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For queer and trans people of color, the NYPD is the literal fashion police

fashion policeEd. note: This is a guest post from Verónica Bayetti Flores. Verónica is the Assistant Director of the Civil Liberties and Public Policy program (CLPP) at Hampshire College. She has worked to increase access to contraception and abortion, fought for paid sick leave, demanded access to safe public space for queer youth of color, and helped to lead social justice efforts in Wisconsin, New York City, and Texas.

After a couple of weeks of almost all LGBTQ-related news focusing on marriage, I was relieved and pleasantly surprised to read a story in the New York Times about the ways that New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy affects transgender and gender non-conforming people of color:

The elasticity that officers in New York and elsewhere have been given to police quality-of-life violations has had the unfortunate effect of leaving transgender women, especially, susceptible to the charge that they must be engaged in sex work. What we have now, in some sense, is an actual fashion police — an attitude among some law enforcers that attaches criminality to sartorial choice.

Don’t get me wrong, I do hope that DOMA is repealed, and that Prop 8 is found unconstitutional–but I also think that getting stopped and felt up by the cops on the regular is an injustice that deserves some more play than a rich lady who got some extra taxes on her huge inheritance. And the reality is that for gender non-conforming and trans folks, especially people of color, this is every day shit. And it results in disproportionate incarceration and immigration detention–basic violations of humanity in general, but especially so for trans prisoners and detainees. Trans prisoners and immigrant detainees are particularly susceptible to violence on the inside, being denied adequate health care, placed in barracks according to the gender they were assigned at birth regardless of where they may feel safest, and placed in solitary for amounts of time that are tantamount to torture.

The article also highlights the work of grassroots groups Streetwise and Safe and Make the Road New York, two of a few organizations in NYC that are resisting the disproportionate incarceration of queer and trans people of color. Check them out!

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Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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