28 March 2014

Department of Justice To Train Police To Work With Transgender People

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I had to go to my local precinct--the 114th in Astoria, Queens, New York--three times before they would even take a complaint from me regarding the harassment and bullying I experienced from Dominick.

Simply being brushed off, as I was the first time, was bad enough. But the second time nearly pushed me over the edge: two out-of-uniform officers harassed me on their way out of the gym, after a workout.  They made air-smooches, asked me (in a mocking yet menacing way) whether I wanted to "take a ride" with them and, finally, threatened me if I didn't respond to them.  The desk sergeant sat only a few feet away and watched it unfold but claimed to see nothing.  Then, as I was unlocking my bike from a parking meter on the next block from the station, two officers barged in front of me.

"You're not supposed to park there!," one of them bellowed. "This spot's only for officers."

"I'm sorry, I didn't see a sign..."

"Just shut up and go, " the other one yelled. "And if you know what's good for you, you won't come back."

As it was dark and everything happened so quickly, I didn't see the officers badges--or, indeed, whether they were not wearing them or had covered the numbers on them.  The cops who harassed me on their way out of the precinct gym didn't have their badges.

That came about seven years after I'd been stopped and frisked by two men who might or might not have been cops (They were in an unmarked van.) as I was riding my bike home from work on a hot day.

I don't know whether the stop-and-frisk incident had to do with my being trans:  They claimed I was in the projects (which I wasn't, but "so what" if I were) and demanded to know what I was doing there. But I have little doubt that what happened during my second visit to the 114th had to do with my identity if for no other  reason that I mentioned that fact about myself in all of my visits, as Dominick was using it to impute all of the old sterotypes to, in order to spread false rumors about, me.

As you can imagine, I've had no love (not that I had much before), and lost whatever respect I had for, the police until recently.  The only reason why I am now willing to even entertain the idea of revising my opinion of them is that I've met a detective in my church who is nothing like I expected any officer to be.  I think she really means it when she expresses her sorrow over my experience.

We need more like her.  Even for those who, like her, became cops because they wanted "to help people" or "be a positive force in the community", understanding of people whose gender or sexual identities might be different from their own are developed.  (The same is true of most people, I believe.)  

That is why I am glad to see that the Department of Justice has just launched a program to train local police departments to better respond to transgender people.  It is, if nothing else, a good first step:  a recognition of a need. 

Deputy Attorney General James Cole understands that one result of mistreatment is that too many of us simply don't report harassments, assaults or other violations against us.  As a matter of fact, even after that third visit to the 114th, when an officer finally took a statement from me, I vowed to never again report any crime, against myself or anyone else, to the police.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll reconsider.