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New York Governor Signs Bill To Repeal ‘Walking While Trans’ Ban

by : Hannah Smith on :
New York Governor Signs Bill To Repeal 'Walking While Trans' BanPA

New York State has repealed an ‘archaic’ statute that led to decades of law enforcement discrimination against trans people.

Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday, February 2, signed a bill to repeal the so-called ‘walking while trans’ law, which led to trans people, particularly trans people of colour, and others from marginalised groups being stopped on the street without reason by law enforcement under the guise of prohibiting prostitutes from loitering. ‘Walking while trans’ is a colloquial term referring to the 1976 Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution law.

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According to state senator Brad Hoylman, one of the bill’s sponsors, the ‘outdated, discriminatory’ 1976 penal law statute ‘led to hundreds of unnecessary arrests of transgender women of colour and a broader culture of fear and intimidation for transgender and gender nonconforming New Yorkers.’

black trans lives matterPA Images

A sponsor memo accompanying the bill said that between 2012 and 2015 85% of those arrested under the statue were Black or Latinx, and also revealed that police officers were trained to associate trans women with prostitution. ‘Officers have expressly warned transgender women that ‘girls like them’ would be arrested if they were seen outside after midnight,’ the memo read, adding that ‘one officer, when asked how he was trained to identify prostitutes, testified that he was trained to look for women with Adams apples, big hands and big feet.’

The bill comes four years after a class-action lawsuit brought by several transgender women alleged that the New York Police Department had used the law to unfairly target them, resulting in the NYPD officially changing their guidance in 2019 to prohibit officers from using ‘gender, gender identity, clothing, [or] location’ to justify a stop-and-frisk.

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black trans lives matterPA Images

According to the lawsuit, some trans women were identified as prostitutes because they were wearing a ‘short dress,’ or ‘a skirt and high heels,’ while others were stopped while walking home from the subway or the grocery store. In recent years the state has declined to prosecute cases under the law.

In a statement, Governor Cuomo said that the repeal of the legislation was part of the state’s efforts to reform its police system in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests:

The ‘walking while trans’ policy is one example of the ugly undercurrents of injustices that transgender New Yorkers – especially those of color – face simply for walking down the street.

For too long trans people have been unfairly targeted and disproportionately policed for innocent, lawful conduct based solely on their appearance.

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Cuomo added: ‘Repealing the archaic ‘walking while trans’ ban is a critical step toward reforming our policing system and reducing the harassment and criminalisation transgender people face simply for being themselves.’

If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence contact Mindline Trans+ on 0300 330 5468. The line is open Mondays and Fridays, 8.00pm to midnight and is run by trans volunteers.

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Topics: News, Black Lives Matter, discrimination, New York, NYPD, Transgender Rights

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CNN and 1 other
  1. CNN

    New York governor signs bill to repeal 'walking while trans' ban

  2. The Cut

    A Guide to the ‘Walking While Trans’ Ban