Tag: Gigi Thomas

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

 

#FreeGigi update: write letters of support

Gigi testified on March 1 and she was calm and clear even though the case is a very difficult one. After the presentation of all the evidence the Judge decided to take first degree charges off the table. After more than 6 hours of deliberation the jury returned yesterday March 2 with a verdict of guilty of second degree murder. 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. The letter should be to Judge Daneeka V. Cotton. The letter should be brief and state that you know Gigi Marie Thomas, state how long you have known her and the capacity in which you know her (ie that you worked with her at Y or Z place, that you received services from her, etc). Then in your own words you should speak to your experience of what Gigi has offered you/the community/society and what she can continue to contribute. Anything that you think will help Judge Daneeka V. Cotton make her decision as to the sentence for Gigi. Letters should be mailed to Gigi’s attorney who is: David M. Simpson, 6404 Ivy Ln, Ste 408, Greenbelt, MD 20770. Please send letters as soon as possible so that they may be submitted in a jacket to Judge Daneeka V. Cotton. We learned that sending in letters too late is not ideal as judges prefer to read them well in advance of the sentencing.

Please read more about Gigi Thomas here and please contribute to her fundraiser…. “As a society we have become used to hearing the news of another transgender woman being killed. In this case Gigi did not die. She lived. She is one of our leaders surviving.” Ceyenne Doroshow.

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.