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2010 World AIDS day Interview with GiGi for Living Positive

http://www.livingpositive.com/new_page_23.htm

Prejudice kills, again. Too many landlords routinely discriminate against transgendered people. Gigi tells us what it's like not to have stable housing, to be working extra "dates" to pay inflated rent to share a single room with a half-dozen others girls. It isn't pretty.

And once again, prejudice kills. When the medical and social services system works at all for transgendered people, it's because Gigi and others like her have worked tirelessly to educate providers. Just getting into a shelter can be next to impossible. Medical providers may not have a clue what your needs are. The level of violence against girls on the street is horrifying, and sometimes the police make things worse, not better.

 

Positive Voice: Gigi, tell us about transitioning. What made you want to transition for a man to a woman, and what was the experience like?

Well, first, I never expected to transition. But the one thing I always realized was that I was different. At the age of eight I was doing it with my brother's best friend, he was sixteen, and basically he didn't assault me,I ambushed him. I was always attracted to men, I liked the way a man walks, I liked the muscles. But I was raised in the church, and I didn't understand why I was the way I was, I felt like this weird person, I felt all alone. I was walking the streets at night at twelve, my family didn't know, I was trying to find out who I was. Guys used to pick me up and give me drugs and buy me sweatsuits, give me money. And I really liked it, because I'm the baby of five and my mom she always did her best as a single parent, but there was a lot that I wanted and needed. I was looking for love. And my family didn't know about my sexuality, I didn't know how to bring it up to them, my biggest fear was that I was going to lose their love.

 

I have a best friend who's now my daughter, and she was making her transition from a male to a female. At first I couldn't stand transsexuals, transgenders, I thought that was the worst thing in the universe - you're already African-American and gay, and why in the world would a man want to dress up in women's clothes? So I didn't like transgenders. I won't use the word hate, but I despised them. I wasn't educated then, I didn't know a lot of what I know now. My girlfriend Sheila asked me to go out with her for Halloween and I dressed up as a female, miniskirt, cute wig, cut all the hair off my face - and when I went out it was so exciting. Wow, guys were coming up to me, getting my phone number, and this was really cool. I started doing it once or twice a week. But I was still sneaking around, I got on drugs at the age of fifteen, I didn't know how to deal with coming out. I heard in church, God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, I heard all this stuff about Sodom and Gomorrah. I knew I was a good person, I was a loving person, and I was going to Hell and I didn't choose this, this was who I am. Why didn't I have a chance like everyone else?

And growing up in the Southeast, DC area, it was truly hard to be identified as a homosexual or a gay person. I was going out twice a week, my drug progression started going up more and more, because I was meeting more guys that were giving me drugs. I was meeting transgenders with problems in their lives like being homeless, not having a good support system, not having family, dropped out of school, on drugs real heavy, doing sex work and everything else, and I became part of the crew. Started doing drugs very heavily, drugs every day, lost my job at the Washington Post, I was there for six and a half years. I didn't actually do my first dress up until I was twenty-one, I actually didn't start transitioning until was twenty-six, because when I lost my job at the Post I became a full-time sex worker. I came out to the family at twenty-one, and I'm smiling now, but it was all like, it's just a phase, he's such a sissy, it was the most hurtful thing in the world. I was so lost, because my family was all I thought I had for a support system. And it made me do some hurtful things to myself, drugs, sometimes it was a 500 to a 1000 dollar habit a day, and I started transitioning because I thought, you're better than this. I decided to go to a program, because I had to make a decision about who I wanted to be, I still had one foot in being a male-to-female and one foot in being a gay male. And I talked to my Higher Power, my God, and I said, you go into this program as Gigi, this is who you want to be. That's when I made my decision that was going to be a gender queer. I never wanted to be a female, because I knew I'm not a female, I just knew that I was different. And because I like the opposite sex, straight men, I had to dress and express myself as a female

So I transitioned, got myself into drug program, got a sponsor, that was in 1999, and it's been like going up the hill ever since. That's how my transition worked for me, I don't regret it at all, all that experience, it's been a wonderful life. I'm able to talk to others. I have a relationship with my family now. Some of my sisters don't accept me, but my mom and I are best friends. Some of them started saying, you need to go to a men's retreat, but I was getting my breasts enhanced, and then they were saying, well, we could deal with you being a gay man. . . . But I had made my decision. People in the program told me, maybe you should think about becoming female, it's going to be hard for you to get a job, things like that, pushing back at me, and I started having depression but I didn't give up. I got a job, even though they discriminated against me when I first went to work there, I tried to dress down, not be openly female, but I couldn't take off my nails, they saw them and said, we don't need you, we already have someone transgendered.

So it's been difficult. Today when I do trainings I share about my experience, what I was doing at eight years old, I want people to know that their grandchildren, their nieces and nephews may be out there having sex. So watch your children and know what going on with them, and don't beat them up with judgment, but give them support and love. My transition could have been so much better if I had had some support from my family about what was going on with me. I had mental problems. I never wanted to commit suicide, but there were times I wanted to give up, because if I didn't have my family I didn't have no one. In my trainings, I have grandmothers come up to me and say, thank for sharing your experience, becuase I have a grandchild who's going through the same thing, I love him but I don't know what to do with him. I say, make a safe place for him, because you can put yourself at risk. I had someone cut my throat when I was twelve - there are some psychos out there , maniacs, people who want to hurt you - and my family didn't even know what was going on with me. It would have saved me a lot of trauma in my life if I had been able to express myself, to say, Mom, I am who I am. Because when they did find out they turned their back on me, and it made me do things even worse. I'm a loving person, a giving person, even if I'm feeling bad I'll try to put a smile on your face, but I wasn't doing good things for me. I was helping people get into programs, get help for themselves, and basically I needed help for myself.

 

So you made mistakes, but it sounds like they led you somewhere. How did past mistakes become empowerment for you? How did you get into the business of serving other transgendered people?

We all make mistakes in life. None of us are perfect, and you can't judge a person on a mistake or put them down, because we'll all be put down. Sometimes the trials and tribulations we go through in life make us the outstanding people we are today. Picking up drugs at a very young age, looking for love in all the wrong places, has made me so much stronger and independent and able to find help.

When I was a sex worker on the street, getting my life together and going through drug treatment, I saw that to stop one addiction you have stop all your addictions. Because I stopped doing drugs, but I was still addicted to the lifestyle, doing sex work. When I saw the HIPS van, I was so discombobulated I didn't know what they really stand for. I saw a bunch of Caucasian persons on the van, I thought one of their family members had passed away from HIV and AIDS, and they had all this money and were just handing out condoms because they wanted to save someone's life, they missed their family member so much. One day I went up to the van and thanked them for passing out condoms, and I was feeling sorry for them. And this young lady told me, we need someone to come onto our advisory board so we can meet the needs of the sex workers out here. And I said, OK. And I told them about being clean and being in a drug recovery program, and they were just so happy for me. So the love, the caring. . . them wanting to support me, I wanted to support them. There were five or six on the advisory committee, but for the first six months I was the only one showing up, bring them information about the street. I started learning about the organization learning they were trying to intervene, not just to get people off the streets, but portecting them from HIV and STDs and helping them get relocated back with their families. I was like, wow, this is really great. And I started doing volunteer work with them, and then I worked with the case manager, Patricia Novinsky, we had a lot in common at heart. She was like in her seventies, we had this relationship, and she would tell me how she loved how I worked with the clients. If we had a client out there and she was busy, I was the one who worked with them, and she was like, wow, you are the best. It really empowered me, taking my experience and my mistakes, being able to share with others how I had turned my life around. I was touching their lives, it wasn't something I planned to do, it was just the spirit that was in me. And they opened up this position for office manager, sixteen or seventeen people applied for it and I ended up getting the postion, and they told me, Gigi, we didn't just pick you for this because you've been doing volunteer work with us, you blew that interview out of the frame. And when I became the office manager, I also became the case manager assistant, because they loved how I interacted with the clients. A lot of them were coming in on drugs, homelessness, and I could give them information. In the two years I was there, we started with seven staff members, we had to downsize to two because we had lost a lot of funding, they were keeping the executive director and outreach manager, and they told me they were keeping me too. Sometimes you don't see the good things about yourself, but they told me, girl, you wear too many hats around here, you can do too many things, outreach case management, get ready for the audit. Some of us started another organization called Different Avenues for people getting out of prison, and they wanted me to come on board as a deputy director, but the funding wasn't really there, and I was loving the work I was doing at HIPS too much to leave. I went on their board, and I was always very supportive of them, going over there to see how they were doing.

 

So that's how you got into the business of serving transgendered people. It's quite a story! Can you tell us about the services themselves? What kinds of problems do the girls have to deal with, and what do you help them do it? What kinds of situations did you have to intervene in?

Well, the girls would come to me, not just because I was employed at HIPS, but because I had "one foot in and one foot out". HIPS is very non-judgmental, they don't judge you or discriminate against you because they know, if you're still working the street, it's part of your lifestyle. You can get arrested, and they say, heads up!, if you get arrested you can lose your job - but they don't say you can't work here, because they aren't trying to be the police enforcing the law. They try to stay away from that.

And having first-hand experience, well. . . . We were seeing more and more young transgendered women coming out here on the street, homeless, no support from their families, and that was a major problem, because you had five or six, sometimes even ten girls sleeping in a one-bedroom hotel, trying to survive and trying to make it, because honestly and truly they had nowhere to go. Putting themselves at risk with a date, if you say you charge $75 for sex, the date may say I got $150 if you let me have sex with you without a condom. And they think, oh, $150, I can get me a hotel room, I can get me something to eat, I can buy me some makeup. Or maybe I can get out of the room with ten people and go in with three or four people. They wasn't looking at they was putting themselves at risk, they was looking at survival skills. You had a lot of transgendered women that were HIV-positive who weren't identified as positive because of the work they were doing, because they were afraid of how people would look at them or judge or tell - because if you're dating and someone knows, the dates will know, the girls all know, and everyone else, you have to keep it closed.

 

Another thing was employment, it's extremely hard for transgenders to get employment unless you have a high school diploma, and a lot of them were dropping out of school, and them because of their sexuality, they didn't have a name change or still had "M" on the ID - when you go to a job, they'll be like, Oh no, because they don't know how to deal with that.

And on the homeless thing again, a lot of them were having trouble getting into shelters. I would call around the DC area to the men's shelters and to the women's shelters, say, we have a transgendered woman who needs to get into a shelter, and they would say, what is that, we don't deal with that here. New York Avenue shelter was outstanding, they'd say, oh, we've already got some trangenders here, tell them come on over and we'll make them welcome. Not some others. It used to break my heart, because how can we meet the needs of our transgender community when we say we're a transgender resource and we can't even get them into emergency shelter? So me and Earlene Budd, what we did was meet up with Lisa Motay, one of the lawyers for the transgender community, and we did a transgender training for the shelters. We did it for the women's shelters and the men's shelters, we had all the shelters in the Washington, DC area come together because we met with a Council member, it was a mandatory training, and we did the training. And as you see, the beautiful young lady that I am now, I was a little more beautiful then because I was a few years younger, I said, if I was to come to you, where would you house me? And a lot of them would say, you can be with the females. So I said, but if I want to send you a trangendered woman, you all say you don't want to deal with them. You say they have to go somewhere else, we won't allow them here. So a few of the women's shelters opened up their doors to transgendered women, but the waiting list was longer than the housing list, which is three years, so you still couldn't get them placed in women's shelters right away. So we're still sending transgendered women to men's shelters, but a lot of times they're kept close to staff for safety, not just from other clients, because some of the staff weren't sensitive and didn't understand the transgender community, they would say, you a man, you need to take that off and stop dressing like that, and other clients would start laughing at that. And it made them feel uncomfortable, so a lot of transgendered women wouldn't go to shelters. They would sleep in abandoned houses, put themselves at risk for more money not using a condom, they would sleep in abandoned cars, they would start doing drugs and go to these men's houses who were doing drugs all night long, and they were picking up more negative habits just trying to survive on the streets.

 

And also, a lot of transgendered women was being victimized, the dates would date them, a lot of times they would they was females or even not knowing they was females, seeing being transgender or gay as "weak," and when they paid them the money they would rob them. And not just rob them for that date but for everything they earned that night. And a lot of the women, they weren't giving up their money that easy, because they wouldn't have nowhere else to go. So we had a lot of women that got stabbed, raped, beat up, killed.

Me being the 24-hour crisis intervention hotline supervisor, they were calling us at any time, whether it was two o'clock in the morning or two o'clock in the afternoon. We had eight other volunteers that were trained on the hotline, and we had to meet caller wherever she was, so long as it was a safe place. If it wasn't, we would tell them, you can go to the nearest police station or hospital and we will meet you there. If I was asleep, I would have to get out of bed, go meet the person, find out what happened, what's going on, then usually get them relocated with their family or put them up into an emergency shelter - a mercy hotel, because we had funding for hotels - until we could work with them the next day and other organizations had opened up and we could get them into a safe place. But, yeah, we had so many women getting assaulted, you know, getting raped, and when you get raped you have to get the sex kit for the police, the detectives to be able to file any charges, and also to get victim compensation, because they wanted to have proof. And the detectives would come and say, oh, you a man, how did you get raped? Men don't get raped. And they would say, ooh, are you a prostitute, instead of asking about what happened in the incident. So a lot of times, if they was raped, robbed, beat up or whatever, they wouldn't even go and file a report, because of the harassment and how the detectives would treat them, even at the local hospitals, unless they was stabbed or shot and needing that medical attention right away. So a lot of the time they wouldn't follow up. But we would hear these stories doing outreach, ask them, did you file a report, and they would say, no, child, I didn't file a report. . . .

They had police officers out here who would act like they was locking the girls up, take them down the street and say, either give me some head or let me have sex with you, or I'm locking you up. You have sex with that person or give him some head because you want to feel protected. So they did it with the police officers for protection, thinking, they'll allow me to be out here when they're telling everyone else to get off the street. It was chaos. Where we're sitting at now, 5th and K Streets, this used to be the strong point for the transgender community, but as they started putting up these hotels and condos, they started pushing them down the street toward North Capitol, darker areas where the young guys would just come and rob them or stab them. They wasn't worrying about, we're pushing these people into darker areas where it was harder for HIPS and other organizations to bring them what they need, where there was more drugs. You don't see as many transgenders out on the street as you did two or three years ago because a lot of them are doing internet, but you still have a lot of girls that's getting arrested, and when they get out of jail, there's no services for them, even a halfway house, we didn't have a halfway house for trangendered women. Sometimes they'd call me from the halfway house and say, hey, they want me to take off my girl's jeans and put on big boy jeans, stuff like that, they want me to wear my hair straight back, and a lot of girls would say, send me back to jail.

That's the kind of things the girls were facing around here. No kind of social support. I shared with HIPS, when I was out here with the girls, one of the things I felt was alone. Even though you saw other girls out here, everyone was for herself, trying to make it, trying to survive. You didn't have no friends, you could have your throat cut or get robbed and not have anyone to turn to help you out, because you was all alone. It was great seeing an organization like HIPS that was coming around giving you condoms, give you hot chocolate when it's cold, give you gloves and hats, because somebody actually cared, somebody actually understands what's going on with us.

 

Gigi, we've never done an interview quite like this one. Thank you so much.

 

But I want to tell you about what I'm doing now with Family and Medical Counseling Services!

 

Wonderful! You've moved on from HIPS?

 

Yes, I'm at FMCS now. I started going for my bachelor's degree at University of the District of Columbia, I'll be getting my degree in May of 2011, I started my internship with FMCS in August of 2009, and they hired me as a medical case manager in October. I've been there a little over a year, and it's turned out extremely well. A lot of the girls are coming over to get help with housing services, getting hooked up with health insurance, we're able to help them out with food stamps, we're able to get them medical care, behavioral health services, substance abuse, it's like a one-stop program over there on Martin Luther King Avenue. Now that I'm a medical case manager, I'm able to do more services for them, help them get their names changed, helping them out with employment, helping a lot of the girls get jobs, which can be hard, but we've done very well providing a real depth of services. And I can't forget our Transgender Health Empowerment program, which has the first transgender housing support for the community, it's great, it's run by Miss Earlene Budd. And we just did a church training for Newumbra, a housing umbrella organization for transgendered women and young guys making the transition who have gotten kicked out of their homes.

So I must say, things aren't like they used to be, five and ten years ago, they are getting better. Some people might look at it as a slow change, but any change is a positive change, and I'm just so glad that I'm a part of the change.

GiGi was awarded a bachelors degree from the University of DC in 2011. She worked at FMCS until 2012, when she left to pursue a masters in social work at Howard University as a full-time student. She graduated as an MSW in Spring, 2014. She worked as a job specialist and case manager at Jobs Have Priority, an agency in Greenbelt, MD, from the time she graduated until her arrest in Fall, 2015.

Stakeholder Advisors Board on Research Study to Improve HIV Prevention/Treatment in D.C.

http://www.dcappleseed.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/HIV2.pdf

"Sex Work Explored: Rethinking the Laws Regulating Prostitution," Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law, 2007 8.3 (no web version available).

Only Rights Fix Wrongs: Sex Workers and the Anti-trafficking Debate - 2005 Interview with Darby

[Aug 2005] On the CATW website, Janice Raymond states her side’s perspective succinctly: “Prostitution is not ‘sex work;’ it is violence against women.” Unsurprisingly, advocates for the rights of sex workers have a different view. “Absolutely not,” is the response to Raymond’s statement from GiGi Thomas, a sex worker rights advocate in DC, “Prostitution is a job, and for many it's a way of survival.”...

“Personally, I don't consider myself to be a man or woman, [rather] a human being,” saysGiGi Thomas, who is transgender, and actively trying to uplift her community. “I feel that as time goes on there will be more transgender people coming out and this will call for more education and trainings,” she continues. “Everyone has a right to his or her opinion. I understand that some people have different opinions about transgendered people, but that's life. It's so important that we continue to show [examples of healthy lives] for the younger generation of transgendered people, just like other girls have done before us.”

http://www.leftturn.org/only-rights-fix-wrongs-sex-workers-and-anti-trafficking-debate

Gigi Thomas - Presentation "Victimless 'Crimes,' Violent Aftermaths: Sex Work and the Law"

http://www.campusactivism.org/displayevent-1220.htm

[Contributor] Move Along: Policing Sex Work in Washington, D.C. A report by the Alliance for a Safe & Diverse DC, Washington, D.C. - 2008

https://dctranscoalition.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/movealongreport.pdf

[Contributor] Amnesty International: USA: STONEWALLED : POLICE ABUSE AND MISCONDUCT AGAINST LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN THE U.S. - 2005

https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/AMR51/122/2005/en/ 

[Contributor] - Best Practices Policy Project: REPORT TO THE DIVISION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN FROM THE BEST PRACTICES POLICY PROJECT, OCTOBER 14, 2005

The Making of Gigi by PJ Starr 10 min 2008 -

Downtown areas of the District of Columbia have almost completely

transformed since the 1990s into clean and quiet safe havens for the bureaucratic classes. As the streets are sanitized, we are losing the vibrant street cultures of DC and the unwritten histories of sex workers and street folk will soon be forgotten.

Gigi Thomas, a leading African American transgender sex worker rights activist, retraces her personal transformations with film-maker and friend PJ Starr as they visit different neighborhoods to view the major landmarks of Gigi's life.

Bay Windows, "Guarding Our Gains" July 30, 2008

"Safety and security" are cited to justify the Corrections exemption. Where is the evidence of actual safety and security problems, as distinct from hypothetical cases? As Mara Keisling of NCTE said on July 22, the government should not rely upon stereotypes about transgender women. Earline Budd and Gigi Thomas provided glaring examples of abuse and discrimination that mandate reform in the correctional setting. Deborah Golden of the Prisoners’ Project laid out the legal case against the proposed rulemaking.

2006 - "Re-visioning Prostitution Policy:  Creating Space for Sex Worker Rights and Challenging Criminalization,"

http://www.sexworkeurope.org/es/news/icrse-past-articles/reflecting-re-visioning-prostitution-policy

Penny successfully raised funds through private foundations, We received a generous donation from SWOP-USA and along with other private donations. HIPS, Different Avenues and Coalition on Prostitution/BAYSWAN were among the organization donors. Collaboratively with Momo Douglas, Elizabeth Nanas, Natasha Sommers, Caty Simon and Penny Saunders, and with the assistance of consultants Gigi Thomas and Ruby Corado, we created and administered a scholarship program which assisted approximately 15 attendees with full or partial scholarships on a very tight budget.

2004 - The Struggle to Find Shelter

http://www.ifge.org/?q=node/197

In Washington, D.C., a group of people got together last year to work with shelters. Earline Budd of Transgender Health Empowerment, GiGi Thomas, of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, Mark Phemister of the D.C. Transmasculine Society, and myself trained the local coalition of shelters on the challenges trans people without homes were facing in D.C. Out of that training grew requests from specific shelters to be trained. Although in D.C. we’ve not yet attained the lasting changes we want, many of the shelters are much better than they used to be. Changing the rest of the shelters is a work in progress.

In the trainings, it was important to have GiGi Thomas and Earline Budd talk about their personal experiences with homelessness. Budd talked about how terrible and unsafe shelter conditions made her decide that engaging in unsafe sex for pay was a better way to achieve housing. As a direct result, she lives today with HIV. GiGi Thomas, a client advocate for Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive, helps trans women on a daily basis to stay safe while they are engaging in sex work and helps connect them to services in an effort to help them off the street. The choice for women on the street is stark?there are no safe options and almost no way out.

Presented 3x at Desiree '08

http://www.desireealliance.org/conference/schedule108.htm

"Mobile Outreach and Emergency Resources for Sex Worker"

PRESENTER BIOGRAPHY:

Gigi Thomas of HIPS: The client advocate at HIPS

PRESENTATION DESCRIPTION:

Much of the current "research" on sex work states that outreach is an essential component to reaching and engaging street based sex workers. This short presentation will cover the basics of starting an outreach program to street-based sex workers and will identify the top 10 tips for setting up and effectively managing, as well as cover the basics about materials, dealing with community & law enforcement, safety, training and messaging.

(Also, other panels)

Contributor to: REPORT TO THE DIVISION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN FROM THE BEST PRACTICES POLICY PROJECT OCTOBER 14, 2005 [which, it seems like, was a precursor to the Move Along Policing Reports?)

http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/vaw/ngocontribute/BEST%20PRACTICES%20POLICY%20PROJECT.pdf

Metro Weekly - Murder of Diamond Person highlights the problem of domestic and other violence by Yusef Najafi January 10, 2007

GiGi Thomas, a client advocate and case manager at Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS) in Adams Morgan, was a friend of Person’s, and last saw her about one month ago.

”She came to HIPS, and she was telling me that she was finally getting her life together, and that she was trying to do things right.”

Thomas said that Person had talked about ”getting away from [Logan] because he was always putting her out and was very abusive. But she had disclosed that information in confidentiality, and I wasn’t aware of it [until now].

”We do have a victim-assistance program [that could have helped her].”

Thomas believes the murder happened over money, specifically an altercation involving money Person had received from the government, which Logan allegedly stole to use for drugs.

According to Thomas, Person had worked independently as a hairdresser and met Logan at a drug-rehabilitation center less than a year ago.

Laquanda Johnson (24) was shot and killed in retaliation for her cooperation in a murder investigation [Oct 20, 2006]

A 24-year-old lesbian was shot to death July 11 in Southeast D.C., in apparent retaliation for her cooperation with prosecutors in a murder investigation and possibly because of her openness about her sexual orientation, members of her family said.

Police say they have no evidence to indicate anti-gay bias played a role in the killing of Laquanda “Swoop” Johnson, a resident of Temple Hills, Md.

But homicide detectives are looking into the possibility that Johnson’s slaying is linked to her decision to cooperate with prosecutors in a trial last month of a man convicted of murdering one of Johnson’s close friends in 2004.

“She was open and out as a lesbian,” said transgender activist GiGi Thomas, Johnson’s aunt.

“We have reason to believe certain people didn’t like her because of who she was and because of her cooperation in that trial,” Thomas said.

June 18, 2007 [DC Trans Coalition] Trans activists hope to improve police, jails, and fire/EMS

NORTHEAST D.C. — On June 23, DC’s transgender community will come together to agree on draft policies that could help DC’s police, fire/EMS, and corrections departments better serve and protect transgender people.

Then comes the hard part: getting city agencies to put the new rules in place.

“Some of the worst cases we hear about come from DC’s most critical services,” said Gigi Thomas, a client advocate for the transgender community. A judge ruled last month that the Fire Department harassed and intimidated the diversity specialist they hired after losing a high-profile lawsuit in 1998 over the wrongful death of Tyra Hunter, a transgender woman.

“If you’re assaulted or denied lifesaving medical care, a lawsuit can’t undo the damage,” Thomas said. “These departments should set a higher standard, by providing better training for their frontline staff and making sure transgender people are treated with dignity.”

June 9, 2006 Washington Blade

Two transgender women said they plan to file a discrimination complaint against the District’s Department of Corrections after officials at the D.C. Jail refused to allow them to visit inmates because of their personal appearance. Gigi Thomas, a client advocate for the local group HIPS, which provides services to local sex workers, and Tiffany Everlasting, a HIPS volunteer, said jail officials told them they could not enter the jail because they wore women’s clothes but lacked identification classifying them as biological females. The two women said they appeared separately and at different times on May 30 at the visitor’s reception desk of the Correctional Treatment Facility at 19th and D streets, S.E. The facility, known as the CTF, is operated privately under a Department of Corrections contract with the Corrections Corporation of America, a firm that operates prisons throughout the country. An official with the D.C. Office of Human Rights said the action by the jail appears to violate the city’s Human Rights Act, which bans discrimination against transgender people. The act covers city government agencies as well as the private sector, including private employers. Walter Fulton, program manager at the command center for the Correctional Treatment Facility, said the facility has a dress code policy that prevented “cross-dressers” from being admitted as visitors. He said the policy, which was under review, was based on concerns about how jail employees could conduct a “pat down” search of a transgender person as part of routine searches of all jail visitors. He said the searches were aimed at preventing visitors from bringing contraband, including illegal drugs, into city correctional facilities. “It’s likely that accommodations will be made to allow cross dressers to visit,” he said. Guard convicted of sexual assault. The refusal by CTF officials to allow Thomas and Everlasting visitation rights came less than three months after a D.C. Superior Court jury convicted a guard at the same facility of sexually assaulting a transgender inmate. Court records show that Robert Ali White, 37, was convicted of a single count of first-degree sexual abuse of a ward for allegedly forcing a transgender inmate to perform oral sex on him in December 2004. He was scheduled for sentencing on July 21. D.C. police arrested White on Dec. 29, 2004, at the CTF facility after an inmate reported that the corrections officer allegedly forced the inmate to engage in a sexual act with him, according to court records.

2011 - Black Aids Institute News

Returning to Vancouver, an expert testifying at an enquiry into a particular gruesome series of prostitute murders explained how criminalizing prostitution and driving sex workers into the shadows makes them easy prey for serial killers. Criminalizing sex work also makes it harder for "working girls" at extraordinarily high risk of contracting HIV to access prevention, testing, and support services. It even coarsens the police force. In an interview for Positive Voice's 2010 World AIDS Day issue, Miss GiGi Thomas had a lot to say about how cops on the beat used to treat the girls. She never said this directly, but it sounded like there wasn't much to prevent a cop from smiling a mean smile and saying, OK, sweetheart, how'd you like to give me a reason not to take you in? Maybe IAS 2012 should open with a Washington, D.C. Declaration calling for decriminalization of sex work. It's not as if the girls get into the life because they want to.

March 6, 2006 Good Cop, Bad Cop Forum examines police abuse in the gay, lesbian, bi, trans community by Will O'Bryan http://www.metroweekly.com/2006/03/good-cop-bad-cop/ 

The newly energized, local chapter of OUTfront — a program of Amnesty International focusing on GLBT human rights — held a community forum Thursday, Feb. 23, to discuss an Amnesty report about police abuse against the GLBT community in America. In the lobby of the Human Rights Campaign building at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW, about 40 people, largely a collegiate-looking bunch, noshed on falafel and melon before settling in to hear selected speakers.

Following welcoming remarks from Tony Lee, OUTfront’s mid-Atlantic region coordinator, Ariel Herrera, the group’s national field organizer, moderated the panel. The forum’s three panelists, in order of presentation, were GiGi Thomas of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS); D.C. City Councilmember David Catania (I-At large); and Sgt. Brett Parson, head of the Metropolitan Police Dept.’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU)...

Questions and comments from the audience centered overwhelmingly on issues specific to transgender sex workers. Of particular interest was a notion that the city may try to introduce ”prostitution-free zones,” much like ”drug-free zones.” Darby Hickey of Different Avenues, a organization helping youths who live on the street — many of whom are GLBT young people who exchange sex for money, housing or other essentials — brought up the issue.

”It isn’t helping people,” Hickey said of the proposal.

Thomas reinforced Hickey’s view, saying the proposed zones would ”move [sex workers] into darker areas, drug-infested areas. We’re making it unsafe for them even more.”

Thomas also said that simply providing outreach carries its own risks with the police, who have often perceived her as a prostitute. ”We’ve been out here for 13 years, and you don’t know what we’re doing out here?” she asked, rhetorically. ”We’ve got a big ol’ HIPS sign on our van. What else are we supposed to do?”

Award: Engendered Spirit Award Honorees, 2007

Awards Committee Planning Sitemap 2226 days since Capital Trans Pride 2010 Contact Us Send us your question via email or ask to be added to our mailing list Awards Each year, Capital Trans Pride hosts an award ceremony known as the Engendered Spirit Awards to honor individuals in the Washington DC Metro Area who have made a significant contribution to the local transgender community.