The Chicago Police Department has adopted a new policy that mandates more humane treatment of transgender people, highlighting that specifically naming groups of people for protection is still apparently necessary.
The change in policy over at the Chicago Police Department (CPD) came about after nearly two years of dialog between rights groups and the department.
The initial incident that sparked talks saw a transgender woman making her way home from a Lakeview grocery store in February 2010 allegedly harassed by police and (incorrectly) charged with solicitation.
This was one of many incidents reported by trans people in the area who said that the police presumed them to be sex workers simply because of their gender expression. Misgendering and harassment while in police custody also featured in some complaints.
The quietly adopted change to CPD policy came into force on August 22, but only recently came to light.
Signed by CPD Supt. Garry McCarthy, the policy:
- mandates that police do not automatically assume trans women are engaged in sex work;
- states that police should use the preferred pronouns used by the individual;
- mandates that officers will “…treat all persons with the courtesy and dignity which is inherently due every person as a human being;”
- expressly forbids police from using strip searches to determine the sex of an individual;
- forbids derogatory language in reference to a detainee’s gender expression or identity;
- prohibits disclosing a detainee’s gender identity or expression to other detainees;
- stipulates that police cannot use the presence of hormone therapy drugs linked to treating gender dysphoria, or paraphernalia used to transport or administer those drugs such as syringes, as cause alone to suspect a detainee of a crime;
- highlights that police cannot withhold such medically prescribed drugs while detainee is in police custody;
- and stipulates that, whenever possible, detainees should be transported and housed in solitary spaces in order to best protect them from harassment.
However, there are several concerns. The policy still relies on taking official gender classification from ID documents, and due to the fact that gender change surgery is often required to change ID markers, this means trans detainees may still be classified as their birth sex and not by their gender identity. Also, if IDs are not available, detainees could still be classified based on their genitalia.
Genital change surgery is not always required for the treatment of gender dysphoria, and for trans people, who are disproportionately affected by joblessness and homelessness, such procedures may be out of reach even if medically warranted.
For this reason, it is as yet unknown whether a proposed, and somewhat contentious, ordinance that would shore up trans rights in Chicago will be needed. However, with the quiet adoption of this policy — which is doubtless a positive step — there comes a startlingly clear fact: it is still unfortunately necessary to create enumerated or “named” classes of people in order that they are given the same dignities, respect and humane treatment as everyone else. If they are not enumerated, abuses like those mentioned above can and still do occur.
And this, in essence, is the very reason why in the wider scope trans-inclusive legislation like the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act, that was explicitly mentioned in the official Democratic Party Platform released this week, is vital to ensure that trans people are treated as the people they are, and not dehumanized as a nameless, faceless “other.”