Little of the rebuilding effort in New Orleans addresses the unique needs of the local LGBTQ community, especially Queer People of Color (QPOC). QPOC, often marginalized within their own communities, are also vulnerable to discriminatory criminal justice policies.
Research shows that Transgender People of Color in New Orleans are often targeted by the police for their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and many are frequently profiled as sex workers. Predictably and sadly, these encounters often lead to incarceration, and QPOC youth are no exception. At least 20% of young people in Louisiana juvenile detention centers are LGBTQ, many of whom were jailed for minor infractions. This is due mainly to the over-criminalization of low-level behaviors for QPOC.
For example, in 2014 the Louisiana legislature made panhandling a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $200 and up to six months in jail. Panhandling is a crime of poverty and homelessness, a condition to which many LGBT youth are often subject because many are pushed out of their homes and are not accepted in their families due to their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Rather than resolve the crisis in housing in New Orleans or deal with the underlying issues of LGBT discrimination, politicians resorted to criminalizing the state’s most vulnerable people.
There is room for hope. As part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s 2012 Consent Decree with New Orleans Police Department (NOPD). DOJ identified racial, ethnic and LGBT bias in New Orleans policing practices in its 2010 investigation and as a result, the Consent Decree includes guidelines for how NOPD must interact with the LGBTQ community. These guidelines ban the use of derogatory terms toward LGBTQ individuals and mandate that officers not use an individual’s gender identity as reasonable suspicion or probable cause that the individual is engaged in a crime.
Still, policy changes are only a step in the right direction and the struggle to make the lives of QPOC matter continues in New Orleans today. Just 5 months ago, Penny Proud, a 21-year-old black Trans woman, was fatally shot by an unidentified assailant in the Tremé district of New Orleans. She became the fifth transgender woman of color murdered within the first five weeks of 2015 in the United States.
|20%||Percentage of Louisiana juvenile detention center population that is LGBTQ|
|87%||Transgender People of Color reported that they have been approached by police compared to 33% of whites|
|75%||Transgender people of color reported that they feel they have been targeted by police for their sexual orientation or gender identity or gender expression, compared to 24% of whites.|
|54%||Transgender people of color have been assumed to be in the sex trade, compared to 17% of whites.|
|43%||Transgender people of color reported that they have been called homophobic expletives by police compared with 11% of white respondents.|
|HB1158||Outlawed Panhandling and Criminalized Solicitation. Target of the bill were those perceived as homeless sex workers.|
|FIND OUT MORE||We Deserve Better: A Report on Policing in New Orleans by and for Queer and Trans People of Color|
|NOPD Consent Decree|
|New Orleans Sees Fifth Trans Woman of Color Murdered in U.S. in 2015 (The Advocate, February 10, 2015)|