Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lambda Legal Files Complaint Against Philadelphia Youth Detention Facility for Tormenting Transgender Girl

Lambda Legal has filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) against the City of Philadelphia and the Youth Study Center (YSC) among others on behalf of a 17-year-old transgender girl who was physically attacked by other residents and verbally abused by staff every day for almost a year and a half.

"Youth Study Center violated Philadelphia's Fair Practices Ordinance when their staff discriminated against our client for being transgender," said Flor Bermudez, Youth in Out-of-Home Care attorney for Lambda Legal. "This city facility was supposed to protect her but instead Youth Study Center staff failed to respect her gender identity, verbally abused her, let residents physically attack her and forced her to live in fear."

The girl, who has asked to be unnamed for safety reasons, has been in the foster care system since she was eleven. In February 2008, a Family Court Judge ordered Department of Human Services to provide her with all appropriate medical treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID), including hormone therapy and mandated that her female gender identity be respected. However, YSC staff and administrators failed to treat her in accordance with her female gender identity. They refused to refer to her by her preferred female name and to use female pronouns. YSC staff also refused her access to clothing and grooming options that matched her gender identity and reprimanded her for acting in a feminine manner. When she asked to be referred to by her preferred female name, YSC staff told her: "You ain’t no fucking female, you are a dude. . . Till you get your dick cut off, I’m not going to call you [by your preferred female name.]"

In addition, YSC staff subjected Lambda Legal's client to ridicule and cruel and degrading treatment and allowed abuse by residents on a daily basis. She endured verbal harassment, including slurs such as: "You're a faggot," "Wanna-be-girl," "You are not a girl," and "You will never be a girl." On several occasions, the verbal harassment escalated to physical attacks.

The complaint filed by Lambda Legal to the PCHR claims that the YSC, operated by DHS, violated the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance because she was harassed and discriminated against on the basis of her actual and/or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, and disability.

"Even though I asked the administration and staff at the Youth Study Center on multiple occasions to stop the harassment, to call me by the right name, to let me wear clothes that match who I am, and to allow me to sleep in a unit where I would feel safe, I continued to be degraded by staff and residents," said the 17-year-old girl. "Nobody, including sexual minorities, should have to experience the physical and emotional abuse that I encountered there."

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