Sister of Layleen Cubilette-Polanco Calls on Legislature to “Honor Her Legacy” and Pass Assemblymember Paulin’s Bill to Repeal the “Walking While Trans” Ban

July 16, 2020

Albany, NY – The sister of Layleen Cubilette-Polanco, Melania Brown, has joined with Assemblymember Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) to call for the passage of A.654 / S.2253 which would repeal the crime of loitering for the purposes of prostitution, commonly known as the "walking while trans" ban.

Layleen Cubilette-Polanco, a 27-year-old transgender woman, died in June 2019 while incarcerated at Rikers Island. Layleen experienced an epileptic seizure while being held in solitary confinement and, while Department of Corrections policy states inmates placed in confinement should be observed every 15 minutes, Layleen was left alone far beyond that time.

"Justice for Layleen means no more trans women dying in jail. No more trans women criminalized for their appearance, for existing in the world. After my sister died, I promised I would work to create a world where trans women like her are safe to be who they are, and the Assembly and Senate can honor her legacy by repealing the Walking While Trans Ban and passing this bill. Now,” said Brown.

The harassment Layleen experienced at the time of her arrest and within the prison leading up to her tragic death demonstrates how trans women are disproportionately targeted and abused by law enforcement officers. For trans people of color, any interaction with law enforcement is potentially dangerous.

“The arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the ‘walking while trans’ law is an affront to justice,” Paulin said. “Layleen’s story is devastating and we cannot stand idly by as trans women are continuously harassed, exploited, and discriminated against. We must repeal this law.”

According to a report from the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, there was a 120% increase in arrests under the statute in 2018 and 91% of people arrested under the statute were Black and Latinx people, with 80% identifying as women – because of mis-gendering of trans women in police reports, this figure is likely higher.

This bill is sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman in the Senate.