Black trans army veteran Jamel Young is suing the New York Police Department for their “dehumanising” treatment of him during what began as a routine traffic stop in 2019.
Young, 33, had driven to New York from Atlanta, with his girlfriend, in March 2019.
His ordeal began when, after dropping his girlfriend at a friend’s apartment, he began looking for somewhere to park.
When an unmarked NYPD car pulled him over, Young said he didn’t panic.
“I’m feeling like, OK, I didn’t do anything wrong, whatever this is I’ll take care of it,” Young told BuzzFeed News.
But the US citizen said was still aware that as a Black man in the Bronx late at night, he needed to be careful. “The only thing on my mind is to comply,” he said.
It was after he disclosed to the police officers that he is transgender that the problems began.
According to Young’s lawsuit against the corrections department and the NYPD, filed last month, the police then misgendered, assaulted and sexualised him. Officers also dismissed his fears for his safety and failed to provide for his basic needs, Young alleges.
His case comes one year after New York City was sued over the death of Layleen Polanco, the Afro-Latinx trans woman who died in solitary confinement in Rikers Island prison.
After asking him “basic traffic stop questions”, police asked Jamel Young if he had a gun on him. He did – and though it was registered, what Young didn’t know was that he needed a separate license to take it out of Georgia.
He also didn’t know whether the gun was in the car with him or if it was in the bags he’d dropped with his girlfriend at his friend’s house. He says he also didn’t know that you need a different license to carry a gun on your person and in your vehicle.
The police – who arrest hundreds of tourists every year for bringing firearms to New York, which has some of the strictest gun laws in the country – placed him under arrest.
“I didn’t know or think that I was doing anything wrong, I thought I was doing everything completely, 100 per cent right,” Young said.
As police pulled him from his car, he panicked and told them he’s trans – hoping they’d be respectful. But instead, several officers grabbed his chest and crotch like they were “trying to confirm” that he’s trans.
Young also alleges another officer sexually assaulted him while transporting him to the police station.
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His lawsuit also alleges that police officers joked about him being trans and called him “he, she, her, him, miss and sir” at various points in the night.
Young was taken to prison, where his problems continued. He said he feared for his life, and that when he asked his legal-aid lawyer what to do, he was told to tell officers that he was female.
“I felt worthless,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I felt like all those triggers that trans people try so hard to manage throughout the transition, all of it just exploded.”
The NYPD said in a statement: “NYPD recognises and supports the rights and dignity of transgender and gender non-conforming persons. We endeavour to treat all individuals with the utmost respect.
“This lawsuit will be reviewed in the normal course when service is effected.”
Jamel Young said he’s suing because he wants to see changes that will ensure the safety of transgender people in custody.
“I’m not asking for anything special. I don’t think I need to get coffee three times a day. I literally just need my safety,” he said.