Eight years ago, in December 2005, community members, organizers, artists, friends and sweethearts poured through the doors of a small gallery on the Lower East Side to join the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, founded by Dean Spade, at the first annual art auction benefit, Small Works for Big Change. Today’s Huffington Post carries an informative article about SRLP. “Forty artists donated their art, helping SRLP raise $9,000 to support a movement for gender self-determination centered in racial and economic justice, and to celebrate the dynamic and visionary artists among us.
“SRLP is a collective organization that works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine their gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence. SRLP roots its work in an understanding that gender self-determination is inextricably intertwined with racial, social and economic justice.
“Transgender and gender-nonconforming communities, especially communities of color, face persistent and severe discrimination and violence in employment, housing, health care and education, leading to disproportionate poverty. Because the state criminalizes trans people’s limited survival options, such as sex and drug work, and low-income trans people and trans people of color are already commonly profiled by the police, these factors lead to disproportionate incarceration. In prison, trans people suffer additional harms, including harassment, violence and denial of gender-affirming health care. For trans immigrants, disproportionate targeting and its consequences multiply exponentially. All these factors combine into an interlocking system of oppression.
“Recently, a young, homeless, trans Latina woman came to SRLP to get her green card updated with her name and gender. Shortly after coming to SRLP, she was arrested for sex work. Trans women of color face disproportionate police profiling and arrest for simply “walking while trans.” Deeply aware of the dangers of incarceration for trans women, SRLP staff attorneys successfully worked with our client’s public defender to ensure that she was not incarcerated or deported. SLRP staff also supported her in safely accessing health care by helping her apply for a replacement green card with her name and gender changed, which allowed her to enroll in Medicaid.
“In the past year, SRLP, the Audre Lorde Project, Queers for Economic Justice and FIERCE collaborated to achieve three critical victories for trans and gender-nonconforming people in prison, and for trans and gender-nonconforming youth. These victories include winning the first appellate case in New York to affirm the right of trans people in prison to change their names without providing medical evidence; pushing the Department of Justice to include meaningful protections for incarcerated trans, gender-nonconforming and intersex people within the final rule implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act; and pushing the Department of Justice to create and adopt a gender identity and expression nondiscrimination policy that includes gender-affirming health care coverage for youth and individualized assessments for placement. With allies and friends, SRLP is part of a broader movement that is resisting, growing and thriving.”