New York has set a precedent in recognizing the needs of transgender youth in juvenile detention centers by passing a policy that finally addresses the problems that LGBT youth face within these detention centers. On the day that Governor Paterson was sworn into office, March 17th, a policy was passed that allows transgender youth in the NY juvenile jails to choose their type of uniform, the name they wish to be called, and ask for special housing according to gender identity. The type of uniform and housing preferences will be referred to a special committee who will determine the legitimacy.
Furthermore, this new policy prohibits staff from asking residents their sexual orientation or gender identity and staff are encouraged to talk about what it means to be LGBT. This new policy also calls on the staff to be educated on what and how to use the words lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender appropriately when talking with the youth. When documenting information about the transgender youth the staff is to use the preferred name and pronoun that is chosen by the youth themselves.
This policy is a step in the right direction into understanding the importance of providing comprehensive policy that will cater to the needs of transgender youth. As cited in the NY Times article, in a 2001 report the Urban Justice Center found that “gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth routinely experienced discrimination, harassment and violence in New York’s juvenile justice system.” With this being a reality with many incarcerated transgender youth, this policy aims to make a difference in the treatment and understanding of transgender youth. Moreover, this is an important step in bringing awareness to the needs of transgender folks in general as they are often placed in the back burner of LGBT movements and advocacy groups. This also illustrates the diverse needs of the LGBT community, demonstrating that the obstacles LGBT communities face extend beyond gay marriage and more importantly creates a discourse of not just tolerance, but understanding and education.
Contributed by Stephanie Alvarado, Policy & Research Intern