Category: Campaigns

#freeGigi sentencing tomorrow

Tomorrow May 9, 2017 Gigi Thomas will be sentenced as a result of being found guilty after a trial earlier this year in which she was repeatedly misgendered. On March 2 the jury returned with a verdict of guilty of second degree murder. In Maryland sentencing is carried out by the presiding Judge who in this case can sentence Gigi to a minimum of “time served” up to as long as 30 years in prison. Gigi has asked us to be present in the court in support of her on May 9 but for friends and supporters of Gigi who cannot make it please be sure to keep her in your mind and to share about her achievements as widely as possible. Below are some ideas for social media and you can find more about Gigi’s work and achievements at these links.

Some ideas for tweets, please tweet at 9 am EST May 9, 2017 if you have a moment. Let’s flood twitter with #FreeGigi

In solidarity with #GigiThomas as she faces sentencing May 9 #SurvivedandPunished. Pls Judge #FreeGiGi, not give prison time #Gigisaveslives

#GigiThomas 2 b sentenced May 9, she has saved so many lives #freeGigi read about her achievements & donate if u can https://www.generosity.com/emergencies-fundraising/support-gigi-thomas/x/1778989

#GigiThomas 2 b sentenced May 9. She survived and has been punished for it. Tell the judge 2 #FreeGigi

#GigiThomas 2 b sentenced May 9 #SurvivedandPunished. Power to all Black women fighting for their lives! #FreeGiGi #BlackTransPower

As we mourn the latest dead, let’s also support those who have survived like #freegigi #stopkillingblacktranswomen

Gigi Thomas: Last Call for Letters of Support in Sentencing

The window of opportunity to send a letter of support for Gigi Thomas, a social worker and leading advocate for the transgender community, is closing. Letters must be received by her attorney by April 15 if they are to be used at her sentencing hearing next month. We have checked with the attorney’s office and letters can be faxed to 301/474-9639. And/or sent to this email: dsimpson@davidsimpsonpa.com

There is a template that you might find helpful here in terms of how to write the letter. This template link focuses in on DC connections but do not fear that this means you cannot write a letter. If you know, have been assisted by or have been inspired by Gigi Thomas from across the nation and the world, use your own experience and write the letter. Every letter counts to help Gigi.

Don’t have a fax? Don’t fear. BPPP has a fax. Email us at bestpracticespolicyproject@gmail.com with your letter midnight tonight April 14, 2017 and we will fax it for you by the deadline, no problem. We also have an email that seems to work for letters to her attorney: dsimpson@davidsimpsonpa.com

Who is Gigi and why are letters of support important? Gigi Thomas, MSW, is a leading human rights advocate and a transgender woman of color who has worked for more than 15 years in the support of people in need in the DC area. She has never hesitated to provide outreach, client advocacy and harm reduction services to transgender women, people in the sex trade, low income people of color and LGBTQ people in the DC area. Since October 2015, GiGi has been held without bail in a men’s prison awaiting trial. At her trial in February 2017,  the prosecuting attorney misgendered her and erased the context of her experiences as a trans woman of color, social worker, and community leader. In Maryland sentencing is carried out by the presiding Judge. Sentencing in this case will occur on May 9. Anyone who has had experience working with Gigi (or being the recipient of Gigi’s amazing support) can write a letter for the judge to read before she sentences Gigi. Her attorney is collecting support letters and will get letter sent by April 15 to the Judge. More about Gigi Thomas, her trial and why we need to write letters of support is also available here at her fundraising page and here from the Collective Action for Safe Spaces.

Read more about Gigi’s years of work at these links:

Community Growth

Death Strikes in Transgender Community

 

Gigi Thomas: “I am a survivor of violence”

Every year we mourn the loss of members of the trans community on the Transgender Day of Remembrance. Yet what happens to transgender women of color when they face violence and survive it?

In October 2015 Gigi Thomas survived a violent attack on her life. After waiting 16 months in a Maryland jail, Gigi will face murder charges at trial on February 27, 2017. Gigi has written to BPPP saying, “I am a survivor of violence, now I’m fighting to get my life back.”

Advocates in the D.C. area, where Gigi is a well-known representative of the LGBTQ community and social worker, have maintained that the charges she is facing are an injustice. One person quoted in The Washington Blade last year said that the case must be understood against the “backdrop of black transgender women being killed in large numbers across the country because of their gender identity. Gigi knew about that as an activist and she fought back.” Casa Ruby, an organization led by transgender women in D.C., will be attending Gigi’s trial to show community support for her.

Concern about Gigi’s case is pouring in from around the nation. Ceyenne Doroshow, a transgender leader who is also the founder of GLITS and advisor to SWOP Behind Bars, has supported scores of community members who have ended up behind bars and has had the experience herself. “As a society we have become used to hearing the news of another transgender woman being killed,” she notes. “In this case Gigi did not die. She lived. She is one of our leaders surviving. I will be traveling to be in court so she knows that she is not alone and that we continue to recognize her as the leader she is.”

Other advocates have expressed similar sentiments linking what has happened to Gigi to high profile cases where transgender women survived brutal attacks only to be punished by the courts. “It is important that every black trans woman fights for her life and that together we are not erased,” notes Monica Jones, who like Gigi is a social worker and a black trans woman. “Here is how the system works. We are supposed to be erased, by the police, by the courts, and by cisgender men who commit violence against us. Gigi refused to be erased and she is still here. Now she is suffering the consequences of fighting for her life. Gigi’s case highlights, just like CeCe Mcdonald’s case, the value the courts place on cisgender lives and the costs imposed on transgender women.” Monica Jones is founder of The Outlaw Project at BPPP.

Gigi’s ability to assist people is legendary in the D.C. area. One woman who was the beneficiary of Gigi’s professionalism and commitment to helping people in need recalls, “I was at a fork in the road of my life. 9 month old on hip, no money, no people… Gigi showed up looking so beautiful, strong and loving. She was so safe and strong. Six weeks later due to her support and guidance I had my own two bedroom apartment. Gigi Thomas leaves love in her footprint and I am privileged to have met her. I would never have been able to become an advocate for human rights without meeting her.”

During the long wait for her trial date Gigi has continued her advocacy for the communities she cares about, joining the advisory of SWOP Behind Bars, a group dedicated to supporting incarcerated sex workers, and the advisory of the Best Practices Policy Project. “I’m advocating behind bars for transgender rights,” Gigi wrote to us, “keeping myself grounded in spirituality, and lifting up the spirits of others behind bars by giving them peer counseling, or even just a word of advice. I’m getting involved in programs to keep myself motivated.”

Representatives of SWOP USA have compiled information about Gigi’s achievements. In addition to working at many organizations in the D.C. area such as HIPS and being a founding member of several organizations including Different Avenues, Gigi was awarded a Bachelor’s degree from the University of the District of Columbia. She then worked at Family Medical Counseling Services until 2012, when she left to pursue a Masters in Social Work at Howard University as a full-time student. She graduated as an MSW in Spring, 2014. She worked as a job specialist and case manager at Jobs Have Priority, an agency in Greenbelt, MD, from the time she graduated until her arrest in October 2015.
If you plan to attend on February 27, please do not hesitate to email bestpracticespolicyproject [@] gmail.com to receive more information about our plans and to be connected to others. Please also keep in mind that Gigi’s trial date has been delayed several times before so keep your travel plans flexible if possible. If you are unable to attend but would like to assist, then please consider donating to the fundraiser for her legal support.

Women’s March 2017: As Expected, the Erasure of Sex Workers Rights

UPDATE January 18, 2017: Yesterday wording affirming the rights of sex workers was returned to the Women’s March Statement. The attempt to erase the presence of sex worker rights and sex workers’ voices in feminist spaces was reversed because of widespread public outcry. We must be honest with ourselves that until the criminalization and stigmatization of sex workers’ lives and work ends, sex workers can be erased with the stroke of a pen, one phone call to the cops and by putting up another piece of anti-sex worker legislation (yes, it is so easy to pass those laws under the guise of ending trafficking). The threat is always there. And so resistance is needed daily. We honor the fortitude of Janet Mock for her clear statement on why she wrote the line, “…and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements.” And how and why she rejects the “continual erasure of sex workers from our feminisms.” Historically and today the people who have primarily stood up boldly for sex worker rights have been transgender women of color. We remain committed to highlighting the leadership of transgender people of color for the rights of sex workers.

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January 17, 2017: The presence of anti-sex worker rights advocate Gloria Steinem as co-chair of the Women’s March this weekend in Washington, D.C. meant that it was almost certain that the Women’s March would back away from its surprisingly forward thinking statement on sex work.The original statement read, “We believe that all workers – including domestic and farm workers – must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all. Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with sex workers’ rights movements.”

Today advocates noted that the Women’s March Statement has been changed to remove any mention of sex worker’s rights. The statement now reads, “Undocumented and migrant workers must be included in our labor protections, and we stand in solidarity with all those exploited for sex and labor.”

It is not so much that Steinem directly put pressure on the Women’s March to erase sex workers’ rights organizing from the page–though she most certainly would have–but more that the agreement to place an advocate who has so clearly spoken out against both the rights of transgender people and sex workers as a co-chair means that these issues are contested by the groups and advocates in the lead. In 2017, failing to recognize sex workers’ rights in the United States is simply unacceptable. Honoring both sex worker and trans leadership is the way forward.