The Reality of the NYPD Patrol Guide Changes for Trans* and Gender Nonconforming People

07/06/2012 06:17 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

It has been a few weeks since the NYPD announced on June 12th that they are amending their patrol guide to include information on how to treat transgender and gender nonconforming people.

I am an abolitionist; I believe that the prison industrial complex is not serving anyone, especially people of color and gender nonconforming folks. While I applaud the work that many people, including the NYPD LGBT Advisory Panel and LGBT advocacy groups throughout the city have done over the years, I am still concerned.

The changes to the NYPD patrol guidelines also make the NYPD consistent with the city's Human Rights Law. In April 2002, the New York City Human Rights Law, located in Title 8 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, was amended to make it clear that an individual's gender identity is an area of protection under the law. It has been clear since 2002 that gender nonconforming people are included.

However, the NYPD seems to follow its own set of guidelines and this change to the patrol guidelines was necessary. Theses changes are something that I and many others have been calling for for years. The new guidelines protect gay and lesbian people as well by prohibiting the use of discourteous or disrespectful remarks regarding a person's sexual orientation in addition to a person's gender identity/expression.

However, these guidelines do not stop people from being stopped and frisked. In October 2011, when I was arrested on Brooklyn Bridge as part of an Occupy Wall Street action, I was arrested because of my political stance, not because of who I am. I was mistreated because I am trans but my arrest was not because I am gender nonconforming. According to the NYCLU, in the first three months of 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police under stop and frisk 203,500 times. 54% of those stopped in the beginning of 2012 were black, 33% latino and 89% were found innocent. We need to all band together and be clear that we do not want to live in a police state.

Police misconduct is not just happening in New York, students at UC Davis, in California, were pepper sprayed while voicing their concern over corporate greed. In White Plains, New York, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. was shot dead in his home. In Miami Beach, Florida, Narces Benoit had a pistol put to his head, his phone smashed and was handcuffed for recording police fatally shooting an erratic driver early Memorial Day morning.

People across the nation are being targeted and silenced by police. We need to continue to stand up.

The United States prison industrial complex now houses 2,019,234 prisoners. By comparison, China houses 1,549,000 prisoners. Keep in mind, China has a population roughly 4 times that of the United States. I use China as an example because much of the rhetoric in the U.S. is about human rights issues in China, and the evils of communism in general. The land of the free looks fairly incarcerated to me.

Here in the United States, Ohio State law professor, Michelle Alexander says, "More African American men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began." According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, one in three trans* people in the United States will go to prison at some point in their lives.

The new guidelines make clear that discrimination, harassment or disparaging comments based on actual or perceived gender is now defined as such, and prohibited. According to Speaker Christine C. Quinn's website, "The new Patrol Guide formally outlines that discrimination or harassment based on actual or perceived gender is prohibited by City law. [...] The Patrol Guide updates create a written policy for the NYPD to follow when addressing, processing, searching and housing transgender and gender non-conforming people."

spells out some of the revisions:
  • Defining "gender" to include gender identity and expression as determined by the person in custody, consistent with the city's Human Rights Law. This means that when the NYPD have to determine someone's gender they must do so based on that person's self-identified gender identity regardless of their sex assigned at birth.
  • Prohibiting the use of discourteous or disrespectful remarks regarding a person's sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
  • Instructing police officers refer to transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers by names, honorifics and pronouns that reflect their gender identity (even if it does not match the information on their ID documents) and amending forms so that people's "preferred name" can be recorded and used while they are in police custody.
  • Prohibiting police officers NYPD officers from conducting any search for the purpose of determining a person's gender. This also applies to school safety officers, NYPD personnel assigned to the city's public schools.
  • Requiring that individuals in NYPD custody be searched by an officer of the gender the person in custody requests and, if that is not honored, requiring the NYPD document reasons for the refusal.
  • Holding individuals in NYPD custody in sex segregated police facilities according to their gender identity, even if it differs from their sex assigned at birth, unless there is a concern for the person's safety, in which case they will be considered "special category prisoners" and housed in the place safest for them.
  • "Special category prisoners," including transgender people, will not be cuffed to rails, bars or chairs for unreasonable periods of time.

In an article published in June in El Diario La Prensa, Juan Matossian explains that on June 7, 2012, just days before the new patrol guide was announced, more than a dozen transsexual Latinas said that besides racial discrimination, they have also been victims of sexual harassment, physical abuse, derogatory comments and arrests where they were falsely accused of prostitution.

The revisions to the NYPD patrol guide make it clear that sexualy harrasing, physically abusing and making derogatory comments because someone is gender nonconforming is prohibited. However, as great as these changes to the patrol guide are, they will not stop the false arrests in suspicion of prostitution, or racial profiling. They will not stop the NYPD "stop and frisk" policy. The new guidelines will not stop possession of condoms being used as evidence of prostitution. For these reasons, New York City still has a huge issue on their hands. The NYPD specifically targets black and latino people, and will still target trans* people of color. The patrol guide changes do not change this fact.

Mayor Bloomberg continues to support the ridiculous "stop and frisk" policy. He basically explains that black and latino people are targeted because they are the ones committing the crimes.

Wherever you live, whatever race, sexual orientation or gender you are, stand up against police violence. Stand up against the prison industrial complex. Stand up even if this violence is not something you have experienced first hand. I found out first hand on October 1st, 2011 that you never know if you will be the next person trapped, falsely arrested and mistreated by police.