The article paints a picture of nightlife on Christopher St. that simultaneously relies on and feeds into stereotypes of trans-women of color as rowdy, hyper-sexualized, trouble-making sex-workers. This is a call to action to hold the NY Times accountable for such reporting and to highlight the reality of LGBTQ youth of color in the West Village with dignity.
It is difficult to get a letter to the editor published in the NY Times, which is why we need your help - the more of us who write, the more likely it will be that our voices will be heard.
If you read the article and feel outraged and disheartened, please express it and join us in this effort. Write what you are moved to and if you need support, here are some points to help with your letter:
The West Village: a historical safe public space for LGBTQ youth
** Yes, as the article pointed out, Christopher St. and the West Village neighborhood is a historical safe public space where LGBTQ youth of color and LGBTQ youth from all over have come together for generations when ostracized from their home communities. For more than four decades, LGBTQ youth have found a safe haven and affirming community among our peers on the Christopher Street Piers in the West Village.
However, it is imperative to acknowledge the root causes of why LGBTQ youth are disproportionately on the streets and finding it harder and harder to maintain access and ownership over this historical safe space.
Real issues means we must talk about and address root causes.
Homelessness ** On any given day, there are almost 4,000 homeless youth in New York City. It is estimated that at least 40% of New York City’s homeless youth are LGBTQ, and an uncounted number “couch surf” or are marginally-housed. LGBTQ youth of color in New York City are often bullied and ostracized within their homes, schools, and communities for a desire to be true to who they are. The lack of domestic or familial stability in many LGBTQ young people’s lives contributes to high rates of school drop-outs, homelessness, unemployment and underemployment. In recent years, the New York State Legislature has cut funding to support homeless youth programs in general by about 70 percent. These circumstances lead folks to use a number of strategies to survive in the absence of shelter and affordable housing and living wage jobs and opportunities for LGBT youth. Gentrification and Organizing for Safe Public Space ** Due to rapid gentrification and increased police presence in the West Village, LGBTQ youth of color face increased racist, transphobic and homophobic violence. This means that in addition to homelessness, identity-based bullying, and a lack of services, LGBTQ youth who are low-income and of color, also contend with acute social isolation, harassment, violence, and poverty.
**LGBTQ youth have been organizing for their right to safe public space for over a decade. From testifying at public hearings about youth homelessness to organizing programming by and for LGBTQ youth on the piers, LGBTQ youth are leaders in creating and maintaining safe public space and holding the city accountable to addressing this epidemic of LGBTQ youth homelessness.
Criminalization ** LGBTQ youth who make use of the piers as a public space have reported sharp increases in police harassment, false arrest and racial and gender profiling - usually for just being in the neighborhood. Transgender women of color are disproportionally targeted for prostitution by the NYPD, which often results in illegal and invasive searches and unjust arrests. In addition, the 6th Precinct is cracking down on “Quality of Life” violations, which give police the authority to treat petty offenses such as panhandling, public urination, blocking a sidewalk, graffiti, and homelessness itself as worthy prosecution.
** The NYPD 6th Precinct in the West Village routinely uses excessive measures such as police sweeps, stop-and-frisk practices, checkpoints, subway monitoring, and street floodlights and security towers, to target and intimidate LGBTQ youth, particularly youth of color, trans women of color and homeless youth in the area. Of the nearly 3,000 stop and frisks that happened in the 6th precinct in 2011, over 76% of those stopped were African-American and Latino. Just 8% of the residents in the 6th precinct are African-American and Latino, indicating profiling of people of color, especially queer and trans youth who hang out there.
Sensationalized Reporting Is Not Free – We pay the cost!
** Shame on you NY Times. The cost of such reporting is not only further dehumanization of LGBTQ youth of color but justification for the policing and criminalization of young queer people of color in the West Village.
Please Note: There is a 150 word limit for letters to the editor.
Thus, all talking points won’t fit, which is why the more letters the better! In order for this action to be effective, we’re strongly encouraging you to submit your letter by Friday, July 27th at 2pm! Please do as an individual and/or as an organization. Please spread the word, far and wide!
We would like to track how many letters are being sent, so if possible, please share your letter with FIERCE (via bcc or forward) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you SO much for your solidarity and support!