Trans Youth Arrests at Port Authority

Demonstration on October 25 following police bathroom harassment at bus terminal

The arrest of three transgendered clients of Sylvia’s Place, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth, for using a Port Authority women’s room will be protested at a demonstration outside the bus terminal on Eighth Avenue at 41st Street on Wednesday, October 25 at noon.

Kate Barnhart, director of the shelter, run by the Metropolitan Community Church/NY in its Midtown building, said that Yasmina (whose birth name was Edwin) Rodriguez, 19, Britney (Nicholas) Haag, 21, and Kailah (Anthony) Hayes, 22, were charged with trespass on October 3.

“One of the cops, an Officer Robles, said to them, ‘I wouldn’t want my wife in here with you things,’” Barnhart said.

The case is similar to the harassment that Helena Stone, a transgendered phone company employee who works in Grand Central Terminal, endured when she tried to use the women’s room there this past winter. The Metro North police agreed to stop harassing and arresting her for using that restroom.

In the Port Authority case, Officer Robles called the youths out of the women’s room and they told him, “We identify as women. We’re transgendered.” He allegedly replied, “I don’t give two shits what you identify as, you’re still a man,” and cuffed them. The youths cited New York City law which forbids discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

According to the account provided by the young people, they were paraded through a crowd of onlookers while several officers laughed at them. One cop said to Britney, “Hey, do you know how much the operation costs because he [indicating another cop] is thinking of getting it.”

Robles is said to have told the arrestees, “There is no law that allows men to be in the women’s bathroom. If there is, teach me.” He then turned to someone in the precinct and said, “You’re supposed to be the trans issues guy, do you know anything about a bathroom law protecting these freaks?” The reply he got was, “It’s pretty dicey.”

After threats they would be taken downtown and placed in lock-up with men, the youths were finally let go with summonses because the computers were down. During their wait, they were allegedly subjected to ridicule by several officers who passed through the room where they were being processed.

In a separate incident, Ulysses Cortez, 18, also a client at Sylvia’s Place, was given a summons for trespass for using the men’s room in the terminal without being in possession of a bus ticket. Tony Ciavolella, a spokesman for the Port Authority, said it was not their policy to arrest people using their restrooms without a bus ticket since there are retail shops in the terminal.

An Officer Carini who cited Cortez allegedly searched him, found a gay-related publication among his effects, and called him a “faggot.”

Barnhart said her group is looking to file a civil suit against the Port Authority in the transgender case.

“The young people were traumatized,” she said. “For some, it was their first arrest. The Port Authority police need sensitivity training and training on what the law is in New York. Some of our kids carry around a copy of the law, but it shouldn’t be their responsibility to educate the cops.”

The Port Authority’s Ciavolella said of the report on abuse of the transgendered youths, “The police inspector is very concerned and is looking into it.”