On America Tonight, Aljazeera America's flagship show, they take an in-depth look at NYPD's profiling of transwomen. "A young white man standing on one side of Sixth Ave with six condoms in his pocket is following good public health messaging. A black transwoman standing on the other side of Sixth Ave with six condoms in her purse is presumed by police to be standing there for the purpose of engaging in prostitution," says attorney Andrea Richie.
The news documentary profiles organizations like Trans Justice and the Silvia Rivera Law Project that provide transgender people with the tools they need to protect themselves against police violence and understand their rights when encountering them. They also spoke to the girls on Christopher about their experience with the NYPD. Through tears, a teenage transgirl named Alasia Farell discusses being harassed by the police. "I finally found who I was in Alasia…and then being locked up for nothing…and then you find yourself locked up in a jail cell full of men…and then the cops remind you of who you are, but deep down inside you know that's not who you are but that's how they see you. It really hurts, you know."
Transgender women are no stranger to police harassment. According to an annual report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs on hate violence, transgender people are three times more likely to experience police violence than any other group and transgender women of color are overwhelming victimized by the police. In New York City, a large part of the problem is the NYPD's discriminatory policy of arresting transwomen, who possess two or condoms at any given time, for prostitution. This is a common occurrence in the city's west village particularly along Christopher street. Ironically, the neighborhood was iconic as the home of the Stonewall Riots and a safe haven for LGBT youth. However, with its increased gentrification the police presence is ubiquitous and aggressive against Black and Latino LGBT youth, pushing further them onto the margin.
Although Christopher Street is a hotbed of sex work, it's important to put that into context. Often young transwomen are abandoned by their families at an early age because of their gender identity. With little to no family support, limited access to social service and housing programs, and rampant employment discrimination against transgender people, sex work is a means of survival. The condoms are for their protection. Not to mention New York City's health department has a huge safe sex campaign that makes free condoms available at drop-ins, community centers, and clubs all over the city. There are also many gay and transgender young people in the village who aren't engaged in sex work at all but the NYPD is presumptuous about only a specific group.
Another documentary, the soon to be released Pier Kids: The Life, documents the same population from a different angle. They follow the story of four Black LGBT homeless youth as they try to survive, create families and discuss what life is like to be homeless and disenfranchised in the most recognized gay neighborhood in the country.
GLAAD would like to thank AlJazeera for covering this issue in a respectful and well-rounded way. We encourage other news outlets to do the same.