Illinois City Settles Historic Transgender Lawsuit

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Originally published on Advocate.com August 08 2012 9:36 AM ET

The city of Cicero, Ill. has settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by a transgender Latino woman who had been illegally searched and harassed by the city's police offers. Bianca Feliciano alleged in her suit, according to ChicagoPride, that Cicero police officers verbally abused, harassed, and taunted her on the basis of her gender-identity on February 6, 2011, when she and another trans woman were walking down a street in Cicero. She says officers wrongfully accused them of engaging in sex work and after seeing her identification with her female gender and name, the officers "claimed that if Feliciano was properly disciplined and punished she would not be the way she is right now. The officers also insulted her by denying her gender-identity, stating 'You are not female, you have a dick between your legs,' and threatened her with jail claiming she was committing an act of fraud because her ID said she was female."

She further alleged that the police officers who arrested her (charges were later dropped) repeatedly called her a man, referred to her with male pronouns, and "made crude, offensive remarks about her 'titties' and genitalia. When completing her arrest reports, the officers used the former male name given to her at birth, and they refused to return her State Identification card, even after they were shown the legal documentation demonstrating she had legally changed her name."

Apparently the city of Cicero agreed. In additio to paying Feliciano a $10,000 settlement, they also agreed to enact a new policy about how police officers in the city must treat transgender people. 

"We are pleased that the Town of Cicero is taking a step forward by creating this policy," said Joey Mogul, a partner at the People's Law Office (one of Feliciano's attorneys) and director of the Civil Rights Clinic at DePaul University College of Law. "We are hopeful that this ends the unjust and abusive treatment of transgender people by Cicero Police Officers and we hope that other police departments follow suit."  

Feliciano is also happy with the settelement, releasing a statement that read, "I'm glad to settle this case and I hope this policy will mean that what happened to me doesn't have to happen to anyone again. LGBTQ youth and others should never have to go through the abuse I suffered from the Cicero Police Department."