The "Walking While Trans" Ban
What it is and what you can do
Officially known as the Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution law, this piece of legislation in New York State allows Police to profile womxn who are standing on sidewalks and street corners, with the suspicion that they are participating in sex work. As a result, many innocent womxn, especially trans womxn and BIPOC womxn, are harassed and arrested because of what they might be wearing, their physical appearance, or where they are standing.
A bill to repeal the “Walking While Trans” Ban was proposed by NY State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Amy Paulin in 2019, and it has just recently begun to gain momentum. It has majority support in both the Assembly and the Senate; however, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins have not yet moved it to the floor for a vote.
In 2018 there was a 120% increase in arrests under this law, with 47% of all arrests across New York state happening in Queens. Black and Latinx women, including transgender people, remain the most impacted.
In 2018, 91% of people arrested under this law were Black and Latinx people, and 80% identified as women.
More than 60% of transgender New Yorkers recently surveyed had previously been subject to police harassment and misconduct, including incidences of sexual assault
Dealing With Opposition
Mainstream society has marginalized, criminalized, and denied the rights and concerns of the transgender community. As a result of being bullied as children, having their gender identity questioned and denied by parents and/or authority figures, experiencing workplace discrimination and being unable to pursue many careers due to the extensive obstacles they experience as part of this community, transgender womxn often turn to sex work as the only way to survive or pay for gender-affirming surgeries. As a result, the stereotype that all transgender womxn are involved in sex work has allowed for legislators and police officers to criminalize the very existence of trans womxn. As trans womxn are more criminalized, more of them are unable to support themselves and turn to sex work, creating a cycle that is difficult to break while laws like the Walking While Trans Ban exist.
The Democratic party at large generally acknowledges these challenged that transgender womxn face, and as a result, many, if not most, New York State Democrats, activists and legislators, support repealing the Walking While Trans ban. Currently, there are two bills in the New York State Legislature that, if passed, would repeal the Walking While Trans Ban; Bill 645 in the State Assembly and Bill 2253 in the State Senate. The majority of Senate democrats are in favor of the bill, and significant progress has been made in the Assembly.
Republicans, unlike Democrats, tend to lean towards transphobic public policies and are less open to discussions about gender fluidity. According to the Pew Research Center, only 20% of Republicans believe that someone’s gender can be different than the gender they were assigned at birth, while 64% of Democrats agree with this statement.
While many democrats oppose the idea of a gender binary, this idea is comforting to many Republicans and it makes many Republicans uncomfortable to recognize the legitimacy of Trans people, and the legitimacy of their concerns, and because Repubican ideals center around safety, many Republicans are opposed to repealing the Walking While Trans Ban as a result of these feelings. Republicans also do not always accept the idea that transgender womxn are cornered into participating in sex work and hold that it is more important to uphold policies that criminialize using sex as a way to make money. Because of these obstacles, the Bills proposed to repeal the Walking while trans ban have faced challenges in the State Assembly
Despite the common notion that Republicans and Democrats will never be able to agree on Transgender rights, it takes time and patience. Helping Democarats recognize that Republicans feel internally threatened by the idea of rejecting the gender binary, and helping Republicans recognize that the transgender community has been extesively harmed by their feeling threatened is the first step in creating more harmony on the gender issue within politics.
Who To Contact
A bill to repeal the Walking While Trans Ban has already gained majority support in the House and Senate in New York. To pass, the leaders of each governing body need to move it to the floor for a vote. Emailing these people can put pressure on them to make this bill a priority.
New York Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Albany Office Phone #: (518)-455-2585
New York Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie
Albany Office Phone #: 518-455-3791