Stoffa: L.A. cops’ special privileges for transgendered people not good policy


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State

Members of the Iowa State Patrol begin to arrest Occupy Iowa protesters on Oct. 9 after they refused to leave the State Capitol complex at the 11 p.m. curfew. 32 people including two minors were arrested on Sunday night.

Gabriel Stoffa

Down in the good ol’ City of Angels, the police put into play some department-wide changes to the methods of dealing with transgender individuals, be those persons in the slammer or still on the street.

The first of these policy alterations is that officers can no longer pat down a transgender person in order to determine gender.

This is a fair idea. Folks generally don’t want their junk or va-jay-jay fondled by police or anyone else they haven’t invited to do so. It is kind of humiliating and an invasion of privacy. That and who knows when an officer might be a bit of a perv — think of the cop recently caught masturbating while on duty.

The following measures are a little more questionable:

Transgender men and women who are arrested will be put into a separate detention area at the Los Angeles Police Department’s downtown Metropolitan Detention Center.

Wait, what? Why do they receive special treatment?

Capt. Dave Lindsay, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, said “there’s been a history of violence” when it comes to transgendered persons involving those they are jailed with.

Oh, OK, the separate area is about safety and keeping the peace, and … wait, no, no, that doesn’t work. Presuming violence before actions is not a good thing. If the cops cannot keep the peace in their jails, maybe they need to hire more cops or try paying more attention to what is going on in the cells.

But let us overlook that bit and realize that the police intend to house transgendered men and women together. Maybe I just have a dirty mind, but when you have drunk or high folks who get arrested, horniness is a common feeling. And when you stick men and women in a room together with nothing to do while they are messed up, well, from my experience that is when clothes start coming off.

But again, let us overlook that bit, as the holding cell might actually separate those of the actual male or female gender from each other once the changes are underway.

Other changes include: Officers will use whatever name the transgendered person prefers if it is different from their legal name, and will use gender-appropriate pronouns considering the transgendered person’s gender self-identity.

Seriously? Why do police have to use a name that isn’t the person’s real name? There could be lawsuits in the future when a cop screws up a name or calls some transgendered woman a man, or man a woman, or whatever that person is claiming to associate with.

Wanting to be another sex is fine. And it is polite to call a man or woman that dresses, acts and has every intention of having surgery to alter their gender by whatever gender that person prefers. But making a policy for those enforcing the law that penalizes them for slipping up when saying “ma’am” or “sir” is ridiculous. Being professional is one thing, but really? Cops have a hard enough time doing their jobs — and there are already enough police out there that are unreasonably angry and aggressive toward the general populace — why do they need some other trivial detail to make their lives more difficult?

Your name is your name unless you legally change it. With friends and whatnot, you can ask them to call you whatever you please. But when it comes to legal matters, your legal name is your legal name. With a standard like this, what is to prevent your average Joe under arrest to demand they be called Crackhead-the-Amazing? Transgendered people are no different from others when it comes to rights.

And as to the instruction police will receive to use gender-appropriate pronouns of association, the same thing. If you are legally labeled a man, you are a man and vice versa. Legally, you are that gender. When little provisions that are not necessary are put into place, it opens the road for other little unnecessary niceties that can eventually cause a pileup.

But wait, there’s more. Officers will not request transgendered persons to remove prosthetics, clothing, wigs or cosmetics that convey gender identity unless that request is being made of non-transgendered inmates.

This rule is superfluous or reverse discrimination. If the police are requesting some guy to take off his gold chain that he feels makes him “look more manly,” then cops can freely ask transgendered persons to remove everything too. And as cops take that stuff when you get locked up, well, it is just business as usual and this rule means nothing.

But if this is a rule that changes night by night as to whether a person about to be incarcerated has to take things off, it is a double standard. Why do transgendered folks need prosthetics or other things while they are in the slammer? When your average Joe gets arrested, they take his possessions. Why give one person special treatment when it isn’t a medical condition or necessary to their health?

It is fine and dandy to be polite, but these rules do nothing but give one group of people special privileges over everyone else. That is not how the legal system is supposed to work. It will be a hoot when your non-transgendered folks figure out how to begin using and abusing these ill-conceived rules.

Right now, this is confined to Los Angeles. But who knows how long it will be until this idea moves on to other precincts in other states.

And why stop with these rules? Why not let those of different religious beliefs be housed separately? Religious violence from one person’s beliefs to another’s is commonplace throughout world history. Or what about violence between white or black or Latino or Asian or whatever race? Racial violence has been around since people of different color first set eyes on each other, so a separate area is surely validated.

Oh wait, none of that is legal. Thank you Supreme Court for helping make people equal.

Top this off with the fact that these new police rules only extend to initial lockup. If one of these transgendered persons has to go off to county lockup, they are tossed back into the general population and can suffer the same violence this new idea tries to prevent.

Just because an idea seems to be helpful doesn’t mean it should be enforced as the standard. Some “do-gooder” out there with the ear of the city or police chief is trying to “make a better world,” but methods such as those above are not the way to do so.