Justin Adkins found out the hard way that the New York Police Department does not have a protocol for how to treat transgender people when they are arrested. Adkins, who serves as assistant director of the Multicultural Center at Williams College in Massachusetts, was participating in an Occupy Wall Street protest this weekend on the Brooklyn Bridge. When he was arrested, he informed one of the protest’s legal observers that he was transgender, and that is when the disrespect began. In a detailed statement, Justin describes his alleged mistreatment, including being handcuffed to a handrail next to a toilet for eight hours, being denied food when others received it, and being humiliated by police officers:
Throughout the night it became clear that they wanted my fellow protestors to think that I did something criminally wrong. That I had done something different from them. That I was not just a peaceful protestor exercising my rights on that bridge. That I deserved to be handcuffed to a railing in the side of the precinct with violent criminals. Everyone seemed to wonder why I had been separated. When other officers chatted amongst themselves about why I was separated, one officer suspected aloud that I was a “ringleader.” The woman officer stood a few times outside the glass wall with the door open as male officers asked about me. It appeared that she told them that I was transgender as they gawked, giggled, and stared at me. This was embarrassing and humiliating. Only I have the right to out myself as a transgender person. She was using my identity to get a laugh with men who she thought would find me curious and freakish. It felt at these times that I was behind the glass of a freakshow where people could come look at the funny transgender guy. I decided that when they looked at me giggling I would just catch them off guard and wave. It at least made the time go by.
If there were any question that the NYPD has been treating protesters inappropriately, this is certainly an important case study to consider. Please read Justin’s full statement to appreciate how the experience of being transgender can compromise the respect a person receives.
Watch video of the 70 arrests that took place on the Brooklyn Bridge (Justin’s arrest can be seen at around the 10:30 mark):