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Kansas City Police Misgender Missing Trans Teen

Kansas City
Jake Heckey/Pixabay

The child was found, but police believe he was the victim of sexual abuse.

Kansas City, Mo., police have come under fire for misgendering a missing trans teen.

While the child has since been found, LGBTQ activists say the refusal to identify the teen by his preferred name and pronouns in missing persons reports put his safety at risk.

When mother Judith Boris reported her son missing to police, she let them know he was transgender and answered to a different name than his legal name, according to The Kansas City Star. But police still putting out missing reports primarily identifying the teen with his legal name and incorrect pronouns.

The child was found and is now believed to have been the victim of sexual abuse. His name has not been reported by media.

The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project criticized police response. Advocate Melissa Brown said seeing the flier "did break my heart" because it included "a bunch of misgendering."

Police now say that was a misunderstanding. Capt. Tim Hernandez said the Missing Persons Unit drafted the flier, which also lacked the child's age and physical description, but any insensitivity was "unintentional." Boris said she gave a detailed description of her son, including height and scars on his face.

But advocates nationwide say police not only risk offending individuals with misgendering, but as this case shows, lives can be placed at risk. The public won't recognize the missing person if they express a different gender than appears on fliers, and often won't respond to a name they no longer use.

Police who fail to properly identify transgender individuals "diminish trust within the community, confuse investigations and reinforce the very prejudice at the heart of this violence," said Sarah McBride, national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign.

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