City to Examine APD's Transgender ID Policy
Department admits there's room to improve on how it identifies trans people
City Council approved a resolution May 5 directing the city manager to evaluate the Austin Police Department's policies and training on identifying transgender and gender-nonconforming people. Less than a month into the new year, Monica Loera was shot and killed outside her home. The realization that her death was 2016's first known murder of a trans woman did not come for more than a week, however, due to widespread misgendering. Initially, APD used Loera's birth name, and local media outlets repeated it, also using an old mug shot of the victim to illustrate their stories.
On the dais, the resolution's sponsor, CM Greg Casar, expressed the community's shock and anger about how the situation was handled by APD and covered by the media. "Because I know, and many of us know, that gender-nonconforming people fight their entire lives to be recognized for who they are," Casar said, "I think we should have done much better in Monica's case to make sure that she got the respect that she deserved in her death."
Claire Bow, attorney with the Transgender Education Network of Texas, testified to the indignity that trans people often face in death. She told Council that she remembers the name her parents gave her – Jonathan – with pride, but that if she were described that way in an obituary, many of her friends and acquaintances wouldn't know it was her. That is exactly how it played out in Loera's case, as even those who knew her well had no idea she was the murder victim until more than a week after her death.
In response to questioning by CM Don Zimmerman (who was one of two abstentions, with Ellen Troxclair), APD Chief of Staff Brian Manley said he didn't anticipate any additional budget expenditures as a result of the changes, rather, the department will target "a best practice for how we identify individuals that we interact with that are part of the transgender community." While there are legal constraints to how they can refer to a person in official documents, he thinks "we may have room for improvement in how we speak in our public forums and our public news releases so that an incident that occurred with Ms. Loera doesn't happen again."