Earlier this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law NY Senate Bill S1351, effectively repealing section 240.37 of the New York state penal law that criminalized loitering for the purpose of engaging in a prostitution offense. Known to opponents as the “Walking While Trans” statute, its interpretation and enforcement was broad and ambiguous, disproportionately harming transgender women of color. In fact, data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services highlights that in 2018, over 80% of the people arrested under this statue were woman-identified and over 91% identified as Black and/or Latinx.
The Hetrick-Martin Institute celebrates this triumphant victory and what it means for members of our community across the state. We would be remiss if we didn’t also offer immense gratitude to Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin for sponsoring the bills, as well as the countless advocacy organizations and their tireless advocates doing the fearless work on the ground.
And still, there is much work to be done. HMI recognizes the laurels of this pronouncement are happening in a moment of righteous challenge to the many forms of systemic oppression our youth face, namely white supremacy, misogynoir, and economic exploitation. As HMI forges ahead to ensure LGBTQIA+ youth encounter a world that is safer and more affirming, we know our work must move beyond repealing laws; it must demand that our leaders erect new ones. Laws that will allow for all New Yorkers to stand fully in their power and dignity, especially LGBTQIA+ youth of color.