Policing Transgender People

The sources for this research post include a Mic article with facts on the recent murder of Chay Reed, a transgender woman of color, a profile in Rolling Stone on CeCe McDonald – a transwoman of color wrongfully accused of murder, and survey of transgender Americans regarding their attitudes and experiences with the police.  All three sources work to help me explain the issues that transgender people face with the justice system.

CeCe McDonald

Transgender people are forced to contend with a plethora of threats in the public sphere. Already in 2017, nine – yes nine – transgender women, specifically transgender woman of color have been murdered in acts that have rightfully been categorized as hate crimes (GLAAD).  From 2010 to 2016, 72% of transgender people in the United States who were murdered were transgender black women (Rodriguez). woman   The last murder happened two weeks ago.

On April 12, Chay Reed, 29, was shot and killed in Miami, Florida. The first reports following her murder misgendered her, a common error in reporting on transgender murders.  I have already discussed the dangers in being transgender in the US and the violence that these innocent women and men are subjected to; however, what is a person to do if they cannot even feel safe with the police? What if the police are not only neglecting to provide you with the same security that they are presumably giving to every other citizen, but actually making you feel unsafe?

Screenshot of a police training video on how to interact with transgender people

16% of trans women have been to jail compared to the general population (Elderly) and in a survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task force, 22% of transgender respondents reported having been harassed by police officers due to gender biases.  Transgender individuals of color reported 29-39% and 46% of all respondents reported feeling “uncomfortable” in asking police for help (“Criminal Justice? News Fast Facts about Transgender People, Police and Incarceration”, 2011).

There’s no question that the US requires police reforms, #blacklivesmatter has put that at the forefront of the conversation for the past 5 or so years.  What is not getting a lot of coverage though, is the severe mistreatment of transgender people by both the police and America’s justice system.

Cece McDonald after her assault

Black trans teen CeCe McDonald’s sentence of 41 months for second-degree manslaughter AKA self-defense after stabbing a nazi tattoo laden, transphobic, white biker who threatened to kill her and attempted to assault her is evidence of these injustices (Elderly).

Attention and reform are required in order for trans individuals to acquire the same freedoms, rights and liberties they – like every other American – deserve.