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An Inadvertent Legacy: Transphobia and the Criminal Justice System

Restricting the latitude to which law enforcement may detain citizens through selective profiling is an essential necessity that fortifies the safety of transgender people in concern to policing— but the social impressions made by systemic legislation still leave behind an uncertain legacy of collective stigma in the country, and leaves all matters of which that has influence over unaccounted for. The system of American policing tragically sustains precedents of injustice within and not limited to gender- and race-based selective profiling, interpersonal marginalization, and governmental disillusionment for the entirety of the transgender community, and especially for those whose gender identities intersect with the exploitation of their identities as members of racial minorities.


So far as all spheres outside the law are concerned, there is not enough socially distinguishable of the country before and after issuing certain legal reforms intended to dismantle race and trans-selective profiling, therefore, no transgender person is truly liberated from the struggle for justice until the transition from systemic decriminalization to social destigmatization is actively pursued.


A greater public consciousness over the corruption of America’s criminal justice system accrued greatly over the past few years, and the momentum of civil action propelled demands to repeal what came to be known colloquially as the “Walking While Trans” ban. Enacted in 1976 as the “Loitering Under the Purpose of Prostitution” law in New York and California, the law fundamentally sanctions for the prosecution of sex workers to the discretion of the police, but its broad provisions also exacerbate a disproportionate policing of transgender people— and particularly against women of color, with 91% of those arrested under the statute reported to be Black or Latine according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.


Though recently revoked in both states, the inherently outdated theory of the law still reverberates deeply across America, far beyond its original jurisdiction. The social aftermath of transphobic legislation is an irreversible constant of indignity. Amending outdated legislation in the interest of necessity does not amend for the forcible coercion of transgender people into the trans-exploitative legal complex, and they are all are continually beset with disproportionate rates of discrimination in every domain.


Within incarceration, trans-identifying people are much more likely to face abuse in the law through neglect by police officials as the dysphoric conditions of rigid single-sex corrections facilities compel them to concede to the mentally destructive alternate of solitary confinement, and in the workplace setting, are less favored by employers to less competent candidates in 48 percent of cases, according to the Center of American Progress and the Movement Advancement Project. The resultant concept of “transgender inferiority,” as both an internalized and socially nationalized ordeal, inevitably severs the accessibility that transgender people have over the vital necessities to living in their country.


Any prospect of a virtual justice requires holding a considerable measure of accountability toward the law to restitute for its social devastations against the transgender community, but the pragmatic responsibility to proactively pursue equity meanwhile depends on the individual, in their role to destigmatize the trans identity both internally and communally. Looking beyond its superficial plausibility, legal revocation is not where the defining threshold of social necessity should begin — efforts within restoration and empowerment are.


Works Cited

“Senate To Repeal ‘Walking While Trans’ Law.” The New York State Senate, February 2, 2021.

“Unjust: How the Broken Criminal Justice System Fails Transgender People.” Movement

Advancement Project, May 2016.

“USA: Stonewalled: Police Abuse and Misconduct against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and

Transgender People in the U.S.” Amnesty International, September 21, 2005. https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr51/122/2005/en/.

Kurzius, Rachel. “Report: Transgender Job Applicants in D.C. Face Staggering Discrimination

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