A group of Queens leaders and transgender rights’ advocates have once urged state lawmakers to eliminate a prostitution-related loitering misdemeanor dubbed the “walking while trans” ban from New York penal law.
Queens Assemblymember Catalina Cruz and Democratic nominee for Assembly Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas appeared with activists to urge both chambers of the legislature to repeal the Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution offense. The NYPD has already directed officers not to enforce the measure, which has been used to arrest people, particularly trans women of color, based on their clothing, gender identity or gender expression.
“It’s your duty to build a New York that is for all of us, not only some communities in particular,” said Make the Road New York organizer Jennifer St Cartier. “We are still being oppressed. Every time that one of our trans sisters is profiled and detained, it is an attack on all of us.”
In 2018, 49 percent of people charged with Loitering for the Purpose of Prostitution were Black and 42 percent were Latino.
“I live in a community here in Jackson Heights that has been terrorized by the police under the guise of safety,” said Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, who won the Democratic primary to represent Assembly District 34 in June. “This law has given police carte blanche to target our immigrant, transgender and queer community simply for existing.”
Over the past two years, New York City’s district attorneys have decided not to prosecute the offense, but trans women say they still fear being profiled without legislative action.
“As a trans, Latinx woman in Jackson Heights, for over 14 years I have lived the violence that exists, between the police intimidation and patriarchy that impacts our community,” Make the Road organizer Bianey Garcia said in Spanish. “[Trans community members] tell us they are afraid to express their gender, to wear anything sexy or put heels on for fear of being arrested.
“I’m here to demand that the lawmakers listen to our voice,” she added. “There still hasn’t been enough done.”