Editors' Notes

Maria Damon and Michelle Greenblatt
Jim Leftwich and Michelle Greenblatt
Sheila E. Murphy and Michelle Greenblatt

A Visual Conversation on Michelle Greenblatt's ASHES AND SEEDS with Stephen Harrison, Monika Mori | MOO, Jonathan Penton and Michelle Greenblatt

Letters for Michelle: with work by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, Jeffrey Side, Larry Goodell, mark hartenbach, Charles J. Butler, Alexandria Bryan and Brian Kovich

Visual Poetry by Reed Altemus
Poetry by Glen Armstrong
Poetry by Lana Bella
A Eulogic Poem by John M. Bennett
Elegic Poetry by John M. Bennett
Poetry by Wendy Taylor Carlisle
A Eulogy by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Vincent A. Cellucci
Poetry by Joel Chace
A Spoken Word Poem and Visual Art by K.R. Copeland
A Eulogy by Alan Fyfe
Poetry by Win Harms
Poetry by Carolyn Hembree
Poetry by Cindy Hochman
A Eulogy by Steffen Horstmann
A Eulogic Poem by Dylan Krieger
An Elegic Poem by Dylan Krieger
Visual Art by Donna Kuhn
Poetry by Louise Landes Levi
Poetry by Jim Lineberger
Poetry by Dennis Mahagin
Poetry by Peter Marra
A Eulogy by Frankie Metro
A Song by Alexis Moon and Jonathan Penton
Poetry by Jay Passer
A Eulogy by Jonathan Penton
Visual Poetry by Anne Elezabeth Pluto and Bryson Dean-Gauthier
Visual Art by Marthe Reed
A Eulogy by Gabriel Ricard
Poetry by Alison Ross
A Short Movie by Bernd Sauermann
Poetry by Christopher Shipman
A Spoken Word Poem by Larissa Shmailo
A Eulogic Poem by Jay Sizemore
Elegic Poetry by Jay Sizemore
Poetry by Felino A. Soriano
Visual Art by Jamie Stoneman
Poetry by Ray Succre
Poetry by Yuriy Tarnawsky
A Song by Marc Vincenz

Join our Facebook group!

Join our mailing list!

Gender Violence: Police profiling, harassment, and violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people
by Jordan Flaherty

The modern gay rights movement was born on June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, on Christopher Street in New York City's West Village. Resistance broke out in response to a violent police raid against the gay community, and riots continued for several days. Many of the key leaders were transgender women, such as Sylvia Rivera, who had started her activism during the 1950s civil rights movement and continued until her death in 2002.

More than 40 years later, even in a place long considered a haven for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, many LGBT individuals are still living in fear of police violence.

Mitchyll Mora, a young activist, said police had harassed him for dressing feminine, and his friends for not fitting into narrow gender roles.

"Christopher Street is a historic location, and it's always been a haven for queer folks, especially young folks of color. But with gentrification, there's been aggressive policing here, and that's a really scary thing," Mora told us. "It's scary when safe spaces are taken away from us."

It's not just in New York City. A 2012 study by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs found that transgender people across the U.S. experience three times as much police violence as non-transgender individuals. Those numbers are even higher for transgender people of color. Even when transgender people were the victims of hate crimes, 48 percent reported receiving mistreatment from the police when they went for help.

Andrea Ritchie, an attorney specializing in police misconduct, told us that law enforcement sees policing gender roles as part of their work.

"I think most people are familiar with racial profiling," she told us. "But I think people are less familiar with how gender is really central to policing in the United States. That includes expectations in terms of how women are supposed to look, how men are supposed to look, how women are supposed to act and how men are supposed to act."

When people look or act queer or gender nonconforming, she said, police "often read that as disorder and they often perceive that person as already disorderly, as already suspicious, as already prone to violence."

Dean Spade, a lawyer and founder of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a poverty law center that represents transgender people, agrees. "That's part of what policing is—is this kind of generalized suspicion," he said. "Does something look out of place? And transgender people are often that thing that looks out of place."

Transgender Americans are also more likely to be poor and homeless, because of discrimination in jobs, housing and access to social services.

"If you are poor and you can't access those things, you're more likely to be poor and on the street which puts you in the path of the police," said Spade.

For transgender Americans, this cycle of poverty, homelessness and prison can start early, since many are rejected by their families as teenagers, and end up in foster care and the juvenile justice system. "Those systems are predictors for the adult punishment systems," Spade said. "Let's say a young trans girl is placed in a boys' group home, and she doesn't feel safe there. She leaves, so she's possibly living on the street, doing whatever she can to get by. Then she ends up in the criminal justice system."

More hate crime laws might seem like one way to better protect transgender Americans. But advocates point out that much of the violence trans communities face is at the hands of the police itself. "And so the notion that expanding that system's power to punish will somehow save us is really harmful," Spade explained.

Advocacy organizations are working to change the discrimination LGBT people face. The group TransJustice, for example, trains transgender New Yorkers on their on their rights in interactions with police.

But it isn't just the police who have attitudes that hurt the LGBT community, advocates told us. The media is guilty too. One example advocates gave was the case of the New Jersey Four.

In 2006, a group of black lesbians from New Jersey were arrested for stabbing a man on Sixth Avenue in the West Village.

The women said a man, Dwayne Buckle, made crude sexual advances that they rejected, telling him they were lesbians. In response, they said, he spat at them and tried to choke two of the women. A fight ensued, and Buckle was stabbed in self-defense, they said. Buckle contended that he made a flirtatious remark as the women walked by, and they then attacked him, without his provocation.

"The police responded to the scene and read the women not as people who were survivors of a violent attack, but as perpetrators of violence," Ritchie told America Tonight. "This was because they were young, because they were black, because they were gender nonconforming."

In 2007, four of the women were convicted of gang assault. The following year, two of those convictions were overturned.

We spoke to two members of the Jersey Four, Patreese Johnson, who served almost eight years in prison, and Renata Hill, whose assault conviction was vacated. Looking at these women, it was hard to imagine the severe sentences they had received. Patreese is under five feet tall hardly seems threatening. They described a legal system stacked against them from the beginning. They said the police immediately profiled them as criminals, a newspaper called them "killer lesbians," Fox News called them a lesbian gang, and the prosecutor called them animals.

"Now this is a group of girls who never had any criminal history," said Hill. "Who was in school and college, working, family, with our own apartments, everything. And none of that was spoken about."

No reporter tried to reach out to their attorneys to try to get their story, according to Johnson. "What they had was off of assumptions in the police reports," she said. "None of our statements were considered, so we were automatically found guilty throughout the media."

Jordan Flaherty is a producer at Al Jazeera English and the author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance From Katrina to the Jena Six. This article was originally published on the Al Jazeera America web site. Reprinted with permission.

Pin It       del.icio.us