Lambda Legal announced the resolution of a discrimination complaint on behalf of L.P., a now-18-year-old transgender woman who was physically attacked by other residents and verbally abused by staff at Philadelphia’s Youth Study Center every day for almost a year and a half when she lived in the facility. The complaint was processed by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations against the city of Philadelphia Department of Human Services and the Youth Study Center, among others.
“Youth Study Center’s new policies and trainings adopted as a result of this settlement will help to ensure that other transgender youth under the facility’s care are safe and don’t face discrimination because of who they are,” said Flor Bermudez, youth in out-of-home care staff attorney for Lambda Legal. “The resolution of this case means that transgender youth in Philadelphia have one more safe space where they won’t be abused and discriminated against but respected and kept safe.”
The allegations of the complaint were stunning. According to Lambda Legal, a Family Court judge ordered the Department of Human Services in February 2008 to provide L.P. with all appropriate medical treatment for gender identity disorder, including hormone therapy, and mandated that her female gender identity be respected. However, Youth Study Center staff and administrators failed to treat the girl in accordance with her female identity. They refused to refer to her by her preferred female name or use female pronouns. Staff also refused her access to clothing and grooming options that matched her gender identity and reprimanded her for acting in a feminine manner. When she asked to be referred to by her preferred female name, a staffer told her, “You ain’t no fucking female, you are a dude. ... Till you get your dick cut off, I’m not going to call you [by your female name].”
In addition, center staff subjected the girl to ridicule and cruel and degrading treatment and allowed abuse by residents on a daily basis. She says she endured verbal harassment, including slurs such as “You’re a faggot,” “Wanna-be-girl,” “You are not a girl,” and “You will never be a girl.” On several occasions the verbal harassment escalated to physical attacks.
The complaint was filed in October 2009, arguing that the center (operated by the Department of Human Services) had violated the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance because L.P. was harassed and discriminated against on the basis of her actual and/or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, and disability.
According to Lambda Legal, “L.P. and DHS settled this matter on terms agreeable to all parties.” The settlement included revisions to Youth Study Center policies addressing nondiscriminatory treatment of LGBT youth to include specific protections for transgender youth. Now transgender youth will be able to live in a single room on the unit that corresponds to their gender identity and receive hormone therapy. Also, while living in the facility, transgender youth will be called by their preferred name and the pronoun that reflects the youth’s gender identity, even if the youth’s name has not been legally changed. The center will also provide clothing and grooming options to transgender and gender-nonconforming youth throughout their stay at the facility. In addition, the Department of Human Services will provide training to all Youth Center staff on LGBT issues and the city of Philadelphia will pay out an undisclosed amount to the young woman at the center of the case.
“I am happy that the case is settled. I hope that these changes will ensure that no other young transgender person experiences the physical and emotional abuse that I experienced at the Youth Study Center,” said the 18-year-old woman.