Transgender New Yorkers and local elected officials banded together Thursday morning for a virtual rally calling for the repeal of an anti-loitering law that’s come to be known as the “Walking While Trans” ban.
On the books since 1974, transgender advocates say the statute under Penal Law Code Section 240.37 gives police officers the authority to disproportionately target transgender residents under the guise of preventing prostitution. People can be detained and/or arrested for the length of one’s skirt or if a bra strap is visible, leaving many in the LGBTQ community to feel unsafe simply walking through the city streets.
Prior to a City Council Committee on Women and Gender Equality hearing Thursday on two resolutions calling for the “Walking While Trans” ban’s repeal, Council Member Carlina Rivera and the Walking While Trans Ban Coalition hosted a press conference through Zoom, allowing those it affects and lawmakers, who plan to vote on the bill, the opportunity to air their grievances.
TS Candii, the founder of Black Trans Nation, led the discussion and shared her experiences as an advocate and witness to the atrocities occurring under this law.
“I am happy that we are finally holding a hearing on these important resolutions. We can build a real momentum to get this law removed at the state level,” TS Candii said. “It is unacceptable that in our city, in our state, after the year we just experienced, that New York State still permits police to target New Yorkers solely for their gender expression, and frankly their existence. The “Walking While Trans” Ban must be repealed, and New Yorkers who have been previously prosecuted deserve to have their records sealed.”
In attendance were several elected officials who each highlighted how this law further oppresses the Black and Latino communities, and that the pandemic has revealed the extreme disparities that they already face. Many Transgender individuals face discrimination when applying for jobs, and speakers shared how this law exacerbates social stigmas.
Over a year ago, Rivera introduced council resolutions calling to repeal the “Walking While Trans” Ban.
“For years this law has been used by police officers to arbitrarily single out and arrest people suspected of prostitution and has specifically been used to discriminatorily target Black and Latino trans communities,” Rivera said, describing how officers profile these individuals in low-income neighborhoods when they are simply socializing.
“A single violation under this law can follow someone for the rest of their lives. It is one of only two violations in the entire state penal code that can never be sealed. That could lead to the denial of a green card, public housing, or other critical lifesaving benefits,” Rivera added.
The hearing will discuss two City Council resolutions in support of state legislation sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin: Resolution 923, which would repeal the “Walking While Trans” ban (New York State Assembly bill A.654 and Senate bill S.2253), and Resolution 1444, calling to retroactively seal any prior violations or convictions under the “Walking While Trans” ban.
TS Candii candidly shared that this issue is not just something she champions in her spare time. It is a passion, expressing her personal feelings on the effects of the “Walking While Trans” ban is not something that she can simply cast aside.
“I can’t turn this off. I can’t exist this Zoom and not have to worry about the fear of walking down the street. I have to fear life. I have to fear the world because of my truth, because of who I am. My choice to live with happiness, and due to fashion criminalization, the Black transgender women, and the state being a one-sided state has done nothing but kill us,” she said.