officers dubious of the validity of said crimes and reluctant to investigate those crimes. And once trans women have been arrested and convicted for simply existing it makes them virtually unemployable.
Advocates say that while both houses have the votes to pass A00654 and S02253 there hasn’t yet been enough concern at the state level for black transgender lives to bring the resolution to the floor.
Only the state has the power to end the law, but 2019 legislation to that effect from state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) has stalled in Albany.
Walking while trans bans are a “direct result of Jim Crow laws,” said Association of Legal Aid Attorneys president Jared Trujillo
Trans victims of hate crimes are often treated as criminals by police.
Two transgender women of color were attacked in Queens in June by a pair of bigots wielding pepper-spray and shouting transphobic slurs.
Bianey Garcia and Norma Ureiro—both trans activists and organizers with Make The Road NY told the Gothamist that they were attacked by a man and woman in July 2019 while filming a documentary in Jackson Heights.
During a rally afterward in Queens, Garcia said that 24-year-old Paula Custodio was only arrested because she was being aggressive with the police, and that officers refused to take action against a man at the scene who took part in the violent confrontation. The man allegedly profiled the two women as sex workers and threatened to “make [them] pay” if they came back. In response, police officers advised the filmmakers to shoot on a different block, according to Make The Road organizers.
Less than an hour later, the same man allegedly pepper-sprayed Garcia in the face. She was hospitalized for the attack—which she says was much more severe than the initial assault.
On July, 23, 2019 nearly a month later the man who atacked Garcia after the police left was arrested. Police arrested David Gonzalez, 34, on felony hate crime charges for the June 29 attack, according to the Jackson Heights-Elmhurst Patch
TS Candii, the lead organizer of the Repeal the Walking While Trans Ban coalition, recalled a time when she was living in the Bronx and went outside to smoke a cigarette, but was stopped by police officers in an unmarked vehicle. The officers threatened her with arrest under the loitering law unless she performed oral sex on them.
There are numbers to back this up State Assemblymember Amy Paulin told Gay City News.. Paulin pointed to statistics showing that there was a 120 percent increase in the arrests made under the loitering law in 2018 and 91 percent of the people arrested for loitering that year were Black. In 2019, she said there were 30 arrests in Queens and 13 in Brooklyn, while 2018 saw 77 arrests in Queens, 40 in Brooklyn, and 42 in the Bronx.
Gay City News reports that out gay State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan is leading the effort behind the repeal bill in the upper house, while State Assemblymember Amy Paulin of Westchester is the lead sponsor of the bill in the lower chamber.
Paulin told Gay City News in September that the Assembly was waiting on the State Senate, but said “the word I got back is the Senate has no interest in this bill right now.”
Still, Paulin said during a Zoom demonstration on December 3 that she was confident that the State Legislature would “get this done.”
In a written statement, Hoylman thanked the City Council for backing his legislation and he indicated that he would focus on repealing the loitering law next year.
“I’m grateful to Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the rest of the New York City Council for passing a resolution urging Albany to repeal the ‘Walking While Trans’ ban,” Hoylman said in a written statement. “Repealing this statute, which permits transgender women of color to be profiled and harassed by local law enforcement, is one of my top priorities for 2021. Thanks to the hard work of many advocates across the state, we’ve got enough co-sponsors in each house of the Legislature to pass this legislation.”
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) December 10, 2020