Stand with Monica: Stop Profiling Trans Women of Color

04/15/2014 Monicajones2

Last Friday, black transgender and sex-worker activist, Monica Jones, was convicted for prostitution-related charges in Phoenix, Arizona. The social work student was arrested in May 2013 by an undercover police officer for “manifesting prostitution" as part of Project ROSE (Reaching Out on Sexual Exploitation), a partnership between Phoenix police and the Arizona State University School of Social Work. Project ROSE has been heavily criticized for conducting street sweeps and sting operations in order to "save" sex workers and for prohibiting legal consultations. Arizona has some of the most severe prostitution laws in the country and Project ROSE has currently arrested over 350 people since 2011.

The verdict has been received with rage and disappointment, and activists have called it out as an example of a "transphobic and racist justice system" that continues to profile trans women of color. ACLU has argued behalf on Monica Jones and challenged the constitutionality of the law.

"In Phoenix, Arizona, you can be arrested for repeatedly stopping and engaging a passerby in conversation. This may, under Phoenix law, be evidence that you are "manifesting" an intent to engage in prostitution. Of course, this could also be evidence that you are lost or canvassing for a political group or simply talking about the weather. The difference between "innocent" and "criminal" behavior often comes down to how a person looks. Transgender women of color are often profiled by police as engaging in sex work for simply being outside and going about their daily routines. Amnesty International documented this disproportionate targeting by police of transgender women as sex workers in a 2005 report. "[S]ubjective and prejudiced perceptions of transgender women as sex workers often play a significant role in officers' decisions to stop and arrest transgender women," the report concluded. One woman told Amnesty, "'No tenemos el derecho a vivir.' (We don't have the right to live.)."

Learn more on how to support support Monica Jones.

To honor the resilience of black women in the U.S, Deep Dish TV has made available some of our early videos from 1991, where black women discuss class and gender, sexual politics and overarching racism, and refuse to remain invisible through their artivism.

Watch them here: Black Women, Sexual Politics, and the Revolution and Invisible Women

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