‘Walking While Trans’ Law May Fall in New York, But Legal Discrimination Persists
In the New York State Penal Code it’s known as Section 240.37: Loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostituion press. But for those who are familiar with how it’s actually used—those who have been charged with it, those who feel threatened by it, the legislators working to overturn it—Section 240.37 is called “Walking While Trans,” and after years of perseverance, a bill to repeal the law will soon reach the floor of New York State Senate, where it is almost guaranteed to pass.
BREAKING: The NY State Senate will vote to repeal the Walking While Trans ban.https://t.co/XDP7Ql5vbO— Brad Hoylman (@bradhoylman) January 21, 2021
Instituted in 1976, the law targets sex workers and allows police officers to arrest someone based on any number of arbitrary details: a short skirt, standing too long at a corner, talking to a friend from a car. The law is disproportionately applied to trans women, and specifically trans women of color. In a 2018 interview with The Cut, a trans woman named Raquel described the way she was viewed by law enforcement, simply for being out in her Bronx neighborhood.
“Me being trans, it’s like, I take pride in it,” she said. “But it’s like, people always think of a trans woman: ‘You have to sell sex. That’s your dominant job.’ And that’s not what everybody does.”
“Walking While Trans” is far from the only bill that harms the transgender community. Alabama lawmakers have introduced a bill that “prohibits gender change therapy for minors [and] prohibits withholding of certain related information from parents.” In Iowa, there is a bill under consideration that would require all student athletes to play on teams according to the gender specified on their birth certificate. In Kentucky, Senate Bill 83 would exempt medical workers from performing services on LGBTQIA individuals if doing so “violates their conscience.”
hello, please sign this petition. alabama is trying to prohibit gender change therapy and prohibit teachers from withholding the information that a child is trans from their parents. this is proven to be detrimental to trans youth's mental health.https://t.co/j9RwoN0y0N— mickey/vila | ♫💤🖤🤍🥊HQ (@RANB00AP0L0GIST) December 9, 2020
The good news is that all the information on these bills is publicly available—including the senators who sponsor them. Politicians are public servants, and you are well within your rights to email, call, or write letters expressing your opposition to discriminatory laws that target the trans population. The ACLU keeps an updated list of bills currently in progress across the country, and it links to all the necessary information.
And here are some great resources to follow online if you want to speak up about legal discrimination against trans people.
Sherenté Mishitashin Harris is a trans activist, member of the Narragansett Tribe, and student at Brown University.
I have probably mentioned her efforts before, but Andrea Ritchie’s work on social justice, race, gender, and law enforcement remains, in my opinion, the best there is. Find her on Twitter.
If you have any questions, suggestions for other resources or thoughts you’d like share, comment below or find me on Twitter! Social activism is a collective effort and the louder we get, the more we are heard. See you next week!