When Julianna Fialkowski saw a trans teen "crying out for help" on social media, saying he was committing self-harm behaviors and contemplating suicide, the 25-year-old Lynchburg, Va. trans woman did what few would: she tried to find him and get help.
According to Richmond LGBT newspaper Gay RVA, in early April Fialkowski tracked down the young man, whose name has not been released, by searching on the Internet for his address. When she set out for his home, little did she know that the ordeal would end in her arrest and alleged mistreatment by police.
Joined that day by Linda Ramsey, a friend and out lesbian prayer chaplain, Fialkoski reportedly went to the boy's home and offered him assistance. When he then left the house following a fight with his parents, saying that he'd been kicked out by his father -- a man Fialkowski has described in a statement as "hateful" -- and been given permission to leave, Fialkoski and Ramsey offered to shelter him in Ramsey's home temporarily.
Fialkowksi says they informed the teen's parents of the arrangement, but at 1 a.m. the next morning, the boy's father knocked on Ramsey's door accompanied by police. Fialkowski, who stayed over Ramsey's house regularly, answered the door and said she engaged in a "civil" interaction that ended with the boy returning home in the custody of his father, according to Gay RVA. Lynchburg police then returned, she says, to get a statement from her about the situation, and told her to not worry about getting into legal trouble.
A few hours later, however, a warrant was issued for Fialkowski's arrest. She turned herself in at the Lynchburg Police Station that evening. Ramsey did not face charges.
"I've never encountered an arrest, and I never imagined helping teens or others would come to something like this," Fialkowski told Gay RVA. "Several members of the Lynchburg PD, and the magistrate specifically, were expecially discriminatory." Fialkoski told the newspaper she was repeatedly called "sir" and "Mr. Fialkowski," and was strip-searched by male cops who threatened to send her to a male detention facility if she didn't pay a $2,500 bail -- a seemingly inflated sum she described as "ridiculous." Police have declined to comment to media.
Able to make bail, Fialkowski was released -- but she was not able to breathe easier until this Wednesday, when all charges against her were finally dismissed after she reached an agreement with the teen's family. Fialkowski has been able to raise the majority of her $6,000 in legal fees through an online fundraiser.
"Ms. Fialkoswki reaffirms both her innocence and her confidence that she would be found not guilty in the event of a trial," Fialkowski's lawyer affirmed in an announcement after the charges were dropped. "Ms. Fialkowski believes that a trial could be divisive among the friends, community supporters and family members involved, which would be counterproductive to her continued commitment to and support of people struggling with gender identity issues."
The U.S. is currently seeing an epidemic of suicide among transgender youth and adults, who attempt at a rate nearly 10 times that of cisgender (nontrans) peers. This year, 11 trans youth have reportedly taken their own lives, with many others likely unreported by the media.