ATLAH Church Protested: Pastor Throws Verbal Stones
March 31, 2014
Transgender college student Andraya Williams humiliated by Piedmont campus police says enough is enough
April 1, 2014

My response to Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole’s Remarks

By Laurelai Bailey


On  Thursday, March 27, 2014 the “Justice Department” launched a training program to supposedly improve relations with the trans community.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole made remarks here on the issue and ill be copying some of them over to reply to them. His comments will be italicized and in quotations.

“While it is difficult to find comprehensive data, a survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that discrimination against transgender individuals is pervasive: 63 percent of respondents reported they had experienced a serious act of discrimination that had a major impact on their quality of life and their ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally.

Transgender people are reportedly four times more likely to live in extreme poverty than the general population. Too often, transgender people are the target of violent crime, including murder: 61 percent reported they were the victim of physical assault.  Those who escape violence from others may still face self-inflicted harm: 41 percent of the population who responded reported having attempted suicide.

[Data from NCTE’s 2011 executive summary]”

Did you also fail to mention that the majority of the violence faced targets trans women, and the majority of that targets trans women of color? Yes you did. You also fail to mention the level of violence perpetrated against trans women by the police, for example profiling black trans women who posses condoms as sex workers and arresting them for being trans and black in public. Are you going to put a stop to project rose? How about the profiling in New York city?

“But the Community Relations Service serves the critical function of allowing the Department to be proactive — to improve understanding and improve relations before incidents occur.  CRS also plays a critical role in the aftermath of unfortunate events, by working to prevent additional violence by training and educating those on the ground in communities affected by anti-transgender hate crimes.”

How about you stop arresting trans women, sex workers or not for trying to survive? How about you stop arresting black trans women for defending themselves from violent racist and transmisogynistic attacks by white supremacists? How about you prosecute Islan Nettles murderer? How about you stop persecuting trans sex workers? How about you stop persecuting trans drug users? Don’t you have murderers and rapists to go after? You know the people killing and raping us? If you want to “improve relations” with us, the onus is completely on you to stop attacking our community and start acting against the people who want us dead. And you can start by cleaning house internally.

 “Today you will see that CRS’s new training helps ensure that we in law enforcement proactively protect the civil rights of all persons, including those who suffer from acts of hate violence or discrimination on the basis of his or her actual or perceived gender identity.”

That is touching, it really is. But its just words. You have years and years and years of violence against trans women to make up for. The proof will be in your praxis. All too often police measures to end discriminatory practices often just cloak them and make them harder to see. How about you put visual and audio recording devices on every single cop on duty? And if its off during the line of duty, they get fired. Allow the recordings to be available to the public on a searchable website.

“What we are about to see is a cultural training program designed to educate law enforcement about the transgender communities they serve.  It also is designed to foster mutual understanding between law enforcement and the communities they serve, and enhance law enforcement outreach capabilities to the transgender communities by addressing sensitivities, stereotypes, and expectations.”

The onus is not on us to trust you. The onus is on you to earn our trust. Don’t forget this. We don’t owe you shit.

“At its most basic level, the new training will provide tools to enhance an officer’s ability to build partnerships with community members and to work with fellow citizens, who share a commitment to public safety.”

My red flag system is being tripped here. I bet the readers money that this translates to continue persecuting the most marginalized among us while ignoring those who participate in respectability politics.

“We understood when you shared the worst possible – and frankly unacceptable – outcome that the transgender community could face.  Based on the community’s fears about law enforcement’s support and perceptions, too many of you in the transgender community simply didn’t report incidents of crime brought to bear against you. 

This is not a result that can or will be tolerated by the Justice Department, and it runs counter to the very role your community public safety officials want to promote.”

But do you understand why so many of us refuse to go to the police?  Do you realize you are a huge part of the problem? That when police show up they just make things worse? And now you say its unacceptable that we don’t go to the police, instead of saying its unacceptable that the police have acted in a way that earned our distrust and disdain. No your very words betray you, you appear to want to create a snitch culture within the trans community to divide us further. That’s what it looks like to me. Perhaps the praxis will show otherwise, but right now I’m suspicious as hell.

“Over the past several years, the Department of Justice has observed the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, a day to honor the memory of victims of anti-transgender violence and discrimination. 

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to recommit ourselves to breaking the cycle of violence that affects far too many transgender Americans. “

You don’t get to talk about the TDOR until the day you as law enforcement stop adding people to that list or ignore the cries for justice of the families of those on that list. Until every act of violence against transgender people is prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law regardless of who perpetrated it you do not get to use our suffering like this.

You again throughout this entire talk failed to mention the intersection of race and being transgender, the fact that trans women of color face the brunt of anti transgender violence, that trans sex workers who are only trying to survive are targeted for arrest ahead of the people who murder and rape us.

If you really want to help, call a moratorium on the arrest of all suspected trans sex workers. Release and drop charges against all trans people charged with prostitution. Call a moratorium on the arrest of all trans people charged with drug possession. Release and drop charges against all trans people charged with drug possession. The system we live in has painted us into this corner where victimless illegal activity is often one of the only ways to survive and yet you still arrests, harass, prosecute and persecute us for simply trying to continue our own existence.

If you really want to help, leave us alone and focus on the people who do violence to us, work to dismantle the institutional violence you perpetrate not only against trans women, but all marginalized people. Work to dismantle the entire system of oppression we live in. You as human beings have a moral obligation to challenge evil that goes above and beyond your oaths to enforce the law. When the law is used for evil, you must resist. You must challenge. You must do the right thing. Historically you have not however. Historically you have resisted nearly every effort of reform and nearly every effort to ensure inequity is ended when it comes to law enforcement.


Until the day the lot of you clean up house and become a real force for good, I’m going to suggest to the rest of my trans brothers and sisters to do what we have done before.

Don’t talk to cops.

Tip this TransAdvocate!

Writers for the TransAdvocate work hard to bring you news and commentary. If you found this article meaningful, let the author know that you appreciate the work they do with a tip!
  • Nick Davis

    It seems time for a trans woman to become an Attorney General or just make it in politics in general. Easier said than done, I am sure. However, it will be the only way to help bring an end to trans oppression by law enforcement and government in general. What Laurelai advocates in her article would be a good start and more importantly, a sign of goodwill from state government, that signals they are willing to work on trans issues with trans women and sex workers.

  • Delphi Omally

    I for one second don’t discount the details above, particularly when a lame duck state like Arizona commits false arrests for sex workers by having to include a word such as “manifesting” in front of “prostitution”. At least abracadabra would have sounded better. Although sex work includes both trans and no-trans females, apparently the problem has stemmed from trans females being been treated as males, including being integrated with other males when arrested which is extremely hazardous, From there it just goes downhill.

    Law enforcement, despite being required to attend standardized training, serves under the whims of governing bodies that extend from federal to state to local to small campus districts such as colleges. After academy training, and not unlike other occupations, officers focus on specialized areas of enforcement such as traffic (highways), security (campuses/courts), and general (cities).

    Undoubtedly these differences result in often disparate methods of enforcement, despite enforcing common state penal, traffic and other codes. If employed by counties and cities, enforcement includes ordinances as well. Overseeing all of this is the DOJ from a national level and must be careful as a federal body not to interfere too much with state powers of enforcement. Much of the apparently-justified grievances stem from localized enforcement as detailed in the story above. Our story must be told passionately so that it may be heard. The above letter doesn’t appear to place culpability on the DOJ, but is a plea for doing more than passive observance over local enforcement. As Crash2Parties mentions below however, the DOJ has been a fervent ally in many ways and has taken historic steps to make life easier for the trans community. With the DOJ on our side, brighter times are ahead for us.

  • EricaWIP33

    When you actually are a sex worker, you are breaking the law. I’m not going to sit around and cry because some women made bad life choices that affected their ability to keep a legal job, make legal money and be a constructive member of society. Oh, they lost their jobs because they are Trans? Well, hmmm…it seems for every Trans person I hear about going through this, I hear about 2 more who worked their butts off in school, got degrees, have good jobs and who are appreciated by their employers. Oh they have no way to live than to sell their bodies? BS…I know plenty of unemployed people who don’t prostitute themselves out. They have self respect. They have dignity.

    But fine, advocate for them. Advocate for people who break the law, make bad life choices, and who end up in the correctional system. Someone has to, and it’s not going to be me.

    • Friesjones

      Shorter version of EricaWIP33: “There ain’t no racism no more, because that monkey’s in the white house!”

      Sure, Erica, you know of two successful healthy astronaut-candidate trans women for every trans woman you know of who lost a job due to being trans. And some of your best friends are black, and you totally know this trans WOC who totes agrees with you….

      • Delphi Omally

        I have lost a job only…and I do mean only….for being trans. Once I notified my supervisor, the welcome mat begun to be pulled out from under my feet… 2010….in California….and no LGBT/trans group cared enough to make so much as an inquiry.

        For me trans groups are like feathers on a cap……nice to look at but powerless to do anything else……….

  • crash2parties

    Did you forget to mention that it was this same DOJ that also sued Arkansas University in 2012 to make sure they would not discriminate against trans students?

    And did you also fail to mention that it was this same Justice Department that didn’t just give lip service to the idea that trans kids are protected under Title IX and instead, went to court against the Arcadia Unified School District? Here’s the press release, since you didn’t even remark on it:

    Then there was this, which I’m pretty sure you didn’t bring up:
    “The Department of Justice has accepted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s April 20 ruling [2012] that claims of gender identity discrimination are a type of sex discrimination that is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
    of 1964” (in other words, they would be on our side)

    And the next year, in 2013, they kept their word and decided for the always awesome Macy May in May v. Holder. It kinda made a bit of a precedent, according to my legal minded friends. I don’t recall you making note of this one, either.

    First they taught the educators. Then the employers. Now they are *starting* to educate law enforcement as well. I don’t think the current DOJ is the enemy you make it out to be. Not saying they are perfect, either, but damn we T(lgb) people know how to alienate our friends & allies.

    • Laurelai Bailey

      I didn’t mention those things because they don’t change the facts i posted. Doing *some* good things doesn’t excuse you for doing evil. And ive *already* shown that police officers perpetrate a lot of the anti trans violence. These are not allies or friends. Allies do not beat you. Allies do not profile black trans women. Allies do not arrest you for carrying condoms. No. These are not my allies.

      • EricaWIP33

        You seem to paint all Law Enforcement as anti-Trans boogie men. You do realize their are Trans law enforcement officers, right? You do realize that most officers are decent, understanding people who do protect and serve all people, correct? Just because a few bad apples in large metropolitan areas suck, doesn’t mean the guys on my force in my suburb are looking for a reason to arrest me. My relationship with the police has been nothing but cordial, professional and always by the book.

        That being said, I’ll never be a prostitute, I’ll never need to carry condoms in my purse, I generally don’t stay out til 3 a.m. in large metropolitan areas nor am I a person of color who always thinks everyone is out to get them. Yes, a disproportionate amount of violence occurs against women of color, and even more so against Trans women of color. And I am not victim-blaming here, but why is it that Trans women of color are always the victims of violent crime?

        • Laurelai Bailey

          The fact that there are a minority of trans cops, doesn’t alter the facts. That police *as a class* have and continue to oppress trans women.

          And trans women of color are the victims of violent crime because of the intersection of racism and transmisogyny. You say you arent victim blaming but then you go and victim blame.

          And its not prostitute, its sex worker. You dont know anything about sex work.

          FYI sometimes folks carry condoms just to have them handy, you know being prepared. Thats a real thing people do.

          As for being out at 3 am, you do know some people work the night shift right?

          • Delphi Omally

            Before my transition, I didn’t see any transphobia in L.E. , but then it was highway safety and then campus safety I was involved in. I checked out to raise my child at home. Since then, I have read horror stories involving mistreatment of trans persons, but from local general L.E. (city) levels.

            It defies belief that as you say, mere possession of a condom = presumption of guilt. Many persons carry condoms, and are not involved in sex work, as you say. And yes, unless there’s a curfew or martial law being out at 3 am is no different than being out at 3 pm………expect we know that some disagree.

        • crash2parties

          “why is it that Trans women of color are always the victims of violent crime?”

          A: Mostly because they don’t have white or male privilege. Long answer is more complex & involves the usual socio-economic basis, but suffice to say that there is a whole lot of racism, sexism and (trans)misogyny out there and due to intersection, black trans women end up being the recipient of pretty much all of it.

      • crash2parties

        You are conflating local (& probably even state and federal) law enforcement officers with the Justice Department that is starting to raise their awareness and familiarity.

        I have an acquaintance that had connections to local police agencies; he went around and educated them as to what, how and who trans people are. Just that tiny bit of familiarity helped, a lot in officers understanding. Until then, all they had to go on was (quite literally) Jerry Springer.

        Some, many even, law enforcement officers are horrible to trans people. They are also racist, sexist, ablest, classist and have so many other biases that they really do constitute an isolated subculture. There is no argument that they are a real and dangerous problem.

        The US Department of Justice, on the other hand has been exceedingly helpful to trans people over the last 5-8 years. And it would appear they recognize that there is a problem with law enforcement officers. I say let’s help them rather than hinder them with incorrect comparisons to the very people they are trying to educate and correct.

        • Laurelai Bailey

          The US Department of Justice is part of a violent institution. Im an anarchist and i hold no love for the state.

  • Liberty Union Party

    Actually I think that dropping charges and releasing convicted sex workers is not enough. The police and jails should have to pay reparations to those jailed for sex work or for nonviolent drug offenses.

    I am sick of hearing police getting paid time off for violence. I feel police should automatically loose a large amount of pay for any discrimination or violence as a part of the job.

    • Laurelai Bailey

      You make an excellent point.

    • crash2parties

      They usually get paid time off for cold blooded murder, too. Even if the victim was an unarmed person with a non-violent mental illness. But the “internal investigation” usually clears them of all wrongdoing, so it must be okay.

      That is the culture the current DOJ is trying to change. First through education, then if they follow their usual pattern, through other means, is my guess.

  • Jessica

    I do sympathize with those that had to do sex work to survive, this article is being ridiculous. What makes a trans sex worker any more special than a cis sex worker that has similar financial issues?
    This article is doing more harm than it is good for us as it makes it easier for haters to point and say, “See? They want ‘special rights’!” If you break the law, you have to pay the consequences of that, cis or trans.

    I do agree that the DOJ shouldn’t get to celebrate TDOR though, given that they perpetuate a lot of the violence against us. To me, that’s like rapists trying to celebrate rape victim’s day with their victims and claim “understanding and sympathy with them”. It’s ludicrous.

    Beyond that, this reads to me of a lot of anger and bitterness. We do have to give some measure of trust, or we just allow those that persecute us to win. Persecutors thrive on our mistrust of reaching for help, and as such they believe they can get away with it. When they reach that point, they will continue their violence against us and said violence will spiral into something even worse. Cole’s remarks do kind of come off as feel good waffle to me, but I do hope that he will put some substance in it. We need the help of the police if we’re going to get any kind of justice. I distrust cops like many others, and this makes me sad. The whole point of their existence is to help, and if they don’t, they should be replaced with those that are willing to do so.

    The government should fear the people, not the other way around.

    • Laurelai Bailey

      You say that in the same day that a rich white cis man gets probation for raping his three year old daughter because “he wouldnt do well in prison”

    • Megan Welles

      Should we not be angry? Should we not be bitter? Explain to me, in any amount of detail, why we should trust a group of people who have systematically failed us at every turn and sided with those who do us harm? If I get beaten within an inch of my life, I know the police will not help me… and may even find a way to say it’s my own fault that it happened and arrest me. Why exactly would I reach out?

    • Friesjones

      “What makes a trans sex worker any more special than a cis sex worker that has similar financial issues?” -“Jessica”

      Offhand, I’d say it was the additional beatings, murders, arrests, and rapes based on being trans instead of cis, plus the additional joy of a woman being housed with men when incarcerated for survival sex work.

      But you’ll surely have some cute bit of cisophistry ™ to “counter” my answer to your privileged “educate me!” demand. Surely.

    • crash2parties

      “the DOJ shouldn’t get to celebrate TDOR”

      May I make a small request? Please don’t use the word, “celebrate” with TDOR. It’s the sort of thing HRC does when they try to appropriate the vigil in many towns. And then typically, they try to turn it into a combination true celebration (with balloons! and banners!) and self-serving fund raiser.

      • Friesjones

        Exactly, we’re not partying, we’re mourning.

  • Bobbie Jo Justice

    she’s not angry, just fed up. The phrase in this country is LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL.

    • Laurelai Bailey

      Quite right.

  • EricaWIP33

    You’re a very angry person, it seems. Progress is progress, no matter how many steps are taken in a single move. A single step in the right direction, I feel, is better than 1000 in the wrong direction. Is there work still to do? Yes, if course. But just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither with the progress towards making this a nation for true equality for all.

    • Laurelai Bailey

      My point is this, words dont mean as much as actions.

      • EricaWIP33

        You could have just said that instead of going on a long-winded rant like you did.

        • Laurelai Bailey

          Well then i wouldnt have an article. I doubt transadvocate would have accepted a submission of “words dont mean as much as actions yo” and rightfully so. This is an opinion piece but its also based in the factual reality of trans life for a lot of us, with sources. It shows and spells out my points and backs them up with evidence. However if you feel like you could make the same point in a better way you are always free to submit a guest post to the editor.

    • Delphi Omally

      At first glance, and with only a cursory and brief perusal, it really does seem like she is angry—until one realizes that it is a “call to action” article. What Laurelai does brilliantly, without personal animus, but laden with heartfelt passion, is speak on behalf of all of us, especially those without a voice, victims of trans violence. She writes in a way that puts a heartbeat behind the transgender pulse. She employs the tool of the written word, but begs for action. Although my experiences do not include those she mentions, news stories reveal that far too often our community seems to be adversely affected.

      It is a step in the right direction, one loooooooooooong overdue. Laurelai in essence is stating the obvious: “Where you guys been?” Laurelai emphasizes that March 2014, the month of this announcement did not bring any new revelations about trans injustices, expect for this new announcement. Still, as you say, it certainly begins to steer the ship slowly in the right direction.

      • crash2parties

        I agree, but let’s not confuse the issue by assuming that the current DOJ and the local police force are one and the same. That would be like conflating the US Dept of Education (another agency that joined the DOJ in the case against the Arcadia school district & others) with the local bigoted school board that wants to force trans kids to use the nurse’s bathroom and not play any sports.

        • Delphi Omally

          DOJ and local enforcement serve different masters, absolutely, as I explain farther down below.

    • Nika Jewell

      More tone policing and trite cliches. yay. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it took police less than that to ignore the beating and subsequent death of Islan Nettles.

    • Friesjones

      Oh no, not an Angry Trans Woman! Fetch me my smelling salts!