Lambda Legal and Sylvia Rivera Law Project Settle Lawsuit on Behalf of Transgender Youth Denied Appropriate Care in State Custody
(New York, December 20, 2006) — Lambda Legal, Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Deveboise & Plimpton LLP today announce the settlement of a lawsuit on behalf of a transgender youth who was denied appropriate medical treatment and punished for her gender expression in New York juvenile facilities.
Alyssa Rodriguez, now 20 years old, is a transgender woman who was deprived of her prescription hormone medication and punished for her feminine hairstyle and other aspects of her gender expression by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) while at the Red Hook Residential Center and other New York facilities in 2002–2003. Rodriguez had been on hormone therapy from a young age and experienced both severe health consequences and emotional distress due to withdrawal symptoms after being forced to go without hormone treatment.
“Alyssa is thrilled that OCFS is committed to ensuring that no other transgender youth in its care will have to endure the suffering she did,” said Rudy Estrada, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project. “We look forward to working with OCFS moving forward to give it all the information it needs to care for the transgender youth in its custody.”
“OCFS placed Alyssa in a male facility, denied her appropriate health care, and punished her for being herself,” said Gabriel Arkles, Staff Attorney at Sylvia Rivera Law Project. “This is a clear example of why it is critical that institutions such as OCFS are educated about the needs of transgender youth before anyone is harmed.”
SRLP and Lambda Legal filed a complaint against OCFS on Rodriguez’s behalf on January 11, 2006. As part of the settlement agreement, OCFS has agreed to work with Lambda Legal and SRLP over the next five years to evaluate its policies about transgender youth and to distribute information about SRLP and Lambda Legal to transgender and gender-nonconforming youth in its care. Rodriguez also received $25,000 through the settlement.
After advocacy around Alyssa’s treatment, OCFS designated two of their facilities where transgender youth will be placed and began educating its staff on the needs of transgender youth in care.
As part of its mission to educate providers on how to best serve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender and questioning youth (LGBTQ), Lambda Legal worked with the Child Welfare League of America to create a report called Out of the Margins: A Report on Regional Listening Forums Highlighting the Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Youth in Care, which is a compilation of the experiences of LGBTQ youth in care along with concrete solutions to end the problems they face in the foster care, juvenile justice, and homeless/transitional living systems. The information was gathered during 13 listening forums attended by over 500 people — including social workers, service providers, administrators, caregivers, and LGBTQ youth who are or were in care — from 22 states in 2003–2004. The publication is available free of charge upon request or can be downloaded at www.lambdalegal.org or www.cwla.org.
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, in keeping with its mission of serving transgender, intersex, and gender non-conforming communities, recently released a series of know-your-rights publications as part of its efforts to educate and empower the communities it serves. One of these publications, titled Know Your Healthcare Rights: Trans Youth in New York, provides information about the healthcare rights of transgender New Yorkers under the age of 18. These publications are available free of charge upon request or can be downloaded at www.srlp.org.
The case is Rodriguez v. Johnson et al.
Rudy Estrada, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Youth in Out-of-Home Care Project and Cole Thaler, Transgender Rights Attorney for Lambda Legal, are co-counsel on the case with Gabriel Arkles and Pooja Gehi, Staff Attorneys at Sylvia Rivera Law Project, and Ellen Hochberg of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.
Contact: Lambda Legal, Jackie Yodashkin 212-809-8585 ext.229
SRLP, June Brown 212-337-8550 ext. 114
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.
SRLP works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.